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The Penultimate Column, Maybe

I say “maybe” because I’m not sure exactly what will happen at the end of June. However, I write this as if I will indeed be replaced because we are, truly all replaceable. As a purveyor of words these last 25 years, I have relished putting words together to form chains of thoughts, sometimes to call people to action or to think about something in a different way. I have no illusions about the way my words were received, if at all. This column is one of a variety of writings in The Messenger, including thoughts on spirituality from Father Ronald Rolheiser, OMI and topics Bishop Robert Barron wanted to pursue.

What was important to me was to give voice to different ways of looking at subjects, at faith, at the ways we go about practicing that faith. We never have enough time to practice, do we?

For me, now, this is the penultimate column in The Messenger. I retire June 30th, with the last paper of the month. That’s a great word, penultimate. That would be “second last,” but that sounds far less lofty than penultimate. As a former English teacher, language has always been important, and using it correctly almost impossible for some. At times I was sure my job was to correct those who used words incorrectly or pronounced words in a way that made the speaker seem to be less intelligent. Donning my magic “language cloak” I tried to help. As you can imagine, the help was not always welcome.

At this juncture, I’m remembering some of the topics I chose and the people who made an impact on what I said. If I could group these together, many would fall under the heading of “social justice.” I railed against the death penalty often enough, spoke about the plight of the poor and brought payday lending up on more than one occasion. Some of the most poignant for me were those that touched on death by suicide. No basketful of words can ever ease the pain of a family dealing with the aftermath of the loss of life in that way. We have to remember that no matter what happens, God’s healing grace can’t be reduced to a human time line. God continues to work with us, to hold us, to forgive us, until all is well.

It’s difficult to remember one story more than another because at that moment, each was most important to me. It seems more like a ribbon I have been following for these 25 years until I reached this point in my life, my career as a Catholic journalist. As with so many folks, if you had told me 25 years ago that I would spend a quarter century as reporter/photographer/writer/editor, I would never have believed you.

It has been a privilege to meet you, to share some of your stories. One retired judge whom I interviewed, sent a card with the highest compliment anyone can pay a reporter: “It was accurate,” he said. No “alternative facts” were reported, and no fairy tales have been told. In some cases, I told people: “You can’t make up some of these things; they’re just the facts but I may not be able to print them. Maybe the time will come when I can begin to tell “the back story.” Until then, thank you so much for sharing your stories with me. It has been an honor.

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