Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
September 28, 2009
Dad's commitment to the Catholic press rubbed off on his son
Bill Argan's spearheading of an exhibit on the Catholic press in 1959 was a seed that helped lead his son to work decades later for the WCR.
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
My dad, Bill Argan, died Sept. 3 in Regina. As I was cleaning out the last of his possessions, I came upon a photo that I had never seen before, one that hinted at the origins of my vocation as a Catholic journalist. It was a photo of Dad sitting in the midst of a display in 1959 of hundreds of Catholic newspapers and magazines from across North America.
Dad had put months of work into developing this display highlighting the value and importance of the Catholic press.
It was his first big project with the Knights of Columbus and led to many more and ultimately to his becoming the state deputy for Saskatchewan seven years later.
I was just a tyke in those days, but I have a vague remembrance of a lot of commotion in our small house prior to the display and then actually attending the grand event at the K of C Hall.
Dad came away from that experience believing that the Catholic press is just about the most important media there is. Dad, it should be noted, worked 31 years as a commercial artist with a Regina TV station, making him one of a tiny number of those in the secular media who believed the Catholic press was doing a more important job than they were.
Through that experience, he also formed ties with the Benedictine monks in Muenster, Sask., who publish the Prairie Messenger, the Catholic weekly that today serves the Church in Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
Dad got the Knights in our parish to spearhead a highly successful subscription drive for the Prairie Messenger. It meant that, at least for a year or two, Little Flower Parish achieved something that we take as a fact of life in the Edmonton Archdiocese - a high percentage of parishioners received a Catholic newspaper.
Our family actually spent some of our summer vacation time for a couple of years at the Benedictines' monastery and none of us ever thought that was a weird place for a holiday. The editor, Father James Gray, and business manager, Father Werner Renneberg, became family friends.
I also got to know the typesetter, an old monk who ran an enormous machine that seemed like it was built in the 17th century, and the circulation manager who ran another quaint machine. I recall watching Renneberg climb through the bowels of the printing press when it broke down.
It was all very interesting to me and by the time I was in Grade 5, I was sure I would be a newspaper editor when I grew up.
WHAT WILL HE DO?
However, that interest faded and the time came when Dad was distraught about what I might do with my life. I didn't know either, but I wasn't as worked up about it as he was.
Eventually, I did get into journalism, writing first for university newspapers, then freelancing for the Prairie Messenger and finally landing a job with the Red Deer Advocate.
THE BEST THING
When I became editor of the Western Catholic Reporter in 1981, Dad was beside himself with joy. He really did think that being the editor of a Catholic newspaper was about the best thing I could do with my life.
In fact, I am sure that if I had gone on to become the editor of The Globe and Mail or The National Post, he would have seen it as a step backwards.
In my early years with the WCR, he contributed some of his artwork to the newspaper. The paper would always be on the coffee table at my parents' home when I came to Regina for a visit. Dad always wanted to know what was going on at the newspaper and if the board of directors was being supportive.
Four years ago, Mom died and the next year Dad had major surgery and then went into a nursing home. His short-term memory deteriorated and, while the WCRs were still on the table whenever I visited, now they sat unopened and unread.
As parents we really have no clue what our kids are seeing in us, what actions of ours might inspire them and what values we pass on. In my case, my Dad's passion for the Catholic press became one of the driving forces in my life. It's one of the greatest gifts he gave me. Yet, at the time, nobody knew that he was even giving it.