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Is bishop ubiquitous in your Catholic paper?

Among the many Jesuit institutions of academic excellence, Rockhurst College in Kansas City, Mo., though not the best known, has a distinguished history and projects a gracious presence in this part of the Midwest.

You can tell something about a college from those it chooses for annual honors. This year, on May 18, Rockhurst conferred a doctorate of humane letters, honoris causa, on recently retired NCR publisher William L. McSweeney, as well as a doctorate of fine arts, honoris causa, on William McGlaughlin, director of the Kansas City Symphony.

Earlier recipients of honorary doctorates at Rockhurst include Cardinal Francis Spellman (1953), John F. Kennedy (1956) and artist Thomas Hart Benton (1969).

At NCR, in the Catholic community and in numerous local groups, the citation said, Dr. McSweeney "has been a person for others ... committed to the service of justice, especially justice for the poor and oppressed."

We at NCR join with Rockhurst in saluting McSweeney, sixth publisher in NCR history, who, on coming into office, welcomed "the opportunity ... for NCR to be even more of a force in helping determine the direction of the church in the pivotal decade ahead."

Spoken like a doctor of the church.

Last week, on this page, we mentioned the Penny Lernoux Award, offered by the University of Southern California. This provoked a response from John Allen in California. While teaching at Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, he persuaded the authorities to offer an award for journalism. They asked what he wanted to call it. The Penny Lernoux Award, he told them, and so it was and is. Last year the winner was Kathy Wang, editor-in-chief of the school newspaper, The Knight.

Penny, still prophetic, still making her mark.

We were supposed to stay interactive, remember? Some of you are doing better than others -- though you would probably say the same about me.

Here's something. Over the years people have suggested that NCR should conduct a survey or competition to determine which U.S. diocesan newspaper carries the most photos of its local (arch)bishop in a single issue.

Lest anyone say this is a trivial pursuit, think again. Such statistics could tell us a lot about the quality of Catholic journalism. If your paper has, say, half-a-dozen pictures of the bishop, on average -- there's nothing wrong with it. It's just a different kind of journalism, that's all.

The survey would say even more about the (arch)bishop. The man who regularly wishes (and make no mistake, if it's in there he wishes it) for half-a-dozen pictures -- well, even then you can't be sure: It might mean he was the busiest and most interesting person in the diocese by far.

Episcopal head counts, by the way, should not include those special supplements that bring in a lot of ads when new bishops come in or old bishops go out.

And spare a thought for the editors and other workers in the trenches who in most cases are doing the best they can.

-- Michael Farrell

National Catholic Reporter, May 30, 1997