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To the PM: a litany of thanks

By Patty and John Thompson


Dear PM:

In our faith tradition, messengers of God show up as angels and prophets. These messengers tell the “good news” of divine presence and hope in our lives and for our times too.

In the Prairie Messenger we have participated in that good news. Its weekly arrival at our home since 1975 when we moved to the Prairies has been angel and prophet, words and Word. Editorials, news stories, official church documents, reviews of films and books, letters to the editor, remarkable and varied columnists, photographs, reflections on the weekly Sunday readings, music for liturgy and meditations on songs, announcement of celebrations, analyses and critiques, poetry. Much more. The PM has told us of our church from local to regional, national to international, parish to Vatican, of ourselves embodying the sensus fidelium, as the People of God.

In a survey that Father Andrew Britz conducted on PM readership in the late 1980s, now nearly 30 years ago, PM readers (subscribers) were compared with former PM subscribers and with non-PM readers in five Saskatchewan parishes and two in Winnipeg on a number of items. On the measures of fidelity to the beliefs, participation, and commitment in their Catholic faith, to parish participation, to social justice, PM readers stood out.

The bishops of both Saskatchewan and Manitoba heard these findings in meetings in Saskatoon and Winnipeg. Though aware of controversy and even expressing their own disagreement at times with PM stories and editorials, the bishops expressed their gratitude for the PM, its readers, and its staff. They said they were pleased, though not surprised, at such positive findings about PM readers. They said they knew PM readers were active in parishes. Standing out in the survey too was the way reading the PM was integral to PM readers practising their faith. In contrast to non-PM readers, PM readers read, watched and listened to a lot of news, raising questions about how to respond to issues of the day. Their faith was as an inquiring faith.

The PM allowed readers to think about these questions in a context of faith — challenging them, assuring them, supporting them — in their wanting to know what the reign of God looks like in our times, in our Prairie place, in our relationships. What does our local church look like as part of the Universal Church? Readers also found in the PM an acceptance of diversity and not condemnation, a welcoming spirit. Readers considered the PM a friend, one with whom they could disagree and still continue as regular subscribers.

Our friendship with the Prairie Messenger endures. The PM and we, however, will no longer meet at the table over coffee to talk about “things.” We won’t have PM editorials and columns and reviews and news stories to make us think twice, offer us informed ways to sort out key issues of faith, culture, society and politics, ecumenism and interfaith dialogue, economy and justice, ecology. Or letters to the editor to talk about. Or even to evoke a smile or celebrate a parish event or to be inspired by a sister at her golden jubilee. We will no longer be able to find out what the PM says about that question.

We will have, however, the enduring grounding of the Benedictine way of faith and hope and love that has permeated the persons and pages and journalism of the PM. The PM has allowed us to “pray with our eyes wide open” to discern the reign of God in our lives and in our times, and to feel an integral and renewing participation as the People of God.

This weekly messenger has arrived throughout the Prairies and beyond because of the work and worry of many. Thousands have contributed in its 100 years of publication in English and the years before in German as St. Peter’s Bote starting in 1904. We express our thanks to all who have made possible and been the PM. Many of you are in the Communion of Saints. Most of you are hidden. Your journalism, past and present, we could count on. And we did. Honest, challenging, trustworthy, not afraid of controversy, inspiring, critical and comforting, calling us to renewal and owning up to failures, celebratory and with hope. In his seven-part series (2018, Vol 95, No 33 to No 39), subtitled “Prairie Messenger: more than 100 years of journalism by the Benedictine monks of St. Peter’s Abbey,” Paul Paproski, OSB, has given us the gift of an overview and review of the history of St. Peter’s Bote (1904-1947), St. Peter’s Messenger (1923-1928) and the Prairie Messenger (1928-2018). In drawing on the pages of these publications, he has reminded us of the concerns, challenges, controversies in the contexts of their times, a boldness in speaking out and telling truth, adapting to changes with courage and intelligence in renewed directions without selling out, while always short of funds. We met the Benedictines and others — portraits of angels and prophets — whose stories and voices have been alive in the PM, in our lives and in our times.

