On Sept. 10, 1892, Benjamin Harrison was president of the United States, plans for the Columbian Exposition were well underway and Patrick Feehan was serving as the first archbishop of the newly elevated Archdiocese of Chicago. On that day, 125 years ago, the first edition of The New World hit newsstands, selling for 5 cents.
The name has changed over the years — from the New World, taken from the World’s Fair, to the Chicago Catholic, to the New World, to the Catholic New World to Chicago Catholic — but the ministry has remained the same: bringing the Good News of the Gospel to the people of God.
In a pastoral letter to readers published on the front page of that first issue, the bishops of Illinois explained that the Third Plenary Council in Baltimore called for each of the dioceses in the United States to form their own newspaper to tell the church’s story directly to its people. This was a time of great prejudice against Catholics, so it was important for the church to have its own voice in the press.
The bishops wrote, “In the state of Illinois there are not less then seven hundred thousand Catholics, and a newspaper which represents their religious faith and interests, which defends their rights, which gives voice to their aspirations, will be looked upon by them as a general blessing.”
In that pastoral letter, the bishops also made the case for Catholic education and the necessity of parishes to establish parochial schools.
Likewise on the front page of that eight-page issue were stories about the Columbian Exposition, about the death of poet John G. Whittier and about how Protestantism had spread in Scandinavia. Rounding out the issue were stories about the daily life of Pope Leo XIII, poems and jokes and a letter from the pope to Bishop John Spalding of Peoria approving the Catholic exhibit for the World’s Fair.
Over these 125 years the paper has covered some big stories about the Catholic Church in the Chicago area, including the World’s Fair, the 1926 Eucharistic Congress, Pope John Paul II’s 1979 visit and visits by such greats as St. Teresa of Kolkata. It has also covered smaller everyday events such as parish fundraisers, personal journeys of faith, and an announcement about the little-known Father Augustus Tolton speaking at a parish to raise funds to build a church for black Catholics in Chicago.
The newspaper has seen archbishops and editors come and go, but the ministry has always remained the same: to share the Good News of the Gospel. Birthdays are a time to celebrate the gifts and life that God gave us. Thank you, Lord, for 125 years of the Chicago Catholic.
In celebration of our 125th anniversary, the staff of Chicago Catholic asked several former editors about their years here. Here is what they had to say.
Nearly 50 years ago, the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “weighed upon the conscience of the world.” That was the headline on the cover of the April 12, 1968, issue of The New World.
For many years, a favorite feature in our pages was “Church Clips” by Dolores Madlener, which offered a regular dose of “benevolent gossip.”