As We Turn 99 Years Old…
Guest Editorial by Chair of the Board Rosanne Shields
As we kick off the celebration of The Southern Cross’s centenary year, we begin by thanking you, our loyal readers, our associates and supporters, and the volunteers who sell the paper in our churches, as well as our dedicated staff, for making it possible to reach this milestone.
Also, entering our 100th year, we remember those who had the vision of a Catholic newspaper for our region.
It cannot have been easy to find the resources for a newspaper in 1920, and we know that much planning went into launching it.
The idea for a national Catholic newspaper was born at a St Patrick’s Day event, by two priests, one an Oblate from Durban and the other a diocesan cleric from Cape Town.
The newspaper is still standing 99 years later thanks to the hard work, prayers and intercessions of those who have gone before us.
To keep a quality religious weekly newspaper with a high percentage of local content in circulation every week, without exception, for 99 years is an exceptional achievement. The number of newspapers similar to ours that are still in circulation in the rest of Africa can be counted on one hand.
We know, too, that many Church publications have had to close worldwide, and only a few have managed the transition to media platforms other than print.
One may wonder whether those who founded The Southern Cross imagined that it would survive for so long. Carrying their legacy forward is a grave responsibility for all of us and we are up against many challenges.
We need to face them, stare them in the eye, and make an unshakeable commitment to keep going for another hundred years — probably in a format we cannot imagine.
Our founders and those who built up the paper would have laughed at a description of the Internet, e-mail and colour printing at the drop of a hat. They’d cry if they knew what had happened to the South African Post Office, as we all do!
What they would expect is our loyalty, creativity and courage.
The Southern Cross appears not just in print form, but also digitally and online, reaching out via our active website and Facebook page.
More than 66000 people use the website consistently, and our Facebook page records 20000 engagements per quarter.
Women make up 56% of our readers and an encouraging 26% of our readers are under the age of 44 years.
The Polish poet Stanislaw Lec said: “The window to the world can be covered by a newspaper.” We could choose to cover over that window, ignoring the difficult discussions that we, as Church, must have, and shutting down views that do not resonate with our own.
Instead we try hard to reflect the rich diversity of our region, to bring Jesus’ message to our readers through good news stories, and carry different viewpoints that enrich our understanding of one another.
Can we do more, do better? Always! When we feel overwhelmed by the tasks before us, we can turn to Dorothy Day, the saintly US social activist and newspaper publisher: “People say, what is the sense of our small effort? They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time. A pebble cast into a pond causes ripples that spread in all directions. Each one of our thoughts, words and deeds is like that. No one has a right to sit down and feel hopeless. There is too much work to do.”
The Southern Cross is an asset for the Church in Southern Africa. It is a unique vehicle for bringing the People of God together and a tool which can be used to fight the grave injustices that we see around us.
The Southern Cross is a forum in which women’s voices can be more clearly heard and their opinions valued in dealing with these crises and in shaping today’s Church. Without this, we disrespect half of God’s creation, and that is unforgiveable.
As we approach with joy, and some trepidation, our jubilee year, let us make this our mantra: “We lift up our eyes to the mountains; where is our help to come from? Our help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth.”
And it comes from you, too.
Rosanne Shields is the chair of the board of directors of The Southern Cross.