On any given day, Catholics in the Diocese of Rochester are doing great things, observed Father Daniel Condon, diocesan chancellor. People are working to help refugees, to reduce poverty and to defend the dignity of human life, he said.
“There are so many good things that Catholic people are doing that need to be communicated,” he remarked.
In the Diocese of Rochester, parishes and such entities as Catholic Charities and St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry also want to communicate information to the local Catholic community, he added. The Catholic Courier provides a way for them to do so, not only through its monthly printed publication but via several online avenues as well.
“That’s a different way for us to think about and understand the Catholic press,” Father Condon said of the Courier’s online offerings.
Catholic press shares news of parishes, Catholic entities
The mission of the Catholic press has long been to “inform, form, inspire, educate and strengthen the religious identity of Catholics,” the late Cardinal John P. Foley wrote in 1998. As such, Catholic media report on the work of Catholic entities as well as the activity of such figures as Pope Francis and the nation’s bishops. They also explain Catholic teachings and the church’s stance on such issues as proposed legislation.
In the Diocese of Rochester, the Catholic Courier has been sharing church-related news since 1889, when it was founded as The Catholic Journal. According to its mission statement, “the Catholic Courier focuses its coverage primarily on people, ministries, issues and church life within the Diocese of Rochester in order to engage and inform our readers — especially young adults and those seeking ways to connect to a faith community — about Catholicism and how to live it faithfully.”
Catholic media reaches beyond Catholics in the pews, shares ideas
In addition to delivering news, Catholic media serve as evangelization tools, enabling the church to reach those who fill church pews each week as well as people who may not attend Mass regularly, Father Condon said. They do this by providing a wide variety of content that appeals to readers of all different ages and stages in their faith journeys.
The Courier, for example, regularly features Bible stories and other content geared toward children, as well as news and feature articles on topics ranging from church teaching to national events and local parish ministries, he said.
“Every parish does not have everything that every Catholic needs, and the variety of content in the Courier lets people know that the church is broader than their parish, broader than even the diocese, and broader than the United States,” noted Father Condon, who also serves as corporate and board secretary of the Rochester Catholic Press Association Inc., publisher of the Courier.
Media coverage can inspire parishioners, garner support
In recent months, the Courier helped local Catholics learn about the National Eucharistic Revival called for by the U.S. bishops as well as a worldwide synod convened by Pope Francis, noted Father Robert Schrader, a former member of the Courier’s board of directors. Coverage of local events is just as important, he added.
“There’s important stuff happening in the parishes. It would be good for the parishes to hear what’s happening around the diocese,” Father Schrader said.
An article about a new ministry at one parish might inspire volunteers to start a similar ministry at another parish, he explained.
Sometimes readers are inspired to take action in other ways, Father Condon said. He cited a Courier article published last fall about a group of laypeople hoping to secure the future of Notre Dame Retreat House in Canandaigua, which had been slated for closure by the religious order that owned and staffed the facility. The article also contained a link that connected readers with the team’s online fundraising campaign.
Web allows Courier to share information immediately, dispelling rumors
It was important for local Catholics to know that the retreat house may not be closing after all, and that they could support the team’s effort to save the facility, said Paul Peterson, a leader of the lay team.
“Whenever there’s a change, it’s always great to get extra coverage to dispel any confusion or misinformation that’s out there. The rumor mill can really mess with people’s understanding of what’s going on,” Peterson said.
The lay team’s plan to take over the operation of Notre Dame Retreat House was approved late last year and the fundraising campaign is now in full swing, but without the Courier’s initial and subsequent coverage, many Catholics might not have realized the retreat house won’t be closing after all, Father Condon said.
Digital tools, web presence extend Catholic press’ reach
Although the Courier’s December print issue had already been delivered before reporters learned the team’s plan to save the facility had been approved, the newspaper published an article on its website immediately upon learning the news.
The Courier has been online since the mid-1990s but in the last two decades has continually expanded and enhanced its website; established a presence on such platforms as Facebook, YouTube and Instagram; and added three digital newsletters that are delivered weekly via email.
“What’s important about that is that it extends information about the Catholic community to Catholics within and beyond the worshipping population. … We never know when the gift of God’s grace is going to work in somebody’s life, and so we need to be present in their life, whether or not they’re physically present to us” in church, Father Condon said.