It’s over and out from me
Almost exactly four years ago, following the untimely death of Owen Williams, who penned this back page column for decades with so much dedication and vigour, the editor of The Southern Cross, Gunther Simmermacher, asked me if I would temporarily fill the void left by Mr Williams, “just for a few weeks until a suitable new columnist can be found”.
It is indeed a tribute to the charm and persuasive nature of Mr Simmermacher that he managed to stretch those few weeks into four years.
He has always been extremely encouraging and supportive, in spite of my causing him headaches with some vitriolic letters to the editor objecting to something or other that I wrote (not to mention slipping in material I shamelessly lifted from the Internet).
Now however, the editor has finally accepted my pleas to be relieved of this weekly responsibility.
I must pay tribute to Mr Simmermacher for the way in which he has worked with me since May 2002,before I was turned to the back page every week I had been a monthly columnist.
It has been a rather strange relationship because in my role as a columnist, he is my boss -but in my role of chairman of the company that publishes The Southern Cross, I am his boss. It has been a truly rewarding experience because not once in all these years did we have so much as the slightest disagreement.
So I thank him and the long-suffering staff of The Southern Cross who were tasked with editing my copy. And I thank all those Southern Cross readers who have been kind enough to tell me that they have occasionally enjoyed my ramblings.
The erudite Mr Simmermacher has decided to fill this space in future with the columns of a wonderful Catholic priest, Fr Ron Rolheiser.
Living in North America, Fr Rolheiser is an accomplished journalist, writing a syndicated weekly column for no fewer than 65 Catholic newspapers worldwide.
Fr Rolheiser taught theology and philosophy at Newman Theological College in Edmonton, Canada. From 1998 to 2004 he served his religious community, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, on their general administration. In August 2005, he began a five-year assignment as the President of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, Texas.
He has a BA from the University of Ottawa majoring in philosophy; a BTh from Newman Theological College, Edmonton; an MA from the University of San Francisco, once again majoring in theology, as well as an MRSc and PhD from the University of Louvain, Belgium.
He is a member of the Catholic Theological Society of America; Canadian Theological Society; Religious Studies Association of Alberta and serves on the board of the Louvain Theological and Pastoral Monographs Section.
He has written several books such as Secularity and the Gospel: Being Missionary to Our Children (2006); Forgotten Among the Lilies (1990; republished in 2005); The Restless Heart (1988; republished in 2004); The Holy Longing (1999; published in 1998 in Britain as Seeking Spirituality); Against an Infinite Horizon (1995); and The Shattered Lantern(1994).
The Restless Heart won the 1990 Winnifred Sanford Award, presented every second year to the book judged to be the best popular spiritual book in Britain.
The Shattered Lantern won the USA Catholic Book Award for best paperback spirituality book in 1996.
The Holy Longing won the USA Catholic Press Book award for 2000, for the best hardcover book in spirituality.
So, as from next week, Southern Cross readers are in for a wonderful treat through the pen of the extremely resourceful Fr Ron Rolheiser.
Once again, my thanks to Gunther Simmermacher for finally agreeing to release me from this editorial responsibility and letting me devote more time to working with my colleagues on the board of directors of The Southern Cross in taking our 90 year old newspaper successfully towards its centennial.
And I thank you, the reader, for joining me on this adventure.
To revisit Chris Moerdyk’s articles going back to June 2004 at www.scross.co.za/category/moerdyk/