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Celebrating 35 years of The Western Kentucky Catholic, continuing the legacy of diocesan communications in 2020

In 1986, Pastoral Center employee Donna Biggs, Sr. Rachel Willett, SCN, and Mel Howard box up stacks of Western Kentucky Catholic newspapers for UPS shipping to parishes across the diocese. ARCHIVES PHOTO

In January 1985, the Diocese of Owensboro published the inaugural issue of the newspaper you are reading right now. While a newsletter had been printed since 1974, founding editor, Mel Howard, and Bishop John J. McRaith, determined that the diocese needed to take the next step and have its own newspaper. On page 2 of that first issue, Mel wrote an editorial titled “Does Owensboro Diocese need its own newspaper?” in which he introduced the WKC to the diocese and laid out the paper’s goals and objectives. That article is reprinted below.

Mel Howard, editor, holds a copy of the October 1984 edition of the Diocese of Owensboro’s newsletter, the precursor of The Western Kentucky Catholic. This edition is the first to be printed on a web press (typically used for high-volume printing of magazines and newspapers). NORMA TIPSON | ARCHIVES PHOTO

Much has changed since 1985. Mel retired in 2015, and I assumed the role of editor. The Office of Communications has since expanded to include director of communications, Tina Kasey, and digital media specialist, Laura Rigsby. The communications office now films a monthly video series with Bishop William F. Medley called Across the Diocese; has an active social media presence on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter; publishes a monthly email newsletter; does graphic design projects for diocesan offices; releases social media videos periodically about happenings in the diocese; and offers support and consultation for our parishes and schools seeking to better evangelize the culture through graphic design and social media.

Again, much has changed. But we also hope that much has remained the same. As readers will find below, some of the original goals of the WKC included providing “the inspiration of witnessing Christ working through the people,” as well as being an “important channel of communication.”

In that editorial in 1985, Mel wrote that these are weighty considerations. As we enter 2020, we in the Office of Communications strive to take these weighty considerations seriously. There is too much at stake, here in the Catholic Church in the 21st century, to do otherwise.

We hope that we are continuing the legacy, begun by Mel and Bishop McRaith, of communicating truth to the local Church.

Learn more at

– Elizabeth Wong Barnstead, editor, The Western Kentucky Catholic

Originally printed in the January 2020 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.

Does Owensboro Diocese need its own newspaper?
In 1991, Mel Howard, editor of The Western Kentucky Catholic and director of the Office of Communications, sits in front of the computer used for desktop publishing of diocesan publications. ARCHIVES PHOTO


Originally printed in the January 1985 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic. 

The Western Kentucky Catholic is the newspaper of the diocese of Owensboro, Kentucky. It provides information about the people of our local church in Western Kentucky. This information is essential to the creation of a sense of identity for the diocese. Such information gives us necessary knowledge for our participation and provides the inspiration of witnessing Christ working through the people.

The Western Kentucky Catholic can have an important role for the general society of our diocese. This paper offers a means of seeing how news events are perceived and evaluated within the Catholic community. Such an expression of Catholic perception can be helpful in the efforts at ecumenism and interreligious understanding. It contributes to the work of evangelization.

The Western Kentucky Catholic serves as an instrument within the church by which Catholic agencies, institutions and officials can give an accounting to the Catholic community. It provides a link by which the many diocesan activities and organizations of the church can be seen as related to one another and can be recognized as elements of a total church life.

The Western Kentucky Catholic’s editorials, articles and letters from readers provide the community with an important channel of communication with the official leadership of the church. It is important for church officials to understand the thinking and the sensitivities of the community if they are to provide effective leadership.

Mel Howard in November 2002, wearing a shirt with the WKC logo on it. FILE PHOTO

These are weighty considerations. There is another – the finances of this newspaper. The Western Kentucky Catholic can make an important contribution to the life of the church in the Owensboro diocese. At a time when economic pressures constitute a real threat to the existence and service of a number of other Catholic publications, this contribution needs to be seen realistically. Are the five information services listed above needed in the diocese of Owensboro? Will pastors and parish administrators support the Western Kentucky Catholic by contributing parish news, activities and by encouraging the people in parishes to support the paper?

The argument that we don’t need this new expense may be taken by persons who feel the Owensboro diocese did very well without a newspaper. This is a question for debate depending on whether the person be left, right or middle-of-road in philosophy and theology. For a pastor or parish administrator, the side of this issue he takes may depend upon whether he thinks the paper provides what helps him minister to his congregation.

While financial independence is a goal of the Western Kentucky Catholic, it will not come quickly. Do diocesan Catholics think the newspaper can contribute in important ways to the Church in Western Kentucky? Should not the service of a Catholic newspaper be seen as comparable to other services whose subsidy our diocese has taken for granted? No one expects the Catholic schools to be self-supporting; nor Catholic social services; nor the tribunal. They are supported because they are seen as valuable services to the total Catholic community.

Response to these four questions from parishes, institutions and individuals is important to help determine the information needs of the diocese. Signed letters representing diocesan opinions will be printed. Space considerations and editorial discretion may prevent publication of some letters. But don’t let that discourage any one. The priests’ council, Bishop McRaith, and the editor need to know what you think.

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