The Catholic Voice, like the Diocese of Oakland, was born with the Second Vatican Council 50 years ago.
For 50 years now, The Voice has tried to fulfill that mission. Early issues report on the proceedings of the Vatican council and the local growth of our diverse population.
Also reported was the pride in liturgical refinement and the participation of the laity.
There was also tragedy, dealing with issues of abuse, an earthquake and financial challenges. Over the next anniversary year, The Voice will recall many of the major events it has shared with our readers in a feature, Yesteryears.
Despite some growing pains, The Voice has grown into one of the nation's biggest Catholic newspapers.
"It should serve to inspire, inform and instruct the faithful of this diocese to bring them closer to God, to each other and to all their fellow men," wrote Bishop Begin on the front page of the paper's first issue, May 10, 1963.
Privately in a letter to the diocesan staff, Bishop Begin insisted The Voice be a separate business operation, worrying if it were to suffer financial or legal problems, the newspaper might drag down the diocese.
Initially, The Voice was part of the Archdiocese of San Francisco's newspaper, The Monitor, recalled Tony Maurovich, The Voice's associate editor for production who has been with The Voice since its founding.
There were four editions: one for San Francisco and one each for the new dioceses formed in 1962 out of the San Francisco archdiocese — Santa Rosa, Stockton and Oakland, said Maurovich. In Oakland, a staff led by Maurovich's brother Frank, then a priest, and Thomas O'Leary, a layman with newsroom experience, produced four pages for the East Bay. Reflecting the time, there were pages of sports news, events, society, entertainment and local church news. The Monitor performed all production, printing and business operations.
It proved financially uncomfortable to work with The Monitor, Tony Maurovich said, so in 1966, The Voice became an independent publication, and switched from broadsheet — large format paper — to tabloid, at the time, a rarity.
It was delivering about 15,000 papers each week at the time. Now, its circulation has held steady at about 90,000 for the last three years.
The Voice's popularity was brought home in an interview May 9 with Archbishop Alex J. Brunett, the outgoing apostolic administrator.
He was surprised, he said, that in the three dioceses he has been a bishop, only in Oakland have people come up to him to offer comments or questions about his column in the paper.
Bishop Begin, intent on spreading the news of the changes of Vatican II, looked for a readership plan to get news to all diocesan Catholics about the Church.
The purpose of the plan was apostolic, to have some means of communication with each Catholic family in the diocese, at a time when religion was losing its significance.
The "parish plan," which allows every registered family in the diocese to a subscription, was developed in 1939 in Erie, Pennsylvania. But it was Bishop Begin who refined and popularized it, via The Catholic Voice. The plan or a variant has been adopted by more than 100 diocesan newspapers since.
The Voice hasn't ignored changes in taste and technology.
For many years, The Voice was printed only in black ink. It added a few pages of color photos in the late 1990s and became an all-color newspaper two years ago after switching printers to Folger Graphics Inc. in Hayward.
Initially a weekly newspaper, rising postage and production costs saw it cut to an every other week publication in 1986. For about a decade now, it publishes 21 issues a year.
Intermittently from the mid-1960s through the 1980s, The Voice produced a Catholic television news program for broadcast and cable outlets.
Its website, www.catholicvoiceoakland.org, has operated since the mid-1990s, and an electronic newspaper subscription is offered to those wanting to receive the paper online.
In May 1997, to meet the needs of the Spanish-speaking community, The Voice joined with the existing Spanish-language newspaper of the Diocese of Sacramento, El Heraldo Católico, in producing a monthly vehicle to provide Catholic information and teaching to our Spanish-language audience.
El Heraldo is now solely produced by The Voice for an East Bay audience, delivered to every parish with a Spanish-language Mass on the first weekend of each month.
Later this year, we plan to launch a unique website for El Heraldo Católico.
The Voice also publishes the annual Diocesan Directory in two formats as a special issue of the newspaper. The directory is in effect a telephone book and guide to all things Catholic in the East Bay.
A paperback edition is delivered to all parishes; a deluxe hardbound edition is sold for $15.
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