Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 25, 1999
A magazine for families
Christian perspective shapes Our Family's outlook
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Our Family magazine could be called the little magazine that grew.
From a small publication serving German-speaking immigrants half a century ago, it has evolved into one of Canada's most respected family magazines.
Now Our Family, published by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in Battleford, Sask., is read in thousands of Catholic homes, religious orders, parishes and diocesan commissions.
It has a monthly circulation of about 8,000, with the exception of the popular special Lenten issue which sells about 40,000 copies.
Every month its pages come filled with articles and photos on everything from marriage to the power of hope.
"It's a family magazine but the unique perspective of Our Family is that the issues that are written about in the magazine are written from a Christian faith perspective," notes editor Marie-Louise Ternier-Gommers.
Our Family's role is "to affirm families in both the good and the bad things that they may experience through life" and to "offer families new windows of reflection that help them to grow," explains Ternier-Gommers.
Our Family tackles family issues such as marriage, divorce, parenting, abortion, and adoption but it doesn't shy away from current issues in the Church such as sexual abuse, gambling, the emergence of lay people as Church leaders and the state of religious life today.
In October, for example, Our Family featured a number of articles on the Eucharist. The December 1998 issue deals almost entirely with Christmas from a Christian perspective. The magazine also regularly reflects on social justice issues, life issues, employment and ecology.
And starting with the January issue, Our Family hopes to publish at least one article in every issue on ecumenism and how that affects real people. It starts with the story of a Mennonite man who became Catholic but in the process very much affirmed his Mennonite tradition.
The January issue also returns to Our Family's favourite theme - marriage. One article deals with love as an art that can grow and develop; another is devoted to broken marriages, emphasizing that "even though broken and bruised, there is new life after divorce."
Marriage and relationships take up a lot of the magazine's space, agrees Ternier-Gommers, a mother of three teenage children who took over as editor from Father Nestor Gregoire in July.
"We try to make sure that at least a couple of issues in the year are more devoted to marriage but there are articles on marriage in almost every issue, in whatever way couples are affected."
The editor finds it difficult to measure the magazine's success in terms of contributing to better marriages and better families but she is certain about one thing: "We have certainly strived to remain faithful and to walk with families and married couples in whatever issues they are facing.
"Now what the outcome of that is I'm not sure how one measures that. I'm not sure if Christ asks us to be successful; he just asks us to be faithful."
Most articles in Our Family are written by freelance writers from across North America. Ternier-Gommers receives about 60 to 70 freelance submissions per month but since an issue carries an average of 10 articles, the majority go unused.
She also has a long list of experienced writers that she draws on when necessary.
"But we do like to make it known that Our Family is certainly open to people who would like to try writing and who may not have published before," Ternier-Gommers stresses.
"One of the big criteria is that all the articles that we publish we would like to be reflections of people's real life experiences. We are not into publishing fiction."
Adds Ternier-Gommers: "I believe that when we let people's stories speak for themselves in a descriptive way it really touches the readers' heart."
Another criteria is that articles must have a clear faith dimension.
Our Family is part of the library of many dioceses, religious orders and parishes. Some parishes subscribe on behalf of their parishioners and offer the magazine at the back of the church.
"We tend to gear toward the average Catholic," says Ternier-Gommers. "They may be people who don't have a lot of time in their busy schedules so we try to accommodate that by making sure that our articles are not terribly long."
Our Family magazine was preceded by a small German-language magazine started by the Oblates to serve German immigrants in Western Canada. In January 1949 it became Our Family.
Over the years the magazine has tried to remain faithful to its original purpose: to strive to raise awareness of the dignity of the family and our relationship to God.
"Those purposes still stand," says Ternier-Gommers. "What has changed over the years is how we give expression to that and try to be in tune with the enormous amount of change that has occurred both in family life and our Church life."