Two years ago, a large ash tree in my garden finally died after years of poor health. Rather than finding it crushed in our garage, the leafless centenary tree had to be removed. Most of the time I walk past this remaining stump cut at ground level.
Recently, from its edge, new stems have appeared, and their small leaves bring the world back to life, helped by the still functioning roots of the old tree. It is a sign of growth, the new building on the old.
My observation of an unexpectedly novelty of what was believed to be dead makes me reflect on a similar event with what you are reading now.
Ten years ago this summer, CatholicPhilly.com sprouted. A daily presentation of news from the Catholic norm and times began to bring the contents of this newspaper to new audiences who for some reason did not follow the newspaper.
Nine years ago this month, the venerable CS&T, founded in 1895, produced its last issue. Things end in their due time, but they don’t always fall into oblivion. Like my old Ash, the mission and commitment of the old Catholic newspaper to excellence in service to the Catholic community in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia would nourish the nascent CatholicPhilly.com.
Looking past the statistical vital signs of this website, I see that our audience of 10,000 visitors per month in that first year of operation has now grown to 115,000 users per month. That’s more than a multiplication by 10.
And all of these people are now viewing nearly a quarter of a million pages each month – each page showing some aspect of the life and teaching of Christ in His Body, the church, in Philadelphia.
While it’s difficult to make a direct “apples-to-apples” comparison, our digital audience now exceeds the CS&T mark of over 80,000 copies printed each week in the early 2000s.
There is another sign of growth in CatholicPhilly’s weekly e-newsletter. We now serve over 9,000 subscribers who view the newsletter and click on items of interest they read on CatholicPhilly.com.
The free newsletter is a simple and transparent way to expose more people to CatholicPhilly news and reporting, photos, podcasts, videos, catechesis and commentary, and spiritual enrichment.
The mission to inform, educate in the Catholic faith and inspire readers – which has been at the heart of CS&T work for 117 years – continues to nourish the work of still young CatholicPhilly.com.
Neither the former editors, Cardinal John Foley or Father Paul Quinter, nor the other staff of yesteryear, could have imagined a team of two plus a handful of independent contributors and volunteers running an operation of daily information like this. But the dedication to precision, orthodoxy and professional creativity is as unmistakable today as it was then.
A few examples, with my apologies to everyone else:
* No one visually documents church life with consistent excellence as a photographer Sarah webb, whose impressive body of work dates back to the 1990s.
* Sports editor John Knebels has traced the triumphs and sometimes heartbreaks of local athletes right up to the deadline since – and that’s not a typo – 1982.
* Mgr. Joseph Prior draws closer to its 450th weekly column by reflecting on the biblical readings of Sunday mass. It is the priestly dedication to unboxing the Word of God to people every week.
* Lou Baldwin maybe has a Unparalleled CV for writing thousands of short stories and features on the life of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia since 1984, including this year. He brought history and the present to life in the light, and he deserves the grateful prayers of the Catholics in this region.
* If you’ve ever wondered how Lou got to write so many stories in a given week over the years, you might also be wondering how the main content producer of CatholicPhilly, Gina Christian, also produces such a high-quality material.
The answer for these professionals, and many more, lies in their dedication to the mission of proclaiming the Good News to the best of their ability, aided by grace, one day at a time, year after year.
It continues to be my privilege, as editor, to present to you, our readers, a deeper understanding of our world and of Christ’s redemptive action in it. You keep CatholicPhilly.com browsing stable as it evolves, regardless of stormy conditions, especially over the past year.
The donations of 250 people this year are essential to our operations, and you, the readers, have my most sincere and praying thanks.
Thank you also to the Ambassador’s Fund for Catholic Education for a grant that will further increase our audience. A three-year grant-funded digital advertising campaign is attracting more readers to CatholicPhilly.com through paid ads that we place on third-party websites visited by local residents.
At the same time, we invite new subscribers to sign up for the free newsletter. Since February, we have added 700 new subscribers through the campaign.
These profitable efforts to produce news and information come on a screen, not a printed page. It was a disappointment to many, but the growth we are seeing indicates that we are reaching new audiences of people meeting the person of Christ, our Vine, in His church today.
Thank you, readers, for nurturing this new life in digital soil through your prayers, support, and every click on CatholicPhilly.com.
Matthew Gambino is editor-in-chief of CatholicPhilly.com.