As we recount in this week’s front-page story, the Catholic Standard & Times has reached a turning point in its 116-year history. In all that time it has served the Church of Philadelphia with dedication to communicate news, commentary and faith formation to Catholics. In the words of former editor now Cardinal John P. Foley, the CS&T’s mission is to inform, educate and inspire Catholics.{{more}}

A broad challenge
But 2011 presents a dilemma. It’s well known that many Catholics have become disengaged with the Church, a phenomenon marked by declining regular attendance at Mass. Recent head counts of Catholics at October Masses show only 24 percent go to church regularly. This infrequent engagement with the Church has a multitude of effects in almost every aspect of Church life. These include participation in parish programs and Catholic school enrollment, to name just two.

The phenomenon also contributes to the decline of readers of this Catholic newspaper. If a Catholic is not inclined enough to worship God with the community at Mass, he or she is not likely to participate in parish life, let alone read a Catholic newspaper.

Add the fact that many Catholics prefer to obtain their news and information, including Catholic news, from their computer and a variety of Internet-connected devices, and it may not come as a surprise that the Catholic Standard & Times newspaper reaches only 7 percent of registered households in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

What is needed urgently is a way to reach out to Catholics who the Church is not reaching by traditional means, such as the Catholic newspaper. A highly professional, easily accessible means of reminding people of their relationship to Jesus Christ and His Church – in a word, evangelization – would augment the newspaper’s mission.

Stories for the new evangelization
Phaith magazine intends to accomplish that goal. Feature stories on local Catholics will show ordinary people living their Catholic faith in ordinary and extraordinary ways. They will show the “beauty of the friendship of Jesus,” as Pope Benedict XVI has described the new evangelization in the Church. Other articles on family life, cultural commentary, things to do and even recipes and fun facts will speak to the Catholic reader in a dynamic, contemporary style.

For many of the projected 350,000 homes receiving the monthly magazine free of charge – that is most of the Archdiocese’s 400,000 households registered with a parish – Phaith will represent a regular point of contact with the Church that, for whatever reasons, they may have lost contact. Phaith invites active and inactive Catholics to rediscover and reengage with their Lord Jesus through His Church.

Still serving newspaper readers
At the same time, many readers still want the news and information about the Church on which they have relied on the Catholic Standard & Times to deliver. This newspaper remains dedicated to its mission. Fiscal realities including the high costs of postage and the dearth of advertising revenue due to low circulation, however, necessitate publishing the paper less frequently than each week.

What does the change mean for current subscribers? Take this example: You subscribed for 46 issues of the CS&T at the price of $30 beginning with the Jan. 6, 2011 issue. You receive weekly issues through the end of June 2011 then every other week in July and August, as in the past two years.

By the end of August 2011 you would have received 30 issues with 16 remaining. In late September the CS&T begins publishing monthly. On that monthly basis your subscription will be in effect for another 16 issues until December 2012. At that time you would be invited to renew your subscription for 12 annual issues at the new subscription price of $15.

If your parish paid to subscribe you as part of the CS&T’s parish coverage program, which will be discontinued in September, you will be invited at that time to subscribe under the new annual subscription price.

In order to increase the number of newspapers distributed, the CS&T will distribute at no cost to parishes at least 150 copies of the monthly newspaper in bulk to churches, schools and institutions in the Archdiocese. Those attending Mass at a parish will be able to learn more about their Catholic community by picking up a free copy of the CS&T after Mass. We will contact pastors and administrators soon to explain the plan in greater detail.

Home subscribers of the newspaper will receive their issue at the end of each month, then receive the new Phaith magazine in the middle of each month. Every two weeks they will receive information, education and inspiration.

Online: everything, every day
And not only in print. The digital operations of the CS&T will enhance dramatically. Today, selections from the newspaper and breaking news appear on our web site, In September we will publish every item from the newspaper, the magazine, archdiocesan communications plus all parish and school news that we receive on a daily basis.

Many younger readers get most if not all their information from web sites and mobile digital devices. That is how they want their information, and that is how they will get it from their Church.

The expanded web site, digital choices and social media presence offer unprecedented opportunities for parishes, schools and Catholic institutions to reach audience of greater size and in more ways than ever.

Toward a stronger Church
Both Phaith magazine (a name suggesting faith and Philadelphia) and the newspaper will rely on the good stories and good people in our Archdiocese. Do you know of a person whose life is an inspiration to all? Let us know so we can help their light shine for all to see and to help build up the Church. Our writers will be calling parishes soon to identify possible story subjects.

The CS&T’s new publication plan relies on good communications among leaders of parishes and institutions. As such it is more than a publishing innovation. It is a path toward a Church more on fire with love for our Lord Jesus, more committed in service to all our brothers and sisters and more aware of God’s presence in the world.

Today marks a turning point. In the months and years to come, as the Church actively communicates with more people, they will discover God already reaching out with love for them.