Written by Father Frank Mecham (1915-2007) and first appearing in The Australasian Catholic Record, January 1995, pp. 81-82
This January number of The Record marks a hundred years since the first issue appeared in January 1895. The first series ran until 1913, two years after the death of its founder, Cardinal Moran.
The second series began in January 1924 and it was due to the scholarly Co-adjutor Archbishop of Sydney, Michael Sheehan. He decided to abandon the miscellaneous article philosophy of the first series. Instead, he divided each issue into various technical sections. The first was devoted to translations of notable documents issued by the Holy See, particularly those with reference to Australia and New Zealand. Other sections were devoted regularly to Moral Theology, Canon Law, Sacred Scripture and Liturgy. There were as well some general articles and book reviews.
The financial viability of the Record in its stage under Archbishop Sheehan's guidance was due in no small way to the support of the Hierarchies of Australia and New Zealand who appointed Collectors from their dioceses, and these are still performing valuable work for us around Australia.
This format lasted about half a century, then in 1973 an Editorial Board was formed — this was something of a return to one of the ideas of Archbishop Sheehan, who began the series with three editors and himself as Consulting Editor — in fact he was really Editor-in-Chief, according to one of the original editors, Justin Simonds, who was later Archbishop of Melbourne.
The Editorial Board as first constituted consisted of priests representing both the diocesan and religious clergy and the States of New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria. A little later lay members were added to the Board — the original notice on the cover that the Record was for Clergy and Religious had been quietly dropped a dozen or so years earlier.
The Board meets twice a year when themes for the coming issues are selected and writers approached to cover their various facets. As well, individual articles on a variety of subjects, chiefly theological and historical, are sent in spontaneously and those the Board considers relevant are published as space allows.
One of the initiatives of the Board was to make a regular feature of Homiletics, later known as Reflections on the Sunday Readings. It has also added on occasions The Australasian Scene, featuring matters of special moment to Australia and New Zealand.
Each of the three phases of The Record has contained valuable articles on Australian and New Zealand Catholic history. Two series of our historical articles have been published later as books, those of Mgr P. Hartigan ('John O'Brien') In Diebus Illis (1943-1945) became The Men of '38 and Other Pioneer Priests. Edited by Revs T. Linane and F. Mecham, Lowden Publishing Co., Kilmore, Vic 1975, and those of Bishop John Cullinane, 1984-1986 published as Goulburn School 'Strike', Catholic Education Office, Canberra, ACT.
The greatest increase in recent times has been in the number of lay subscribers. As now there are thousands of lay people around Australia and New Zealand studying theology, it is expected that this aspect of our circulation will continue strongly. Likewise, the number of colleges and schools subscribing is increasing.
We have always had the support of the hierarchy, clergy and religious of Australia and New Zealand and close links with the Catholic Institute of Sydney. We look forward now to an association with Australian Catholic University and new strength from the greater participation of the laity. We can view the future with the optimism of our original founders, Cardinal Moran and Archbishop Sheehan.
We note that through the hundred years The Record has maintained its motto: Pro Ecclesia Dei. We recall the words of Cardinal Moran in the first issue:
We have taken the words Pro Ecclesia Dei for our motto ... others will bring to the shrine of Catholic truth their rich tributes, their jewelled diadems of silver and gold .. . Our ambition will attain its aim, should we be permitted to present a plain, unadorned eucalyptus wreath...
* Father Frank Mecham OAM, MA(Lond), STL, Parish Priest of Haberfleld in the Archdiocese of Sydney.