I am writing this column on the fifth anniversary of my first day as the 14th editor in chief of this magazine. In truth, I can hardly believe that it’s been only five years. During these 1,825 days, the pace and breadth of change in the worldwide church and in our tiny corner of it here in New York has been simply astounding.
Consider the following: On Oct. 1, 2012, Benedict XVI was still pope, showing no signs of slowing down. If you had suggested then that he would resign within six months (the first pope to do so in centuries), very serious people would have laughed at you. If you had suggested that he would be succeeded by a Jesuit, those same people would have never taken you seriously again—until, of course, all that happened, which it did, as well as a dizzying cavalcade of other firsts: the first pope from the New World; the first pope to pick Francis as his papal name; the first to sit for an uncensored interview, published in these pages; the first pope to address a joint session of the U.S. Congress.
The year 2012 was before “Who am I to judge?” before “Laudato Si’” and “Amoris Laetitia”; before the controversial dubia; before Indianapolis (against every expectation) received a cardinal’s red hat, while Milan did not.
It’s been quite a journey. Thank you for walking with us every step of the way. These five years have also been transformative for us. In 2012, America had 16 full-time employees. Today, we employ 43. Our online readership is four times what it was in 2012, and we currently have the largest number of print subscribers in 15 years. We’ve redesigned and relaunched our print edition and website, launched a film division, started a media fellowship for young professionals, debuted a weekly radio show, rebooted the Catholic Book Club and recruited a worldwide network of correspondents and contributing writers. All of that was possible because of you, the most loyal and generous readers in publishing. On behalf of our directors and staff: Thank you.
These five years have also been transformative for us.
At the end of this month, America Media will move to our new headquarters at 1212 Avenue of the Americas, a state of the art facility designed specifically for this new America. The move will mark the end of the beginning of our transformation into a 21st-century multiplatform media ministry. You are welcome to drop by and visit if you’re ever in New York. It’ll be easy to find us. Our new headquarters will be right across the street from the Fox News broadcasting center (insert witticism here). Also nearby are NBC Studios and Rockefeller Center, as well as The Wall Street Journal and the studios of Sirius Radio. St. Patrick’s Cathedral is a block away. St. Ignatius always said that Jesuits should be at the center of things, right at the intersection of the church and the world, interpreting one for the other.
“And so America set up shop overlooking the public square,” I wrote in my first column as editor in chief, “right at the corner of the church and the world. The object was threefold: to assist with the faith formation of American Catholics, the evangelization of American culture and the progress of America’s civil society. Thus, our name. In 1909—when the nation’s Catholic citizens were viewed with disdain—this kind of intellectual apostolate was especially needed. For different but no less daunting reasons, this apostolate is still needed today. The U.S. body politic, sickened by the toxin of partisanship, needs the elixir of charity and clarity. The body of Christ also needs healing, torn asunder as it is by scandal and ideological divisions that thoughtlessly mimic their secular counterparts.
“America neither pretends nor aspires to be the solution to these problems. We simply hope, as our forebears did, that our review—in print and online—will serve as one model of a truly Catholic as well as a truly American public discourse, one marked by faith, hope and charity.”
With this issue, America launches a new occasional section called Faith & Reason. which will feature articles about contemporary theological or ecclesial questions, usually by prominent theologians. The Rev. Robert Imbelli kicks off the new section in this issue. America has always published such articles, but in the new magazine design we launched last January, it wasn’t obvious where they should be housed. These more scholarly and explicitly theological essays had a home neither in the features section, which houses mostly reported articles by professional journalists, nor in the Faith in Focus section, which features mainly first-person essays about spirituality. At our last editorial staff retreat, we decided to create an entirely new section with its own heading, look and style—proof, if needed, that after five years in this job, I’m still learning. Thanks be to God.