[Note: The following is paid advertising sponsored by the Daughters of St. Paul.]
The Church doesn’t just comprise the community of the faithful: it’s also an institution, and those two aspects come together in the documents that are issued periodically from the Vatican, documents meant to keep the Church on track in its thought and practices.
There are roughly two categories of such documents: legislative documents (containing doctrinal or dogmatic elements), and teaching documents. Popes and bishops use the teaching documents (encyclicals, apostolic letters, apostolic exhortations, and “motu proprio”) to inform and guide the Church.
And since the mid-20th century, the Daughters of St. Paul have been the trusted publishers of these documents.
Founded in Italy by Blessed James Alberione and Venerable Thecla Merlo to sow the seed of the Word through “the good press,” the Daughters of St. Paul’s first publishing venture was La ValSusa, a diocesan newspaper they revived in 1919.
Foundations followed, each of them adapting the sisters’ call to communications media as was appropriate to their location and culture.
“In the United States,” says Sr. Mary Mark Wickenhiser, FSP, publisher, “we began printing the encyclicals of the popes as early as 1950.”
It isn’t accidental that the sisters turned to printing papal documents. It was actually because of one such document that they existed at all: as a young seminarian in 1900, Blessed James Alberione had read the document Tametsi Futura and immediately felt a call to respond to the encyclical and help the people of the new century.
So, in a way, the order he founded was inspired by—and built on—a papal document!
He gave the Daughters of St Paul a specific mission: to use the most effective and suitable means of communication available in each time and context to proclaim the Gospel.
Today this involves the publication, marketing, and distribution of books for adults and children, CDs, videos, DVDs, digital media, magazines, periodicals, and posters. The Daughters of St. Paul maintain bookshops, produce radio and television programs, and publish websites, digital newsletters, and online apps, all of them carrying a Christian message.
Producing papal documents is an intrinsic part of that mission and that apostolate. Access is necessary for communication.
Because these documents communicate the most important teachings given to the faithful by the Church, the sisters see giving access to papal exhortations, encyclicals, and apostolic letters as a major priority.
“Since the earliest years of our foundation, we’ve been making the documents of the Universal Church and the words of the popes available through the print media,” says Sr. Mary Mark.
Church documents are living documents, in the sense that they’re meant to be integrated into the life of the community of faith; it is that guidance in how to live that makes access to them critical.
“If it weren’t for the Daughters of St. Paul and their commitment to publish papal documents and speeches, I never would have discovered Saint John Paul II’s Theology of the Body,” writes Christopher West, founder and president of the Cor Project.
“That discovery in 1993 changed the course of my life,” West said.
The Gospel is about changing lives, and the Church’s teachings show how to follow that Gospel—and change those lives. Pastoral letters are often written in response to current issues and concerns, to changes in the world, society, and culture. These letters offer the faithful a path they can use to navigate through troubled times.
For example, last year Pope Francis issued an encyclical on the environment, warning of the “serious consequences” if the world does not act on climate change, a clear pastoral response to scientific concerns about the state of the planet.
So the life of the Church flows through these documents, and making sure that everyone has access to them is a fundamental part of the sisters’ calling.
“We’re taking to heart the encouragement of our founder, Blessed James Alberione,” says Sr. Mary Mark. “He said, ‘Feel with the Church, love the Church; be devoted and operative members. As apostles of the media, you are to be the voice of the Church, faithful advocates of the word(s) and the directives of the Pope(s)’.”
Living that expression of the Church’s spirit and mission is also the mission of the Daughters of St Paul as they seek to spread the Gospel through the media that touch people’s lives every day.
Publishing the direction and counsel of the pope through exhortations, encyclicals, and more is an intrinsic part of that mission. The Church calls upon them and relies on them to make its teachings accessible, and the Daughters of St. Paul will always be ready to answer that call.
You can learn more about the sisters, send prayer requests, or see the latest document by Pope Francis when you go to: http://www.pauline.org/