Archbishop Fiorenza looks back on 50 years of the Texas Catholic Herald

May 13, 2014

HOUSTON — “One of the major responsibilities of a bishop is to teach,” Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza wrote in the March 15, 1985 edition of the Texas Catholic Herald. “This duty can be fulfilled in several ways and one of them is through the use of the Catholic press.”

Those words opened the Archbishop Emeritus’ inaugural column as ordinary of the Diocese of Galveston-Houston. A long-time proponent of diocesan newspapers, Archbishop Fiorenza recognized the power of the press as an instrument in evangelization and communicating the Good News well before his installation as bishop of the local Church. When he was named bishop of San Angelo in 1979, Archbishop Fiorenza took on an active role with their diocesan paper, the West Texas Angelus — while also contributing a column for it, titled “Heart to Heart.”

“The (diocesan) newspaper was very much needed out in West Texas, where the parishes were all separate from each other,” Archbishop Fiorenza said about the Angelus. “It was really critical for all of the churches in that vast area to understand they belong to a diocesan Church. It is through the diocesan Church and the local bishop that they were part of the Holy Roman Catholic Church.”

That perspective was certainly relatable to a growing diocese like Galveston-Houston, particularly when Archbishop Fiorenza returned to his home diocese as bishop in 1985. While serving as publisher of the Catholic Herald, Archbishop Fiorenza also contributed his own column, “Together in His Name.”

“I plan to write, from time to time, a column that will discuss the teachings of the Church and, in light of the gospels and our Catholic tradition, to comment on the important issues of our age,” he stated in that first column for the Herald. “‘Together in His Name’ is the title I have given to the column because it refers to the desire of Jesus that whenever we gather together, whether to celebrate the Eucharist, to study the Bible and Church teachings, to work, to plan, to eat or play, we should be bonded by a love and unity in Him. Love and unity in Christ are the characteristics of Christians who truly are His disciples. Love and unity have the inherent power to join together those of different ages, mentalities, attitudes, races, cultures and social classes. When we gather in His name, whether it be two or three, or a thousand, our hearts, opened to Him through love and unity, become most receptive to His word which forms and molds us into His likeness.”

Archbishop Fiorenza — who will be celebrating 60 years in the priesthood on May 29 — went on to write “Together in His Name” from “time to time” until 2006, when Daniel Cardinal DiNardo was installed as the local shepherd.

In a recent visit with the Texas Catholic Herald, Archbishop Fiorenza reflected on several aspects of the Archdiocesan newspaper’s golden anniversary.

TCH: You were serving as parish administrator of the Sacred Heart Co-Cathedral when the Texas Catholic Herald was established in 1964. From the beginning, what has been the Herald’s role in forming and informing the faithful of Galveston-Houston?

Archbishop Fiorenza: It fulfilled a very important need in the diocese at that time when it was established. The diocese was beginning to grow and there was no way in which the bishop could contact all of the different parishes in a very direct way without the paper. So the newspaper, in my opinion, served to both unify the diocese — to make us realize that we are not just separate entities not in any way connected with one another as a diocesan Church. But the paper also offered the bishop an opportunity to get his message out to all of the parishes and both inform them on what is happening on the diocesan level and at the same time, be able to receive information from the parishes of what is happening at the parishes and make that information known throughout the whole diocese.

Of course, the newspaper fundamentally serves as a means of evangelization, a means of teaching. The bishop is able to fulfill his role as a teacher and get that message to the different parishes at the same time. With the establishment of the Catholic Herald, that gave all of the people in Galveston-Houston a greater sense of identity as one diocesan Church.

TCH: Do you have any specific memories involving the original principal contributors — namely Bishop John L. Morkovsky, the founding president, and Monsignor John L. Fos, the founding executive editor — during those early, formative years?

Archbishop Fiorenza: Father Fos was appointed by bishop to be the first editor of the paper. He served in that capacity and did a good job in helping to get the Herald established and accepted as a diocesan paper. Of course, we had to be able to see that the paper got into all of the Catholic homes and that was not an easy thing to do, to get the subscriptions base set up so that the paper would be a source of information to every home. Father Fos did good job in getting that whole subscription (endeavor) moving. And at the same time, he was seeking ads from different businesses to advertise in the paper. He was a gentle fellow, he didn’t very often write editorials or things like that. His role was more to coordinate the staff. In that way, he served very well.

As for Bishop Morkovsky, he was extremely interested in the paper. He saw how much we needed a paper and I think (establishing the Herald) was one of his greatest contributions during his episcopacy. From time to time, he would publish articles (Bishop Morkovsky’s columns were titled “From the Bishop’s Desk”). When I came along, we started doing columns more regularly.

TCH: As the long-time publisher of the Catholic Herald, what are your thoughts about being a “regular” contributor to the newspaper — as a publisher and columnist, ordinary and bishop of the diocese? What kind of opportunities did that present?

Archbishop Fiorenza: I saw it as part of my responsibility to teach, to use the column as a means to present the teachings of the Church on different aspects of our Catholic faith… to help strengthen the belief of the people in the teachings of the Church. Also at the same time, (the column) could bring forth the areas that needed attention, to help share the responsibility the Church had to the larger community which was a lot of the focus on the Second Vatican Council … to share with the larger community, not just the Church community.

TCH: In your eyes, how has the Herald’s content evolved over the years? What are some of the challenges in covering a large Archdiocese?

Archbishop Fiorenza: Each editor has brought his or her own focus to journalism. They emphasize some things more than others. I think it is important that there is a lot of attention made to what is going on at the parishes, particularly the smaller, outlying parishes. They don’t get much attention, they aren’t always covered as much as the big parishes. Those parishes far away need to feel like they are a part (of the greater diocese).

TCH: Today, many readers want instant access to breaking news. With that in mind, print media and newspapers regularly face uphill challenges in today’s news media market. How is the Herald still relevant to the faithful in Galveston-Houston?

Archbishop Fiorenza: The local diocesan paper has to keep the local Catholics informed of what is going on in the Catholic world. That has to be the focus and I think that is why the paper is an absolute necessity. There are some dioceses who had to cut back their paper to once a month or go to a magazine (format). I’m glad the Herald is still published every other week. I think that is important in keeping the faith alive, keeping our people informed in the teachings of the Church and with what is going on in the Catholic world.