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Honorary lifers

By: OSV Newsweekly

It’s getting to the point where I hate anything that has to do with a phone other than talking and listening.

I can’t get a slice of pizza without somebody trying to get me to download an app to order from on my alleged smartphone. When I tell them I don’t use apps, they look at me as if I told them I don’t use pants.

Other than my laptop — which is older than most grammar school kids — my one concession to electronic media is email. It’s just too good for keeping in touch with old friends who might get lost for any number of years.

A few months back I got a group email. Usually these are shared bad jokes or cat videos. But this was different. It was from that rare select group that would have me — lifetime honorary members of the Catholic press. Woody Allen said that 80 percent of success is just showing up. I showed up.

It’s quite a group, 15 of us that go back through most of the popes of the 20th century. I think our senior partner was a little guy when Benedict XV was alive. That’s the 15th, who died in 1922. It’s an eclectic gathering: editors, publishers, executives, book sellers, ad guys and writers.

The email was just a hey-what-are-you-doing kind of thing, and a few took advantage to share news about travel and family.

One of the guys in the group knew me from the first. He was sipping coffee at the lunch table when I was a 21-year-old being interviewed by his father for my first Catholic-press job.

It struck me how much these guys are people of hope. Not wishy-washy “hope,” but determined hope. They love where their life was; they are delighted where their life is; and they are confidently hopeful about where it is going.

Another email arrived about a month ago. A sad one.

Mary Anne Castranio worked at the Georgia Bulletin, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Atlanta. She was also vice president of the Catholic Press Association.

She was in Washington, D.C., for a meeting between Catholic press staff and Catholic News Service, which provides stories and such, nationally and internationally.

They were heading out to dinner the night before getting started. She collapsed, and later the next morning she died. Probably a heart attack. She was 61.

She left behind a daughter she had adopted from China years ago. The girl — Amy — is now a senior in college. Castranio was devoted to her daughter and joined Families with Children from China for support and out of a desire to root her daughter in Chinese culture. “Amy was her life,” a friend said.

I confess that I barely knew her. But she was clearly one of those people who was always there to serve the Church faithfully in ways big and small. As I am sure she would have told you if asked, she was one of a legion of such souls in the Catholic press. Like the honorary lifers.

A couple of days after hearing about her death, the October issue of Catholic Journalist arrived. It’s our member publication, a chatty little newspaper that reports on various goings-on in the Catholic Press.

Mary Anne’s byline was in it twice. She did a roundup of news and notes from the southern region and a profile of a diocesan newspaper trying to keep up with technological change. Friendly stuff. A celebration of the ordinary.

We just celebrated the feasts of All Saints and All Souls. From the Liturgy of the Hours: “The just will shine like the sun in the Kingdom of their Father.”

My honorary lifers aren’t journalists who happened to be Catholic. They are Catholics who became journalists out of faith and love. Mary Anne would fit right in.

This article comes to you from OSV Newsweekly (Our Sunday Visitor) courtesy of your parish or diocese.


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