Elmar Abele on his 90th birthday

Elmar Abele on his 90th birthday

August 29, 2016
GLEN ARGAN
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

When Elmar Abele became the first general manager of the Western Catholic Reporter in 1972, the newspaper was awash in red ink, had 14 staff and a circulation of 18,000.

With support from Archbishop Anthony Jordan and later Archbishop Joseph MacNeil, Abele set out to put the WCR on a sound financial footing.

He explored circulation plans adopted by Catholic papers in the United States and eventually recommended one similar to that of The Voice, the newspaper of the Diocese of Oakland, Calif.

Over the years, he reduced the WCR staff through attrition to its current level of eight, put its operations into the black and, thanks to the parish plan, doubled its circulation to 36,000.

"If you have a Catholic paper, it should go into every Catholic home," Abele said in an interview when he retired at the end of 1986. "It's amazing how many people will pick up something out of the WCR to bring them back to the Church."

The success of Abele's parish assessment plan was underlined in a 2010 consultant's report which found that 85 per cent of the 1,800 respondents to a readership survey supported the plan.

The parish assessment also made the paper an evangelizing force as many readers were infrequent church attenders. The WCR was their link with the Church.

Abele, who died Aug. 9 at the age of 94, did a lot more for the Church than run the WCR's business operations.

A man of deep faith and indomitable energy, he devoted much of his free time to the Serra Club, which promotes vocations to the priesthood, the Knights of Columbus, Catholic Social Services' Sign of Hope campaign and St. John the Evangelist Parish.

He was pre-deceased by his wife of 61 years, Irene, in 2007. The couple had three children, Randall, Tom and Marje. Elmar's funeral was held Aug. 15 at St. John the Evangelist Church.

Deacon Randall Abele recalled his father's decision to move from the insurance business to the WCR. Elmar was doing well financially selling insurance, but his son urged him to take on the new challenge.

Finally, he made the move and never regretted his decision. "He saw it as a way of serving the Church," Randall said.

FAMILY MAN

Elmar had many good friends, including numerous priests, and was also a good family man, he said.

"We knew we were loved and cared for as kids." They knew they could approach their dad with their problems, and he would provide them with helpful advice.

Elmar had a great sense of humour and would have his children rolling on the floor with laughter once he started his playful antics and telling stories, Randall recalled.

He was also involved in charitable work, which included counsel others with advice drawn from his own experiences, Randall said.

"He had a good positive outlook. He enjoyed life; he had a good strong faith. He wanted to do good."