The Diocese of St. Cloud has a long history of producing quality publications to keep Catholics in central Minnesota informed about the church and inspire them to live our faith more deeply. Over the 129-year history of the diocese, this communications ministry has taken various forms, starting with magazines published by the diocese’s earliest bishops to the current biweekly Visitor newspaper, which is mailed to approximately 39,000 households across the 16 counties of our diocese.
The goal has always been to serve the communications needs of the bishop and the local church in the best ways possible, and sometimes that has meant changing the way we do things. After much discernment as well as consultation with Bishop Donald Kettler, we are embarking on a new chapter of communications ministry: Starting in January, The Visitor will transition to a magazine format. The new publication, whose name will be announced in the next few weeks, will be a monthly, 32-page, full-color magazine. Four of those pages will be in Spanish.
Why a magazine instead of a biweekly newspaper?
There are several reasons for moving in this direction. One is the changing news environment. For many years now, we have been living with a 24/7 news cycle, and it is very difficult to provide timely news when you publish every two weeks. An increasing number of people stay updated on the news of the day, not through reading a newspaper, but rather via their “screens” — phones, iPads and other tablets — and social media. If Pope Francis makes a major announcement today, people are likely to hear about it on television and see it on Facebook several days or even weeks before they read it in our diocesan newspaper.
We also are living in a changing church environment. For many years now, I have been hearing bishops and other church leaders across the country speak about the need for better educational and evangelization efforts, better outreach to the Latino Catholic community, and better ways to reach younger Catholics. I heard pastors and parish leaders in our diocese voice these same needs in meetings for our diocese’s current pastoral planning process.
This isn’t to say that there is no longer any value in a printed, mailed publication. While newspaper readership has its challenges, magazine readership among all age groups remains healthy. There is still a need for a printed publication — but one, we believe, with a different approach. Rather than focusing on day-to-day news, the magazine will focus on less time-dependent local feature stories and columns that inspire, form and inform readers and that build up our Catholic community in the diocese.
Covering local Catholic news and events will still be a priority for us. So we’ll be keeping you up to date on the latest news from around the U.S., the Vatican and other places around the world. We’ll be moving much of that daily, breaking-type news coverage to our website, social media and other digital communications. As we switch to magazine format, we will be working to make our online presence more plentiful and robust. This also will help us to reach more people who are on the peripheries of the church, including oftentimes young people, with positive, faith-inspired stories and messages. We also are hoping to provide parishes with a weekly news update that could be inserted into parish bulletins.
So what will stay the same with the new magazine format?
All current subscribers to The Visitor will receive the magazine. We will retain a local focus and continue to publish feature stories about local people doing amazing and inspirational things because of their faith. You will hear regularly from Bishop Kettler, who will have a column in each edition. The magazine will include solid catechetical content suitable for personal or small-group study. We will continue to provide analysis through a Catholic lens of trending local, national and international news.
We also will continue to publish calendar listings of events, such as parish festivals, special events, retreats, etc. And readers can still purchase advertising. We will retain our current staffing, although a few job duties will change.
What else will change?
As I noted, the name of the publication will change (stay tuned) and more news will be available online. Our print deadlines will be earlier for calendar items and paid advertising. Ad rates and sizes will change. We will be adding some new columnists and ending some features, such as the Golden Years section. We know some of these changes will be difficult for readers, but we are trying hard to use the available space in the best ways possible for the magazine’s evangelization goals.
Details regarding these changes are still being finalized and will be announced in the coming weeks. Watch future issues of The Visitor for more information.
For the magazine venture, we will be working with Faith Catholic, a company based in Lansing, Michigan, which has extensive experiencing in helping dioceses publish engaging magazines to meet their needs. The move to a magazine helps us with our goal of being good stewards of the financial resources made available to us; our mailing costs will decrease by mailing 12 times instead of 24 times a year.
In the meantime, please check out the other resources we offer, and will continue to offer, to keep you inspired and informed about your faith:
- Facebook: @TheSt.CloudVisitor
- Twitter: @SCVisitor
- Instagram: visitorphoto
- Weekly Update e-newsletter: Sent directly to your inbox featuring the top local, national and international Catholic news of the week. Sign up at: stcloudvisitor. org, click on “Subscribe to The Visitor newsletter” at the bottom of the page.
- From the Heart blog: Local writers reflect on daily life and current issues through a Catholic lens. Visit: fromtheheartmn.com.
- Minnesota Catholic Podcasts: Produced by The Visitor, these podcasts feature uplifting messages, engaging dialogue and challenging discourse on topics impacting Catholics today.
As we begin this new stage of Catholic communications ministry in the diocese, I’m energized and inspired by a comment Pope Francis made earlier this year in a speech to Italian journalists:
“The use of new digital platforms not only requires significant technological updates but also a willingness to accept that the attachment to the past may prove to be a dangerous temptation. … Authentic servants of tradition are those who, while keeping memory alive, know how to discern the signs of the times and open new paths.”
This new venture is a new path of communication that fits the needs of the times and it is the direction of the future — one always focused on bringing people into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ and his church.
If you have any questions or comments about this transition, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 320-258-7624. And don’t forget to watch future issues of The Visitor for additional information about the new magazine.