Kristen Hannum
Kristen Hannum
When Ed Langlois, managing editor of El Centinela and the Catholic Sentinel, asked current and most recent staff to write a goodbye to readers, the danger was obvious and yet inescapable.

How could we not write gushing tributes to our (mostly) wonderful readers? How could we not write to honor the inspiring, hard-working and even holy lay people, women religious and priests we’ve interviewed over the years?

I know myself well enough to know that I’d feel terrible if I did.

I’d keep remembering people I didn’t mention.

So maybe I’ll just share a couple things I’ve noticed over nearly 25 years of paying attention to Catholics and Catholic parishes.

Mostly I realized early on that parishes are the heart of church. The pope is incredibly important, and St. John Paul, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis all educated and heartened me. But the parish is where faith is nourished. It doesn’t have to be a perfect parish; it simply needs to be one you can pray with and give to.

There are everyday saints at every parish who sacrifice their time to serve their fellow parishioners and are nourished in the process. Parish life is good for both children and grown-ups — as are other ministries where people work together to help others.

I was blessed to meet so many who accomplish that work with great love. Then I got to share their stories, perhaps even inspiring readers to take on a ministry themselves.

Assignments could be mundane, challenging, stressful, scary and sometimes joyful.

I remember (with the help of the Sentinel’s archives) reporting on a 1992 prayer service for the Oregon chapter of People First, a self-advocacy organization for people with developmental disabilities, at the Downtown Chapel, now St. André Bessette.

Holy Cross Father Dick Berg led the service, which included songs, a skit and prayers.

"Let's thank God," Father Berg began.

"Hooray!" several people shouted.

"... for our bread."

"And fishes!" a voice reminded from the back of the room.

"And fishes," he agreed.

I’ve also learned that obituaries are wonderfully inspirational. How do I want to be remembered? Reading obituaries can remind you to put your loved ones first.

“Family first,” says Ed, fairly frequently.

But the Sentinel is a family too, and I know I’ve put up with some long hours so as to try my best not to let down those relations.

The work comes back to one of my favorite poems, “To be of use,” by Marge Piercy:

“The work of the world is common as mud.

Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.

But the thing worth doing well done

Has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.”

So thanks to all the Sentinel family — readers, those generous individuals who have shared their stories, and especially those I’ve worked with and come to love.

You are the light of the world.

Hannum is news editor.