Editorial: The Common Good – 10th Birthday

Reprinted from The Common Good, No 39, Advent 2006

It is 10 years since the Christchurch Catholic Worker first published The Common Good. From the beginning, it has been a journey of faith. We started on the basis that if we did the sums we would never get rolling. The Tablet had just fallen over. Tui Motu was still a dream. Diocesan Justice and Peace Commissions were in disarray. There were no Catholic papers regularly focusing on social justice issues. It seemed like the moment was ‘now or never.’ So we didn’t do the sums. Instead, we printed, published, mailed out and trusted in the Providence of God. We might be small on some things, but we are big on the Providence of God. It’s how we run our houses, named after Suzanne Aubert, Thomas Merton and Joseph Cardijn. St Paul reminds us in Romans that ‘God co-operates with those who seek to do good.’ This is what faith, lived on a wing and a prayer, can look like.

And we are still here. We are all a bit chuffed to be still at it. Thanks to the skills of a few dedicated people, we assemble each quarter to prepare, present and mail-out The Common Good. A small editorial collective consisting of Kathleen Gallagher, Jim Consedine, Greg Jones, Barbara Corcoran and Francis Simmonds oversaw the early editions. Basically, the same people remain involved, though some roles have changed. One has stayed consistent. Barbara has been the lay-out sub-editor since issue one – and is still there taking up to two days each time to get it right. She is our backroom heroine, the maker of great muffins, never grumpy, always accommodating. Then there is the mail-out group. Up to a dozen people gather to do the mail-out usually from Suzanne Aubert House, which has the largest room. It looks chaotic. But the job gets done. Francis co-ordinates Sally, the Millers, John and Leony, Rajiv, Edna, Catherine, Terrelaine, Judith, Graeme, Ron, Mike, Lynette, Teresa, Tony, Brian, and Maureen. No mean feat that! We are extremely grateful to Sr Helen Goggin who has provided the final set of eyes to the text prior to punctuation. Her ability to spell, punctuate, and discipline wandering prepositions and hyphens is unparalleled.

We have been much blessed with our writers over the years. Besides our editorial team, we have published articles by Moana Cole, Robert Consedine, Pita Sharples, Joseph and Catherine Land, Moana Jackson, Jane Higgins, Nicholas Drake, Donna Mulhearn, Joy Ryan-Bloore, Jim Dowling, Robert Green, Jack Doherty, Paul Reeves, Elizabeth McAllister, Phil Berrigan, Tess Windle, Mary Hancox, Ciaron O’Reilly and Tony Church, to mention only a few. Indeed, the very first edition in 1996 carried a leading article by one of the great religious writers of our time, Sister Pauline O’Regan. We have chosen to lead with it again in this 10th anniversary edition because her message then is as relevant now as it was when she wrote it. We are grateful to all our contributors without whom a paper cannot exist.

We have also taken the risk of running a column called ‘honouring the prophets.’ This is done in the belief that, as Jesus remarked, prophets are never honoured in their own time or by their own communities. Yet the scriptures place prophets second only to apostles in their importance and ahead of teachers, pastors and a whole range of other necessary people. The reason for this is obvious – prophets shed the light. They are the people called by God to remind us of who we are and who we might become, to point the way to the future and remind us sometimes where we are going wrong. Their message is often challenging and uncomfortable. No wonder most are criticised and marginalised in their own time. It is a vocation and a burden only a fool would seek. Some come from within church ranks, some from outside. We believe prophets are called in every community and New Zealand is no exception. So over a period of years we have identified a number of New Zealanders who fitted the description of a prophet in their time. Some have more widespread impact than others. All are important. They include Archibald Baxter, John Osmers, Patrick O’Connor, Peter and Judith Land, the Aranui Sisters, Marilyn Pryor, Rod Donald, Kitty McKinley and James K.Baxter. We honour another such prophet, John Curnow, in this edition.

To produce a free 12 or 16-page newspaper on a quarterly basis for so long is something many thought would be impossible. After all, we had no money. And of course it is not free. Each one costs about 60 cents to print and/or mail. We have an average print run of 3700, so the costs for printing and mailing are around $2300 for each edition. This is edition number 39 so that makes for an expenditure of about $90 000 over the years, give or take a shekel or two. Some of that comes back from our annual appeal. A few parishes send a donation from time to time. But most of it comes from the pockets of a few generous supporters who pay a monthly automatic payment. They are people who believe that God’s justice is central to their faith and that The Common Good can play a tiny role in planting the seeds of that justice.

We hope to be still at it in 10 years’ time. That may or may not happen. But as long as there is a Gospel, there will be a need to live it and write about it. That is what we hope to keep doing. Long may we continue to reflect on the signs of the times and bring the light of the Gospel to bear on them.

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