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Each year for the last twenty years, a number of us, former U.S. Jesuits (mainly from the California and Oregon Provinces), have met to renew our connections and at the same time consider how we might advance the concern for goodness and justice that had been a major emphasis in our training.
We called ourselves Compañeros/Companions, after the quasi-military Spanish phrase Ignatius Loyola used for his Company of Jesus, and incorporated as a religious 501c(3) organization under the name West Coast Compañeros Inc (WCCI).
At the Companions' annual reunion (held in Santa Barbara this year at the beginning of February), our board resolved to produce a monthly journal of religion and culture, JUST GOOD COMPANY. We hope to involve other former Jesuits in this adventure and, indeed, any one who shares our interest in promoting a dialogue with the world we live in. Cardinal John Henry Newman once wrote about the ideal university as “a place where great conversations happen.” In JUST GOOD COMPANY, we will promote great conversations. Nothing is more fun than a great conversation. If this kind of fun appeals to you, please read on. And then please pass this on to the most interesting and exciting people you know. We will need you all as eventual readers and contributors.
The following Q. and A. pretty much explains what we want to do and how we propose to do it.
Q. Will this be a Catholic magazine?
A. We’d like to produce a magazine that will be more catholic than Catholic. It will certainly not be a journal of advocacy for the hierarchical Church. Rather this: an intelligent forum that will draw the attention of thoughtful people everywhere, and appeal, ultimately, to all men and women of good will.
Q. Will this be a Jesuit magazine?
A. The publishers and editors are former Jesuits. Many of us are still Jesuits at heart, trying to make a difference in the world. To begin with, we intend to promote JUST GOOD COMPANY through an international network of former Jesuits, Jesuits, and the many millions of Jesuit alumni around the world. That will be a pretty good start.
Q. Still Jesuits at heart? What does that mean?
A. Worldwide, there are now more ex-Jesuits than Jesuits. Many of us still live our lives trying to answer the challenge and the charge of Ignatius Loyola. While he was still a layman, he ended his renowned Spiritual Exercises with an invitation, that we try to see God in all things and all things in God, as we go about our work in the world.
Q. Where does Jesus fit into this vision?
A. We make our own his mission statement, that he had come so we may have life and have it more abundantly. In our Novitiate days, we were told that this "life" was the "supernatural life of sanctifying grace." Now, we will put a less pious and more secular spin on Jesus’ words, but we will be borrowing the spin from St. Ignatius himself, who invited us to see ourselves as principal players in a world that was basically good – good, because it was redeemed by Christ. It was a call for us to get involved in the world – in its art, its science, its literature, its music, its drama, its economy, its sports, even that sport called politics. When we do this, we are having life, and having it more abundantly. This is the tone we would like to strike in JUST GOOD COMPANY, that the world is charged with the grandeur of God, and if you want to know how it is so charged, you can read all about it in JUST GOOD COMPANY.
Q. Isn’t this going to be an expensive proposition?
A. The unique thing about JUST GOOD COMPANY is this: we won’t have to rent offices, we won’t have any print or paper bills, and no budget for postage. The magazine will exist only in cyberspace. We will use the technology of the World Wide Web to provide a free forum for all men and women of good will who are able to join us in our updated pursuit of an old goal: God's glory.
Q. God’s glory? Doesn’t God already have all the glory She needs?
A. Like many old notions, this one needs updating for the 21st century. Surprisingly enough, we find a fourth-century figure, St. Irenaeus, giving us a formulation that works today: “God’s glory is humanity fully alive.” And so, with JUST GOOD COMPANY, we’d like to appeal to men and women of every faith tradition (and of no particular faith tradition) who might be heading in that same direction, whether they have ever formulated the goal in these particular words or not – helping humanity come fully alive.
Q. How will you do that?
A. Logically enough, on a planet where people cannot come fully alive because the world they live in is so notably lacking in peace and justice, we’d like to focus, among other things, on peace and justice issues. We hope JUST GOOD COMPANY can, therefore, be a prophetic voice in the world, along the lines of the Brazilian Paulo Freire's notion of the educator-as-prophet, who, according to Freire, denounces “what stinks to high heaven, and announces the good news.” The good news is this: that we have been empowered, as Jesus the prophet said, “to have life and have it more abundantly.”
Q. Prophecy? Prophets? Sounds pretty grand, pretty self-important.
A. The fact is that the prophets of the Old Testament were all very ordinary, un-prepossessing men who made an impact on their world not by reason of their status or their power, or even by their intelligence or their tricky rhetoric, but by reason of this, that they were not afraid to speak the simple and rather obvious truths that were staring them in the face. (The famous Little Boy who observed that the passing King wore no clothes was, in this sense, a prophet.)
Q. Why the name JUST GOOD COMPANY?
A. “Company” conjures up the original Spanish name for the Society of Jesus, the Compañia de Jesús, but there is already a fine U.S. Jesuit magazine called COMPANY. And so, in a brain-storming session, we added the word “Good,” because we felt that our readers would enjoy being “in good company.” But then we found we couldn't use GOOD COMPANY on the Web, because it was already taken in all of its .com, .org, .net extensions -- by escort services! Then one of our members, thinking of Vatican II’s hi-priority emphasis on "faith doing justice," came up with the added word JUST, the adjectival form of "justice."
