30 years after the return of ‘Niedziela’
Fr Ireneusz Skubis
This year we are celebrating the 30th anniversary of the reactivated ‘Niedziela’ that functioned on the publishing market from 1926 but was suspended in 1953 for long 28 years. The first issue of the new ‘Niedziela’ was published on 7 June 1981.
The 30th anniversary of the first issue of ‘Niedziela’ that falls in June 2011 is for me, the editor-in-chief who has directed that weekly for all those years, a great experience and at the same time an occasion to make deep reflections. First of all, I thank Lord God for the gift of priesthood and the grace of directing a Catholic weekly.
Attempts to revive ‘Niedziela’
It was the time of ‘Solidarity,’ which was an independence impulse of the nation desiring to throw off the chains of the communist slavery. Because of that Bishop Stefan Barela of Czestochowa made attempts to reactivate ‘Niedziela’ suspended during the communist times in 1953, commissioning me to negotiate and correspond in that matter. My efforts were successful and on 5 March 1981 we received a letter allowing us to publish ‘Niedziela’ again on the Polish market. The weekly was to have a circulation of 100,000 copies and volume of eight pages. The publishing house was assigned –Langowski Graphic Works in Opole, and the censorship control was to be conducted there, too.
At first, the reactivated ‘Niedziela’ had only a title. There were no people prepared to work in a Catholic periodical and there was no administrative background – there was even no archive of the editorial board because it was destroyed when the Security Services arrested Fr Antoni Marchewka, my predecessor in the post of editor-in-chief. Because I had been a student chaplain for several years and I had many friends among students, who formed the Catholic intelligentsia, we could begin editorial work in a small team and in extremely humble conditions.
Beginnings of the reactivated ‘Niedziela’
With that group of enthusiasts we began dynamic work on creating the weekly, caring for its quality. Naturally, a serious obstacle in that work was the censorship that analysed every line and every word of the text. The censor interfered in the articles almost every week. I remember the issue of ‘Niedziela’ on 7 June 1981 in which we announced the death of Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski, Poland’s Primate. We wrote a large article about the Primate of the Millennium, prepared by Stefan Kisielewski, famous ‘Kisiel.’ That issue also contained a welcome text of the Bishop of Czestochowa, texts directed to the new editorial board written by the late Primate and by the Holy See. We also placed a photo of John Paul II from the Gemelli Hospital after the assassination attempt on his life on 13 May 1981. Soon there was a several month break in the publication of the reactivated ‘Niedziela’ that was connected with the marshal law imposed in Poland on 13 December 1981.
How much people waited for the social opinion of the Church then! How much hungry people were for words about freedom, human dignity and the importance of the truth! I remember one of the first texts that reminded us of the speech of the Holy Father in Czestochowa, ‘Here we have always been free.’ The need of freedom and seeking the truth as well as love of the Church and Poland were noticed extremely eagerly then.
After the imposition of marshal law we worked very zealously although the censor’s limitations were hard. But one thing was important: we marked every single interference of the censor and thus we did not let the authorities pretend that all things were all right and that nothing limited our freedom of speech and thinking.
The breakthrough in 1989
The situation lasted till 4 June 1989, till the first free elections. Then serious transformations began. Censorship was cancelled and freedom of speech became real. However, we faced a difficult material situation connected with the free market – growing prices of paper, complete collapse of distribution, Balcerowicz’s reform and the famous ‘popiwek’ [super-normative wages tax]. There was no chance for development. When the financial restrictions were cancelled we could breathe more freely and work more normally. We began building new administrative structures and distribution, and we could increase the volume of our weekly.
Together with Bishop Adam Lepa of Lodz we invented a plan of editing diocesan inserts of ‘Niedziela.’ The bishops became very enthusiastic about that and wanted to have their own diocesan inserts. As every diocese has its own characteristics we concluded that there should be some local person to manage the local editorial board as he would know the details and could reach parishes and other places in his diocese. The diocesan editions had four pages and the national edition of ‘Niedziela’ had eight pages. The idea to present the diocesan Church was successful. Since the diocesan edition was a carrier of information for the bishop and priests and believers reading ‘Niedziela’ could gain basic news about their local Church and feel satisfaction that it was their paper. We began receiving letters in which readers expressed their adherence and love to their editions, and priests shared with us that it was worth encouraging reading ‘Niedziela.’
