Penny Wiegert is new CPA president; Owen Phelps wins award
By Susan Johnson
Penny Wiegert, editor of The Observer, the newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Rockford, has added another dimension to her career in journalism. May 14, she was named president of the Catholic Press Association (CPA) for the United States and Canada.
Wiegert has been editor of The Observer since 2002, after previously serving as associate editor. Regarding the CPA designation, Wiegert said:
I’ve been on the board of directors since 2004, and then I served as vice president the last two years. Then, I was nominated by my peers to run as president and won at our annual convention in Anaheim, Calif., in May of this year.
Wiegert has belonged to the CPA since 1986, when she joined the staff at The Observer, and has served as Midwest Regional Representative on the board of directors since 2004. She was elected its vice president in 2006. While working for the association, Wiegert has been chairman of various committees, including the redesign of the CPA’s newspaper, Web site and the search committee for their executive director.
In 1989, Bishop Arthur J. O’Neill appointed her associate editor of The Observer. In 2002, Bishop Thomas J. Doran appointed her editor, and in July 2007, Bishop Doran appointed her as director of Communication & Publications for the Diocese of Rockford, making her the first woman to hold both positions since the diocese was founded in 1908.
Wiegert and her staff took the newspaper into complete electronic production, completed its first major redesign, and launched a new Web site with full search and archiving capability.
Wiegert also belongs to the Catholic Academy for Communications Arts Professionals and serves on the board of directors for the Northern Illinois Newspaper Association (NINA).
She told The Rock River Times:
I am extremely honored to serve my colleagues in the Catholic Press Association as their president, especially as we approach the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the association in 2011. These are very challenging times for journalists, and I hope, in some small way, my leadership will help all those in the Catholic Press meet our challenges with creativity, innovation and collaboration so we can continue delivering the message of faith to generations to come.
Dr. Phelps given Presidential Medallion
Dr. Owen Phelps, former Observer editor and communications director for the Catholic Diocese of Rockford, also won an award. May 29, he was given the Presidential Medallion, the Catholic Academy for Communication Arts Profession’s highest honor.
The Presidential Medallion has been awarded annually since 1989 to recognize lifetime achievement and service to Catholic communications by a member of the Catholic Academy. Dr. Phelps was honored for his years of innovation for his diocese and the associations in which he was a member for more than 20 years. He was a consultant on the USCCB Communications Committee since 2003; he also serves as a member of the Catholic Communications Campaign Advisory Committee. He has been a consultant to several church organizations from Vermont to Texas, and in 2008 was given the papal honor of Knighthood in the Order of St. Gregory the Great.
Dr. Phelps is senior communications consultant to the Catholic Diocese of Rockford, and adjunct professor in the College of Business & Management at Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee. From 1993-2007, he served as director of Communications & Publications for the Diocese of Rockford, where he was also associate publisher of the diocesan newspaper, The Observer.
As editor, Phelps took the newspaper into the computer age and helped write and market a computer capture program to enable Catholic papers to electronically get feeds from Catholic News Service. For a number of years, he was a member of the diocese’s Justice & Peace Commission and an ex officio member of the Diocesan Pastoral Council.
Phelps also organized an annual media luncheon on behalf of the bishop, and made it possible for Rockford to be one of the first dioceses to have a presence on the World Wide Web. On behalf of Bishop Thomas G. Doran, he expanded the radio presence of the diocese by obtaining translator stations, organizing a weekly television Mass and a 58-second, daily Gospel reflection by Bishop Doran on the Rockford NBC affiliate, WREX-TV. He still co-hosts a weekly live, call-in radio program with the bishop.
In the 1980s, Phelps was certified as a master catechist by the Rockford Diocese and later was awarded the Bishop O’Neill Award in Catechetics for
distinguished service to the Word of God in religious education programs.
In recent times, Phelps has served as a consultant and offered programs to faith-based professional organizations in more than a dozen cities across the nation. His newest book, The Catholic Vision for Leading Like Jesus, was published by Our Sunday Visitor Publishing in May 2009. [Information provided by The Observer Web site.]
Dr. Owen Phelps told The Rock River Times it was
that he even attended the luncheon at which he was honored.
One of the strangest things is, I had made an appointment to meet with someone else during that lunch period. … I had met a person who teaches Christian Leadership in South America,” Phelps said. “He was at a different convention, but we bumped into each other at a lunch counter, and…he started to talk with me, and it turned out that he did that work in South America, and the focus of my work for the past few years has been teaching Christian leadership. I’ve got a new book out called The Catholic Vision for Leading Like Jesus. Most of my professional work in the last few years has been as director of the Yeshua Catholic International Leadership Institute. So we thought, ‘Wow! What a providential encounter.’
Dr. Phelps recalled that Penny Wiegert had urged him to go to the luncheon honoring him without telling him why. He thought it was because she was being named president of the Catholic Press Association, and wanted him to be there to share the moment. He never guessed the actual purpose of the invitation until it happened.
With a touch of humor, Dr. Phelps told TRRT:
I was really lucky to receive the award this year because starting next year, the Academy is planning to give it to someone who really deserves it. When I heard my name called, I was completely shocked. Then, I saw my mug on the big screen and forgot how to breathe. I looked around the room and saw so many people so much more deserving than I will ever be. I still don’t understand it, but I’m grateful. Coming from my colleagues in Catholic communications, it means a lot to me.
From the September 9-15, 2009 issue
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