When Bishop James L. Connolly launched his diocese’s newspaper on April 11, 1957, the nameplate featured a clean, unfouled anchor and the slogan: “An Anchor of the Soul, Sure and Firm,” taken from St. Paul’s Letter to the Hebrews.
It was not a name chosen by accident or by chance. Rather, “it (the anchor) is the symbol of the theological virtue of hope — living hope that animates, consoles, and strengthens the just Christian in the midst of his labors.”
The name was also topical; the writer noting that, it “also designates to some degree the place of publication. The Diocese of Fall River with its extensive shorelines has experienced the need of The Anchor in its history, its economic life and today in the recreation sphere.”
Its first publisher, Bishop Connolly, whose coat of arms was also included in the nameplate, offered a few remarks in the premier edition. In a box on page one he wrote, in part: “Coming to us each week with pictures, news and views it is bound to bring us closer together and improve our spiritual and social customs. I am sure The Anchor will find an honored place, like the crucifix, in every home throughout the diocese.”
In 1957 there were more than 225,000 Catholics in the 110 parishes in the diocese according to figures Bishop Connolly gave in his history, “The Diocese of Fall River.”
The actual writing and circulation of the ambitious 24-page diocesan newspaper fell on the shoulders of Father Daniel F. Shalloo as general manager; Father John P. Driscoll as assistant general manager, and a layman, Attorney Hugh J. Golden, as managing editor.
Father Shalloo was then assistant at St. Joseph’s in Fall River, while Father Driscoll, who did most of the writing, was administrator of St. Louis Parish, also in Fall River.
They shoehorned the editorial job into their pastoral duties.
Golden had been a schoolboy sports writer, general assignment reporter and political writer for the Fall River Herald News. He was The Anchor’s general manager until his death in 1970.
In its infancy, The Anchor’s home was in offices over the Lafayette Bank on Bedford Street in downtown Fall River. It later moved into a mansion at 432 Highland Avenue, and in December 1988 moved into its current quarters at 887 Highland Avenue.
C.J. Leary and Sons, Inc., located in the historic home where Lizzie Borden once lived on Second Street, finally got the nod to print the weekly using offset printing. It became a second home for Anchor staffers and personnel who did the paste up of the columns of stories printed on a linotype as was the science of the time.
The early editions contained a mix of local stories and photos as well as a heavy concentration on national and international stories offered on the ever-ticking teletype by the then-National Catholic Welfare Council News Service, forerunner of today’s Catholic News Service.
Among the national writers were Bishop Fulton J. Sheen with his weekly “God Love You” column; F.J. Sheed with theology issues for the laity; “At Our House” by Mary Kineavy; and a potpourri by Joseph A. Breig.
On the local news, McGee Winner offered her weekly “Spotlighting Our Schools”; Father John P. Cronin and Father Stephen J. Downey were regular contributors; John T. Crowley was an original staff reporter until his death in 1978, and Marcie Hickey was busy in the editorial department in the early 1990s.
Among the stringers and feature writers in those early years were Dorothy Eastman, Cecilia Belanger, Jean Judge, Avis Roberts, Father Kevin Harrington, Thomas McDonnell, Eileen Lardner, Marion Unsworth, Joseph and Marilyn Roderick, Bill Morrissette, Clement Dowling, Father Roland Bousquet, Russell Collinge and Father Edmond Rego.
Photographers included Jack Smith, Edward Rosa, Ernest Torchia, Hugo Poisson, Ron Baptista, and Dominican Sister Gertrude Gaudette.
The predecessors of the current “Around the Diocese” were “Steering Points” and before that “The Parish Parade” offering thumbnails of activities in parishes stretching from Easton to Fall River and then out to Cape Cod and the Islands.
Any history of The Anchor has to acknowledge the late Rosemary Dussault. She was already at the helm of the planning for the newspaper months before the first edition hit the streets. Her title at the time was business and advertising manager. But she was much more than that, wearing many hats and working long hours in circulation, production, advertising, personnel and bookkeeping to get the diocesan newspaper known and read by Catholics in the region.
