by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann
A few years ago, a woman who has to travel often because of her job told me she always takes The Leaven with her on her trips. She enjoys reading it during flights and said that its intriguing photos and catchy headlines often instigate conversations about faith with her fellow travelers.
My late Aunt Dolores, who lived in northern Indiana, loved receiving The Leaven and, sad to say, not primarily because of my column. She loved The Leaven’s inspiring stories about individual Catholics striving to live their faith.
Frequently, when making a parish visit, someone will comment to me on how much they enjoy The Leaven. During the listening sessions and focus groups for the visioning process, in responding to the question: What does the archdiocese do well? The Leaven was recognized for its quality and readability. Another indication of the effectiveness of The Leaven is the frequent requests I receive from members of the archdiocese requesting The Leaven’s coverage of some event, story or teaching.
Bishop Paul Schulte, the bishop of Leavenworth, launched a diocesan newspaper on June 1, 1939. Throughout this year, we are celebrating the 75th anniversary of a Catholic weekly newspaper for Catholics in northeast Kansas.
For the first 40 years, our paper was called the Eastern Kansas Register. By 1979, the diocese had been moved from Leavenworth to Kansas City and had been elevated to an archdiocese for more than 25 years. Archbishop Ignatius J. Strecker ran a contest to rename the archdiocesan newspaper.
Father Jim Ludwikowski, currently the pastor of Good Shepherd Parish in Shawnee, received the whopping sum of $25 prize money for proposing the name The Leaven. It was a brilliant suggestion, because it reminds us of our history — that we were originally the Diocese of Leavenworth, and it evokes the biblical allusion of the transformative power of the Gospel, similar to the way a small portion of leaven changes the constituency of bread. (We ought to give Father Jim another $25 for coming up with such a perfect name!)
In this day and age when so much of our lives are lived online, some people may ask: Why a weekly newspaper? Interestingly, a recent study by CARA (Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate) revealed that while Catholics, like everyone else, are doing much more online, Catholics of all ages — even younger ones — do not go primarily to cyberspace to seek information about our faith and inspiration to help them live it.
Of course, this may change over time, as more quality online Catholic resources become available. Currently, relatively few Catholics report using new media to acquire information about religion or spirituality. In fact, the same research supports that a quality Catholic newspaper mailed to parishioners’ homes is still the most effective means to reach Catholics of all ages.
I am also encouraged by how many people comment on this weekly column. It is not easy to write an article each week, but I am convinced that it is one of the best tools at my disposal to help fulfill my responsibility to teach what we believe as Catholics, as well as how to apply the faith to the challenging circumstances of the 21st century.
Frequently, after visiting a parish or becoming acquainted with a particular ministry, I will suggest articles to The Leaven staff. There is so much good news, inspiring news, happening every day in the archdiocese that you are not going to find reported in the secular media.
With more and more ignorance and even hostility within our culture generally, and by the secular media specifically, toward Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular, it is important for Catholics to have a reliable source for accurate information about the church and what we believe.
Personally, I enjoy reading The Leaven each week. I often learn things from The Leaven that I did not know about a parish or particular ministry within the archdiocese. The Leaven staff knows well how to tell stories through photos and the printed word that nourish the mind and inspire the heart.
In this era of the new evangelization, mailing The Leaven to all the homes of parishioners of the archdiocese is one of the best means available to strengthen the faith of those who may be wavering and confused. Most parishes ask parishioners to help defray the cost of producing, printing and mailing The Leaven.
I strongly believe in the importance of sending The Leaven to every home, not just to the most committed Catholics. If your circumstances permit it, I encourage you to donate even more than the suggested subscription amount to help us send The Leaven into the homes of those who most need it.
Bishop Paul Schulte in a letter in the first edition of the Eastern Kansas Register on June 1, 1939, asked Catholics to pray that the newspaper would yield much good “by way of giving to you truth in matters pertaining to the church and by serving as an inspiration to strengthen the faith of good Catholics and kindle anew the dying spark of God’s truth, even in the hearts of those who have fallen away.”
I thank Father Mark Goldasich, editor, Anita McSorley, managing editor, Todd Habiger, production manager, Joe Bollig, senior reporter, and all the dedicated Leaven staff for producing a paper week after week that continues to feed our minds with Truth and inspire our hearts with the power of God’s love alive and well in northeastern Kansas!
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