Guest editorial: Words about words

July 2014 Opinion Fr James Lyons The most creative thing about us is each word we speak. Life itself came from a word God said – and that word became…

Guest editorial: Words about words Archdiocese of WellingtonJuly 2014


Fr James Lyons

The most creative thing about us is each word we speak. Life itself came from a word God said – and that word became flesh and declared himself to be the life of the world. But creativity carries consequences. Words shape us, announce our presence and remain long after we’ve gone.

An editor is one who has to live with the word, meeting it in its wildest form and taming it to do the work of communicating a particular message. Thus, an editor must also be an artist, and be prepared to become vulnerable to a disgruntled word, to the word that doesn’t like the expression it’s been given, or the way it appears in the artist’s interpretation.

We who are not editors can easily misunderstand the role because we use words already formed; we don’t necessarily have to shape or mould them to fit the framework of our craft.

Because of our unfamiliarity with the word’s cunning ways, we’re not all going to be happy with the way an editor shapes the word; not everyone will appreciate that a newspaper is a composition and, like a symphony, its parts must relate to each other and cannot be a haphazard, quality-neutral jumble of pictures and stories.

Editors accept their work will likely be lonely, because that’s the way it has to be when you’re locked in battle with highly creative material. There cannot be more than one editor for a publication. Others might assist but only one person can push the button that puts the paper to bed. And that push is born of huge responsibility.

Cecily McNeill, recently retired editor of Wel-Com, was the word tamer for our two dioceses for 10 years. She pushed the button 101 times and, with the breath of the Spirit, sent the word into thousands of homes, witnessing an image of Church that is helping to change the perception of pastoral ministry to be more dynamic, inclusive and collaborative.

Her work has given wings to our bishops’ message of stewardship. The celebration of time, talent and treasure became a fundamental component to every edition of Wel-Com.

Cecily gave herself to this work, with a deep personal conviction that faith, hope and love are the right ingredients to bring the word into a space that is not simply manageable but remains beautifully and positively creative. Like many artists whose craft is woven where no-one sees, her full value comes to light when the work is done.

Cecily gave life to words for all of us, helping us to hear, see and touch our faith community; may the Word who is life – our subject – be her abiding peace.

Thank you!