The first issue of Catholic Digest
January 25th, 2011
The odds were against him. Friends and business associates advised him not to do it. But Fr. Louis Gales, an assistant at St. Agnes Church in St. Paul, Minnesota, had a dream — to bring the best of Catholic reading to Catholics everywhere. Few people had the financial resources to subscribe to all the fine Catholic publications of the day, and fewer still had the time to keep up with them all. So Gales’s dream was to gather the best articles of the Catholic press, condense them, and offer them in one magazine.
Catholic publishers responded favorably to Gales’s plan (a partial list can be found on page 49 of this first issue), so Gales enlisted two other priests to help him — Fr. Paul Bussard as editor, and Fr. Edward Jennings as business manager. And, with a dingy office in the basement steam plant of the St. Paul chancery office, with a few young workers recruited from local parishes, and with one-fiftieth the amount of money they were told they would need to succeed, they launched Catholic Digest, the very first issue of which is reproduced here.
You’ll see themes in this issue that would carry on in Catholic Digest for decades, including liturgical renewal and a strong warning against the evils of communism. Don’t miss the review of Margaret Mitchell’s new (in 1936) novel Gone with the Wind, on page 56, and check out the ambitious proposal on page 6 to place a towering statue of Christ in Washington, DC. (Whatever happened to it? By the late 1940s Bishop Noll at Our Sunday Visitor had raised more than $150,000 for this project [almost $2 million], but while that might pay for a towering statue, it was not enough to buy the land to put it on, so Bishop Noll donated the collected money to build the façade of the new U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops headquarters in Washington, including a 17-foot high statue of Christ, which still stands outside the newer USCCB headquarters opened in 1989.)
You might also notice on the cover that the annual subscription price to Catholic Digest in 1936 was $3.00. It seems like a deal, but that equals $47.63 in 2011 dollars, making today’s subscription price of $22.95 the real bargain.
I hope you enjoy this first issue, and all our web features in our 75th anniversary year!