Anniversary Celebration

As we begin our 80th volume of The Priest, we look back to our history

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One of the most humbling expressions of our priesthood occurs every time we receive a new appointment from our bishop or religious superior. In a matter of weeks, we pack up our belongings and leave a familiar setting that, usually, has become home and transition to a whole new community that initially may seem foreign and different. While we leave behind a history that links us to that previous assignment forever, we embrace a new history, much of which is unknown but nevertheless important to our future. To know a faith community is to behold their story and appreciate their history.

There are graced moments, like the anniversary of the dedication of the church or the establishment of the parish, that have a way of bringing history to us. For example, in my second appointment as pastor, I served a parish that was on the threshold of marking 100 years. In anticipation of the anniversary, I assembled a committee of staff and parishioners to develop and coordinate a yearlong celebration culminating with a Mass and dinner at a local hotel. This whole effort demanded an intentional journey into the parish archives, most especially a deeper dive into the bulletins that had been published. Each week we would print an old bulletin and include it as an insert in the existing weekly bulletin. The faithful could not wait each week to read these old bulletins, which not only revealed historical moments in the life of the parish but also reflected in many ways what was happening at that very time in the world.

This year, The Priest celebrates its 80th anniversary. With the help of our copy editor, Tim Johnson, I was able to look back into the archives to learn more about the history of this storied publication that followed the establishment of the Our Sunday Visitor newspaper. I learned that The Priest, founded by Bishop John F. Noll, was for the first 20 years known as The Acolyte. The name was chosen to give the impression that the magazine, with its content, would assist the priest much like an acolyte or altar server does at holy Mass. At the recommendation of Father Noll, the magazine was renamed The Priest in January 1945. In December 1944, in the final issue of The Acolyte, the editor, Father Joseph G. Gustafson, SS, stated, “With the first number of The Priest in January, we shall do our best to provide a balanced diet for clerical readers.”

Father Gustafson continued: “This is your magazine in every sense of the word. We ask merely to be your spokesman, your agents, we want your articles, we want to know what your problems are, what progress you have made towards their solution, what progress other readers have made. We will establish a clearing house for ideas, a pool of resources. The Priest shall then be as practical as you will let us make it. Don’t say we haven’t faced your problem if you haven’t told us what it is. On the contrary, give us your loyal support and the assistance of your prayers, for with this generous cooperation we feel we shall be better enabled to serve your best interests.”

With succeeding editors and staff coupled with the contributions of many writers and the support of countless advertisers, The Priest continues to serve the needs of today’s priests by being a resource and companion along the way. We continue to seek your prayers, support and cooperation in the mission of the Church.

The mission that is ours takes place in a world with its own history, filled with challenges and adventures. Much has happened during the past 80 years. To help us understand the history, with its issues and events, we have asked a noted author and friend, Father Robert Hater, to contextualize the past 80 years decade by decade. Over these next eight issues, we will observe our rich history by noting the realities our brothers faced at that time.

C.S. Lewis once said, “History is a story written by the finger of God.” Indeed, we remain grateful for God’s fingerprints on this publication and the life and ministry of every priest.

BISHOP DAVID J. BONNAR, editor of The Priest, is bishop of the Diocese of Youngstown.

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