The first editor of The Monitor, Vincent A. Weiss, left, shares a laugh with Deacon Joseph M. Donadieu during a Serra Club meeting in 1989. Deacon Donadieu succeeded Weiss as editor of The Monitor in 1978.  Monitor file photo
The first editor of The Monitor, Vincent A. Weiss, left, shares a laugh with Deacon Joseph M. Donadieu during a Serra Club meeting in 1989. Deacon Donadieu succeeded Weiss as editor of The Monitor in 1978. Monitor file photo

After Bishop George W. Ahr established The Monitor in 1954, he would ask a question of young Confirmandi at every Confirmation ceremony:  “What is the 11th commandment?” In response to quizzical looks and sounds of silence, he would answer his own question: “Read The Monitor!”

For the past 65 years, under the leadership of four different bishops, The Monitor has been a dynamic tool for keeping the faithful informed and connected as the Body of Christ in the Diocese of Trenton. Part of that dynamism has been the ability to change and grow according to a changing culture and a changing Church, say those associated with its mission.

Today, the next step for The Monitor means moving from the existing bi-weekly newspaper format to a monthly, full-color magazine, supported by its digital presence on and through social media venues.

“It has been a distinct privilege to be professionally connected to this newspaper for these many years,” shared Rayanne Bennett, associate publisher. “When I began to work for the Diocese of Trenton in 2005, and soon after was placed in charge of The Monitor, I was very mindful of its long and well-established legacy. I was struck by the intense loyalty and respect that many of our clergy, religious and laypeople exhibited toward The Monitor, particularly those that were native to the Diocese and had a strong sense of identity with Trenton.” 

‘The Wider Church’

Msgr. John Dermond, who was ordained in 1968 by Bishop Ahr, noted that The Monitor has served him well during his more than 50 years of service in the Diocese, providing news and information he could share with parishioners in preaching or in parish bulletins, and developing a sense of connection with the Diocese and other parishes.

Msgr. Dermond recalled The Monitor’s impact on him as a teen following the 1956 fire in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton. “I was following news of the Cathedral fire and the aftermath, all the way to the rebuilding of a new Cathedral and its dedication. I still remember my interest and how it made me think about the Diocese, the wider Church.”

Since that time, Msgr. Dermond has seen an evolution in the newspaper as it grew to include more national and international news, digital access and more columns on various subjects that “have made for more enjoyable and helpful reading.”

Among those columns is “The Word,” the long-running Scripture column authored by Father Garry Koch, pastor in St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel, who began writing for the Monitor in 2001 at the invitation of Deacon Joseph M. Donadieu, who was then editor.

“The Monitor certainly keeps the Diocese connected, and in that way serves to help us to understand more fully the work of the local Church. As a pastor, I read The Monitor and glean ideas to take to my pastoral council and the professional staff of the parish,” Father Koch said.

For Lois Rogers, who covered religion for the Asbury Park Press before serving as features editor of The Monitor from 2002 until her retirement in 2013, the diocesan paper was an influence long before she began her work there.

“Growing up in Point Pleasant Beach, we were members of St. Peter Parish, where the Conventual Franciscans made it one of their missions to give each registered family a subscription to The Monitor, as did many parishes around the Diocese,” she said. “The paper was an important source of information about Catholic life in a time without internet, digital devices – just radio with five minute news spots and a handful of television stations with half hour nightly news. 

“When The Monitor arrived every Friday, it brought us inside the Diocese and the wider Catholic community and gave us a real sense of belonging to something great and special,” stressed Rogers, who continues to serve The Monitor as a freelance reporter.

Exciting Transition

Looking ahead, Jennifer Mauro, who is now managing editor, is enthusiastic about The Monitor’s new magazine format. “It will allow for more in-depth reporting on faith concepts through the eyes of our very own clergy, religious, laity, youth and children,” she said. “We can take local, state national and international issues and apply it to how it affects faithful in the Diocese of Trenton. Just as important, we can hear from the Diocese’s faithful in a more analytical way on how we can make a difference in our world.”

Editors agreed that key to all of The Monitor’s endeavors is the team of talented journalists, designers and photographers who work diligently to bring its readers Catholic news.

“I feel very grateful to have worked with so many wonderful and talented professionals over these years, all of whom shared a sense of mission and commitment to Catholic journalism,” Bennett said. “We are fortunate that many of them will continue to work with us as we transition to the next phase of communicating the faith to our people.”

Mauro shared that after 15 years working in secular press, she was honored to become part of The Monitor team in 2016. “Did I hope that working with the newspaper would help me grow in faith? Yes, most certainly,” she said. “But my main motivation was to continue to use my skills to tell stories – the kinds of stories that weren’t being told in the secular press – stories of faith and hope, of overcoming adversity and staying the course in an ever-changing and scary world.

“I’m proud to say that The Monitor has always kept stories of faith front and center – from ordinations and parish picnics to youth ministry outreach and athletic successes. If belief in God is at the heart of these pursuits, how can that not inspire others?”