Copy of the Register Found in Time Capsule

Issue From 1958 Preserved Church and Pennsylvania History

An old issue of the Register from 1958. Courtesy of Colby Kent
An old issue of the Register from 1958. Courtesy of Colby Kent

Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014, was an exciting day in Coopersburg, Pa., as people gathered to see what was inside a long-sealed time capsule.

The capsule had been placed in the cornerstone of the gym at Sacred Heart Home and School in 1958.

When the lid came off the 11-inch copper box, along with statues of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Jesus, a guardian angel, a scapular, medals, crucifixes and a list of the 68 children at the home, there was a copy of the National Catholic Register — well, an earlier version, with a different name.

The Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart who filled the time capsule included the newspaper — then simply called The Register — in its “national edition,” dated Sunday, Nov. 16, 1958.

“I can see somebody after Mass picking this up and going through this, page by page,” said Colby Kent, longtime Coopersburg resident. The Coopersburg Historical Society’s treasurer and board member, Kent was fascinated with the find.

It is all the more fascinating because the Register included photos and articles about Pope St. John XXIII, who had just been elected on Oct. 28 of that year.

There he was, in a page-one photo, as a seminarian, about 57 years before he became the Holy Father. One news brief spoke about his enthronement ceremony; another was about two American sisters from Corning, N.Y., who were confirmed by him in Turkey in 1937.

Inside, a few fascinating photos of John XXIII included one believed to be the first of him taken at his coronation Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. Another pictured him, with a dapper moustache and in his World War I uniform, as a medical sergeant before his promotion to lieutenant chaplain.

While one short article focused on “Pope Well Acquainted With Orthodox Church,” the headline grabbing attention on page two read: “Newsmen Chided by Pontiff.”

“Never betray the holy truth,” John XXIII urged a group of 150 newsmen. Then he “gently chided them for speculation on what sort of pope he would be.” He told them they were “members of a formidable army, with a formidable mission — bringing truth to the people.”

“U.S. Cardinals Pleased With Pope John XXIII” focused on Cardinal Francis Spellman of New York and Cardinal James McIntyre of Los Angeles when they arrived from Rome.

Cardinal Spellman described the Holy Father as “an amiable, patient person who will make a great impression on the world, which will come to know and love him. His program is one of peace, just as is that of the American people.”

Cardinal Spellman posed with John XXIII for a photo right after the conclave, while an extensive article focused on “Pope’s Life Reveals Generous Giving to All in High or Low Rank.” The biographical story detailed his family background, service to the Church, devotion to the Blessed Mother and pastoral life, as well as how his “courtesy restored faith to many.”

Appropriately, a nearby regular cartoon feature taught about good table manners: serving others before helping yourself.

In 1958, the Register was published weekly in Denver. The paper’s president was Archbishop Urban John Vehr, who was ordinary of the Denver Diocese from 1931 — when he arrived, he was the youngest bishop in the country — until 1967. Most of the other editors were priests.

In 1958, 34 dioceses and archdioceses used the Register’s national edition to share news with their faithful. The weekly paper cost $3 a year.

Ten pages long, the Register was jam-packed with articles that gave perspective on what was going on in the Church nationally and internationally, as well as the tenor of the times. Human-interest stories and regular features explained the faith in easy-to-understand ways.

A front-page story detailed the defeat of a California bill taxing private schools that was backed by the Masons and some Protestant churches but opposed by the Catholic Church and other Protestants.

Los Angeles Cardinal McIntyre said the defeat came out of voters’ “fair-minded Americanism and … their desire to preserve justice.”

On the same track, readers learned “Nuns Garb Ruled OK in Ohio Public Schools” in answer to a complaint filed against an unnamed Catholic school in the Steubenville Diocese that was leased by a local school district, which then hired nuns to staff it. The Ohio attorney general ruled in the sisters’ favor.

A catechetical lesson was offered in “Man Has Angel Friends and Enemies,” which elaborated on the angelic beings’ qualities and abilities, ranks and duties, noting, “St. Michael is the special guardian angel for the Church.”

Other headlines proclaimed: “Be Full-Time Homemakers, Family Life Institute Urges Married Women” and “Lay Leadership Put to Fore Across the U.S.” about programs developing “an articulate, well-formed body of Catholic lay leaders” to combat religious ignorance and work against filth in modern culture.

Feature articles explaining the faith in various ways, from artwork to regular columns, were abundant.

On the front page, the art editor drew a color picture of Jesus healing a woman; and, inside, he included his drawn panel of Joan of Arc.

The editorial examined “Obligations of Parents Toward Their Children.” It stressed parents are “bound especially to see to their children’s spiritual upbringing.”

Among other regular features were “Great Feast Days of the Week,” a column of household hints called “Household Chatter” and a book serial. The time-capsule paper’s particular installment was Chapter 12 of Kateri of the Mohawks.

And the national Legion of Decency ratings listed 60 films as unobjectionable for general patronage.

“Looking at that Register from 1958, I thought about how much our world has changed,” Kent said. “Reading that paper now had a calming effect on me.”

Other artifacts joining the Register in the capsule were a holy-water bottle and notes from some of the nuns and children.

Lillian Schrantz didn’t write a note, but she got a big surprise at the unveiling ceremony, when she was asked to come forward to open the capsule.

“It was an honor to break the time capsule after all those years being in the children’s home,” Schrantz told the Register. “It’s going to be something I remember the rest of my life.”

“I remember them putting the holy water and scapular in the box and the little notes,” Schrantz said.

Former residents of the home “were very emotional about the contents,” said Kent. “It had real meaning to them to see the names and articles.”

The Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart ran the home and school from its opening in 1938 to the day it closed in 1974, according to Msgr. John Grabish, pastor of St. Paul’s Church in Reading, Pa., in his 2014 book The Sacred Heart of the City.

Being at the opening of the time capsule had him thinking about the residents. “To find a home experience in the Sacred Heart Home and Trade School really filled a gap in peoples’ life and identity,” he said. “They could know: ‘I belong, and people care about me.’

“I’m fascinated by how the friendships have endured over the years,” he said, noting how former residents visit the nuns at their motherhouse in Reading to reminisce. “It was a lifelong relationship.”

Msgr. Grabish’s book mentions Philadelphia’s Cardinal Dennis Dougherty solemnly dedicating the home, where, over those 36 years, the sisters cared for almost 1,400 children. After the home closed, Pinebrook College bought the property. When that closed in 1992, a private company acquired the property.

But, in 1958, when the new gym was dedicated, the time capsule was put near the cornerstone to await 2014 and bring back tons of memories, which were preserved by nuns, children and the Register.

Joseph Pronechen is the Register’s staff writer.

HISTORY IN PRINT. An old issue of the Register from 1958. Courtesy of Colby Kent