My relationship with the Prairie Messenger goes back a long way — farther than I can even clearly remember.
“Dear Sister Ben: I am a girl of nine. My hobby is bowling. . . .” began the letter to the Prairie Messenger’s “Go! Go! Go! Go! Junior Page” that I wrote some 50 years ago.
I don’t actually remember writing that letter, but I do remember regularly seeking out the Junior Page every week to find messages from the kind and enthusiastic Sister Ben, and later, Sister Em, as well as the puzzle corner, poems, stories, and drawings. The ministry of that Junior Page had an impact — including instilling a love of newspapers at an early age.
And given the fact that I have now served for 15 years writing articles for the Prairie Messenger as a diocesan reporter, I ended that short note to Sister Ben in February 1968 somewhat prophetically: “. . . I hope to write again.”
As I grew up, the Prairie Messenger continued to be part of my life and my faith formation. My parents regularly referred to and discussed articles, commentaries and editorials — not always in agreement with everything published, but always interested and engaged, even at times enthusiastic. The PM was one of the ways in which the Benedictine presence, charism and mission profoundly shaped our family, our community and our local church.
Later, when I moved to Alberta and finally began taking up my Catholic faith as an adult, a subscription to the Prairie Messenger came with me — and the formation it offered continued.
It was in Alberta that I also discovered that the excellence of the Prairie Messenger was appreciated beyond the borders of St. Peter’s Abbacy. When an admired friend and mentor in our Leduc parish gave impassioned witness to the excellence of the Prairie Messenger, I was pleased on behalf of this “gem from home,” but also a bit amazed to discover it was known and so loved abroad.
Of course, the connection to the Prairie Messenger became even closer after I was hired by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon as communications co-ordinator.
I clearly recall my job interview in January 2003 with Director of Pastoral Services Dorothy Fortier, sitting beside Prairie Messenger editor Rev. Andrew Britz, OSB. That amazing editor was happy to hear of my journalism training and experience in community newspapers, but I particularly recall his glee when I answered his question “where do you see yourself in five years?” with the words “right here.” It seemed he was longing for a “vow of stability” and a lot less turnover from his diocesan reporters!
The editor’s presence at that diocesan interview clearly demonstrated the depth of the partnership between the diocese and the Prairie Messenger.
1964’s Grade 1 class at St. Augustine School in Humboldt, Sask., had two future Prairie Messenger employees. Kiply Lukan Yaworski, who is the Saskatoon diocesan communications director and has been reporting for the PM since 2003, writes that when she was a girl she used to send letters to “Sister Ben,” at the PM. (Could Sister Mary Phillip, seen here, have been the mysterious Sister Ben?). “The ministry of that Junior Page had an impact — including instilling a love of newspapers at an early age.” Kip can be seen in the top row, fifth from left. Maureen Weber, who became associate editor in 1994, is back row, left.
Hired by the diocese, with funding from the Bishop’s Annual Appeal — and the firm support of Saskatoon bishops — one of my tasks as the diocesan communications co-ordinator has been to provide local reporting and news-gathering services for the Prairie Messenger. It has been a unique and fruitful arrangement — for the Diocese of Saskatoon and for other dioceses and eparchies in Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
For dioceses to work so closely with this source of independent Catholic journalism — rather than simply producing diocesan publications under the purview of an individual bishop — has brought both great richness and occasional moments of challenge and even tension. It is a sign of the health of our Catholic community here on the Prairies that this has worked so well for so long.
So hundreds of articles and 15 years later, I am still here, but we are now bidding farewell to the Prairie Messenger.
It has been an amazing time and the Prairie Messenger has provided our Catholic community with a tremendous resource, a place of record, and a touchstone that will be greatly missed. Communications will continue, news will continue, social media and new platforms will continue, but this particular brand of Prairie Catholic journalism cannot be replaced.
When I think of the impact and contributions of the Prairie Messenger, there is a word that resonates: faithfulness. Faithfulness to the community, to the gospel, and to God — but also faithfulness to the week-in, week-out presentation of news, reflections, theology, formation, culture, inspiration, issues, insights. Faithfulness has been the hallmark of this remarkable Catholic publication. The cumulative effect of having all of this richness delivered in one, regular weekly package, for decades upon decades, simply cannot be underestimated.
The lens of justice, Scripture, ecumenism, liturgy, and theology provided by the Prairie Messenger from the time I could read has certainly shaped how I understand my faith, how I experience my church, and how I relate to the wider world. Multiply that impact by all the readers, over all the years: it is huge. The Prairie Messenger has shaped its readers, and that in turn has shaped the church, both here and beyond.
The only way to end is with a profound sense of gratitude to God for the great gift of the Benedictines and all who have worked for and with the Prairie Messenger and St. Peter’s Press over the past century.
We will miss you.
Kiply Lukan Yaworski has been the Saskatoon diocesan communications co-ordinator since 2003, but her relationship with the Prairie Messenger goes even further back — some 50 years.