Faith in Brooklyn for May 21
Brooklyn’s Catholic diocese honors Ed Wilkinson for 5 decades at the Tablet
Lifelong Brooklynite Ed Wilkinson was honored last week at the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn’s World Communications Day for his nearly five decades of working with the Catholic press—specifically the Tablet, published by the Diocese and read by Catholic households in Brooklyn and Queens.
During that time, the Tablet, where he started his journalistic career as a sportswriter, has expanded into a multi-faceted news media organization. The Diocese itself has seen a parallel expansion, with Masses in 24 languages and several ethnic apostolates.
Wilkinson, who joined the Tablet in 1970, has served as its editor-in-chief since 1985, winning numerous awards. Born in Greenpoint, he, his wife Sheila and his son, Edward Daniel, are longtime residents of Bay Ridge and parishioners at Our Lady of Angels parish. He was educated in the seminary prep system through college, but sensed that his calling was outside of the ordination track. It soon became evident that his true vocation was with the Catholic media.
Pope Francis declared the annual World Communications Day 2018, with an emphasis on reporting the truth. Pope Francis emphasizes “the rediscovering the dignity of journalism and the personal responsibility of journalists to communicate the truth.” Finding truth in a world where “fake news” sometimes predominates was also the topic of the guest speaker, Fr. Thomas Dailey, O.S.F.S., S.T.D., of the St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Pennsylvania. Wilkinson sat down with INBrooklyn during World Communications Day celebrations held at 26 Bridge, an event space in DUMBO. He shared his experience as a journalist and editor living out this commitment and instilling the same values in his staff.
“The highlight of my career was meeting Pope John Paul II back in 1995. He was coming to America, and was going to be visiting New York,” said Wilkinson. “I had written a column saying that when he comes to the United States, he should really meet with the Catholic press, to give us a little boost. I didn’t think it was going to go anywhere. Somebody in Washington apparently read the column, and they called me up and said, ‘Would you be open to a meeting with meeting the Holy Father when he comes to New York?’ I was astounded.”
Wilkinson was one of four Catholic press editors invited to greet Pope John Paul II, meeting “over in Manhattan at the Nuncio’s house, just prior to his saying Mass at Central Park. So, I think that’s been the highlight of my career, because the man’s a saint now. I’ve photographed two saints: Pope John Paul II, and I’ve photographed Mother Teresa. You always think of saints of being out there, these holy people. Then you realize they were right here among us. You never thought you’d meet a saint.”
However, other breaking stories presented a personal challenge to Wilkinson — in particular, the allegations of sex abuse among the clergy. “It was very difficult for me to cover, because a lot of these people were my friends. I was in the seminary myself, and I knew a lot of these people. When these names kept coming up, it was heartbreaking to me. I couldn’t believe some of the stuff I was hearing,” he said. He added, “Some people will say, ‘How do you keep your faith, when you see things like that happening?’ His answer: “Have an already strong faith. I always tell people who think that ‘because you’re coming to work for the church, it will strengthen your faith’ that you had better have a strong faith when you come in. You need that because when you work for the news media, you see a lot of adversity — things you don’t want to see.”
The local Catholic media often approach stories differently from the mainstream news outlets, Wilkinson continued.
“What I’m always looking for, when you see a national or international story: How does that impact our church here in Brooklyn and Queens?” said Wilkinson. “That is what we are, first and foremost, a diocesan local newspaper. We always go for the local angle. You have the Olympic games: we look for Brooklyn Olympic athletes from Brooklyn.”
As editor, Wilkinson has had to balance the plethora of opinions from his colleagues and readers alike. “We always start from a Catholic point of view. Our philosophy is we tell the news from a Catholic point of view. We try to stick to the issues. We try not to oppose or support any political candidates because of our tax system. The way it is — we’re not supposed to support politicians.”
Dispelling stereotyped impressions, Wilkinson pointed out that abortion is not the only issue that impassions Catholics. “We care about immigration, and we care about caring for the elderly, and for the sick. There’s a whole gamut of life issues that sometimes we don’t fit neatly into a category like liberal or conservative; or Republican or Democrat. There’s some things the Democrats do that we like. There are some things the Republicans do that we like.”
Working for the Catholic media “isn’t just coming in to work each day,” Wilkinson points out. The collegiality between him and other staff at DeSales Media was evident at the World Communications Day. Several traditions foster that teamwork, including two retreat days a year, praying together as a staff, and service projects in the neighborhood. Most of all, he said, “I think at the end we try to keep the mission in mind.”
Although Wilkinson is stepping down as editor of the Tablet, he is not retiring. Instead, with the new title of editor emeritus, he’ll embark on “putting our archives into shape, because a lot of our archives are scattered all over. At this point, I’m the only one who knows where we are.”
He will also be working with DeSales Media’s chief operating officer, Bill Maier, on the circulation and subscription campaign.
“We are trying to relieve the parishes of the financial burden of the Tablet subscriptions and convert to individual parishioner subscriptions. That will be a real challenge. If anything, I’m getting into a tougher position,” Wilkinson joked.
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Brooklyn Jewish Historical Initiative seeks families of memorialized WWI soldiers
The Brooklyn Jewish Historical Initiative is looking for family members of soldiers who are listed on a plaque at Zion Memorial Park in Brownsville.
Zion Memorial Park, also called Zion Triangle Park, sits on Legion Street, between Pitkin and East New York avenues. Ascend Charter School has its address on Pitkin Avenue and was, at one point, a Loew’s movie house. Zion Park dates back to 1911.
The World War I Centennial will be commemorated at the Zion Memorial Park next Wednesday, May 23rd, 11 a.m. to noon. The observance is co-sponsored by Brooklyn Jewish Historical Initiative (BJHI) and Greater NY Chamber of Commerce (GNYCC).
Named on the Zion Memorial are Jewish soldiers who served between the years of 1917-1918. Many were immigrants from Eastern Europe. Some were killed in action, but several died of disease. Those who survived returned to Brooklyn, had families, and settled primarily in the Brownsville, East New York areas.
Visit the BJHI’S web page for Zion Memorial: http://brooklynjewish.org/neighborhoods/brownsville/ .
There is also video on their webpage: http://brooklynjewish.org/neighborhoods/brownsville/bjhi-memorial-day-remembrance-brownsville-brooklyns-jewish-war-memorial/
Readers who recognize a family member’s or ancestor’s name are welcome to contact The Brooklyn Jewish Historical Initiative at [email protected].
You will receive an invitation to participate in the memorial ceremony this month.