Of the 21 canons in church law that pertain to the duties of a diocesan bishop, none specifically addresses his role as publisher of the diocesan newspaper – a role he traditionally assumes. It’s not even covered at “bishop school” – the crash course run by the Holy See for newly-appointed bishops.
Having come from the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, where the Catholic Spirit has been a model for diocesan publications, Bishop Peter Christensen came to the Diocese of Superior with an idea of what a diocesan publication should be. He took to the publisher role quickly, seeing the value of having a diocesan publication, having a vision for it, and supporting its work. A diocesan publication can’t exist unless the publisher has that mindset.
The value of the Catholic Herald was evident to him, particularly when his diocese was spread over more than 15,000 square miles. The paper served as an extension of his teaching office and provided a vehicle through which he could keep the faith community informed about what was happening in the diocese.
Once a bishop’s name appears at the top of the masthead, he puts his imprint on the publication. Bishop Christensen’s vision for the Catholic Herald is evident in a number of ways. He encouraged as much local coverage as possible, wanting the paper to feature people from throughout the diocese who are living their faith.
Part of his vision for the paper is seen in the “Love is the heart of marriage and family” series that we have been running for the past year. He suggested that as preparation for the recently completed World Synod of Bishops. Its popularity has motivated us to continue that series.
He also introduced us to Gus, the only canine columnist in the Catholic press. We’re going to miss Gus. Not only did he impart wisdom and share his humor, but he was the most easy-going columnist with whom we’ve worked. And compensation? When you can get a well-written column in exchange for a dog treat, that’s a deal!
Bishop Christensen also wanted readers to be aware of the larger church into which we were baptized. Thus, each issue carries important national and world news. He also knew that if the Catholic Herald was to be a catechetical tool, we would need to publish other material – material that explained the faith, material that inspired people to live the faith.
Key to his support for the Herald was the trust he had in me as GM and editor. Without that, a publication flounders. Once he articulated his vision for the Herald, it was up to the staff and me to execute it. He and I communicated regularly to make sure that occurred.
In Boise, Bishop Christensen once again gets to be a publisher. We are pleased that he could develop and hone his publishing skills at the Superior Catholic Herald. We are grateful, too, for what he has meant to our paper. We wish him well as he shepherds the Catholic faithful in Idaho, and as he becomes publisher of the Idaho Catholic Register. We’re glad we could help prepare him for that particular aspect of his ministry.