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.
Ed Flahavan, a former priest of 48 years now married to his "other true love," Susan, credits a teacher at Nazareth Hall Preparatory Seminary in the diocese of St. Paul, Minn., for sparking his interest in independent Catholic journalism. The teacher, Fr. James Cecka, supported the early, short-lived efforts of The Sun Herald, a Catholic lay magazine published by Robert G. Hoyt (who went on to found NCR).
Flahavan was a 33-year-old priest and newly appointed Nazareth Hall faculty member "when Vol. 1, No. 1 rolled off the press." He says that stories in NCR, including coverage of events that he has had a personal connection to, have fed and nourished him over the past 50 years.
A story in NCR's June 9, 1965, issue that involved pickets and heckling, a crowd of 2,000, and police protection for organizers was particularly memorable for Flahavan. As a volunteer with the Catholic Interracial Council of the Twin Cities, Flahavan, in partnership with two other priests, Fr. Ed Kohler and Fr. Tom Garvey (representing the Christian Family Movement and a Confraternity for Christian Doctrine group, respectively) invited author John Howard Griffin, a converted Catholic, to speak at St. Margaret's Academy, now known as Benilde-St. Margaret's School, in Minneapolis. Best known for a memoir, Black Like Me, that described his experiences traveling in the South disguised as a black man, Griffin, according to Flahavan, responded to protesters with patience and grace, telling "the audience to please be quiet, please give them a chance to talk." Flahavan remembers the night of Griffin's speech as one "filled with electricity."
Flahavan also voiced his appreciation for two significant moments in NCR's past: the procurement, translation and release of suppressed papal commission reports on birth control in 1967; and, one year later, coverage of Bishop James Shannon's resignation over his criticism of Humanae Vitae. Flahavan, Shannon's former student and longtime friend, preached at his funeral Mass in 2003; just two years later, Flahavan made his own decision to leave the priesthood following a monastery retreat.