e-mail us


The writing on the newsroom wall


It started with a desire to remember and honor a remarkable woman whom none of us knew. Rosemary Nelson, a civil rights lawyer in Northern Ireland, represented the residents of a Catholic neighborhood who objected to members of the Orange Order marching through their streets to commemorate a long-ago battle in which Catholic forces were defeated. She was killed in a car bombing in March 1999. She left a husband and three children, ages 13, 11 and 8. NCR carried the story.

I wrote her name at the top of a long sheet of paper under the heading New Litany. I put St. in front of her name. How could anyone argue with that? I added a couple of my favorites in the communion of saints -- St. Dorothy Day and St. John XXIII -- and taped the list to the wall of the newsroom.

At that point, the list became a newsroom project. Anyone could add a name. We decided on three criteria: Our saints would no longer be living in this world; the person who added the name would consider the candidate worthy; and the person added to the list -- now seeing things from a higher and clearer point of view -- might be willing to give NCR a nudge forward, which is always needed.

There is a scattering of names of persons whose skills and talents did, indeed, nudge NCR along in its 36-year history: production manager St. Jim Ralston, who handled many jobs during the newspaper’s first 28 years, Vatican reporter St. Peter Hebblethwaite, freelance photographer St. Mev Puleo, publisher St. Don Thorman, managing editor St. James Andrews, reporter St. Penny Lernoux, writer St. Bill Kenkelen and longtime receptionist St. Helen Rice. There’s St. Cork from the Netherlands, creator of cartoons that continue to brighten NCR’s pages.

We added a number of Latin American martyrs whose names frequently appear in NCR: St. Bishop Juan Gerardi Conedera, of Guatemala; St. Oscar Romero, archbishop of San Salvador; St. Ita Ford, St. Dorothy Kazel, St. Maura Clark and St. Jean Donovan, the American women murdered in San Salvador; and St. Rutilio Grande, one of Romero’s priests, whose assassination led Romero to understand the brutality of the war being waged against his people.

More recently we’ve added the name of St. Ellwood “Bud” Kieser, the priest who produced the movie about Romero’s life. Just above Kieser’s name is that of St. John Kaiser, the priest killed in late August for speaking truth to the powerful in Kenya.

Teresa Malcolm, NCR opinion editor, added a number of names that reflect her interests: St. T.E. Lawrence (of Arabia), St. Victor Hugo, St. Oskar Schindler, Irish actress and patriot St. Maude Gonne, St. Sean MacBride, a leader of Amnesty International, St. Gene Roddenberry, creator of “Star Trek,” and her grandparents, Ss. Helen and Jake Malcolm.

Pat Marrin, Celebration editor, added the name of St. Marge Roberts, whom he calls “the Mother Teresa of Topeka, Kan.”

Editor Tom Roberts added the name of one of the saints in his personal litany, St. Thea Bowman. Managing editor Pamela Schaeffer penned the name of her friend St. Patricia Kelley, murdered in St. Louis. Both saints were nuns.

Jean Blake, assistant to our publisher, Tom Fox, added St. Pamela Butler the day searchers found the 9-year-old’s body. She had been kidnapped while rollerblading in the street in front of her home in Kansas City, Kan.

There is St. Jeremiah L. O’Sullivan, the dean of Marquette University’s School of Journalism for many years, and one of my favorite teachers.

And there are St. Elvis Presley, St. Derrick Thomas, St. Al Hirt and St. Charles Schulz.

Teresa Malcolm added St. Guinefort, the greyhound venerated as a healer of children in France in the 13th century (NCR, Oct. 13). A tearful Michel Tisdale, who oversees NCR’s Web page, wrote the name of her kitty friend, St. Sasha Felinus.

Recent additions include St. Tom Ryan, the Berkeley, Calif., Stumps R Us priest (NCR May 12) and St. Eileen Egan, peace activist. I added St. Mel Carnahan, the Missouri governor. Michel added his son, Randy, and the governor’s aide, Chris Sifford. All three were killed in a plane crash on a rainy night at the end of a hard-fought campaign for the U.S. Senate. The last name, as I write, is that of St. Bede Griffiths, added by Sr. Rita Larivee, associate publisher, who shares the Benedictine scholar’s interest in Eastern religions.

Sr. Rita had to kneel to write his name because our list stretches almost to the floor. We’ll start another soon.

Discussing just some of the 110 names of our newsroom saints made me see how exclusive this list is, when we meant it to be so inclusive. It’s just people we know or hear about. And there are so many good people. As they say, too numerous to mention. And all of us loved by God.

In a month marked by an abundance of falling leaves, the month the church urges us to look to those who have “gone before us with the sign of faith,” it’s good to remember and honor even a few and humbly ask that they nudge us ahead along the road to holiness.

Patty McCarty is NCR copyeditor.

National Catholic Reporter, November 3, 2000