I mentioned to someone not long ago that while we are considering what women can or could bring to the Church in ministry (ordained or not), let’s not overlook what is hiding in plain sight: the overwhelming impact women are already having in the realm of Catholic media.
I went on to explain that all of the people who have edited my books, and many who have edited my essays and columns, are women. That’s also true of my online work and blogging. I can’t help but think these women and others are contributing mightily to the Catholic conversation. I’d venture a guess that if you are a regular reader of a Catholic magazine or newspaper, odds are that you are reading work edited and published by a Catholic woman.
Which brings me to one of the great editors I’ve been privileged to know and work with: Mary Stommes. As she leaves her post as editor of Give Us This Day, (where I worked as one of her writers for several years) she sat down to talk with Brigid McCabe at America Magazine about her life and work. What Mary had to say resonated with me for reasons both professional and personal, and reflected where I am on my own journey.
When I looked through a copy of Give Us This Day, I noticed a wide range of types of voices represented in the “Reflections” section and of individuals featured in the “Blessed Among Us.” What types of individuals are highlighted for Give Us This Day, and why?
Many times the “Blessed Among Us” feature is a “capital s” saint: a canonized, official saint. But many times it is not someone officially recognized by the church. It might even be someone who is not Catholic. Figures like Martin Buber or Abraham Joshua Heschel are included along with St. Augustine and St. Catherine of Siena, and just a whole host of people—so many lesser-known people who were just very good friends of God.
As for the reflections, about two thirds of them are newly commissioned pieces, and our greatest treasure is the breadth and depth of the author pool. I have had the great privilege of working with these commissioned writers on a one-on-one basis over all these years. They are lay and ordained, men and women, young and old. More and more, we have been trying to think about who are the underrepresented voices in the church and trying to connect with those new people. It is rewarding to think about connecting all these different voices into a real community of prayer.
Has anything surprised you during your time with Give Us This Day?
Honestly, it is the overwhelming gratitude from the wide community that is Give Us This Day. There is such a hunger from people—people who don’t name it, or couldn’t articulate it. I can’t even really articulate it. But there is such a hunger, and I believe that they are being fed. Often I ask myself, why would I be surprised by that gratitude? Because ultimately it is just completely thanks to God.
In this moment of transition, do you have any plans for the future?
Well, I believe that we need to listen to our gifts and to use them for whatever and wherever God is calling us to use them. So for some time, I thought that if God was calling me away from this work at this time, then I would know that when the next thing comes. But that’s not always how God speaks to us.
I came to the knowledge that this is very, very good work. And we are such a talented team. But I just had to ask myself, is God calling me to keep up this pace until I do fully retire, and maybe don’t have anything left in me to give? And the answer to that was no.
As for the future, I will see. I am praying about it, and I know others are praying about it, too. I always say that I trust God. And I really, really, really mean that. I really do.
Thank you, Mary, for so much.