God bless, not goodbye

I don’t do farewells well.

I blame it on my brother, Tony. He died of a brain tumor when I was 3 and he was 2 and my brother Patrick was 1. According to my mom, I stood at the front window for several days after his death, waiting for him to return.

I was too young to know what it meant not to say goodbye.

That came to me many years later when my oldest son, Anthony, was 3 and my second son, Andrew, was 1. Suddenly, I was finding myself crying for no obvious reason.

I thought I was having a breakdown, until my wife got together with my mom and figured it out.

My sons were in a “missing man” formation, and 35 years after the fact, I was finally saying goodbye to my missing brother.

So forget the farewells! I want to recall some of the lasting memories that come with having spent 26 years at Our Sunday Visitor.

Some are just silly, like chair races in the hallway on deadline night. Or sitting in an editorial meeting recounting the funniest jokes from the previous night’s episodes of “The Simpsons.”

Others are the precious, terrible moments like the staff gathering in our chapel to pray for the repose of the soul of our corporate treasurer, Tim Moorman, when we got the news that he succumbed to cancer far too early in life. Or the somber vigil at the television on Sept. 11, 2001.

Uplifting moments, like our Epiphany tradition when Msgr. Owen Campion would walk through our entire office and manufacturing plant blessing every single department. Or simply satisfying moments — usually built around food — like barbecues in the courtyard or carry-ins for anniversaries. I love the fact that at Our Sunday Visitor, when it is your birthday, you are the one who brings in the treats — as if to thank everyone else for being part of your life.

It’s all about the people, and that starts with you, the readers. Everything we do is to serve you as best we can. I have appreciated hearing from you and learning your stories. One of the most remarkable is Les Johnson, a steelworker and mystic from Ohio who showed up at Our Sunday Visitor one day after driving six hours to give me a beautiful walking stick adorned with an eagle’s head that he had carved.

I have so many memories of great colleagues, starting with Bob Lockwood — the man who hired me away from the Eternal City by offering me a steady supply of challenges and learning opportunities. Or Beth McNamara, a former director of religious education with a steel spine and a faith to move mountains all wrapped in Minnesota nice. Beth brings out the best in everybody, a living reminder that management isn’t just about spreadsheets and print runs, but about people.

I can’t name all the people I’ve been honored to have worked with, but my helpmate, Michelle Hogan, deserves mention. She kept my crazy schedule on track and was always way more organized than her boss. And Gretchen Crowe, who is one in a long line of great Newsweekly editors but who has raised the bar just that much higher for those who follow.

Goodbyes aren’t easy, and neither is change. But I feel it is time to turn over the reins to others: To pursue my writing, to see what new opportunities await, to spend a little more time with my family.

Our Sunday Visitor is about the people, and it’s about the mission.

God has blessed this company and given it the means to make a difference in people’s lives. OSV’s been doing that for 104 years, and I am a lucky man to have been present for 26 of them.

Greg Erlandson writes from Indiana.