Why we need Catholic press more than ever Print
Written by Mary C. Uhler   
Thursday, Feb. 07, 2019 -- 12:00 AM

It’s interesting to look back on the history of the United States and the role of the Catholic press. It turns out that many of the same issues facing our country today were also impacting society in the early days of our country.

The Catholic Press Association (CPA) of the United States & Canada discusses the history of the Catholic press on its website ( It says, “As the United States was forming, nativism, or opposition to immigration, was strong. This lack of social standing placed pressure on immigrants and created a need to unite and educate, to bring news from home, and to fight for civil and religious rights in a new country. The immigrants accomplished this by forming societies and associations, and creating Catholic journals and newspapers.”

The first Catholic papers

Bishop John England was an experienced editor who emigrated from Ireland. He initially used the secular press to explain Catholicism but soon realized that he needed his own vehicle to address misrepresentations of the faith. Bishop England started the first Catholic diocesan paper, the Catholic Miscellany, in 1822 in Charleston, S.C.

By 1837, bishops welcomed Catholic papers at the close of the Third Plenary Council in Baltimore. They noted that the journals were useful to “explain our tenets, defend our rights, and vindicate our conduct.” In 1884, bishops recommended that each Catholic household receive at least one Catholic periodical.

History of the Catholic Herald

In 1869, Star of Bethlehem was established as a monthly newspaper in Milwaukee. Two years later, they sold the paper to the Catholic Vindicator, which had been established in 1870 in Monroe (now in the Diocese of Madison). The two papers were consolidated and established in Milwaukee in 1871. In 1878, the owners changed the name to the Catholic Citizen.

This is actually the background for our current Catholic Herald newspaper, which includes papers published for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and the Dioceses of Madison and Superior. Some people in our diocese still call it the Catholic Herald Citizen, its previous name.

Still need Catholic press

As the CPA says on its website, “We, the Catholic press, face the same challenges that existed nearly 200 years ago: explaining and defending the Catholic Church.”

That came to mind recently with the marches for life in Madison, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. We saw very little coverage of these marches in the secular media. It was up to the Catholic press — including the Madison Catholic Herald — to provide coverage of these pro-life events, as we do with a wide spectrum of respect life issues, including concern for the disabled and elderly, immigrants and refugees, the poor, and all those seeking justice in our society.

As we begin our observance of February as Catholic Press Month, it’s clear that we do need the Catholic press more than ever!