Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Good News. (Don Wycliff in Person)

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Good News. (Don Wycliff in Person)

Article excerpt

ON WYCLIFF HAS HAD INK IN HIS BLOOD EVER since his first job delivering newspapers with his brother. These days he's more likely to be delivering opinions, as the Chicago Tribune's public editor and a member of the paper's editorial board. After years of covering the news, he is now paid to ponder the events of the day and to try to persuade readers to see the issues as he does.

But on Sundays, he takes a break from CNN and the Sunday papers for something more important. After picking up a couple of elderly ladies who need a ride and greeting the Haitian couple who always sit in the pew next to him, Wycliff settles in for worship at St. Mary's Church, an integrated parish in the suburb of Evanston.

"This is a refuge," he says of his parish. "It's a place where I get my gas tank filled up to get through the next week. It's a family." As he approaches his mid-50s, Wycliff admits, "These are the things that really matter to me now."

It wasn't always so.

Back in the late '60s, a bearded and Afro'd Wycliff decided religion was no longer relevant. "Frankly, the church didn't seem to be speaking to what black concerns were at that time," he remembers.

While some might attribute this temporary loss of faith to his choice of a profession characterized by cynicism, Wycliff insists the newsroom actually drove him back to church. "For the first time in my life I was in a world that wasn't mainly Catholic," he says. "That's when I realized I needed to regularly be with and talk to people who thought the way I did."

The church even influenced Wycliffs choice of journalism as his life's work. He was working on a doctorate in political science at the University of Chicago in 1969 when the civil rights struggle literally erupted outside his door. The shooting of two Black Panther leaders was a wake-up call for the young graduate student. "I felt like a wallflower at the orgy, a bystander at the parade," he recalls.

After devouring news reports about the incident, Wycliff began to see journalism as a career--indeed a vocation--that could make a difference. "There was an issue of justice at stake," he says. "That's what the whole teaching of the gospels and the church is all about."

Wycliff learned that first from his devout parents, then later from the nuns at Holy Family School in Ashland, Ohio, where the Wycliff children were the first black students. …

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