PARISH GAZETTEAmong Catholic periodicals the parish magazine or, more to the point, the "parish gazette" holds a place of eminence.
The parish gazette is not a news sheet, it is not a chronicle of public happenings over a given time, it is not a farming, business or industrial gazette; it is not a scientific literary review, it is not self-flattering or a self-defense; it is not a news sheet that slanders opponents, real or imaginary...
It is, instead, the loudspeaker of the pastor and of the parish's projects, the paper bell that silently summons parishioners to the parish,
the communal fatherly home where people are born into the spiritual life, where they experience [the liturgy's] solemn acts, and where they will receive their first suffrages in death. It is the pastor's medium of charity, for he sets down on paper what he spoke from the pulpit lest they forget. It is an extension of his pastoral zeal that goes beyond the church walls to reach everyone, even those who no longer frequent the church and those far from God.
While the parish gazette has always the same purpose, it may be subject to variation as regards its frequency, its format and its content...
As regards its publication time it can be weekly, fortnightly, monthly, bi-monthly [= two-monthly], six-monthly, yearly.
As regards size the format can be that of a single sheet, a notice, a parish letter,1 a poster to be affixed to the church door or walls, or [it can be] newspaper size, with or without pictures, in four, eight, sixteen or more pages.
As regards the content matter it can be for all, for one's own parish, or partly for all and partly for one's own parish.
For all, when it is the same for several parishes. For one's own parish, when it is written completely
by the pastor or by a person in his name. Partly for all and partly for the parish, when the pastor reserves for himself a column or a page in a gazette that one or more dioceses publish in common.
The usefulness or rather the necessity of the parish gazette is clearly apparent from its practical purpose.
It aims to establish a close link between the pastor and his flock. It is a link with all those who have heard his words in church, now clearly set out in print, so that they can call them to mind and reflect on them at the opportune time.
It is a link with those who have distanced themselves and no longer come to church. It is a reminder and the fatherly call of the pastor who must lead them and wants to lead them to the faithful practice of the Christian life.
It is a link with those alienated from religion, a link with antagonists and, if need be, with emigrants. Experience has shown and shows that many antagonists, left to their private thoughts, esteem, trust and bear good will to their pastor who has vowed himself to God's service and to the good of souls, of their souls. Even if they do not want it to be known, many enjoy reading
in the privacy of their homes those words that, given their bias, they do not want to hear. Others instead will be drawn by curiosity, by the need to fill in time, resolved to criticize it... But even in these cases, the written word of the pastor, if it is a true word of God, set down or expounded with a supernatural spirit, will not fail to be an opportunity for bonding, a seed of life for heaven.
To realize how much the gazette means to those who have emigrated it suffices to look at their attachment to their religion and to their homeland.
In the hands of the parishioners the gazette will thus be a sign of fraternity, the badge that marks them out as the pastor's flock.
In the hands of the pastor it will testify to his lively charity towards God and towards his flock; [it is] a declaration of his zealous sacrifice and daring because to start up a parish gazette demands, at times, great sacrifices and involves surmounting not a few difficulties.
Today, more than ever, in the midst of such apathy, pious self-conceit and an unbridled passion for reading, the pastor who has managed to start a gazette in his parish can state that he has not neglected one of the most effective means of his ministry.
Another purpose of the parish gazette is
to help develop all the initiatives of the parish.
In fact, the wisest and most practical people are the ones who keep organizational works going through brochures that explain, inculcate and maintain them. So it is for works in the civil, commercial, sporting, scientific, artistic and religious field. So too for missionary works, welfare centers, schools...
Naturally it is a question of a "dulce pondus",2 similar to the weight of the wings of a bird, a weight, nonetheless, that is borne by the wings themselves.
The gazette supports such parish works as the kindergarten and the hospital, it seeks help to cover the cost of church works; it promotes and supports such religious initiatives as the first Friday in honor of the Sacred Heart, Forty Hours, the missions; it promotes catechetical organization; it gives work to Catholic Action, to the confraternities, to charities and to organizations that deal with various people and their needs.
To sum up: the parish gazette is a loud voice, a continuous voice, a written voice, a voice issued thoughtfully and expediently that has, even from a human point of view, the best qualifications for success.
If the parish gazette is to have an easy ride in achieving its holy purpose then it needs to have certain qualities. These regard the editorial role and content, its external appearance, its administration and its distribution.
It is to be edited by the pastor (at least the part that concerns the parish), and to be under his direct responsibility. Since the gazette is a form of preaching it has to reflect the pulpit which the priest mounts in fear and trembling lest he distort the word of God.
The gazette is to be addressed to all the parishioners and, in a special way, to those who practice the least.
The priest is to speak impersonally, and to introduce himself not as a particular person but as a father and pastor. His writing is to reflect his heart and soul and resonate with enthusiasm, soothing words and supernatural affection.
The gazette's style of writing is to be simple. It is to be conversational, narrative, anecdotal... as the occasion demands.
The subject matter is to be of a religious and moral, that is, a pastoral nature. It is to contain a part that is proper to the parish and a part open to all; this latter is not written by the pastor but by people who are qualified. The proper is to contain things concerning the parish and be written by the pastor.
As a filler or addition it is to carry brief items of interest to the parishioners that, at least indirectly, are a help to the welfare of their soul and, overall, result in a sense of unity with the pastor and affection for the gazette.
The main part of the gazette should carry a repeat of the parish instructions, the timetable of services, births, marriages and deaths and especially the revered word of the Pope and the Bishops. It would be useless for the Pope to speak and the Bishops to issue pastoral letters if the faithful did not know about them. It would be useful and not out of place to have a popular defense of the truths of the faith, set out in a precise and clear way.
The bulletin is to be an echo of all the parish's organizations such as Catholic Action, the confraternities, the religious and charitable undertakings, the library, the parish drama plays or movie shows, and so on.
Scurrilous attacks and useless and unseemly adulation are to be avoided, at all costs. On the contrary the style should be cheerful and heartening.
The administration of the gazette, ordinarily, is not, and must not be a burden, because if it is taken care of properly it becomes not a liability but a support for all the other parish works and initiatives. A subscription may be levied, but the bulletin should be sent especially to those who do not pay. The greatest support
comes from voluntary offerings. Use may be made at times of collections, stalls, recitals and so on.
As far as possible the distribution must be pastoral. To send the gazette through the mail is not the best way. A very useful way instead is to give it to zealous helpers to distribute to families and to consign it to the head of the house. If there is a group of cooperators for the press apostolate in the parish, then the distribution is to be overseen by one or more members of the group.
Whatever the manner of distribution, care is to be taken that the gazette reaches every family, especially the ones who no longer frequent the church, and those who oppose it.
The task of the press apostle as regards the parish gazette is to give advice consonant with the rules set out above, to encourage people and, when needs be, to write articles for the main section, and to take care of the printing and the distribution.
The apostle should give himself no peace until every parish has its own gazette.
1 When it is in this size the parish gazette can also be typewritten.
2 * A pleasant weight.