Commentary

Signing off after two decades and change

Originally Appeared in : 9920-9/26/19

In 1993, I was asked to write a family life column for the Catholic Miscellany newspaper of the Diocese of Charleston. At that time, my four children were ages two through 10, and my Catholic faith and the opportunity to write were great gifts in my life. A convert to Catholicism, I had studied writing in my college and graduate years.

 

In 1996, I attended a conference where I met Barbara King, Director of Communications for the Diocese of Savannah, and Father Doug Clark, then editor of the Southern Cross. Seated next to her, I pitched my column to Barbara, and a short time later, I was rewarded to learn that Father Clark agreed to run it. About the same time, for several years, my column appeared in the newspapers of the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, Missouri, as well as the Diocese of Richmond.

 

My first visit to the Catholic Press Association Conference (in the late 90s) came at the invitation of Father Clark. At that conference, my column won an Honorable Mention award for best regular column on family life. Father Clark’s writing skill and thorough knowledge of the Church made him an excellent mentor. And his sense of humor is delightful.

 

Time passed. Father Clark moved on to be a pastor, and he left the Southern Cross in the competent and gifted hands of Michael Johnson, the current editor. Over the years, Michael’s support and encouragement, as well as his gentle guidance, have been invaluable. Even though there’s considerable geographic distance between us, I consider Michael and his wife, Fiona, to be good friends. At the last Catholic Press Association Conference I attended (2017) I got to know Michael’s talented assistant to the editor, Jessica Marsala.

 

Indeed, while not a member of your diocese, I have been embraced by the diocese, the Communications Department, and the readers of the Southern Cross. I am most grateful for your warmth and kindness. Of course, I owe a profound debt of gratitude to the wise and faithful leadership of Bishop Emeritus J. Kevin Boland and Bishop Gregory J. Hartmayer, OFM Conv.

 

Once my children were grown, my column transitioned from family life to general commentary. It was a good fit, because I have never been reluctant to express my opinion. The Southern Cross’ motto: “Put Faith in your opinions” strikes me as the perfect summation of what I felt called to do. The Catholic Church’s Social Teachings provide me a moral compass that I hope to follow in my life and writing.
I was affirmed in my work when in 2016 and 2017, my column for the Southern Cross won first-place awards for best regular column: general commentary from the Catholic Press.

 

After much discernment, however, I have decided to make this my last column for the Southern Cross, and, at this time, for any Catholic paper. I will still have opinions, no doubt, and hold them passionately, but I am returning to my first love, creative writing.
I would like to leave my readers with an expression of my deep gratitude. I’ve heard from many of you over the years, some expressing support, others expressing dissent. I have always welcomed a reasonable, evidence-based argument, and I hope that I responded to those arguments with the respect they warranted.

 

Signing off, I would like to share what I find most important in my social-justice based response to current events, both globally and nationally. The following points are what I love about the Church and why I felt compelled, time and again, to iterate them. I hope they resonate with readers.

 

  • We are a Church of immigrants. All people are beloved by God regardless of their immigration status. Immigration reform is necessary, but all solutions to the crisis must be compassionate.

 

  • We are a Church that promotes life for all, the unborn and born. All people, including the inmate on death row, are made in the image of God, and they deserve dignity and respect. Good healthcare, safe housing, and decent wages are rights, not privileges. Gun violence is a scourge.

 

  • Racism is a sin. If you would like to honor the years I have written this column, please go to http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/racism/ind... and read “Open Wide Our Hearts: An Enduring Call to Love”, the United States Bishops’ pastoral letter on racism. It speaks to continued systemic racism and a rise in hate groups. If our country fails to truly acknowledge the legacy of slavery and racism, we will fail, again and again, to rise above it.

 

  • Wars are not the answer to diplomatic challenges. Peace must prevail.

 

May the peace of Christ be with you. Thank you for reading.

 

Mary Hood Hart is a freelance writer and educator living in Pittsboro, NC. She can be reached at maryhoodhart@gmail.com

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