By Barb Arland-Fye
Four of our five Catholic Messenger staffers have unpacked boxes and settled into new offices in The Diocese of Davenport headquarters, also known as “The Chancery.”
We moved in Friday, thanks to the Herculean efforts of Roederer Transfer and Storage in Davenport, and the adaptability and graciousness of the chancery staff.
But approximately 30 packed boxes await their new homes in file cabinets in my office; I am exhausted from having to pack them in the first place!
My predecessors, Msgr. Frank Henricksen and Frank Wessling, were diligent about preserving documents and correspondence they deemed to be of historic value to The Catholic Messenger. I had the privilege of sorting through more than 40 years of files, letters and other correspondence to determine whether an item still held historic value or whether it was destined for the shredder and recycling bin.
The task absorbed and fascinated me; some of the letters and correspondence dated back to the late 1960s when I was still in elementary school in Minnesota and unaware that The Catholic Messenger existed. What amazed me was the similarity of subject matter in correspondence written 40 years ago and today.
Readers were concerned about declining Mass attendance and whether women and married men ought to be able to be ordained as priests in the Roman Catholic Church; they criticized the editors for getting “too political,” and seeming to endorse one candidate over another; some objected to columnist Father Richard McBrien.
Some readers wrote glowing letters of praise to the editors for excellent articles and editorials; one correspondent began a letter: “Dear Jerks …”
Other documents focused on diocesan-wide parish planning, which we’re all immersed in at the present time, and still other documents addressed concerns about utilization of the Catholic press.
Correspondence from a long-ago staffer read like chapters from an interesting biography; each letter provided a sequel of the staffer’s life. Decades-old resumes were on file, too. I was startled to find a 1980 letter addressed to me, a new college graduate, stating that there were no job openings at The Catholic Messenger.
The letter was dated two days after I began what would turn out to be a satisfying, 21-year career with the Quad-City Times. I couldn’t have imagined as a 22-year-old state university graduate that someday I’d be editor of a diocesan newspaper.
Having spent the last eight-and-a-half years in the Harborview Building near downtown Davenport, it’s a bit disconcerting to be in my new office. I feel as if I’m engaged in on-the-job training. I hadn’t expected to feel discombobulated.
But the chancery staff has been reassuring and Bishop Martin Amos has visited twice today, probably to confirm that I am going to unpack and put some order into my office!
Some people have questioned why The Catholic Messenger moved to chancery headquarters since our newspaper is separately incorporated from the diocese. But The Catholic Messenger is the diocesan newspaper and its board of directors, led by Bishop Amos, believed it made sense from a financial and logistical standpoint to house the business in the chancery.
Our staff believes our new location provides us with more resources and better access to resources. This is our new home and we’re grateful for it.