By Marie-Paule Sanfaçon, m.i.c.
Choosing the name of a maga- zine is to give it a vocation. In 1920, the Venerable Délia Tétreault chose to call her little newsletter: Le Précurseur/The
Precursor1.What was her intention? Before giving it such a name, I imagine she had meditated a great deal on the mission of John the Baptist.
Who was John the Baptist, the Forerunner?
In scripture, John the Baptist is portrayed as the forerunner. He was quite different from the prophets of the Old Testament who announced a Messiah to come and asked to prepare for his coming by doing penance; they denounced all abuses and foretold impending disasters which often made people say: prophets of doom. To the contrary, John the Baptist, the last of the prophets, was the only one who could say when he saw Jesus: Here is the Lamb of God. Contemporary and cousin of Jesus, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he recognized in Him the Envoy of God.
Our Foundress, Délia Tétreault, could not have given her magazine a more beautiful title while confirming its mission. In 1842, the Society of St. John the Baptist had recognized him as patron saint of all French Canadians and it was on May 10, 1908, at the request of the Society, that Pope Pius X confirmed St. John the Baptist as the special patron saint of the French Canadian faithful.2 A missionary at heart, a woman of her time, Mother Délia wanted her magazine Le Précurseur/The Precursor to reach many people, and to proclaim Jesus Christ following the example of the great prophet John the Baptist. This is the primary mission of the magazine, which remains faithful even after one hundred years of publication.
By Éric Desautels
Tracing the history of Catholic missionary magazines in Quebec since the beginning of the 20th century means discovering the links established by the Quebec population with distant societies. This story took off in the 1920s with Pope Benedict XV’s encyclical Maximum Illud. At that time, the Catholic press underwent considerable expansion, increasing from 18.8% to 25.0% of all periodicals published in Quebec between 1915 and 19401.
The foundation of The Precursor is in this lineage. Initially, the journal was published quarterly. The very first issue sets the tone with a variety of articles: apostolic letters as well as news about the Propagation of the Faith, missions in China and various works in Canada. Only between 1920 and 1923, the magazine’s circulation rose from 220 to 28,000 copies, before climbing to 70,000 copies in 1926. These figures do not hide the tremendous interest in the magazine.
More than a news journal to inform benefactors, The Precursor represented a place where vocations could be awakened. There was hope that the apostolic flame would be aroused in the readers. Travelling the roads, the Sisters of The Precursor presented the magazine on Sundays at all Masses and devoted a considerable part of their energy to ensure its sale and distribution. Their efforts were rewarded by numerous donations from the public and by the increase in the number of subscribers between the inter-war years.
These successes conceal deep-seated problems that worsened in the post war period. In 1952, the editor of the magazine warned the readers of the reasons that led to a change of format, evoking the ever-increasing struggle against rising prices.2...