|Memories and milestones - Jun 10|
|2012 - Viewpoint|
|Saturday, 09 June 2012 21:18|
By Sr Marie Thérèse Rétout OP
The Catholic News is 120 years old! Congratulations! Long live the Catholic News! When Archbishop Patrick Vincent Flood OP started the paper in 1892 it was like the launching of a ship and, as with all ships, it went through smooth sailings and rough seas. I have had the privilege of being associated with the Catholic News for 19 years (1972 – 1991), so I think I could tell my story in relation to it before I depart from this world (I am now 90 years old!).
Let me start with its birth. The Dominican Sisters had just opened a new foundation in Port of Spain in 1890 in the former Bolivar College, next to the Colonial Hospital. The Archbishop sought their assistance to start a Catholic weekly for the Archdiocese. They provided him not only with a house for the printery but labour as well. Two Dominican Sisters and some girls from their “Working Girls Hostel” took charge of the typography department. This went on until 1910 when the printery was transferred to the grounds of the St Dominic’s orphanage in Belmont, Port of Spain.
In the course of its life, the editors of the Catholic News have been in turns, Irish Dominican Fathers and lay men, and two Spiritan Fathers. In 2003 a lay woman, June Johnston, was appointed as editor and is showing herself equal to the task.
In 1972, my entry into the editorial staff of the Catholic News was rather unusual, as I am a religious Sister. That had never happened before and so, many barriers had to be broken down. It was a major challenge but I had absolute confidence in God’s grace to help me. I started with a weekly column at the request of Owen Baptiste, then the editor. When he left the paper in 1974, and Fr Peter Nicholson CSSp was appointed to succeed him, the situation was very grim. Sales of the Catholic News were at the lowest, rendering it no longer viable. It was at that time, in July 1974, that I joined the Catholic News on a full time basis. But was it going to be for long because there was the question of closure? I remember a meeting held with Fr Nicholson, Arthur Mc Shine, the manager, and myself. We were wondering what to do to save the paper. At one time I dared to come up with this suggestion; “What about going to the parishes to find out why Catholics do not buy the paper?” Fr Nicholson approved. To this I added, “but who is going to do it?” Pointing his finger to me, Fr Peter said, “You!” “Me?!” I exclaimed, “but I don’t know Trinidad and Tobago!” “You’ll get to know the country!” And so it was that “Parish Beat” was born. It was to last until 1976 and the 61 parishes of the Archdiocese were not only visited, but their stories were written. It was a “beat” on foot at first, until a much needed photographer was obtained. Fortunately, young Neil Hokan had an old motorcar which carried us through those two years. At the end of this odyssey, Neil got married, migrated to Canada with his wife and the sales of the Catholic News were on the increase.
Meantime, all sorts of tribulations were afflicting the office at 34 Belmont Circular Road, where the printing of the paper was done. A large machine had been imported from Ireland, which proved to be too old to give an efficient printing, and it eventually broke down. Not only the printing machine named “Cossard” was too old, but the wooden building as well, so the Catholic News had to leave the premises in view of its demolition. The skeleton staff of the paper then had to move to an apartment at 10 Coblentz Avenue and the Express newspaper accepted to print the Catholic News. In 1976, the promised office in the brand new Pastoral Centre, on the western side of the Cathedral on Independence Square, was made available and we moved into it. It was new but space was limited; one noisy main room, a small office for the editor, a dark room for the new photographer, Tony Forte, and a vault to preserve the old volumes of the Catholic News. The front of the building was a disgrace. I remember that on weekends I used to come and work so as to give it the appearance of a garden. May God bless the members of the Horticultural Society of Trinidad and Tobago because, one Saturday, some of them came with plants and gardeners and made a real garden in front of the Pastoral Centre which can be seen up to today. Blessings also to Winfield Scott, who provided us with a mower and tools so that the garden could be maintained.
We were now sailing under blue skies, however, it was not for long because a kind of tropical storm broke out -- the Express could no longer print our paper due to a shortage of newsprint. An offer was made; “Our sister company, the Nation in Barbados can print it for you”. And so it was that, alternately, Andy Pitman, the sub-editor, and myself had to fly to Barbados on a weekly basis, for a few weeks, to bring the Catholic News to Trinidad. Eventually, after some help received from the “Syncreators” company, the Express was able to resume printing the Catholic News and has done so up to this day. The relationship I had with some staff members of the Express during those trying times could not have been better. God bless them for all the help they gave me, as well as at AS Bryden & Sons, then our neighbour, for the use of their copying machine (we had none in the office).
There were days when Andy Pitman would tell me: “Sis, there are two blank pages, find stories to fill them!” And so, I would look in the old volumes of the paper with the hope of finding interesting stories to reprint. There were days when there was very little advertisement in the Catholic News. Fortunately, there were the regular columnists, Archbishop Anthony Pantin with his Ask Me Another, Fr Peter Nicholson’s Nick’s Corner, Alvin Corneal and Glen Roach, Barnabas Fortuné and Hubert Dolsingh. The Mass page was also my assignment. Those were the days of much tension and hard work! For 17 years (1974 – 1991) Fr Peter Nicholson and I fought together the good fight to keep the Catholic News alive. Every week, except for two weeks’ holiday, Fr Peter used to walk to and from St. Theresa’s in Woodbrook, his parish, to the Catholic News office on Independence Square; he took no salary for his work as editor. What we did was a labour of love for God and for the Church and we were happy to do it.
In the midst of all this work, I am most grateful to the Catholic News for having facilitated my research and writing of five books -- Parish Beat (1977), A Light Rising From The West (UWI St Augustine Campus) (1984), Called to Serve (History of the Dominican Sisters in Trinidad) (1988), Memories & Milestones (Centenary of the Catholic News) (1992), The Land of my Dreams (Venezuela, Spanish/English text) (1979/2005), which were all eventually published.
This is my last story for the Catholic News. Goodbye dear readers. Many thanks for your wonderful support. May God bless you all!________________________________________________________________________________________ **DISCLAIMER**: User comments posted on this website are the sole views and opinions of the comment writer and are not representative of Camsel/Catholic News or its staff. Camsel/Catholic News accepts no liability and will not be held accountable for user comments. Please help us keep our site clean from inappropriate comments by using the flag option. Camsel/Catholic News reserves the right to remove, to edit or to censor any comments. Any content which is considered unsuitable, unlawful or offensive, includes personal details, advertises or promotes products, services or websites or repeats previous comments will be removed. Before posting, please refer to the Comments Policy under Resources