Interview with Francis DeBernardo,
Executive Director of New Ways Ministry

by Sr. Camille D’Arienzo

From left: Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley; Sr. Jeannine Gramick, co-founder of New Ways Ministry; and Francis DeBernardo. (Photo Credit: NCR)
From left: Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley; Sr. Jeannine Gramick, co-founder of New Ways Ministry; and Francis DeBernardo. (Photo Credit: NCR)

SR. CAMILLE: Frank, you and I first met when you joined the staff of Brooklyn’s Tablet in 1981. What brought you to that newsroom? What did you hope to accomplish?

DEBERNARDO: After graduation from college in the spring of 1981, I had a job as a cook at a Catholic camp for special education children. When that ended, I had a full-time job as a social worker, but I was looking for a part-time job as a cook, and I noticed that The Tablet often ran want ads for weekend cooks for rectories. While I was perusing the want ads one week, I found an ad for a reporter job at The Tablet, which was, in some ways, my dream job because I wanted to be involved in church-related work and I wanted to improve my writing skills. I applied but had no expectations that I would get the job. After the interview, I learned that I had a job offer. I think that was the most ecstatic moment of my 22 and a half years.

SR. CAMILLE: Do you have memories of stories covered, relationships forged or lessons learned?

DEBERNARDO: I always think of my four years at The Tablet as my real religious education because I had the unique opportunity to see the church in action. At the time, the Brooklyn diocese under Bishop Francis Mugavero was one of the most dynamic in the country, with church people involved in every sort of ministry. The Tablet, under editor Don Zirkel, was the most exciting diocesan newspaper in the nation. It was not afraid to discuss any issue of concern, particularly if there was a justice element involved. It was not afraid to print all points of view on a topic.

I loved being a reporter. I think it is one of the best jobs for someone fresh out of college because it gave me a chance to survey all sorts of lives and career opportunities. Almost every day, I was experiencing something new and meeting an incredible diversity of people, all living out their faith lives in exciting and unique ways. And as a reporter, I got to ask them any questions I wanted. It was an incredible opportunity for me to learn! Religion leaped out of the church and off the liturgical pages and into real life. I developed a strong Catholic identity there because I saw that being Catholic meant being involved in the joys, hopes and struggles of the world….

To read the entire interview, click here.

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