WALKING BY FAITH TOGETHER | The Catholic Exponent
MOST REV. DAVID J. BONNAR
Bishop of Youngstown
Note: This column appears in print in the November 11 edition of the Catholic Exponent.
In reflecting on the role of the parish of the future, I often reference this piece of wisdom from Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel:
“The parish is not an outdated institution; precisely because it possesses great flexibility, it can assume quite different contours depending on the openness and missionary creativity of the pastor and the community. While certainly not the only institution which evangelizes, if the parish proves capable of self-renewal and constant adaptivity, it continues to be ‘the Church living in the midst of the homes of her sons and daughters.’ This presumes that it really is in contact with the homes and the lives of its people, and does not become a useless structure out of touch with people or a self-absorbed group made up of a chosen few.” (Evangelii Gaudium, no. 28; quoting also from Pope Saint John Paul II, Christifideles Laici, no. 438).
Just as parishes are adapting to the realities of today’s Church and world, through collaborative sharing and new creativity, so too do our diocesan ministries need to adapt. We are all in this together.
Just as parishes are adapting to the realities of today’s Church and world . . . so too do our diocesan ministries need to adapt. We are all in this together.
One of the areas of adaptivity since I was ordained and installed as Bishop has been in the area of Communications, which I named as a priority in my pastoral letter, Testify to the Light. In fact, all over the country diocesan publications and communications offices are adapting to rapid change and the need to use resources wisely. Many diocesan newspapers have ceased operations. More and more dioceses are going in a digital direction, and diocesan magazines are growing rapidly, as these initiatives have been proven to better-serve today’s Church.
Like diocesan publications throughout the country, and indeed like all newspapers, The Catholic Exponent has been affected by changes in how media is consumed. Our current circulation sits at under 19,000 households, which is about one third of the number of households in our diocese. As a diocese, we need to ask the same questions parishes are asking,“Is this the most effective way to use our resources and live our mission? How can we best maximize our finances and the energy and hard work of staff with ‘openness and missionary creativity?’”
More widely, the Diocese of Youngstown has been engaged in a process of balancing the need to be more digital, while also supporting “legacy” platforms of print, broadcast television and radio in a way that is sustainable. We need to continue to reach those who depend on our current communication services, but we need to extend our reach beyond a “chosen few.” The aim of all this will be to achieve better “contact with the homes and the lives” of our people and to reach out to the peripheries in the spirit of missionary discipleship.
In the Diocese of Youngstown, our adaptation began with a focus on social media, when I hired Cindee Case as our first diocesan social media minister. Cindee not only creates engaging content online, but also accompanies those who interact with our social media channels. Through our social media, we are able to reach more people, in a more regular and interactive way than traditional media.
Building on those efforts, I recently established a Department of Communications. Like with parish pastoral planning, this department is allowing us to be more efficient financially and operationally, bringing together ministries that were once independent and increasing our impact. I appointed Justin Huyck as Director of this department, and Katie Wagner as Associate Director. Justin leads our department with deep experience in Church ministry and pastoral communication. Katie is a seasoned professional in communications and publishing, especially the intricacies of magazine publishing, print and digital design and operational planning. The team also includes Cindee Case, Meagen Farrell, who is responsible for internal communications, and Bob Gavalier, who joined the Department of Communications after years of service at the Catholic Telecommunications Network of Youngstown (CTNY).
My mandate to the Department of Communications has been to research possibilities, engage in consultation and propose and then execute a path forward. For the past many months, Katie has engaged in extensive research with other dioceses, vendors, other potential partners, and with our Finance Office; and Justin, Katie, and the entire Communications team has diligently pursued expansive consultation.
Announcing The Catholic Echo
With all this in mind, I am pleased to announce The Catholic Echo. The Catholic Echo will be a multi-platform publication and media group that brings together our diocesan publication and the Catholic Telecommunications Network of Youngstown (CTNY). In print, The Catholic Echo will be a magazine that debuts in Spring 2023 and will publish ten times per year. It will succeed and build upon the 79-year history of The Catholic Exponent. The Exponent will cease production at the end of February 2023, which will allow for some needed preparation time before the new magazine debuts later in the Spring.
