‘Stop the presses! My former editor is now a cardinal’

That’s the great headline on one more tribute to newly elevated Cardinal John P. Foley, this time from Bob Zyskowski, associate publisher of The Catholic Spirit in St. Paul, Minn. (Pardon us for dwelling on Cardinal Foley stories this week, but we think he merits it. And if you’re a new visitor here, make sure you check out our other posts on him here, here, herehere and here.)

Bob, current president of the Catholic Press Association, was in Rome last weekend for the consistory, so his article for this week’s Spirit combines reporting from the event and his own tributes to and reminiscences of Cardinal Foley. Some excerpts:

He was just plain ol’ Father Foley when he served as editor of The Catholic Standard and Times, the diocesan newspaper in his hometown of Philadelphia. I was less than a year out of college when he hired me as his news and sports editor in 1974.

He was the kind of boss who, were he in our archdiocese today, would be a hands-down winner of The Catholic Spirit’s Leading With Faith Award. Demanding yet fair, one who went the extra mile for his staff, he set the bar high and drew out until-then-unknown gifts in people.

(…)

Father Foley didn’t know a cardinal of the church from a St. Louis Cardinal, and that brought about an interesting exchange at a reception one night.

Philadelphia’s Cardinal John Krol was being feted for one reason or another, and baseball legend Stan Musial was in attendance. Musial was retired by then, but doing promotional work for the St. Louis Cardinals and wore his usual cardinal red sport coat.

When Foley was introduced to Stan the Man, he had no idea who Musial was, so he commented how appropriate it was for Mr. Musial to honor Cardinal Krol by wearing cardinal red. Musial said he always wore cardinal red. Foley looked puzzled, and, well, you can see where this was going.

(…)

He’s always been a cheerleader for good journalism in Catholic publications, keeping up a mantra that no one should fear the truth, not even church officials. He teaches that Catholic newspapers need to cover all the events in the life of the church – the good and the bad – but must do so with charity.

That’s something he says is the unique gift of the Catholic press, as opposed to what the secular media sometimes do with news about the church. He’s fond of using an analogy of an airplane flight when describing the difference in operations:

“The secular press covers the crashes; we cover the landings.”

(…)

A sense of humor has always been Cardinal Foley’s gift, and he’ll jump into a conversation on an elevator and fill the car with puns.

At the press conference after receiving the red hat, the new cardinal described his elevation as “a great honor not just to me personally but to the Catholic press and to the whole church in the United States.”

Then he added: “It is nice to be canonized without the inconvenience of dying!”

Make sure you read Bob’s full article here, including how highly one Vatican official thinks of Cardinal Foley and how his now-famous role at the pope’s Christmas Midnight Masses will continue.

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