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Diocese of Wilmington sesquicentennial: History of The Dialog


Pope John XXIII was the Vicar of Christ in Rome in June 1962 when Bishop Michael W. Hyle, the fifth bishop of Wilmington, formed a committee to study the feasibility of starting a newspaper for the Diocese of Wilmington. An advisory board of clergy and laity approved the idea, so in October 1963, the bishop announced from Rome, where he was attending the second session of the Second Vatican Council, that he would start a diocesan newspaper “in the spirit” of the council, “dedicated to the renewal of the church and to the promotion of a better understanding of its nature among men of good will.”
The first issue of the Delmarva Dialog was published Sept. 3, 1965, to serve the Diocese of Wilmington’s Catholics in Delaware, the Eastern Shore of Maryland, and, at that time, on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. (When the diocese’s Virginia parishes became part of the Diocese of Richmond, in the mid-1970s, the paper lost its “Delmarva” first name and became The Dialog.) The first issue included an interview with Bishop Hyle before his departure for the fourth session of Vatican II; previews of a council debate on religious liberty, and front-page photos of Pope Paul VI, as well as of a roadside produce stand outside Smyrna.
Msgr. John Dewson, then pastor of Wilmington’s Saint Mary of the Immaculate Conception, was the organizing editor for the paper and led the board of the Catholic Press of Wilmington Inc. that hired John O’Connor as the Delmarva Dialog’s first editor.
The paper’s editorial content in its first years reflected the tumultuous changes and debates that Vatican II engendered in the church.
Subsequent editors included David B. Maguire and Kathleen Graham, one of the few female editors in the Catholic press when she was hired in 1973. She served two stints in the editor’s chair — the first for 10 years and again for four years in the 1980s. Other editors include Joseph Kirk Ryan, who also served in this position twice — in the 1980s and again from 2011 until 2017; Lou Jacquet, who steered the paper during its first computer-generated editions; Marianna McLoughlin, who edited the first tabloid-sized editions of The Dialog in 1992; Robert Johnston; Gary Morton; Jim Grant; and now Joseph P. Owens, since 2017.
The Dialog was a mailed weekly newspaper through most of its history. By 2011 it reached 56,000 Catholic homes a week, until it became a bi-weekly delivered to churches. Through its more than 50 years, The Dialog’s bishop-publishers have faithfully supported Bishop Hyle’s call to promote the church’s mission.