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Prairie Messenger’s vision inspired growth

By Roma De Robertis, SCIC


I came for the vision. Through ups and downs, I stayed for the Prairie Messenger’s vision for mission.

When I arrived in Saskatoon early in 1993, someone asked me why I came for such a part-time position. From outward appearances it could seem puzzling. Following a call to be Saskatoon diocesan editor, I learned, struggled and came to appreciate the Prairie church, land and people.

Early on I recall sitting nervously across from longtime Bishop James Mahoney in his office. With candour, he said: “I asked (then Edmonton) Archbishop Joseph MacNeil about you. He said you were focused on social justice. However, you will need to cover a range of topics here.”

“That’s my intention,” I replied. At the Western Catholic Reporter in Edmonton, I was accustomed to general assignment reporting and planned to continue that commitment, I assured him.

The PM long offered information and inspiration for a church and world to which I remain committed. Like many women religious in English-speaking Canada, I cherished and supported its faithful, dynamic approach which honoured questions and welcomed diversity.

I remember little of church before the Second Vatican Council. Openness to the world with evolving roles for women and laymen characterize the church I know and love.

I found the Saskatoon diocese strongly committed to education and formation of lay leaders. There were many memorable events and occasions. Frequent interaction with indigenous peoples was a special gift.

Soon after I arrived, I joined another reporter to cover culmination of the Saskatoon diocesan synod. Later I was to cover the death and funeral of Bishop Mahoney and eventually, the ordination and installation of Bishop James Weisgerber.

These diocesan turning points were pivotal in the life of the local church. Yet I grew most from day-to-day reporting with those faithfully committed to education and evangelization; respect for all life; ecumenism and interfaith relationships; charitable outreach, as well as social and ecological justice and peace.

To be sure, I soon learned not everyone favoured the newspaper’s approach and perspectives. There was a challenging need to balance differing visions of church, as well as priorities for communications within limitations of budget and time.

Father Andrew Britz, the late Benedictine monk and longtime editor, was a major influence. I experienced him as highly intelligent, prophetic, bold and occasionally daunting. His personal style could be forceful. Yet I was drawn to his unflinching commitment to strengthen and communicate a more mature, just, inclusive church of the Second Vatican Council and beyond.

A few years after I moved east I was grateful for our final visit during a return trip to St. Peter’s Abbey in Muenster, Sask. It was peaceful and positive, with “Andrew” retired and suffering from illness, yet still focused on getting the message out.

Through the years I was grateful to other editors, leaders, staff and friends in Saskatchewan who offered needed hospitality, support and guidance. Their names are written in my heart. My religious community, Sisters of Charity of the Immaculate Conception, contributed generously, supporting my ministry.

I am thankful to the Benedictine monks who published the PM for decades. Certainly I thank readers who shaped its resounding voice for a more faithful, just and sustainable church and world.

Since life is changed, not ended, I hope and believe the vital message will find fresh expression in ways yet unknown.

Roma De Robertis, SCIC was PM Saskatoon diocesan editor. Later, she was an occasional contributor as well as Liturgy and Life columnist. She lives in Saint John, N.B.