What better way is there to honour the life of a newspaper than through a film celebrating its triumphs and pitfalls, legacy and vision?
For the past 125 years, the Catholic News has reflected the activities of the faith in a candid, powerful light, presenting not only elements of the church’s doctrine but its role in many aspects of secular life.
Second only to the Jamaica Gleaner in terms of longevity, the Catholic News has also enjoyed more than a century of uninterrupted circulation, making it one of the most reliable and respected publications in the region.
The newspaper’s journey will be told in the short film, The Pursuit of Truth @125, at 10.45 am on Saturday (September 22) at the TT Film Festival, Movie Towne, Port of Spain.
Fr Robert Christo, the church’s Vicar for Communications, told Sunday Newsday the story will be unveiled in two parts.
The first part covers the period 1892 to 1990 while part two captures pertinent events between 1990 and 2018.
Christo said the milestone marked an outstanding achievement in the life of the Catholic News.
“We are celebrating 125 years of print in the Caribbean because of our humble beginnings and that is really remarkable,” said Christo.
“Many big things really start small and the Catholic News is something we can celebrate as a Caribbean people.”
“So, that celebration of church and proclaiming Christ in the Catholic Church throughout the Caribbean using media, we wanted to celebrate that tenureship.”
The film, which features pieces from the paper’s writers over the years, captures pivotal moments in the life of the church and also explores issues such as the 1937 Labour Riots, the 1970 Black Power Movement and the 1990 attempted coup. Christo said the newspaper, published by Catholic Media Services Ltd (CAMSEL), began in 1892 with one nun and three graduates from the Belmont Orphanage at the compound of Holy Name Convent, 31 St Ann’s Road (later 2 Queen’s Park East).
Many years later, the Catholic News would move to its current location at 31 Independence Square, Port of Spain, which it has called home for the past few decades.
“But we have had a checkered history with so much struggle and perseverance. Having experienced that struggle and sacrifice, our generation now can blossom like a tree. There is just so much to revel in,” Christo said.
He said the film, which is open to the public, would be especially appealing to those involved in journalism, history and evangelisation.
“I think that is the audience we are looking for because the film festival celebrates not only a religious but the journalistic, historical and evangelical power of the Catholic Church.”
He is hoping that people attending the showing will experience “an adventure in life.”
“Because it looks at everything from politics and recipes to sports and film. So you can find God in everything.”
Christo said although the church has failed many times in its history, there was still much to celebrate.
“We have made history and we want to celebrate truth in a world of fake news. And there is so much fake news coming around for sensationalism that we want a legacy of truth and faith that has been told through our people and this medium over the past 125 years.”
Christo regarded the Catholic News as a valuable teaching tool for young children.
“It is excellence in journalism, excellence in marking history and excellence in evangelisation and young people will understand the power of strife, sacrifice and truth.”
Christo said officials associated with the production will be interviewed this week on local media.
Editor Raymond Syms told Sunday Newsday said he intends to preserve the newspaper’s legacy.
“I have been involved in the Catholic News since 1994, so for me, 125 years and being a part of it is a good feeling, you have a responsibility to help carry on the name of the paper, its ideals and values,” he said.
“So, I have tried to bring that into the paper and maintain it. So 125 years means me playing my part in ensuring the legacy continues.”
Syms, who became editor in 2016, said he assumed the position at a time when Catholic publications and newspapers, generally, had either folded or were closing down operations.
He attributed the Catholic News’ survival over the past 125 years to its resilience and tenacity.
“Yes, we are struggling to maintain our readership, every newspaper is struggling. But we continue to strive to make sure we remain in publication.”
Saying the newspaper was one of the top Catholic publications in the region, Syms said there were only two other weekly publications in Suriname and Guyana.
“All the others have had to revert to becoming monthly or have simply just disappeared. So, we strive to continue or work, our quality our professionalism.”
Syms said the film will offer viewers a glimpse of how TT has changed over the years.
Asked about his vision for the paper, Syms said: “I want to contribute to the transition from print to social media and the digital world to ensure the future of the publication.”
The Pursuit of Truth @125 forms part of the activities to commemorate the Catholics News’125th anniversary celebrations.
Observances began in 2017 with a mass and awards ceremony on May 6 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Port of Spain, which was presided over by former vicar for communications Monsignor Cuthbert Alexander.
Two months later, on July 17, the Catholic News digital archives was launched on the redesigned Catholic News website.
And on November 17, the newspaper hosted a one-day symposium, titled, The Pursuit of Truth in the Age of Fake News.