Sometimes It Takes a Disaster To Prove a Point
By Penny Wiegert
You’ll notice that The Observer has another story about St. James Church in this issue. It is our job, our mission to bring you the news that matters to Catholics, especially the Catholics in our 11-county diocesan family. Even when it’s sad or bad.
And this was a sad story to watch unfold. 
Thanks to an early morning tip from Bishop Malloy, The Observer was on the scene of the fire and was able to bring the news, albeit bad news, back to our readers with photos and reaction from those watching part of their history burn. This story matters in more ways than just the fact that lightning struck a historic structure. 
It mattered in deeper, more profound ways than a fire at a home or factory. It had deep emotional impact because for so many people, the space inside St. James Church is where new chapters of their earthly spiritual lives began with a wedding or baptism or ordination. It is also a space where people mourned and comforted each other as they said goodbye at a funeral Mass. And of course, there are all the other milestones marked within a lifetime of practicing the faith, like first Communions, anniversaries, confirmations, graduations and millions and millions of prayers for all the intentions that mark our lifetimes.
It is hard to watch a fire. It is hard to have to be on the scene of a disaster and be a reporter. It is hard to ask questions and gather a story when people are hurting and in shock. It’s hard asking people how they feel when they are still processing how they feel. 
But being a reporter for The Observer is different. We are reporting the story from the lens of faith. For instance, we know the Church is more than a building. We know the impact goes deeper than the present moment. And when the fire goes out and everyone moves on to the next “big event” or “big story,” we want you to know The Observer is going to help tell that story as no one else can. 
Oh sure, every year we try to remind you of that when subscription drive time comes around. We get busy convincing you that content provided within these pages is content you won’t get anywhere else and that even if you don’t realize it, our content is important in your life of faith.
Sometimes it takes a terrible disaster like the fire at St. James to prove those claims we make at subscription drive time. But the facts are the facts. 
There was only one news organization on the scene at the St. James fire and it was The Observer from the Diocese of Rockford. The secular stations and papers caught up with the story later in the day and even borrowed some photos from The Observer. They will carry the shock and awe of the fire but then what?
We’ll be sticking with the story because it’s not just a story to us. Whatever happens to the church building and the parishioners of St. James matters because it is not just a church and a bunch of members. It’s part of our family and the household of faith. Whenever something touches one member of our Catholic family our newspaper is here to help share the truth of the news with all its joys or pains. We cover the Catholic Church because we understand it, we know it, we are part of it. 
This publication is not just news, it’s part of the Catholic story in good times and bad. What matters to one matters to all. 
As I stood in the rain with a disbelieving priest, his parishioners and neighbors as they watched efforts to douse a fire in their beloved church building, I thought about what my job was at that moment and what a big task and privilege it is do that work for you. 
It’s too bad it sometimes takes a disaster to remind us of what matters. And we just want to remind you, our readers, that you matter. Your story of faith matters.  
As always, thanks for reading.