Looking back on a rich history, forward to an exciting future

As we turn the page on another chapter in the history of our diocesan publication and prepare to publish the first edition of our new monthly magazine in January, it offers an opportunity to look back and celebrate the hard work that so many people have put into this ministry over the years. It’s a history that I learned after first coming to work at the St. Cloud Visitor in 1992, and it’s one that readers and staff — current and former — can rightfully be proud of.

By Joe Towalski

The first publication dates back to the first few years following the establishment of the Diocese of St. Cloud in 1889. Bishop Otto Zardetti, the first shepherd of the diocese, inaugurated “The Diocese of St. Cloud: Official Record and Messenger” in January 1891 as a way to “furnish solid spiritual food to our people.” The publication didn’t survive long, however.

The diocese didn’t have another publication until Bishop Joseph Busch began “My Message” as a magazine in 1914 with the goal of reaching “all the Catholics of this diocese and furnish not only a medium of regular communication between us, but also give proper expression to the bond that unites us all in the holiest of causes.” The magazine included official information from the bishop, news and catechetical articles — even a few in German, which was spoken by some of the area’s immigrants.

The last edition of “My Message” appeared in December 1919, and there would be no other publication for another 19 years. But as the diocese continued to grow, Bishop Busch felt the need to start another publication. In 1938, the diocese began a weekly newspaper, The Register – St. Cloud Edition, which was produced with the assistance of a Catholic newspaper chain based in Denver, Colorado, that published nearly two dozen other diocesan newspapers. In 1955, the newspaper switched to the Our Sunday Visitor chain, which provided a similar service to dioceses around the country, and became the St. Cloud Edition of Our Sunday Visitor.

In the years that followed, there were occasional discussions about whether the diocese should publish an entirely local newspaper on its own. At one point, the editor had a printer publish a prototype, which was titled Central Minnesota Catholic. But that transition didn’t happen until the late 1960s and, when it did, it became The St. Cloud Visitor. The newspaper maintained a weekly publication schedule until 2008, when it became biweekly.

One of the strengths of the publication over the years has been its dedicated staff and editorial leadership. From 1938 until 1989, priests of the diocese served as editor, the last being Father Ralph Zimmerman, who is now pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Sauk Rapids. He was followed by Benedictine Sister Nancy Bauer, who served from 1989 to 1998. Sister Nancy, a member of St. Benedict’s Monastery in St. Joseph and an assistant professor of canon law at The Catholic University of America in Washington, hired me as reporter for the newspaper in 1992. I took over the editorship from her (for the first time) in 1998.

I love and appreciate the mission of this diocesan publication. The staff of The Visitor has always been dedicated to a four-fold mission of informing, educating, inspiring and building a sense of community among Catholics across our 16-county diocese. As editor, I support that mission. I also try hard to understand trends in modern communication, the needs of our diocese — currently and into the future — and how best to use our resources to meet those needs.

As I wrote in this newspaper back in October, the way people consume news continues to evolve because of the 24/7 news cycle and easy access to a variety of online social media that speed up how news is disseminated. Our church also needs reinvigorated and creative efforts focused on education and evangelization. We need better outreach to young people and our Latino Catholic community.

Research shows that magazines are a good vehicle for these goals, even as newspaper circulations (including our own) decline. So our new publication, The Central Minnesota Catholic, will feature stories and columns that strive to fulfill that same four-fold mission to inform, educate, inspire and build community. Some content will be similar to what’s currently featured in The Visitor; some will be different. I hope, after you read the first few issues of the magazine that you will enjoy what it offers and find it enriching for your faith life.

I also want to point out several other informational and inspirational resources that we provide through our office. This includes our website and our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts, where you will find additional local news, photos and videos as well as the latest news from around the U.S., Vatican and other places around the world

We also publish an award-winning blog, “From the Heart” (fromtheheartmn.com), featuring the work of local writers. And we began podcasting under the title “Minnesota Catholic Podcasts” a few months ago. These podcasts feature uplifting messages, engaging dialogue and challenging discourse on topics impacting Catholics today (visit minnesotacatholicpodcasts.libsyn.com, or subscribe on iTunes or Google Play).

We will continue to publish a weekly e-newsletter with local, national and international news — often items that you won’t find in print. You can sign up for the newsletter on our website, which will be changing in the near future from stcloudvisitor.org to thecentralminnesotacatholic.org.

Ultimately, our goal with this transition and using the other means of communication we have available is to more effectively fulfill the mission of bringing people into a closer relationship to Jesus Christ and his church. I ask for your prayers as we embark on this new venture. Please contact me with any questions you have at jtowalski@gw.stcdio.org or 320-258-7624.

P.S. All current subscribers to The Visitor will receive The Central Minnesota Catholic magazine. Turn to page 5 for information about advertising, calendar events and deadlines for the magazine.

  • Msgr. Daniel Taufen, editor from 1964 to 1979, works with seminarians, including Virgil Helmin, left, and Joe Korf on a readership survey for The Visitor in 1973.

Author: Joe Towalski

Joe Towalski is the editor for The Central Minnesota Catholic Magazine.

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