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A season of renewal: The Southern Cross is making a change to a monthly magazine

A Season of Renewal 

We stand together on the threshold of the beautiful season of Lent: a time of simplicity, purification, sacrifice and renewal. How necessary these forty days are, as they take us out of our everyday lives – out of our “ordinary time” – and encourage us to look more closely at who we are and how we live our faith. These days of fasting, prayer and almsgiving give nourishment and renewal to the soul, bringing us to resurrection with the Body of Christ.  

Ministries also need time for reflection and renewal. Over the past months, I have been meeting with our Communications Staff, Clergy, and Laity from around the Diocese to reflect on the mission of the Southern Cross and the role it plays assisting me as Bishop of Savannah. Through these conversations, it has become became clear that shifting from a primarily ‘news-driven’ publication to a ‘features-driven’ publication would better meet our mission of building up the Body of Christ in the Diocese of Savannah and beyond. 

I am excited to announce that this March, the Southern Crosswill change from a bi-monthly newspaper to a monthly magazine. It will focus on local stories and original features, with content designed to engage, inform, inspire and – most importantly – spread the beauty and truth of our Catholic faith. This decision will also be more efficient from a budgeting perspective. I am confident that the renewed version and format of the Southern Cross will be pleasing and inviting from a content and aesthetic perspective.  Thank you for your patience during this time of transition.  Please know that I am grateful for your continued prayers and be assured that I remember you, your loved ones and your intentions in my daily conversations with God.   

Stay tuned as we embark upon this journey to build upon the legacy of this publication and begin a new chapter for Communications in the Diocese of Savannah.  May this Lent be a beautiful season of renewal not only for us personally and communally, but for the Southern Cross as well! 

In Christ,

Most Reverend Stephen D. Parkes, D.D.

Bishop of Savannah

 From the Editor

For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.
Ecclesiastes 3:1

The February 25, 2021 issue will be the final iteration of the Southern Cross in newspaper format; the 32-page Southern Cross magazine will arrive in your mailboxes at the end of March. We hope you are as excited as we are about this next phase in the life of the Southern Cross, and ask for your prayers as we continue to deliver inspiring and evangelical Catholic content into 25,000 homes, building up the community of the faithful in the Diocese of Savannah.

Until then, please visit our website and Facebook for a preview of things to come!

Michael L. Johnson


1-Is this the first time the diocesan publication has changed formats?

No – the Diocesan publication has changed formats and its mission several times since its inception.  “The Bulletin of the Catholic Laymen’s Association, the earliest iteration of the current Diocese of Savannah newspaper, The Southern Cross, began its publication in 1920. Its purpose was threefold: to combat anti-Catholic sentiments in the Southeast; to educate both Catholics and non-Catholic’s on current events in the Church; and to report on the work of the Catholic Laymen’s Association, founded three years earlier with the same purpose as their publication. The periodical began as a monthly publication, which increased and then decreased in issue numbers as time passed. It was known by the following names as the size and shape of the Diocese changed: The Bulletin of the Catholic Laymen’s Association of Georgia, (1/1/1920–11/23/1956); The Bulletin of the Catholic Laymen’s Association of Georgia, Official Newspaper for the Diocese of Savannah & Atlanta (11/24/1956–12/31/1958); The Savannah Bulletin (1/4/1958–3/8/1958); The Bulletin, Diocese of Savannah Edition (3/22/1958–12/31/1962); and the most current publication The Southern Cross (1/1/1963–present). At one point in Diocesan history, the newspaper had national circulation.

For more, listen to The “It’s Catholic Y’All podcast at podbean.com/ew/pb-h86ve-b1715e

2-Will you still have columnists?

Yes, The magazine will continue to carry our regular columnists – Fr. Douglas Clark, Fr. Pablo Migone, and Msgr. Fred Nijem – along with occasional guest columnists. We will also continue to publish compelling stories of people and events from around the Diocese by staff reporter Donnell Suggs and others.

3-What kind of feature stories can we expect?

