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Portland Catholic newspaper says goodbye to ‘medium for the interchange of ideas, having in view mutual improvement and benefit’

This illustrations shows the front pages of the Catholic Sentinel and El Centinela newspapers of the Archdiocese of Portland, Ore. A news released issued July 21, 2022, jointly by the Archdiocese of Portland and Oregon Catholic Press, the newspapers will close Oct. 1. (CNS illustration/courtesy Oregon Catholic Press)

This is the last editorial,” published Sept. 30 in the Catholic Sentinel, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon. It was written by Ed Langlois, managing editor. The newspaper closed Oct. 1.

At Mass last week, I spied a young girl roll up a copy of the Catholic Sentinel and thwack her tiresome little brother on the head. As we conclude our 152-year run, it’s gratifying to see young people making use of our newspaper to further the cause of justice.

If the Catholic Sentinel has achieved anything, I hope it’s this: Displaying that Jesus Christ and his teachings are no historic artifacts but rather emerge moment by moment in western Oregon, especially in unexpected and perhaps amusing situations.

We are confident that the Lord breathes deeply and acts via prayers, social ministry and our tasty church suppers.

What’s more, I hope our reporting has proven that divinity surges even in matters non-churchy.

God works via squabbling siblings, families at the kitchen table, a migrant worker picking hops, a homeless man sleeping under a blue tarp and even among Oregon’s large unchurched population.

I urge our church to see these nonbelievers for who they are — neighbors of good will — not as problems to solve, much less as enemies. They may have things to teach us.

In the first Sentinel, published Feb. 5, 1870, the editors called their new newspaper a “medium for the interchange of ideas, having in view mutual improvement and benefit.”

In 2022, the Sentinel was one of the last Catholic papers that retained letters to the editor, hewing to that ideal, messy as it might be.

Now it’s you, dear letter writers, who must share the stories of divine work. We chose as our final headline for you “Godspeed,” an ancient farewell that wishes blessings of energy on a traveler.

But as you move forward, I offer a warning.

Three decades of reporting have left me deeply in love with the local church and its people. Yet I feel we have trended toward triumphalism, wrongly confident that we have life figured out.

Our rich intellectual tradition, our catechism and beautiful doctrine can give us the comical and self-limiting illusion that we understand God’s ways. I am sure the Father, Son and Spirit have a good laugh at that.

Surely it’s wiser to heed the words of Hamlet: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”