On Sept. 10, 1892, Benjamin Harrison was president of the United States, plans for the Columbian Exposition were well underway and Patrick Feehan was serving as the first archbishop of the newly elevated Archdiocese of Chicago. On that day, 120 years ago, the first edition of the New World hit newsstands, selling for 5 cents. The name has changed over the years -- from the New World, taken from the World's Fair, to the Chicago Catholic and then to the Catholic New World -- but the ministry has remained the same: bringing the good news of the Gospel to the people of God.
In a pastoral letter to readers published on the front page of that first issue, the bishops of Illinois explained that the Third Plenary Council in Baltimore called for each of the dioceses in the United States to form their own newspaper to tell the church's story directly to its people. This was a time of great prejudice against Catholics, so it was important for the church to have its own voice among the others.
The bishops wrote, "In the state of Illinois there are not less then seven hundred thousand Catholics, and a newspaper which represents their religious faith and interests, which defends their rights, which gives voice to their aspirations, will be looked upon by them as a general blessing."
In that pastoral letter the bishops also made the case for Catholic education and the necessity of parishes establishing parochial schools in parishes.
Likewise on the front page of that eight-page issue were stories about the Columbian Exposition, about the death of poet John G. Wittier and about how Protestantism spread in Scandinavia. Rounding out the issue were stories about the daily life of Pope Leo XIII, poems and jokes and a letter from the pope to Bishop John Spalding of Peoria approving the Catholic exhibit for the World’s Fair.
Over these 120 years the New World has covered some big stories about the Catholic Church in the Chicago area, including the World’s Fair, the 1926 Eucharistic Congress, Pope John Paul II’s 1979 visit and visits by such greats as Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. We’ve also covered the smaller everyday events such as parish fundraisers, personal journeys of faiths and an announcement about a little-known Father Augustus Tolton speaking at a parish to raise funds to build a church for black Catholics in Chicago.
The New World has seen archbishops and editors come and go but the ministry has always remained the same, to share the Good News of the Gospel. Birthdays are a time to celebrate the gifts and life that God gave us. Thank you, Lord, for 120 years of the Catholic New World.
Visit www.catholicnewworld.com to read the latest issue or to subscribe. Subscriptions are $25 a year.