When Msgr. John J. Regan left in 1989 after 15 years as the financial administrator of the paper, Bishop Daniel A. Cronin appointed Dussault as general manager. For more than 44 years she made this vehicle of evangelization her dedicated career.
When Dussault died in March 2001, after a battle with cancer, her legacy was a newspaper that had advanced in circulation and style — and into color — as she added feature writers, veteran editors and skilled production technicians.
In 1982, Dussault received the Thomas R. Brennan Memorial Award for Excellence from the Catholic Major Markets Newspaper Association at the annual Catholic Press Association convention in Scottsdale, Ariz.
A longtime ally in the galleys with Dussault was Pat McGowan of Somerset, who wrote, edited and pasted up the galley sheets for nearly half a century. Even articles by well-known columnists didn’t escape her meticulous eye.
Msgr. John F. Moore, who began writing for The Anchor in 1967 with his famous op-ed piece “The Mooring,” attributed the success of his column — which would later become the editorial — to McGowan.
“Pat was wonderful with words,” said Msgr. Moore, who became a prize-winning editorial writer. “Her extraordinary literary abilities and her depth of knowledge of the English language always made me look good.”
Msgr. Moore also took time to talk about Dussault. “We can’t say enough about Rosemary. Because of her we have a good track record over the many years and we’ve enjoyed some wonderful times.”
Reminiscing, he quickly added, “Where would we have been without our friends at Leary Press and their kindness to us throughout the years. Without them and John McGinn and all the people down there, The Anchor would never had gotten off the ground.”
Prior to Msgr. Moore’s 38-year tenure that ended in 2005, there had been several changes in editors.
After Father (Msgr.) Shalloo resigned in 1975, came Father Edward J. Byington, who served briefly, and later Father John R. Folster, who had been at the paper for more than 20 years, was the interim editor.
When The Anchor marked its 45th anniversary, Msgr. Moore noted that the success of the newspaper “is because of our staff. It is small, but everyone has their own niche and each one is very dedicated in so many ways. Today, the Church cannot advance without the work of its laity and we must continue to enforce that every day we continue with God’s work.”
Father Roger J. Landry, who took the reins of the newspaper July 1, 2005, succeeding Msgr. John F. Moore as executive editor, made local news key to implementing many changes. They included more lay columnists, weekly homilies, in-depth and personal looks at faith communities and its outstanding members, op-ed pieces by professionals in many walks of life, as well as updating news sources and modern formats to deliver the news in a more readable fashion.
In 2012 Father Landry decided he wanted to devote more time to writing books and the New Evangelization, so Bishop George W. Coleman appointed Father Richard D. Wilson as the new executive editor of The Anchor, effective July 1 of that year.
Currently Dave Jolivet of Fall River is the editor of The Anchor. A native of Fall River, he is an award-winning sports writer and editor. A former editor of a business newspaper and reporter at the Fall River Herald News, he joined the diocesan paper in 1996 as production manager. His feature column, “My View from the Stands,” which started in 2001, has become a favorite with readers.
Jolivet was named editor by former bishop and now Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, OFM Cap., in September 2001.
Barbara M. Reis of Somerset worked in The Anchor’s business office for 19 years. Initially hired to manage the subscription responsibilities of the newspaper, Reis assumed the overall office duties including advertising, and helping to compile the diocesan directory following the death of Rosemary Dussault in 2001.
In 2008 The Anchor added advertising manager Wayne R. Powers, who previously worked at The Rhode Island Catholic (formerly The Providence Visitor), and staff reporter/special projects coordinator Kenneth J. Souza, formerly news editor with The Wanderer of Mattapoisett, to their ranks. One of the key projects for both was the launching of a new user-friendly website for The Anchor — bringing the historic Catholic weekly into the 21st century. Sadly Ken passed away on August 1, 2020.
Entering 2021, The Anchor hopes to continue bringing the Good News of the local and universal Church to readers throughout the Fall River Diocese and beyond.