Editor's note: Introducing NCRonline's blog series "Reader's Retrospective": A special project that commemorates NCR's 50th anniversary by telling the stories of readers who have been faithfully subscribing to the National Catholic Reporter since its beginning. Read about the project's origins here.
June Verbillion first discovered NCR "in the back of the church" at St. Catherine of Siena in Oak Park, Ill. NCR was far different from the religious publications she was familiar with, which were, in her view, little more than "house organs" focused on "dedications of new schools or confirmation anointings." Verbillion "couldn't believe that Catholic journalism could be so realistic."
Verbillion penned a letter to NCR's editor that was published in the Dec. 16, 1964, issue. "I've rubbed my eyes and pinched myself, and your first five issues are still here," she wrote.
Raised in Chicago, Verbillion was a young woman during the Depression, an experience that left an impression on her life. Her parents instilled in her and her sister a strong work ethic within a community of faith. During Verbillion's senior year in high school, a chance encounter with a poster advertising a DePaul University scholarship proved a life-changing moment, one that would open "a door to a life of the mind."
She went on to earn graduate degrees in English and education at Loyola University Chicago. After earning her doctorate, she joined Chicago Teachers College North (now Northeastern Illinois University) as an original faculty member in 1960. She reminisced that she was asked during the hiring process if her Catholic background would prevent her from teaching the full range of literature. She remained at the institution until 1991, when she retired.
Verbillion has appreciated "the continuity" of NCR over the years. She listed particularly important coverage: Mercy Sr. Theresa Kane's "unbelievable, shook-the-rafters" question about the full inclusion of women in ministry that she posed to Pope Paul John II in 1979; the conviction of Louisiana priest Gilbert Gauthe for child molestation in 1985; and the Vatican's declaration that Fr. Charles Curran could no longer serve as a Catholic professor of theology at The Catholic University of America in 1986.
Reflecting on "how far I've come in broadening my outlook," Verbillion says that her advice these days is: "Follow Thomas Aquinas and your conscience, and use the brains that God gave you!"