In the 1990s we proposed the dioceses to have so many copies of their editions: to have one copy of the weekly for 100,000 inhabitants. The circulation of ‘Niedziela’ grew rapidly and we became a self-sufficient paper. To tell you the truth, I have never received any financial help. During those 30 years only late Fr Kazimierz Szwarlik, the parish priest of the Holy Trinity Church in Bedzin, helped us once.
Then there were some troublesome situations because some other Catholic papers began entering the territories that had agreements with ‘Niedziela’ and our peaceful collaboration with dioceses was disturbed. It was a pity because we always began collaboration with dioceses being aware of our service to them, according to the words of the founder of ‘Niedziela’ Bishop Teodor Kubina who wanted ‘Niedziela’ to be an extra priest helping the parish priest and an extra auxiliary helping the bishop. And our weekly really serves dioceses with its diocesan editions, describing their lives and in the future it will be beautiful chapters of their histories. It was the case of Plock when during the service of Bishop Stanislaw Wielgus we celebrated the 10th anniversary of ‘Niedziela Plocka’ and some historian of that diocese presented the 10-year-old history of the Diocese of Plock on the basis of the local edition. Unfortunately, the successor of Bishop Wielgus removed ‘Niedziela’ from his diocese despite the fact that both the collaboration and readership of ‘Niedziela’ were very good there.
In the world of Catholic media
Today we are in the wide media area of the Polish Church and often, especially priests, compare various Catholic papers. Naturally, one can refer the words of St Peter about the mystical Body of Christ to the Catholic titles, ‘Now the body is not a single part, but many. If a foot should say, "Because I am not a hand I do not belong to the body," it does not for this reason belong any less to the body’ (cf. 1 Cor 12:14ff).
‘Niedziela’ is not ‘Gosc Niedzielny,’ ‘Przewodnik Katolicki’ or ‘Tygodnik Powszechny.’ However, it meets concrete needs of readers concerning faith, piety and Catholics’ orientation in their private social lives and tries to deepen these elements. It is true that currently people read fewer paper versions of periodicals and books. It is true that they eagerly read the electronic versions. But I think that true culture will be preserved where people keep reading.
It is in this spirit of responsibility that we are doing our best to keep the high quality of our ‘Niedziela.’ Our weekly can boast of good articles and that’s why they are not too short, cut or ‘refined.’ We want to give authors the possibility to present in detail the topics they know well. Of course, as for special texts, which are large and go beyond the editorial capacity, we use the Internet – we place long texts on the Internet portal of ‘Niedziela.’
Paper with a mission
‘Niedziela’ offers a lot of texts since we think that the aim of a weekly, especially a Catholic one, is to show and analyse the problems concerning the Church, culture, family, education, social life, etc. We have many journalists who work for us and some 1,000 authors who collaborate with us. We are not a colourful magazine and we do not want to imitate other papers. We want to be ourselves. And the number of readers, which many titles focus on, is not the most important thing to us. The most important thing is the quality of the weekly and its adherence to the Church and homeland. We would never want to ignore the motto ‘God – Honour – Homeland’ especially that our patroness and main editrix is the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Poland, at which feet [the shrine of Jasna Gora] our editorial board works.
‘Niedziela’ is also present in the Internet, including various radio and TV programmes. And ‘Niedziela’ is also almost 300 books we have published in the Library of ‘Niedziela.’
Celebrating the 30th anniversary of ‘Niedziela’ we can boast of certain output that brings glory to us as well as to the Church of Czestochowa. Since we have managed to make a large weekly with many segments, which is important to the Catholic public opinion. For 18 years we have also published a bimonthly ‘Moje Pismo Tecza’ [My Paper Rainbow] for 4-8 year old children. I want to mention the supportive editorial activities of ‘Niedziela’ for the wide spread of Christian culture. It is also a work of ‘Niedziela’ and it should be continued. My great dream is that priests, both the young and old ones, read ‘Niedziela.’ It is not enough to put ‘Niedziela’ on your desk. It should be read, studied and then it will certainly become helpful to our deepened pastoral work. Then our parish life will become more vivid and will be filled with new contents. And when priests encourage their parishioners to read ‘Niedziela’ we will have people who are aware of the Church, her place and mission in the world. Besides, one must not destroy works that have been made with so much effort and pains and which have such an important mission to fulfil.
I believe that Our Lady of Czestochowa will guard this work since it is a testimony of the suffering, persecuted Church and also of the Church that has often shown her firmness. I would like ‘Niedziela’ to build its Readers on this firmness. Like it did facing the communists before and now all those who would like to destroy the reign of Christ in people’s hearts. Our ‘Niedziela’ wants to serve this Christ – the Lord of history and time.