HUNTINGTON — On May 5, 1912, Father John Francis Noll, who would later become Archbishop Noll, fifth bishop of the Diocese of Fort Wayne, rolled out the first edition of Our Sunday Visitor. That newspaper and the entities, based in Huntington, would become an institution, not just in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, but in all of Catholicism.
And on Saturday, May 5, 2012, Our Sunday Visitor opened its doors to the community to see “what we do and why we are here,” noted Kyle Hamilton, president of the Offering Solutions Division. The afternoon included tours of the plant, viewing of products and services, refreshments and a few words from dignitaries at an afternoon open house.
Bishop John M. D’Arcy, bishop emeritus, said, “This is an extraordinary moment. Not many things in life last 100 years.” The bishop of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend sits as the chairman of the board of Our Sunday Visitor.
The day paid special tribute to Father John Francis Noll who founded the company when he was pastor of St. Mary Parish in Huntington. And then, as bishop of the diocese he was given the honorary title of archbishop by the Holy See.
“Our Sunday Visitor has been devoted to the truth,” Bishop D’Arcy said. He remarked that when Archbishop Noll started the newspaper, there was much criticism of Catholicism. “We could correctly call it, ‘anti-Catholicism’ and it came from many among that time from other Christian churches,” Bishop D’Arcy said.
Although the pressures of anti-Catholicism during Father’s Noll’s time have changed, “we have other pressures against the truth — against religious freedom,” Bishop D’Arcy said. “We have to respond to them with clarity and with the truth.”
Bishop D’Arcy noted that Our Sunday Visitor has been a good employer for Huntington and Fort Wayne. During the recession, the company actually grew and hired additional employees.
Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry, one of the dignitaries, echoed the bishop’s words saying, “Your employment keeps growing,” and bringing economic development to Huntington and Fort Wayne.
The mayor pointed out that the newspaper has 50,000 to 60,000 subscribers, but the facility also sends out 500 million offering envelopes from the Huntington operation.
Kyle Hamilton, president of the Offertory Solutions Division of Our Sunday Visitor, noted in his talk that the products of Our Sunday Visitor have changed dramatically over 100 years, “but the mission remains the same,” he said.
“Our service to the Church takes many forms,” Hamilton said, “among them offering envelopes and stewardship solutions, periodicals, books and curriculum, and the Our Sunday Visitor Institute. The institute gives back millions of dollars each year to Catholic projects and ministries throughout the country.”
Bishop D’Arcy shared how Our Sunday Visitor created a $1 million endowment for scholarships at each of the four Catholic high schools in the diocese and other endowments. Our Sunday Visitor also gave a large grant to the diocese to purchase the Archbishop Noll Catholic Center, the diocesan office building in Fort Wayne. Many spiritual events, including the diocesan jubilee year in 2007, were made possible with the financial aid of Our Sunday Visitor.
Hamilton thanked the employees, past and present, who contributed so much to the success of the company. Many joined the celebration with their families.
Greg Erlandson, president of the Publishing Division of Our Sunday Visitor, related the three goals of Archbishop Noll: “One was to inform Catholics about what was happening in the world, letting them see the events of the world through the eyes of faith.”
“The second,” he said, “was to help form Catholics. Many Catholics in those days were immigrants coming to this country and they needed education in the faith. So he wanted to inform, he wanted to form and he wanted to defend the Church. And the Church was under attack from many corners and he wanted to be forthright in defending the Church against those accusations. And that is what launched Our Sunday Visitor.”
Archbishop Noll “was also an extraordinary entrepreneur,” Erlandson added.
The offering envelopes, Erlandson noted, was an idea Archbishop Noll borrowed from “our Protestant brothers and sisters and brought that into the Catholic Church. And today, we have the largest church envelope operation in the world manufactured here in this building.”
Archbishop Noll had a local, national and international presence. “He helped sustain many missionary efforts,” Erlandson said. “He helped build churches. He helped launch national organizations.”
Archbishop Noll died in 1956. The current facility was dedicated in 1961.
“His goals and his spirit suffuse these offices and this hallway,” Erlandson said at the press conference in the front lobby. “In the spirit of Archbishop Noll we still inform Catholics about the issues of the day and Catholics in their faith through our hundreds of books, periodicals, our stewardship materials, our parish resources, our curricula, our envelopes and our offertory services.”
“We continue to defend the faith when it comes under attack, whether it is from those who misunderstand or those who misrepresent our teachings or those who do not want the Church’s voice to be heard on the major issues of our time,” Erlandson said.
“In the spirit of Archbishop Noll, we use all the technology at our disposal,” Erlandson said. “Not just print, we use video and audio, the web and social media, ebooks and apps to accomplish these goals keeping in mind (Archbishop Noll’s) entrepreneural vision and courage.”
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