Serving our readers, one page, one issue at a time

Writing this column is always the last thing I do for the paper each week.

At this point, all the other pages are circling through the newsroom being proof-read by three sets of the sharpest eyes in copyediting.

As I sit here and flip through the final page proofs, I finally see what the issue will look like for our readers. It's not the finished product yet, but it's pretty close.

This week, I'm very pleased with what we have to offer you.

On the opposite page, we have a story on how the economic downturn has impacted the Catholic Church, written by Steve Saint, a longtime business reporter and Catholic freelancer. When we assigned the story, we expected to hear back about all sorts of financial woes. You'll find the real story comes as a bit of a surprise.

The Church's efforts to provide humanitarian relief in former Burma is the story on Page 4, written by Gerard O'Connell in Rome, who's been in daily e-mail contact with Archbishop Charles Bo of Yangon, the largest city in Myanmar. The Catholic presence there is only about 1 percent, but is doing yeoman's work in helping coordinate the charity of Catholic agencies from around the world, including the U.S. Catholic Relief Services.

The issue of priestly vocations is one upon which Pope Benedict XVI gave encouragement to the U.S. bishops during his recent visit. On Page 5, we profile some parishes who say generating vocations is not as difficult as it's sometimes made out to be.

Jonathan Luxmoore, a writer whose name is familiar to our regular readers, has a fascinating profile on Page 14 of Caroline Manning, who enjoyed a brief, passionate marriage with English Cardinal Henry Edward Manning while he was still a young Anglican curate (and before she succumbed to tuberculosis). The marriage had a profound influence on Cardinal Manning's life, and he was buried with a prayer book of hers that he had kept at his side daily. But he also was a proponent of the Catholic Church's clerical celibacy policy.

In our In Focus section in the middle of the paper, Contributing Editor Emily Stimpson turns a spotlight on "adult faith formation," a term she acknowledges "sounds dull, manufactured ... (and) devised by a committee," but really is meant to express one of the most crucial concepts of Christian living: the quest for holiness. She reports on what bishops, parishes and laypeople are doing about it.

And among our regular features and columns, I'd highlight this week our editorial. We see the recent ruling by the California Supreme Court legalizing same-sex "marriage" as an opportunity not to be missed.

As always, please write or email with your comments.