Editor’s note: On April 30, 1999, late Anchorage Archbishop Francis Hurley launched the Catholic Anchor with the expressed mission: “To provide a forum for Catholics to understand and to assume their roles in the church in the modern world.” Archbishop Hurley died on Jan. 10. The column below was written by him for the inaugural issue, nearly 17 years ago.
By ARCHBISHOP FRANCIS T. HURLEY
“I have trouble at times with the church, but I have confidence in my faith.”
A teenager made that reflection from the pulpit of Sacred Heart Church in Wasilla after he was confirmed by me. He had spent months studying about the church, obviously struggling to understand everything. Yet through it all with his classmates he experienced a growth and strengthening in his personal faith and he was able to speak confidently about his future as a Catholic.
A thought flashed through my mind: Might the new archdiocesan newspaper have a similar effect on its readers? A Catholic newspaper addresses our struggle to know the truths of the church, to hear its story, to appreciate its place in daily life, in public life. It is a struggle at times, especially if we do not have much information about the church and what it teaches.
A newspaper gives us information. It also invites us to live our faith, to grasp the life of Christ, to join the liturgy, to share the sacraments, to reach out to the poor and to victims of injustice, to be involved in the church personally. All this gives strength to our faith.
Is it expecting too much to suggest that a newspaper can be a catalyst for all that? Maybe. Yet a newspaper can help to open minds and to inspire hearts. Remember, all of us are on a pilgrimage through life to God and we can use all the help we can get.
The Catholic Anchor, our Archdiocesan newspaper.
We call it Catholic because it is intended to reach everyone with much information.
We call it Anchor because the anchor is a symbol of hope, the confidence that God is always with us no matter what our struggles.
We have all encountered religion in general and the Catholic church in particular in papers and magazines, on TV and radio. Often the coverage is good. At times it might be too short or inadequate, for various reasons. The coverage is sometimes provocative and vexing. Much of what appears in media calls for a response or comment, especially since so many Catholics get their information about the church from that source.
In many ways our parishes provide other voices to inform the people, through the pulpit, in religion classes, in bulletins that carry an instruction with them, in special circulars and lectures. The Catholic Commentary has been a gesture also. But more is needed.
The Catholic Anchor is intended to be another avenue of information for our people.
Responding to the general news media is not the prime focus of a Catholic newspaper. Rather, a Catholic newspaper is a medium through which we Catholics can come to know more about ourselves and what it means to be a family of faith. We must tell our story to ourselves and to others. There is a lot of “good news” about the church, about the archdiocese, about the parishes, about Catholic Social Services, about assistance to the poor, about our Mission to Magadan, about local Catholic organizations. We must tell our stories.
We must also talk to one another. There are many cross-currents of thinking and opinion among our people on moral issues, on matters of social justice, like immigration, housing, and poverty. It is healthy for us to know how we think. It is important for us to grapple with disagreements and with uncertainties. An exchange of ideas can indicate how unified and mutually supportive we Catholics really are. It is enriching to know ourselves as church.
It was thinking about these many aspects of church life that led to the mission statement for the Catholic Anchor: “To provide a forum for Catholics to understand and to assume their roles in the church in the modern world.”
To the extent that the Catholic Anchor fulfills its mission it will help its readers to say with the newly confirmed teenager that they might struggle with the church but they have confidence in their faith.
The writer served as Archbishop of Anchorage from 1976 to 2001 and is the founding publisher of the Catholic Anchor. He died on Jan. 10, 2016.