We don’t want to totally spoil the surprise, but some of the recurring features we have planned are: Around the Diocese; Art and Architecture; Ask a Priest; Catholic Crossword and Other Puzzles; Why Do We Do That? and Catholic Culture and Traditions.

4-Will there be any content in Spanish?

Yes! We are planning to include a feature story in Spanish in each issue

Column by Father Douglas K. Clark: The Southern Cross and I

In the spring of 1972, not long before I graduated from the College of William and Mary in Virginia, I first heard of the Southern Cross. Then a seminarian for the Diocese of Savannah, Chris Schreck, was living at Saint Bede’s rectory in Williamsburg, where he introduced me to his bishop, Gerard L. Frey, and his Vocations Director, Father Robert B. Mattingly, who were visiting. Chris mentioned to them that I wanted to study for the priesthood, but as a recent convert to Catholicism, I had no ties with my home diocese (Cincinnati) and would be willing to study for Savannah.

I was planning to pursue a graduate degree in History at Indiana University, so I was thinking of entering seminary a few years later. But Bishop Frey and Father Mattingly asked me a simple, life-changing question: “Why don’t you come now?” I have loved the Diocese of Savannah since that moment. I said yes. A few weeks later, Chris informed me that he had met in Richmond with Monsignor Roger Roensch, the “recruiter” for the Pontifical North American College in Rome, at Bishop Frey’s request, with a view to his being sent there to study theology beginning in 1973. I congratulated him, and then he dropped a bombshell. Bishop Frey had asked Monsignor Roensch to interview me in Williamsburg the next day!

It was arranged that I would spend the summer in the Diocese of Savannah and then go to Rome in the fall of 1972. While joining Chris and the new pastor of Saint Bede’s for pizza just before graduation, I was shown a copy of the most recent edition of the Southern Cross.I was very impressed by its quality and felt proud of my new diocese for publishing its own newspaper 45 times a year.

During that summer in Albany and Savannah, I read the Southern Cross each week and arranged to subscribe to it, although it always arrived in Rome a few weeks late. That fall (1972), the Vocations Office asked each diocesan seminarian to contribute a reflection, so I submitted mine, which was the first of countless articles and commentaries published in its pages for the next 49 years.

On November 8, I learned from another paper, the Vatican’s Osservatore Romano, which I read every day to improve my new Italian, that “Il Santo Padre ha trasferito S.E. Mons. Gerard L. Frey dalla Diocesi di Savannah…” Even then I understood that my diocese and I no longer had a bishop, as he had been transferred to the See of Lafayette in his native Louisiana!

It was not until March 5, 1973, that Pope Paul VI appointed a new Bishop of Savannah—Monsignor Raymond W. Lessard, superior of the Villa Stritch, the residence for American priests working for the Vatican. I was introduced to him that very evening. He invited me to lunch, which led to my interviewing him for the Southern Cross—my first scoop!

Bishop Lessard ordained me to the priesthood in the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist, Savannah, on July 3, 1976. After a year of graduate studies, he assigned me to Saint Teresa Parish Albany as parochial vicar in 1977. A year or so later, John Markwalter, the new editor of the Southern Cross, asked the bishop to appoint me as Editorial Writer. For the next two years,  I would type out editorials on an electric typewriter, place them in manila envelopes and drive them to the Greyhound Bus station in Albany and send them off to John at Chalker Publishing Company in Waynesboro—49 times a year.

Bishop Lessard sent me back to Rome for further studies in 1980, so I was not able to send weekly editorials back to the States, but I did send a series on the liturgy that ran for quite a while. When I returned to Savannah in January 1981 as Director of Adult Education, I was asked to write occasional editorials until Bishop J. Kevin Boland appointed me editor as of January 1, 1997. I remained in that post, working closely with Barbara King, the Director of Communications, until June 30, 2010.

At the bishop’s directive, I began the practice of laying out the paper electronically and transmitting it over the Internet to Waynesboro. This change meant fewer hands were needed for retyping copy and enabled us to publish more color photos without paying $25 each for color correction. I admit that my first efforts using Photoshop left a lot to be desired, but I finally got the hang of it.

