75 years later, St. Louis Review continues mission

Review history

Archdiocese of St. Louis archives
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As World War II raged in Europe in the summer of 1940, then-Archbishop John J. Glennon called a young associate pastor to his residence. Archbishop Glennon discussed a new assignment with Father Harry Stitz -- pastor of St. Mary of Victories Parish in Downtown and editor of the new archdiocesan newspaper, the St. Louis Register.

Archbishop Glennon had decided that the Archdiocese of St. Louis needed its own official publication. There were two Catholic weekly papers, the St. Louis Catholic Herald and the St. Louis Catholic, both published by families and having circulations only in the hundreds. Several others papers, 25 in all, had flourished for a time as Catholic newspapers in the archdiocese before folding.

At the time, Archbishop Glennon had been communicating for several years with Msgr. Matthew Smith, editor of the Register chain of weeklies based in Denver. In the summer of 1940, Archbishop Glennon sent Father Stitz to Denver to study at the journalism school operated by Msgr. Smith. That fall, Father Stitz established the newsroom of the St. Louis Register in one of the rectory rooms at St. Mary of Victories.

The Register model required local news and ads for the first four pages to be collected and written in St. Louis. That material was sent by airmail to Denver, where the paper was printed and mailed to subscribers. The second section of the paper, with national and international news, was produced in the Register chain's Denver headquarters.

In the first issue, dated Jan. 3, 1941, Archbishop Glennon wrote in a letter to Catholics, "The Catholic paper has the duty of defending the faith when it is attacked and of defending it when it is misunderstood..."

The particular mission of the Register, the archbishop wrote, "will be to reach those Catholics who are scattered over the hills and valleys of Missouri, with no neighboring church to attend and no ministering voice to remind them of the faith of their fathers."

The first employees of the Register were a secretary, Celestine Brady, and two volunteer reporters, Walter Kramer and Mildred Planthold. A subscription was $1 for the year.

Circulation and advertising expanded rapidly. In 1955, under editor Father Jasper Chiodini, circulation topped 100,000.

In 1956, then-Archbishop Joseph E. Ritter began the transition from the St. Louis Register to the St. Louis Review. In a letter to priests in 1956, Archbishop Ritter wrote: "For more than a year we have considered the possibility of an independent newspaper for the Archdiocese of Saint Louis. Our years of association with The Denver Register have been most advantageous and pleasant, however, we feel that we are now ready to meet the challenge of independent publication."

The Review name was chosen after soliciting suggestions from St. Louis Register readers. The paper was written, edited and produced locally. The subscription rate was $2 dollars per year, among the lowest rates for Catholic newspapers in the country, as Archbishop Ritter noted in his letter to priests.

In the first issue of the Review, dated Feb. 1, 1957, a "statement of purpose" outlined the passing of the Register and the goal of the Review. "As it begins its new life, the St. Louis Review should express the platform upon which it rests, the blueprint that will guide its career, and the inspiration from which it will derive its strength and character. The aims to be followed are those of the universal Catholic Press.

"The Catholic newspaper in general functions for the one purpose of leading its readers to God. ... The Catholic press exists not just to disseminate information but also and primarily to teach. It is an instrument of the Church for the extension of the Kingdom of God, for the instruction of mankind, and therefore for the salvation of men's souls."

The St. Louis Review strives to uphold that ideal. In 2016, the nameplate bears the words "Helping you get to Heaven." Looking back over the past 75 years as the official archdiocesan publication, the St. Louis Review is there with readers to continue the vision of Archbishop Glennon and Archbishop Ritter in educating, defending the faith and leading readers to God.

This article contained information from previous St. Louis Register and St. Louis Review stories.

This is the first of an occasional series highlighting the 75th anniversary of the official archdiocesan newspaper.
The St. Louis Register started publishing in 1941 and was part of the Denver Register System, which printed the paper out of Denver. The paper became the St. Louis Review in 1957, published locally. The series will look at events covered by the St. Louis Register/Review and how the paper's original mission influences coverage today and in the future. 

The St. Louis Revew subscription drive begins this weekend. Send in your envelope to your parish or visit www.stlouisreview.com/subscribe to get the St. Louis Review.

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