The following is from a letter from Father Joseph Fessio, founder of Ignatius Press.
There are many stories I could tell about all the blessings God has showered upon us during the last forty years at Ignatius Press. But one story is especially pertinent because it’s also about the next forty years of Ignatius Press—and it’s one we hope you’ll consider being a part of.
It’s a father-son story of conversion, grace, and service of the Lord.
Part 1: The Father
In 1994 we received a manuscript from a young, enthusiastic, Evangelical Protestant who, with his wife and four children, had recently come into full communion with the Catholic Church. It was called Crossing the Tiber: Evangelical Protestants Discover the Historical Church. The author was Stephen K. Ray.
It was a compellingly written manuscript and we all agreed we should publish it. There was one drawback. It seemed the author, who had spent his youth memorizing Bible verses, had skipped some of his grammar classes.
So Carolyn Lemon, our production editor who was with me at the press’s founding in 1978, took out her long red pencil and went to work. When she finished, it was a short red pencil. We sent it to Steve and he has it enshrined over his writing desk as an aid to Steve’s humility and a reminder to watch those dangling participles.
The book was a great success—both in sales and in evangelization. And Steve has gone on to write two more books for us: Upon This Rock: St. Peter and the Primacy of Rome in Scripture and the Early Church and St. John’s Gospel: A Bible Study Guide and Commentary.
But these were just the beginning of a much more ambitious project: A ten-part video series on Old Testament prophets, Jesus, Mary, the Apostles, and early Fathers of the Church. All shot on location and narrated by Steve the Indomitable. It’s called The Footprints of God and over fourteen years Steve and we have completed eight episodes, with the ninth in postproduction.
Part 2: The Son
More important to Steve and his wife, Janet, than this work for the worldwide Church was their commitment to their own ‘domestic Church’, their growing family. They wanted to pass on their Faith to their children and encourage them to be apostles also.
One of them, Jesse, began working for Lighthouse Catholic Media in Sycamore, IL, soon taking charge of the warehouse where Lighthouse’s Catholic books, CDs, and art were stored and shipped. After Lighthouse’s partial merger with the Augustine Institute in Denver, CO, the remaining operations stayed in Sycamore under a new name: 5 Stones. (Think of the five stones young David put in his slingshot pouch for his battle with Goliath.)
Ignatius formed a partnership of sorts with 5 Stones and we co-own a warehouse in nearby DeKalb.
Then last year the situation changed radically. Our good friend Neil McCaffrey, who with his brother Gene and their colleagues had been warehousing our books and fulfilling your orders for almost as long as Ignatius Press has been in existence, decided to retire and sell his warehouse— so he could get into politics!
The warehouse in DeKalb isn’t large enough to handle all our inventory (42 semi-trailers’ worth!), and there’s no room for expansion, so we decided to build a larger warehouse both to house all our books and to be the office for 5 Stones, which will provide fulfillment and other services for Ignatius Press as well as for a growing number of other Catholic organizations.
That’s where Jesse Ray’s help has proven invaluable. He worked with me closely on the design of a warehouse that would be ideal for the future needs of Ignatius Press and 5 Stones. And it’s really magnificent. Construction started in May of this year, and is scheduled to be finished by the end of the year—if we can pay for the completion.
You see, there’s a small problem—caused entirely by me. When I made a rough estimate of the cost of the land and new warehouse—upon which estimate we bought the property and engaged a local contractor—I was a little off. Only about $2 million, though.
We dug deep in our pockets, and then had some providential but totally unexpected help from one of our dedicated readers. A generous donor made a substantial contribution to help. So we’re close to being able to finish the warehouse—but not there yet.
We’re praying that you will be inspired to help us move into our next forty years of providing solid Catholic books and films by helping Steve Ray, Jesse Ray, and the rest of the Ignatius Press family finish both The Footprints of God and our new warehouse.
From now on, when I think about the 5 Stones, I’ll try to think of David and Goliath. This may be a slight challenge because I’m so used to thinking of Mick and Keith et al. !
Hope these good-hearted people are not building a big warehouse to store CDs! [What’s next 8Track/Betmax???]
Well I just bought Crossing the Tiber for Kindle. No warehouse needed, almost pure profit for both of them.
fr fessio has probably done more for the defense of the faith and the deepening of catholic spiritual in the turbulent post vatican ii period than all the liturgical commissions and icel committee meetings ever could have imagined. and this on a world-wide level far beyond the publications aspect of his ignatian ministry.
In my own dream world, the remaining faithful Jesuits, like Spitzer and Fessio (who easily deserve our praise), will establish a reform of the Society of Jesus, much like St. Teresa of Avila helped establish the reformed Discalced Carmelites.
Another great thing Fr. Fessio has done for the Catholic Church in California was mentoring Fr. Joseph Illo.