Wednesday, June 27, 2012


When speaking about our Diocesan newspaper, Mississippi Catholic, some of us priests have nicknamed it "The Voice". Not the same "The Voice" that features hopeful talents and Ceelo Green's judgment but we get the title from one of the oft repeated statements Bishop Latino makes in reference to the paper: "It is the bishop's voice to his people".

Janna Avalon speaking to leaders of the Diocese
For those 50 and over, the paper has become a staple in their Diocesan diet as they read national columns by Fr. Ron Rolheiser or local writers such as Fr. Jeremy Tobin. Most of all, the photos of grandkids in Catholic schools or a luncheon in honor of a priest or sister has been something Catholics have looked forward to putting on their bulletin boards or refrigerator.

Recently, the editor of the paper, Janna Avalon, announced her retirement after a 41 year run. Over the summer, she's been doing tributes to her work on the paper and the latest issue includes 41 things she remembers about her time on the paper. Or those things that can be printed anyway.

Here are some of the memories Janna shared with her readers of her time being the Bishop's "Voice":

1 My first week on the job, in June 1971 Bishop Joseph Brunini invited me to have coffee with him in the second floor break room which was only used by men at that time. Women had a lounge on third floor. I was the buzz of the Chancery for a few days for breaking that sexual barrier.

 6 My greatest challenge was always trying to understand the church and its teachings – like the Eucharist, and the why and how of all the sacraments on personal and parish and diocesan levels, and explaining what local and national and international church news meant to those of us in Mississippi with a Catholic population of less than 4 percent. If I could understand, maybe I could help others understand.

 9 Over the years, we have had some of the timeliest columnists who gave us opinions about what the church was doing and not doing every week. Some were controversial, others energized us. I still wish we had more women writers.

 26 In 1971 shortly after joining the staff, I had the opportunity of interviewing and photographing Dorothy Day. I shall always regret my ignorance of not knowing who she was. However, I shall be eternally grateful for the inspiration she continues to give me.

 36 Letters to the editor over the years gave us feedback from Catholics from all over the diocese. Some writers voiced their dismay at articles they disagreed with, others shared their delight with news about happenings in the diocese. Letters had to be screened very carefully to avoid disagreement with church teachings.

 41 Bishop Latino considers the Mississippi Catholic as one of the ordinary means and vehicles by which a bishop can speak to all of his people concerning faith and morality. He says the newspaper assists him in fulfilling his responsibility as a bishop to teach and spread the Good News of Jesus Christ in our local diocesan church. 

As papers are going the way of the floppy disk, it remains to be seen how the bishop's voice will continue in the future. As older readers lament the dearth of print, some younger Catholics are more savvy to what they see on Twitter and Facebook. Rumor has it that they even are turning to blogs.

Maybe the future bishop will be a blogger and his voice will be his own.