It became possible to hire assistants for the office. Over the years, I was well served by Rachel Harris, Todd Hagin, Anne Smith, Ormonde Lewis, and Mike Johnson, who succeeded me in 2010. The photos were taken for us by Jonas N. Jordan, and Paul H. Camp added a great deal to the paper’s quality, as did Rita Delorme, Mary Hood Hart, and Rachel Balducci’s columns.

The years of my tenure (1997-2010) were intensely challenging ones for the Church and the world—the Sesquicentennial of the Diocese of Savannah and dedication of the restored Cathedral in 2000, the attacks of September 11, 2001, the ensuing wars in the Middle East, the abuse scandals of 2002 and later, the death of Pope John Paul II and the election of Pope Benedict XVI in 2005 and the economic collapse of 2008, were just some of the memorable events that required coverage and commentary from a Catholic point of view. In my last month as the editor, I was honored by the Catholic Press Association with first, second, and third place awards for three recent editorials.

At Bishop Boland’s request, I continued to write weekly editorial commentaries for the Southern Cross, more and more often of a catechetical nature. The paper has gone from a 12-page weekly to a 16-page bi-weekly and will become a monthly magazine next month.

I have felt very honored to do my part for our beloved Southern Cross for nearly half a century. I hope to continue to do so in its new incarnation.




COLUMN by Father Pablo Migone: The beginning and a new beginning

Nine years ago, a diocesan meeting was held at Sacred Heart Parish in Warner Robins to discuss various issues with the newly ordained bishop.  Bishop Hartmayer listened attentively to priests and laypeople from throughout the diocese who worked with immigrant communities.  That same day I received a phone call from Michael Johnson, editor of the Southern Cross, and I agreed to write an article about the gathering in both English and Spanish. A few weeks later, Michael asked me if I was willing to write on a regular basis, and I agreed.

Both my eighth grade and twelfth grade English teachers assigned us to keep a journal.  We could write on whatever topic we wished as long as we wrote.  In college, I began to maintain a personal journal, which I have kept on and off for the past twenty years.  Before I was ordained in 2009, I started a blog named Labyrinthine Mind where I shared thoughts from the depths of my mind which oftentimes is like a labyrinth.  The title came from the poem Hound of Heaven by Francis Thompson, where he describes God as a persistent hound who never ceases to chase us until we turn to him.  About five years ago, the Patheos Catholic page editor contacted me, offering me the opportunity to blog at Patheos. We were college classmates and had kept in touch mostly by reading each other’s articles and posts.  I agreed, so my personal blog Labyrinthine Mind was transferred to Patheos, and I continue to blog there.  Patheos is currently the largest online site for religious discussions in the world.  It is not an exclusive Catholic site, but the Catholic section has a diverse range of authors.

I am grateful to the Southern Cross that my articles have reached thousands of homes and hearts throughout Middle and South Georgia through this medium.  As someone who journals, I do not mind spending much energy writing things that no one will ever read, so it gives me great satisfaction to know that people find the articles I enjoy writing insightful and helpful.  As a significant change comes to the Southern Cross, as announced in the previous issue, I am excited to know that I will continue to write for the new diocesan magazine.  Many dioceses have already moved to a monthly magazine, and I believe this will better serve the needs of the faithful of our diocese. 

Even though most communication today happens virtually, we must never forget the importance and impact of the written word.  As Christians, we are very familiar with the power of the written Word and how it incarnates in the soul. Media has been transformed in the past few decades, and we have not yet seen the end of it. Publishing a written document that can be held and shared continues to have great value.

I look forward to continuing to share my thoughts, reflections, and stories through this paper. My hope remains that my articles will inspire you, the readers, to deepen your relationship with Jesus and strengthen your conviction to live out the Christian life.  



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Southern Cross
Catholic Pastoral Center
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Savannah, GA 31404
Phone: 912-201-4054
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