Three gifts of words and remembrance of two Benedictine PM editors remain. Bush Dweller: Essays in memory of Father James Gray, OSB, 2010, edited by Don Ward; Truth to Power: The Journalism of a Benedictine Monk, 2010, Andrew Murray Britz, OSB, edited by Dennis Gruending; and Rule of Faith: As we worship, so we believe, so we live. (Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi, Lex Vivendi) 2012, Andrew Murray Britz, OSB, edited by Maureen Weber and Marian Noll, OSU.

We have been connected to you, your generosity, your attention to details, your worry about getting the words right and out on time, about paying the bills. You have been, as Paul Ricoeur says of Jesus’ parables, “the extraordinary within the ordinary.” Too often we have taken you for granted. Too seldom have we said thank you in public.

So we want to take a few minutes to express our thank you by name to those of you who are at the PM now, you who stand at the end of the long line of PM angels and prophets.

Praying the litany of the saints is part of our faith practice, commonly sung at Easter vigil and baptisms. We pray to holy women and men, whose lives inspired us and who are in the Communion of Saints to intercede for us. Here we will express our gratitude in a litany of thanksgiving for those of you who guide and write for the PM now. In writing your names, we are also remembering all those who have been the PM over the years, whose shoes many before and you now have filled so well and worn with faithfulness and style.

For Abbot Peter (editor), Don Ward and Maureen Weber (associate editors), Lucille Stewart (layout), Gail Kleefeld (advertising, circulation, proofreading, mailing). Randy Weber (printer), Janice Weber (website),
we thank you, Lord.

For diocesan editors Kiply Lukan Yaworski (Saskatoon), Frank Flegel (Regina), James Buchok (Winnipeg), writers from Prince Albert and Winnipeg, and all who assist these editors,
we thank you, Lord.

For writers at Catholic News Service, Religion News Service, and Canadian Catholic News,
we thank you, Lord.

For Around the Kitchen Table writers: Lloyd Ratzlaff, Don Ward, Joan Eyolfson Cadham (1980s to 2015), Maureen Weber, Tom Saretsky (also Soul Searching, Liturgy and Life),
we thank you, Lord.

For Liturgy and Life writers: Michael Dougherty, Gertrude Rompré, Bob Williston, Sylvain Lavoie, OMI, Joe Gunn (also Journey to Justice), Catherine Ecker, Brenda Merk Hildebrand, Margaret Bick,
we thank you, Lord.

For Music for Liturgy writers: Bernadette Gasslein, Karen Koester, Heather Reid, Christina Ronzio,
we thank you, Lord.

For Gerald Schmitz (Screening & Meanings since 1999),
we thank you, Lord

For Ron Rolheiser, OMI (In Exile),
we thank you, Lord.

For writers Edna Froese, Gerry Turcotte (Figure of Speech), Sandy Prather (Breaking Open the Ordinary), Brent Kostyniuk (Both Lungs), Leah Perrault (Barefoot and Preaching), Marie-Louise Ternier-Gommers (Double Belonging), Tom Ryan, CSP (Challenge of Ecumenism), Caitlin Ward, Dennis Gruending (Pulpit & Politics), Joe Gunn (Journey to Justice, Liturgy and Life), Paul Paproski, OSB, Cedric Speyer (Outlooks from the Inner Life), Ed Buettner (book reviews), Jon Hansen, CSsR (From the Canadian Arctic), Yvonne Zarowny (Soul Mending), Mary Deutscher (Building a Culture of Life), Peter Oliver, Louise McEwan (Everyday Theology), Mary Marrocco (Questioning Faith), and many more of you who have contributed to the PM,
we thank you, Lord.

For the many who have written Letters to the Editor,
we thank you, Lord.

For any who contributed but whom we inadvertently did not mention here by name,
we thank you, Lord.

In thanking each of you, we are thanking all of you — you at the PM today and those many thousands who came before you, whose words and voices have announced the “good news” in the pages of the PM.

Micah 6:8 offers a question and a saving response. “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” That’s the response we have heard over and over in the PM woven into the “news” of people and events, editorials and columns, controversy in renewal, faithfulness to the “good news” that we are walking with our God in walking with each other.

We have been blessed by the PM angels and prophets as enduring gifts of Divine presence and hope among us, the People of God.
Thank you, our PM.

John and Patty Thompson are longtime friends of the Prairie Messenger.