Bishop John Francis Noll John Francis Noll - Our Sunday Visitor
John Francis Noll - Our Sunday Visitor - Huntington Indiana
The Story of Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Company


The Church, too, was going through one of its most divisive decades. Early on, the Second Vatican Council convoked by Pope John XXIII had been the source of high hopes, as reported in numerous articles in Our Sunday Visitor. A reader poll found that 60 percent of the paper’s readers favored having the Mass in English. Hopes ran high with an upbeat mood as each new Council decree was reported.

Even the death of the Pope on June 3, 1963, had been the occasion for rejoicing about his accomplishments. Wrote Joseph Breig: “John XXIII made Catholics feel completely at home with their fellow man of other faiths. He made the laity realize that they had a voice and status in the Church that was their right. He relaxed tensions among Catholics themselves, making Catholics aware that they were not alone in possessing truth.”

But what had begun in high hopes soon disintegrated into an atmosphere of factionalism and discontent. One writer asked, “Is this the Church of joy or of anger?” Catholics used to a lifetime of unchanging security suddenly faced numerous changes: Mass was no longer in Latin, the priest now faced the people, old hymns were abandoned in favor of folk Masses. Our Sunday Visitor wavered from whole-hearted endorsement of the renewal in the Church to questioning the direction such renewal was taking. It initially endorsed the anticommunist crusade against Vietnam, then turned against that ugly little war. It experienced a decline in readership as it alternately alienated the traditional and liberal Catholic reader.

On July 25, 1968, Pope Paul VI issued an encyclical forbidding artificial contraception. Overnight, birth control became the hottest issue of debate among Catholics. Our Sunday Visitor supported the Pope’s decision; columnists asked why dissenting theologians should still be teaching at Catholic universities and seminaries.

The late 1960s witnessed the low-point for the Church in the United States: priests and sisters by the thousands left their ministry; the number of converts plummeted; vocations began to decline at an alarming rate; disagreement was widespread over whether priests and Religious should be involved in politics. Catechetical materials seemed to abandon much of the traditional faith, a development Our Sunday Visitor decried openly in print.

The 1970s were the years when the newspaper that Father Noll founded regained its direction and stability. This was also the era in which the company that evolved around that newspaper grew so large it became necessary to split it into two separate entities: the not-for-profit Our Sunday Visitor, Inc. and Noll Printing, formed in 1978 as a wholly-owned subsidiary.

The decade began with the editors determined to do battle with those who appeared to be attacking the Church. No longer was the enemy nativist anti-Catholics. The paper focused on what it saw as on those fomenting trouble within the Church structure: dissenting theologians, laissez-faire catechists, clergy and Religious who taught that doctrine was whatever you wanted it to be.

The Vietnam War would shut down in early 1973, but a new battle began. The U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion-on-demand on Jan. 22 of that year, marking the beginning of an endless crusade on the part of Our Sunday Visitor to overturn a court decision that has led to the deaths of millions of unborn children.

John Francis Noll

As the decade progressed, the battles within the Church grew less strident. None had been truly concluded, but there was a growing consensus that the enemy outside the door — the forces engineering the attack on unborn (and born) human life, the escalating threat of worldwide nuclear catastrophe, the secularization of American society, political oppression of the Third World, and the poverty at home — were the true enemies at the door.

The paper became concerned with these issues, particularly with the growing secularization and indifference to religion in America. The death of Pope Paul VI in August of 1978 ended an era, but the newly elected pontiff, Pope John Paul I, survived only 34 days before the College of Cardinals was forced back into session to elect his successor. They chose Karol Wojtyla, the first Polish-born Pope, who immediately became a media superstar and the most-beloved Pope in centuries.

He also became the most-traveled pope ever. Our Sunday Visitor documented the papal trips to Poland, Latin America and the U.S., with first-person reports from correspondents and photographers.

Today, Our Sunday Visitor’s publishing and offering-envelope divisions employee more than 150 people. (Its commercial printing division was shut down in 1995.)

The publishing division has three main product lines: Religious periodicals, religious books and religious-education materials.

In addition to the weekly Our Sunday Visitor, the periodical division puts together several other publications:

  • The Priest is a monthly magazine edited expressly for priests, seminarians and permanent deacons;

  • My Daily Visitor, begun in 1957, is a handy, pocket-sized bimonthly publication that provides daily meditations, prayers and reflections;

  • The Pope Speaks, founded in 1955, is a bimonthly publication which provides texts of important papal speeches;

  • The Catholic Answer, founded in 1987 and edited by Father Peter Stravinskas, is a popular bimonthly apologetics publication that answers readers questions about their faith;

  • Catholic Parent, founded in 1993, is Our Sunday Visitor’s newest bimonthly publication. With its colorful format and short articles, it strengthens parents’ knowledge of their faith while encouraging them to pass on that faith to their children.

Our Sunday Visitor  

Long known for its periodicals, within the past decade Our Sunday Visitor has also become one of the leading publishers of Catholic books. We offer more than 500 titles on a wide range of subjects: apologetics and catechetics reference, prayer, heritage and saints, family and parish materials. Since 1995, it has also been publishing digitalized materials on diskettes and CD-Rom disks.

The company’s religious education line includes the first, and still the most popular, preschool religious education program in the country. It also includes sacramental-preparation programs for baptism, confirmation, first Communion, and first confession. A popular new product line is Parent Letters, a program that helps parishes to keep in touch with new parents for three years after their child has been baptized.

Our Sunday Visitor also publishes adult religious-education materials such as Exploring the Teaching of Christ, a video education program featuring Bishop Donald Wuerl, and a Bible study series by popular educator Father Alfred McBride, O. Praem. In 2000, Our Sunday Visitor was chosen by the U.S. bishops to be the primary distributor of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition.

Along with our publishing efforts, the Our Sunday Visitor Offering Envelope Company serves more than 6,000 parishes in this country and in Canada.

Both divisions belong to a nonprofit corporation. Its earnings are disbursed to a variety of Catholic projects in the United States by the Our Sunday Visitor Institute. The institute is dedicated to combating religious illiteracy by working with those U.S. Catholic organizations listed in the Official Catholic Directory. The Our Sunday Visitor Institute is just one more way that the company lives up to Archbishop Noll’s founding mandate “to serve the Church.”

We are proud of our past, but the past is history. Committed to two goals: serving the Church today, and anticipating and meeting the needs of the Church of tomorrow . . . we are busy developing new products — publications, religious education materials, religious books — to meet the evolving needs of a demanding Catholic market.

Our Sunday Visitor has grown beyond the wildest dreams of the young Father Noll. But some things have not changed. We are still committed to communicating the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the teachings of the Church. Our Sunday Visitor is still working to encourage development of spirituality in the lives of our readers. Through our publications, our books and our religious-education materials, the company continues striving to bring about a greater understanding of the Church and its role in modern society.

We think Father Noll would be proud.


Copyright © 2001 Our Sunday Visitor

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