As you know, Anne M. Buckley, Catholic New York’s retired editor in chief, died last month at age 87. She devoted her entire working life to the Catholic press, and she was one of the people who brought the paper into being under the leadership of Cardinal Terence Cooke. Accolades are resounding.
Anne is remembered for her talent, hard work, commitment to excellence and dedication to Catholic journalism. I have my own story about something she did for me that I will always be grateful for.
My relationship with Anne was not always smooth; sometimes we bumped heads. But once when I was out of options, Anne did something that turned my life around.
I was part of the original staff of Catholic New York when it was launched under the leadership of Cardinal Terence Cooke in 1981. Covering the sprawling, 10-county Archdiocese of New York was exhilarating, and it was also hard work. At that time, Catholic New York was published weekly, which amped up the deadline pressure.
I loved interviewing people and writing up their stories, and I enjoyed covering events, especially talks on spirituality and Church teaching. But after two years I decided to leave; among my reasons was that I was moving out of town. For a while I was a free-lance writer. In the end, though, my new venture did not work out, and I returned home. I continued freelance work in the Catholic press along with other jobs, but I lacked direction and a clear path.
One of the publications I wrote for asked me to do an article on Auxiliary Bishop Austin B. Vaughan of the New York Archdiocese, a man of deep faith and courage and an exemplary leader in the pro-life movement. I needed background about him, and there was only one place to get it: the files of Catholic New York. Apprehensive about what kind of reception I’d get, I called and asked if I could come in and do research. The answer was a gracious yes.
My foolish fears were dispelled by the warm welcome I received from then-editor in chief Jerry Costello. But I did not see Anne. She wasn’t in her office when I went there to thank her.
I did research for a couple of hours and then left the office. Walking out of the building, I ran into Jerry returning from lunch. I told him that I hadn’t seen Anne, and I asked him to thank her for me. He said that she, too, had just returned from lunch.
“You must have crossed each other in the elevator,” he said.
I wanted to catch my train, but
my heart told me to do the right thing, and my feet seemed to make the decision for me as they walked back into the elevator. Anne was indeed in her office, and she welcomed me warmly. As we chatted, I offered to show her photos of my nieces; she knew how close I was to them, and she had always been interested in hearing about them. But I fumbled with my photo case and couldn’t seem to get it open.
“I’ll just have to come back,” I said. Anne replied, “That would be very nice.” I had meant that I’d return for a quick visit, but Anne thought I was hinting that I’d like to return to the staff. A couple of weeks later, she phoned and offered me a job.
After a lot of soul-searching, I did what I should have done the moment Anne made the offer. I said yes. The following month I was back at Catholic New York, this time for good.
It was a gift and a grace, and it was Anne who offered it to me. For the next 21 years, until I retired, I was at Catholic New York. Some days were easier than others, but I never, ever stopped loving it.
Anne and I still bumped heads from time to time, but our hearts were in the right place. I believe that she is resting in peace and perfect joy, and I have just two things to say to her: Pray for me, and thank you, thank you, thank you.