Over the next 30 years, the publication would expand from eight to 20 pages, and its readership would likewise grow so that diocesan historians commented it "was for some time one of the most widely read and often-quoted organs of the country."
On Dec. 1, 1888 -- 135 years ago -- appeared the first issue of the Sacred Heart Review, a weekly newspaper published by Sacred Heart Parish in Cambridge.
The first issue provides insight into the publication's origins and purpose. It was born out of the Advanced Class of Christian Doctrine offered by the parish, in which students "study the sublime truths of faith, the history of Holy Church, her labors to improve man's condition and her beneficent influence on society." The Review was intended "to give every week in this little paper the result of our studies, instructions and readings." The connection between the class and the publication are also evident on page four, where the assistant editors and correspondents, all graduates, are listed by class year.
The first half of the eight-page issue was devoted to religious topics, while the next two reflect its intent as a local parish newspaper by repeating parish announcements, information about the Advanced Class on Christian Doctrine, rules for the parish Sunday school, and a sermon on the Gospel reading for Sunday that week.
The paper gives further insight into parish life by listing sodalities and their officers, church lay organizations and their meeting times, a list of ushers by Mass time, and a Mass schedule. The issue is then completed with two pages of advertisements from mostly local businesses and organizations.
An annual subscription to The Sacred Heart Review cost a reader $1.00 in 1888, while each individual issue cost five cents.
Over the next 30 years, the publication would expand from eight to 20 pages, and its readership would likewise grow so that diocesan historians commented it "was for some time one of the most widely read and often-quoted organs of the country." As the paper grew in length and readership, so, too, did the task of publishing and distributing a weekly paper, and a more formal organization was required. On Jan. 5, 1895, a notice in the paper revealed it had been purchased and would now be published by the Review Publishing Company, "consisting of the leading Catholic clergymen of New England."
The company would provide new type, presses, and other machinery for the paper's production. News would be retrieved "from the principal Catholic centres of Europe" and incorporated into the content by more experienced journalists, which would increase each issue to 20 pages in length.
Taking the Dec. 5, 1908, issue as an example of the Review's evolution, where the first issue listed graduates from the Advanced Class on Christian Doctrine, it now listed Review Publishing Company officers, including a president, eight vice presidents, a treasurer, clerk, managing director, and board of directors.
Content included international news, reviews of new Catholic books, commentary on social issues, poetry, and even housekeeping tips. An annual subscription now cost $2.00 in advance, $2.50 if not paid in advance, and an individual issue 20 cents.
The last issue appeared on Aug. 31, 1918, and does not appear to have included a notice, nor does any previous edition nor The Pilot, that this would be the final appearance of the Sacred Heart Review. Parish correspondence, which includes documents related to the Review, includes a letter notifying diocesan administrators that there would "at last" be a meeting of the Review Publishing Company on June 11, 1918. In hindsight, the language seems to imply that perhaps the discussion of its future was overdue, and "at last" they were meeting to discuss its dissolution.
Ironically, the last inches of the last column included a short feature, one paragraph, with the heading "A Great Blessing." It reads: "One great blessing which many Catholic homes deprive themselves of is a Catholic newspaper. It throws about an atmosphere of devotion, counteracts the evil influence of bad literature, elevates one's ideal and gives a moral tone which is truly religious. It is a preacher, a monitor, a solace, an instructor, an abiding good. Surely, no Catholic family is so poor, but it can have one."
The Sacred Heart Review is available online for free and fully searchable at newspapers.bc.edu.
- Thomas Lester is the archivist of the Archdiocese of Boston.
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