Reader's Retrospective: Ed Flahavan

This story appears in the Reader's Retrospective feature series. View the full series.
Ed Flahavan
Ed Flahavan

by Julie Gunter

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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.

A version of this story appeared in the Nov 7-20, 2014 print issue under the headline: NCR a reader's retrospective: Ed Flahavan.

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