Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Catholic Publishing: Changing Hearts

Tuesday greetings from the home office here in Franklin Park, Illinois.

I just wanted to share a little bit of what happens on the margins (or perhaps not on the margins) in Catholic publishing today. We receive lots of feedback from our customers and from parishes that use our worship resources and pastoral, spiritual, and art books. Some of those comments are complaints, suggestions for improvement, and gladly, more often than not, words of gratitude for what we do to fulfill our mission "to serve and inspire the singing, praying, initiating church."

A few months ago I received a letter. The envelope was stamped "inmate correspondence." It was a hand-written letter, written in pencil, from an inmate in a jail in New York State. It was obviously from a young man and he was writing simply to thank us for the Seasonal Missalette worship resource that his jail uses for worship with the inmates. The letter came directly to me, since I write the reflection on the inside cover for each issue. It warmed my heart to read his words of thanks and his description of how the missalette has helped him become closer to God. I shared the letter with my managers here. I mused that it might be appropriate to send him some spiritual reading from our catalog. I went on the jail's web site and found that inmates can only receive books directly from the publisher of those books. So we sent him three books.

About a week later I received a much longer letter from this young man, which began, "Dear Jerry Galipeau, I'm twenty-one years old, it's been a year since I've seen the outside world . . ." He went on to unfold his life story. I cannot begin to describe the kind of torment this person has lived through since the beginning of his life. I was so deeply saddened by his stories of loss, abuse, and addiction. I shared some of his story with my folks here, one of whom wondered if his jail was providing the assistance with addiction issues that this young man needs. So I wrote to him again, asking if he was receiving the kind of support he needed, and I assured him of my own prayers.

He wrote back to let me know that the jail was providing this support.

In that letter, he shared some thoughts on the books we had sent him. "I read these books every day, especially the Fifteen-Minute Retreats. I've been loving every moment of these prayers and Scriptures. I've been reading from the Book of John. 'The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.' . . . I want to become a politician and try to make a change in life like you did to me. I feel like I can raise my head a little higher just to believe there is someone out there to help me to help me breathe. I thank you Jerry Galipeau for giving me your heart and love to God. 'A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you.' "

Folks, sometimes I wonder, as we often plod through our systems and projects here at WLP and J.S. Paluch, if we are making a difference. I wonder about how our mission is or is not consonant with the spiritual and corporal works of mercy, which Pope Francis has us all to embrace anew. These days, in a tangible way, I feel like somehow, through our outreach to this young man, we are "visiting the imprisoned."

I think this story illustrates, at least for me, the real mission of Catholic publishing. We change hearts.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

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