The staff of the WCR today. From the top, Rebecca Cey (left), Tina Bounds (right), Jay Charland (left), Lorraine Turchansky (center left), Thandiwe Konguavi (center right), Ramon Gonzalez (right), Lasha Morningstar (left), Christopher Jugo (center), Glen Argan (right) and Eileen Stewart (bottom left).

The staff of the WCR today. From the top, Rebecca Cey (left), Tina Bounds (right), Jay Charland (left), Lorraine Turchansky (center left), Thandiwe Konguavi (center right), Ramon Gonzalez (right), Lasha Morningstar (left), Christopher Jugo (center), Glen Argan (right) and Eileen Stewart (bottom left).

September 28, 2015
GLEN ARGAN
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

Working at the WCR was to be, in my career plan, a whistle stop on a ride to a glorious career in print journalism. Somehow, the train never left the station.

Today, I regard that stalled train as one of my life's greatest blessings. Serving the people of God, serving the Church is an enormous privilege on which one cannot put a price. I have been fortunate to work for patient archbishops who put up with my foibles and even encouraged me to stay on the train.

As well, the readers of the WCR – and their surrogates on our now-defunct board of directors – have comforted and emboldened me on this journey as well as issuing occasional blunt challenges to do better or to give the newspaper a different slant.

I showed up here in April 1981, full of bravado about making this a fantastic publication. Reality was more difficult. My learning curve was steep, and established ways of operating were not easily overturned.

A few years later, the opportunity to launch a new monthly newspaper in Winnipeg's inner city fell into my lap. I worked with a wonderful group of women full of hope and deep community involvement, but the burden of precedent held no sway. It was easier in that situation to build a newspaper that lived up to my expectations.

The WCR carries the weight of many and conflicting expectations. Lifting that weight, however, has given it strength. The newspaper – especially during the 40-plus years that it received an assessment from the parishes of the Edmonton Archdiocese – is challenged to appeal to the broadest spectrum of the Catholic population.

That Catholic community has changed enormously since I arrived. The local Church has been blessed with an influx of immigrants from countries around the world, especially from Asia, Latin America and Africa. They have brought new life and hope for the future.

The WCR went all out in its coverage of St. John Paul II's 10 day visit to Canada in 1984.

The WCR went all out in its coverage of St. John Paul II's 10 day visit to Canada in 1984.

Despite the influx, numerous churches, both rural and urban, have been closed. The number of priests has dwindled; so too has our ability to pass on the faith to a new generation. The surrounding landscape, one that is secular and individualistic, has a great influence on the attitudes of Catholics.

The WCR strove to stand against the erosion of Catholic values and a sign of the divine beauty the Church embodies. For four decades, its goal was to enter the home of every family registered with a Catholic parish. That included families with spotty church attendance, many of whom read the WCR more often than they attended Sunday liturgy.

The local Church was buzzing in my early years with the newspaper. Lay involvement in many areas of Church life was new, spurred on by the vision of the Second Vatican Council. A spirit of innovation and excitement prevailed.

The Canadian bishops' conference had a high profile, issuing regular statements on societal issues, including its controversial Ethical Reflections on the Economic Crisis at New Year's in 1983.

JOHN PAUL WAS HEARD

The following year, Pope John Paul II travelled across Canada, riveting the nation's attention for 10 days. The pope put the new evangelization into action. Many disagreed with the Church's teachings, but at least those teachings were heard.

Production technology has changed radically from this 1996 photo taken of layout artist/advertising representative Linda Keer.

Production technology has changed radically from this 1996 photo taken of layout artist/advertising representative Linda Keer.

In 1985, I left the WCR for almost six years, working in Winnipeg and then at The Edmonton Journal. When I ended up back here in January 1991, I felt like Jonah whom a whale had hauled back to Nineveh. I did not, unlike Jonah, receive instructions from the Lord about what message to preach, and no one donned sackcloth and ashes after my editorials began to appear.

Yet, Catholic journalism has a prophetic element. The Catholic journalist not only holds up a mirror to the world, but also God's challenging word. Few, if any, of us who get into this ministry are equipped for the role of prophet. Study and prayer are essential to bringing a prophetic element to journalism. Even then, self-questioning is needed to distinguish God's word from Glen's word.

The world itself has changed drastically since 1965 or, at least, since my arrival at the WCR in 1981. Vatican II challenged the Church to enter into dialogue with the world. Society, however, has been increasingly secularized with declining interest in what the Church has to offer.

A new form of anti-Catholicism has arisen that denies or marginalizes the existence of God. It treats any suggestion of a universal moral law as the imposition of a form of cultural slavery.

Catholics have to watch what they say and where they say it more closely than they did in the recent past. When the Catholic Church makes a splash in the secular news today, as often as not, our teachings are being mocked and derided.

Vatican II's dream of dialogue with the broader society is still alive. However, too often, the broader society does not want to hear from us. We are like the old uncle whose opinions are an embarrassment to polite company at the dinner table.

The WCR sent reporters to several World Youth Days, including the 2002 event in Toronto.

The WCR sent reporters to several World Youth Days, including the 2002 event in Toronto.

In my second stint as editor that began in 1991, new highlights emerged. World Youth Days were not only international events, but also local ones, focal points for drawing young people to the Church. Thanks to the spread of eucharistic adoration, Catholic devotional life grew stronger.

The publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church raised a bulwark of belief after a period in which foundations seemed wobbly.

Looking around the Church today, one sees movements dying that were once vibrant. The Church faces the postmodern world with uncertainty, sometimes even fear. Postmodernism is a foe of faith, but can it also be a friend?

The WCR faces the same question. How are we to read the signs of the times? How is a communal faith to be preached and lived in a culture of individualism?

Also in today's world, print media is up against the wall. Newspapers everywhere face hardship, despite being the best media for spurring in-depth reflection on the events of the day.

New media must be embraced, but how can they be used to foster community and faith? Who will be their audience and how will that audience be reached?

The nature of how the Church will use media to evangelize in the future is far from clear. What is irrefutable is that the written word has always been essential to that evangelizing mission.

FAITH AND COMMUNITY

Working at the WCR ended up being much more than a way station in my career. It has been an invitation to constantly deepen my relationship with the Lord and provided an ongoing opportunity to invite others to deepen their faith as well.

Essential to the Gospel is that it is always being communicated, and always being brought to bear on the events and trends of society.

The WCR will continue to change, but Jesus' commission to spread the Good News will forever be the engine that drives the train.