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Michael Leach: Why I Stay Catholic View Comments
By Barbara Beckwith

Why is this semi-retired publisher so high on being a Catholic? Michael Leach’s Why Stay Catholic? Unexpected Answers to a Life-Changing Question, published by Loyola Press last March, builds on his previous bestseller, I Like Being Catholic, co-edited with Therese J. Borchard. That was a collection of other people’s stories, but his new book reveals his incredibly moving and persuasive personal story.

Mike, now 70, received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Catholic Book Publishers Association in 2007. This Chicago native, who now lives in Greenwich, Connecticut, was ordained a priest in 1966 but requested and received laicization three years later so that he could marry.

Now after 41 years of marriage to Vickie Jacobi, Mike still can’t believe his good fortune in finding a woman whose life theme is gratitude. That’s true even though seven years ago she was diagnosed with early Alzheimer’s. (Mike devotes one of the book’s chapters to her story and refers to her frequently.)

For his first job in the “real” world, Mike turned for advice to Father Andrew Greeley, whom he had met at St. Mary of the Lake Seminary. Mike knew he wanted to work in publishing because “I love books.” Back then, Father Greeley was the prolific author of Catholic nonfiction; more recently,
he’s known for his novels. (Mike devotes a chapter in this book to the priest, now recovering from a head injury.)

So Greeley wrote to a number of publishers on Mike’s behalf, but no one would hire him because he had no experience. But Mike persevered because “Andy believed in me, and Vickie loved me, so I knocked on every door.” Just before his money ran out, he was hired by Seabury Press, owned by the Episcopal Church.

The rest, as they say, is history. Mike went on to become the publisher of The Crossroad Publishing Company and later of Orbis Books (both are Catholic publishing houses). He has published thousands of boo

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Barbara Beckwith is the managing editor of this publication.

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John Paul II: “Open wide the doors to Christ,” urged John Paul II during the homily at the Mass when he was installed as pope in 1978. <br /><br />Born in Wadowice, Poland, Karol Jozef Wojtyla had lost his mother, father and older brother before his 21st birthday. Karol’s promising academic career at Krakow’s Jagiellonian University was cut short by the outbreak of World War II. While working in a quarry and a chemical factory, he enrolled in an “underground” seminary in Kraków. Ordained in 1946, he was immediately sent to Rome where he earned a doctorate in theology. <br /><br />Back in Poland, a short assignment as assistant pastor in a rural parish preceded his very fruitful chaplaincy for university students. Soon he earned a doctorate in philosophy and began teaching that subject at Poland’s University of Lublin. <br /><br />Communist officials allowed him to be appointed auxiliary bishop of Kraków in 1958, considering him a relatively harmless intellectual. They could not have been more wrong! <br /><br />He attended all four sessions of Vatican II and contributed especially to its <em>Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World</em>. Appointed as archbishop of Kraków in 1964, he was named a cardinal three years later. <br /><br />Elected pope in October 1978, he took the name of his short-lived, immediate predecessor. Pope John Paul II was the first non-Italian pope in 455 years. In time, he made pastoral visits to 124 countries, including several with small Christian populations. <br /><br />He promoted ecumenical and interfaith initiatives, especially the 1986 Day of Prayer for World Peace in Assisi. He visited Rome’s Main Synagogue and the Western Wall in Jerusalem; he also established diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Israel. He improved Catholic-Muslim relations and in 2001 visited a mosque in Damascus, Syria. <br /><br />The Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, a key event in John Paul’s ministry, was marked by special celebrations in Rome and elsewhere for Catholics and other Christians. Relations with the Orthodox Churches improved considerably during his ministry as pope. <br /><br />“Christ is the center of the universe and of human history” was the opening line of his 1979 encyclical, <em>Redeemer of the Human Race</em>. In 1995, he described himself to the United Nations General Assembly as “a witness to hope.” <br /><br />His 1979 visit to Poland encouraged the growth of the Solidarity movement there and the collapse of communism in central and eastern Europe 10 years later. He began World Youth Day and traveled to several countries for those celebrations. He very much wanted to visit China and the Soviet Union but the governments in those countries prevented that. <br /><br />One of the most well-remembered photos of his pontificate was his one-on-one conversation in 1983 with Mehmet Ali Agca, who had attempted to assassinate him two years earlier. <br /><br />In his 27 years of papal ministry, John Paul II wrote 14 encyclicals and five books, canonized 482 saints and beatified 1,338 people. <br /><br />In the last years of his life, he suffered from Parkinson’s disease and was forced to cut back on some of his activities. <br /><br />Pope Benedict XVI beatified John Paul II in 2011, and Pope Francis canonized him in 2014. American Catholic Blog Lord, may I have balance and measure in everything—except in Love. —St. Josemaría Escrivá

 
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