In 1941, five years after Catholic Digest was founded, Digest assistant editor Edward Harrigan wrote about the magazines beginnings
"How would you like to work for me, Nick?"
Father Gales was speaking to the boy who was driving his car that afternoon, Nick Tschida. Nick, one of his young parishioners, thought it would be great. From that
time on, he strove mightily for Father Louis A. Gales, then assistant at St. Agnes 'Church, in St. Paul, Minnesota, taking dictation, typing letters, running errands - doing the thousand and one tasks that must be
done for a priest who is getting ready to put out the first issue of a new magazine.
All through the summer of 1936, Father Gales worked hard fulfilling his duties as assistant in a large and active parish (and he's one who would see to it that none of
them be neglected), all the while preparing for the launching of Catholic Digest, and in addition seeing to the smooth functioning of his Catechetical Guild, which supplies Catholic teachers with educational
material and publishes books and pamphlets.
The initial surveys made, the necessary cooperation of other magazines obtained, a small but promising list of charter subscribers secured, Father Gales decided the
venture was too great for one man. Curiously, but characteristically, he didn't worry about financing; his chief concern was to find competent associates. He found them in the persons of two other St. Paul priests,
Father Paul Bussard and Father Edward F. Jenninings then the publishers of the Leaflet Missal. Father Bussard became Digest editor, Father Jennings, business manager, and Father Gales, managing editor.
All three are products of the St. Paul Seminary; none are beyond early middle age; all are energetic in the cause of the faith. Father Gales is chaplain of the City
Hospital, a I,000-bed institution. When it is considered that Catholics constitute something like half of the city's total population, it can be realized that the chaplaincy of this hospital is no light nor
negligible task. Besides that, Father Gales is also chaplain to the Little Sisters of the Poor.
Father Bussard is the youngest of the Digest triumvirate, but has had long and intensive preparation for his duties as editor and parish assistant. He won't alfw himself to be described as "brilliant:' but that's what everybody says about him.
I owa contributed Father Bussard to the St. Paul archdiocese; Wisconsin, Father Gales. Chicago-born, Father Jennings is a heavy-set, whitehaired, not always soft-spoken
but greathearted Irishman who is well known and loved by his associates and fellow priests. He is pastor of St. Francis of Assisi, at St. Croix Beach, Minnesota. Besides his duties (and worries) as a pastor, he
carries the business burdens of the Digest, financial, promotional, circulation, and otherwise.
The fact that the Catholic Digest today commands a position among the leading Catholic magazines - for that matter, among all magazines - does not mean that there were not difficulties aplenty in the early days. Father Gales found his two associates in their Leaflet Missal office
in the basement of the chancery building, immediately behind the cathedral. It would be no understatement to say that these quarters were unpretentious; in fact, space was shared with the heating plant.
Father Gales brought his principal assets, the labels bearing the names of his subscribers, to the Leaflet office in bushel baskets. Leaflet desks were moved, a few more (used) wooden desks were lined up against one wall. Tschida, two of the Leaflet boys, Jim O'Toole and Dan Hartnett, and a new kid, Paul Hogan, just out of high school, were put to work on the baskets of subscribers. The Catholic Digest was on its way!
The three priests had been praised, in correspondence from other editors, for their zeal, encouraged by some to go ahead; but there were also some who, having lived the
difficult lives of Catholic editors, said the project couldn't possibly succeed without an initial capital of at least $50,000. The reverend trio read the letters, considered the advice, loosened up their Roman
collars, and went ahead with a capital of exactly one-fiftieth of the stipulated minimum.
Pastors constitute the backbone of support. It is they who order it in quantities, and speak of it to their people from their pulpits, and the Digest executives readily and gratefully agree that were it not for the pastors' good will, the publication could not exist. The Digest is now distributed in 1,200 parishes.