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James Martin, S.J.April 20, 2009

After a year of planning, we still weren't sure how many people were going to attend our Centennial Mass on April 18. After all, Timothy M. Dolan had just been installed as the archbishop of New York in a grand Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral a few days before, and that Saturday came in the middle of that liturgical time loosely known as "confirmation season." Moreover, as our publisher Jan Attridge noted worriedly, "It's supposed to be really nice on Saturday."

In the end, roughly 300 friends, family members, benefactors, writers for the magazine, fellow journalists and readers-not to mention a cardinal, an archbishop, a bishop, three Jesuit provincials and 35 priests (Jesuit, religious and diocesan) as well as two former editors in chief-joined at the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola in New York City for our celebration, on the unseasonably warm day.

Admittedly, it was a challenge for a master of ceremonies unused to liturgical protocol (full disclosure: me) to determine in which order would walk a cardinal (Theodore McCarrick), a bishop (Joseph Sullivan) and an archbishop who is the Vatican's Permanent Observer to the United Nations (Celestino Migliore) in the opening procession.

But our esteemed guests were not only gracious but relaxed about matters liturgical. "Well, I do what I need to do and don't worry the rest," said the unflappable Archbishop Migliore with a chuckle afterwards. We were delighted that so many "priest-readers" showed up as unexpected concelebrants.&nbsp "I read your magazine when I was a missionary in Kenya," said one.

It was fun to spy people from a variety of places in the pews.&nbsp Readers mostly, a handful of former associate editors and members of our staff, but also Patrick Jordan and Grant Gallicho from Commonweal, Elizabeth Johnson, C.S.J., from Fordham University, Doris Donnelly from the Cardinal Suenens Center in Cleveland, to name a representative few. Also: one woman seated who asked me a few minutes before the procession began, "What's this Mass for anyway?"

Cardinal McCarrick's homily spoke affectionately of his longtime friend Drew Christiansen, and expressed gratitude for all the editors and staff since 1909. Using the reading of the ungrateful lepers, the cardinal told of preaching at a children's Mass on this reading, when a playlet was used to depict the Gospel story from Luke (17:11-19). (We used the readings for the Mass of Thanksgiving.) The ten young "lepers" dressed with towels on their heads, and carrying hockey sticks (as canes) were "healed" by the cardinal and walked off.

But one boy, the grateful "leper," turned around to speak and promptly forgot his lines. After a long, embarrassed silence he finally shouted out, "Thank you!" "You're welcome!" said the cardinal.

How rarely we say this to one another, said Cardinal McCarrick, as he thanked God, and us, for our 100-year apostolate.

Afterwards we gathered again downstairs, in Wallace Hall, where Father Christiansen introduced the editors and staff to the crowd who were by now contentedly munching on "heavy hors d'oeuvres." Archbishop Migliore drew appreciative laughs by remembering that an America article by Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk called "Domestic Manners of the American People" (May 15, 1985) that offered sage advice for those working in the Vatican on how to think like an American. (Number Seven: "Nobody should have to wait for anything. Number Eight: "Nobody over there [Rome] understands us.")

The gathering reflected what I like most about the church-Here comes everybody. Jan Attridge ran into a woman who had read the magazine since 1930. (Yes, you read that right.) Kodiak, the six-year-old son of our design and production director, Stephanie Ratcliffe, stood solemnly, hands folded, as he watched our Centennial video. Two readers made their way to the editors and staff to have their Centennial issues signed. And when I introduced my ten-year-old nephew to Pat Jordan, who had worked for many years with Dorothy Day, I said, "Charles, do you remember me telling you about Dorothy Day?"

"No," he said bluntly. (Children are notoriously honest.) When Pat asked Charles if he might like to become a saint, he said, "How much does it pay?"

To a person, the editors and staff agreed on at least two things (a rare occurrence, especially in editorial meetings). First, we had a great deal of fun. Second, we were grateful to everyone who came, for everyone who wished us well in letters, cards and emails and for all of our benefactors.


We prayed for all those people at our Mass, and for you too, dear reader.

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Margaret McCormick
14 years 10 months ago
As always, AMERICA always comes through ! Congratulations and God's blessings for another centennial down the line. My sister, living at the time on a farm in central Illinois, treasured her subscription, and read it faithfully. Myself, a newly Professed Religious, sought out her copies when I would visit.

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