The news of the discontinuation of the Prairie Messenger arrived like the news of the death of a very dear friend.
I have been an avid reader of the paper for many decades. Over the years, many periodicals, magazines and newspapers have come to my door, but none have been more welcome than the PM. The paper will be greatly missed by the church, particularly by the church in Western Canada.
I welcome the opportunity to express appreciation and gratitude for the important and fruitful work carried out by the Prairie Messenger for more than a century. Heartfelt gratitude is due to the monks, the editors and all the collaborators who have each week faithfully put together this important vehicle to enhance the life of the church.
Many people have expressed their dismay and disappointment in the coming demise of the PM and they are told that much of the content of the paper can be found online or in other places. But this will not replace the Prairie Messenger.
The Messenger has changed and matured over the years. Forty or 50 years ago it contained many reports of the work of local groups, minutes of the meetings of parish CWL councils, activities of parishes, schools and other organizations.
The paper now reflects the larger church and its concerns. Each week’s headlines point to and inform about significant national or international events. The teachings and ministry of the pope always grace the second page along with relevant news about the church in other countries and continents. There is comprehensive coverage of events in the church of Canada and the local dioceses.
The weekly column writers deserve special recognition and thanks. The liturgy, book reviews, social justice writers, film reviews and more have provided much-needed and appreciated information, analysis and points of view. They have helped me and so many others navigate many of the complications of our modern world. One can never say enough about Ron Rolheiser’s weekly column. He just gets better and better.
It is important to single out the solid and long-standing commitment to the pursuit of social justice that has characterized the Prairie Messenger. Many of us see the Gospel as solely inviting to personal conversion, which it does, but the Gospel also invites the disciples of Jesus, the church, to be witnesses and instruments of the work of the Risen Christ in transforming the world and humanity.
The church cannot be a place to hide from the world, but a place to empower us to engage in God’s ongoing plan of salvation. Issues such as poverty, racism, and environmental degradation, are not easy to get our head or our hearts around, but Pope Francis makes it very clear that these issues are not optional for a Christian, and the Prairie Messenger has been a stalwart proponent of the social imperative of the Gospel.
It is accurate to say that much of the information presented in the Prairie Messenger is available elsewhere, but wouldn’t it be possible for someone, perhaps the dioceses of Western Canada together, to develop a website in which could be gathered the same kind of stories, columns and information, that has been so generously provided for the church by the Prairie Messenger.
To the Messenger, its editors, and producers . . . its rich contribution to the church and society, I say, “Thank you, and farewell, dear friend; you will be greatly missed.”
James Weisgerber is Archbishop Emeritus of Winnipeg, and prior to that, Bishop of Saskatoon. Born in Vibank, Sask., he went to high school at St. Peter’s College in Muenster, Sask. Weisgerber played a key role in organizing a meeting in 2009 at the Vatican between a Canadian delegation from the Assembly of First Nations and Pope Benedict XVI. In Winnipeg in 2012, four Anishinaabe elders — all of them residential school survivors — symbolically adopted him.