Maryknoll Seminarian typing away at Night

Last October, I did a post about Advocacy Work at the Glen Echo, a newspaper run out of Glen Ellyn college. Through my research for that post, I had become interested in learning more about the various school publications published by Maryknoll and how they fit into its Mission. My most recent deep dive has taken me from the outskirts of Chicago all the way back to where it began: The Major Seminary located at Maryknoll. I started by looking at Channel, a newsletter created for Maryknollers, by Maryknollers.

The Channel newsletter was published twice a year from 1963 until 1978, when the Major Seminary transitioned into the Maryknoll School of Theology. The newsletter was run by the Seminarians, prospective Maryknollers learning about mission work and how to become a Catholic priest. The goal of the newsletter was two-fold: create a forum for discussing mission amongst Seminarians and share news and ideas with Maryknollers abroad. Join me as I explore the origins of the newsletter and how it fits into Maryknoll’s Mission.

The very beginning of Channel goes back to a Mission Workshop held at the Seminary in November, 1962. Maryknollers at the workshop sought a way to keep up to date on theology, mission theory, and more general matters concerning Maryknoll. One such Maryknoller was Fr. William D. McCarthy, part of the Seminary faculty at the time. Before the workshop, several Seminarians had approached Fr. McCarthy about creating an outlet for them to engage with their future mission work. He saw an opportunity to hit two birds with one stone, and spoke with the Seminary Rector, Fr. Albert V. Fedders.

In the letter transcribed below, Fr. McCarthy wrote that a newsletter created by Seminarians could focus their studies on future mission work. At the same time, the newsletter would act as a channel of information to Maryknollers abroad. And thus in June 1963, the first issue of Channel was published, ran entirely by Seminarians and overseen by Fr. McCarthy.

A number of religious institutes have intra-society publications.

At the time of the workshop some of our men expressed the need for some way of keeping up to date on some of the matters on which they had been briefed at the workshop, as well as on other matters of general information relevant to Maryknoll and the work of the Church…

Since, therefore, there seems to be some need along this line, my suggestion would be that the proposed student venture be directed to this. In addition to being useful to Maryknollers reading it, I think that such a project would help focus student interest on the significance, in terms of their later mission work, of their studies and activities here.

Fr. Bill McCarthy, MM

Introduction for the Channel Newsletter from the first volume, 1963
Original Drawing for the Cover by Seminarians Larry Egan and Anthony Bengert, 1963
Header for the Volume 2 Cover, 1963

Channel was a completely Seminarian enterprise, acting as the newsletter’s editors, writers, photographers, and designers. The first scan above was an original design made by two seminarians as part of their initial proposal in 1963. Besides replacing the Chi Rho with a picture of the Seminary Bell Tower, the design for the newsletter remains the same for most of its run.

Over its 15 years of production, many Seminarians would serve on the staff of Channel. This includes several prominent Maryknollers such as Fr. William J. McIntire (writer, editor), Fr. Donald P. McQuade (writer), and Fr. Richard B. Callahan (writer, circulation).

The Channel newsletter had two functions, the first being to share Maryknoll news. In an age before instant access to information, Maryknollers on mission could go for years without hearing much, if any, news about home. Each issue would have a section dedicated to what is going on at the Knoll, such as upcoming conferences, Education Department news, and other tidbits about the Center. These little pieces of information helped Maryknollers all over the world stay connected to their home back in New York.

Center News Section, Channel, 1963
Cover Article, Volume 1, Channel 1963

The other function of the newsletter was to allow Seminarians to engage with the changing face of mission. The Second Vatican Council was just starting when Channel started its run. The mindset of what it means to be on mission was evolving, and everyone at the Seminary wanted to engage with this new landscape. A majority of the newsletter contained articles on a variety of mission, theology, and ecumenical topics. The first issue features an article by Fr. Fedders discussing the culture shock of going on mission abroad and what to do to mitigate it.

The Channel newsletter was an important part of Major Seminary’s history. While not the only newsletter published by the institution, it came at a time when the idea of mission was changing. Maryknollers started asking themselves many questions: What does it mean to be a missioner? How can Maryknollers better serve their communities? How will missioners fit into the new global landscape?

Channel provided the much-needed forum for Seminarians and Missioners alike to discuss these questions. Over the course of 15 years, many ideas were published, shared, and debated. Each one acted to stimulate a young Seminarian’s studies and inform experienced Maryknollers about the changing world.