The Echo name brings to mind our call to amplify the Gospel and allow it to resound, and it is a word that has deep roots in our Christian tradition. The Catholic Echo magazine will be a tool of information—making our Catholic community aware of major initiatives and activities—but its renewed focus will be on formation and evangelization. Simply put, it is not enough for Catholics to know about activities if they are not inspired and given a solid foundation about Catholic life and their place in it. Contemporary design and photography will be a priority of the new magazine, as will comprehensive coverage of the faith life of all six counties of the diocese.
Unlike our current newspaper, The Catholic Echo will be sent to every registered parishioner in the Diocese of Youngstown. This will be at no direct cost to parishioners. We have developed a business model that allows the publication to be supported by a new approach to advertising and revenue development, as well as an internal diocesan seed grant and an assessment to parishes to offset printing and mailing costs. The parish assessment will be in line with the ways parishes have supported The Exponent and will allow us to use the magazine as a tool for evangelization in an equal way across all parishes.
The best ways for you, personally, to support The Catholic Echo and our other Communications efforts, will be to support your parish, consider advertising your business in The Catholic Echo, and respond, as you are able, to special donation drives and targeted giving as you have in the past for CTNY and The Exponent. For example, the new diocesan Communications Collection scheduled for Epiphany weekend, January 7 and 8, will support our Communication Department’s varied print, digital and multimedia initiatives.
With our current circulation almost tripling in size, The Catholic Echo is about to become one of the highest-impact print publications in our region. More information will be available to both current and prospective partners about advertising and giving opportunities, but I invite those interested in leading philanthropically, or through advertising, to contact Justin Huyck, Director of Communications, at (330) 744-8451 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Catholic Echo will also have a subscription plan for those not affiliated with a parish. For current subscribers to The Exponent who are not registered parishioners, your current subscriptions will be honored and fulfilled through The Catholic Echo until your subscription expires—at which time, we will invite you to re-subscribe. In short, all who would currently be receiving The Exponent will receive The Catholic Echo magazine, plus many more.
The Catholic Echo Website and Multimedia
The Catholic Echo will feature a comprehensive website that will debut early in 2023, before the print magazine, which will allow for continuous coverage, even during the brief period that we are without a print product. The Catholic Echo website will go well beyond simply publishing articles from the magazine. Instead, this digital platform will be the place to go for ongoing news and updates from around the diocese—the timely news you see in The Exponent will now be available online, in an even more timely way. Like other dioceses, The Catholic Echo’s digital offerings will include an email newsletter to push news and features directly to subscribers who opt-in to receive email updates and will also be available via social media.
The Catholic Echo will also be the digital hub for our video and multimedia offerings, including our televised Mass and radio program Wineskins, hosted by Father Jim Korda. But we will be developing new multimedia programming as well, including podcasts, supported by our new streamlined social media studio in the diocesan offices, which is replacing the CTNY studios in Canfield.
Radio, Television, Print, and Continuing our Diocese’s Pioneering Legacy
This is an exciting moment for the Diocese of Youngstown, but I also know that it might be bittersweet. Many have relied on The Exponent and CTNY, and both reflect a pioneering legacy of communications in our diocese. Like The Exponent’s eighty-year history, CTNY has a forty-year history, and its use of radio and cable TV was groundbreaking.
Currently, our cable television station has decreased to just two carriers, both in the Youngstown-Warren area, and right now we are present on only one of those carriers—Armstrong. Our Communications Department continues to make progress in negotiations to return to Spectrum Cable in the Youngstown-Warren area. While our focus is to use our resources to create multimedia content for a digital audience of all six counties in our diocese, our hope is to maintain our local cable television presence for those who rely on it, working with cable companies, the Society of St. Paul in Canfield and CatholicTV, a longtime national provider of content on our station. And our recorded Mass and radio program Wineskins will continue to be produced for distribution on local media outlets.
We live in a unique time for Catholic media—we don’t want to leave anyone behind, and at the same time, we know there are so many we are not reaching. We will continue to support our pioneering efforts in radio, television and print. With The Catholic Echo, we now look forward to extending our reach in a smart and effective way, so that the echo of our Catholic faith can reverberate to the farthest corners of our diocese and deep into the hearts of all our people.