Q. But doesn’t JUST GOOD COMPANY also have a self-deprecating ring to it?
A. Well, JUST GOOD COMPANY is a megalomaniacal idea, so we probably need a dash of modesty.
A. We have high hopes. We hope we can, eventually, bring in 100,000 to a million readers from around the world, partly because JUST GOOD COMPANY will be free, partly because the word will soon get around that this is an independent catholic magazine that speaks the truth – about religion and the culture that surrounds us.
Q. How can a magazine be both Catholic and independent? Isn’t that an oxymoron?
A. Notice that we are spelling catholic with a small c. It will be a subtle reminder that we enjoy no official status, not in the Church, not among the Jesuits, and, frankly, we do not want an official status. That would restrict our freedom to produce a monthly forum of ideas for anyone and everyone determined to have life and have it more abundantly. JUST GOOD COMPANY will provide a forum for those who do not believe in Catholic-art, or Catholic-science, or Catholic-literature. The worlds of art, of science, of literature – of journalism itself – have their own intrinsic rules of excellence. We do not believe in hyphenated learning.
Q. Are there any other Catholic magazines like yours?
A. JUST GOOD COMPANY will strive for an independence that few if any Catholic magazines have ever had. Lord Acton tried to start such a magazine in England about 140 years ago, if memory serves correctly, and he folded it under pressure from the English hierarchy. This is the same Acton who wrote that "power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely." By producing a magazine that is both independent and catholic, we hope to signalize a new era in the history of the Church, where apologists often assert "the Church has nothing to fear from the truth," while Churchmen often do their darndest to suppress it. The freedom of the Internet itself has already helped to promote greater freedom of expression – everywhere.
Q. A good many Catholic journals are limping along; they lament the fact that their old subscribers are dead or dying, and that younger folks are simply not subscribing like their parents did. Does the world need another Catholic magazine?
A. This is one reason why we are going on the Web. We don’t need a big budget to make our presence felt there. Furthermore, it’s a place where everyone gathers, young, middle-aged, and older folks. (In the U.S., half the population now has email. In a few years, email will be as ubiquitous as the telephone.) There are no gatekeepers in cyberspace, to stop us from speaking the truth to power, or deny us access to everyone between Nome and Tierra del Fuego. We want to reach the whole world. The Web seems to be a new kind of launch pad we can use to make that outreach.
Q. When will we see your first issue?
A. Sometime around Thanksgiving. We are actually planning three issues right now. But we won’t go public with the first one until we have the right mix of features, and the right design. We want a cyberspace magazine that is easy to download and easy to read, and we are in the process of finding the right professionals who can help us do that.
Q. Who will write for you?
A. We already have a network of writers in the wings, many of them coming from a Jesuit background, but we want to let others know we have an open forum that will welcome different points of view on how they would help make humanity come alive. If you’ve received this message, you qualify to send us the names and email addresses of great writers, known and unknown, especially writers with burning ideas who are looking for an audience they can set on fire. Then we can have a kind of prophecy-site, in the Old Testament sense of the word prophecy. We know a few atheists and agnostics, the kind of guys and gals Pope John XXIII would have embraced because they are, ummm, good people who are trying to make a difference in the world. We would like to bring them into our good company... and have them write for us, and help us connect with their worlds, where, we know, other good people gather. Anyone can write prophetically: Moslems, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, even atheists and Jesuits. And ex-Jesuits.
Q. How will people know what kind of articles you want?
A. They can tell, simply by reading our first issues. We have another wrinkle: Most publications are pretty hush-hush about their plans for upcoming big stories. We will take the opposite approach, letting our readers know the subjects we plan to address in the months ahead, and inviting their suggestions, perspectives, and contributions. That would pre-build some interest, give our readers some sense of ownership, and help us discover new authors. For example, we’d like to devote a whole, early issue of JUST GOOD COMPANY to “The Future of the Jesuits.” So… come at us with your thoughts on this subject.
Send them to:JustGoodCompanyfirstname.lastname@example.org
By the way, submissions should follow the Chicago Manual of Style, and should be delivered as Microsoft Word attachments.
Q. Will you print fiction?
A. Why not? Few magazines do so, today, because they can’t afford the space. On the Web, we don’t have space limitations. So we can publish not only short stories, but even novels – probably in serial form, as Charles Dickens used to do. We will also publish poetry. We have already hired a Poetry Editor. He is Donald Junkins, a polymath professor of English (retired) from the University of Massachusetts, whose poetry has been published in The New Yorker. He has had nine books of his own poetry published. He is a world-wide lecturer on Ernest Hemingway. (He was also an All-New England defensive back in the 1950s, and an advance man for the 1968 presidential campaign of Robert F. Kennedy.)
Q. Will you have an editorial board?
A. We are now in the process of recruiting an editorial board of men and women who can scout new writing talent, and help keep us faithful to our mission, a board that will help us think ecumenically, help us break down old and we hope outmoded barriers between men and women of different religions, and of no religion. If you’ve received this message, consider yourself present at a new creation. Your reward: you get to send us your nominations for our independent board. For anything other than submissions our business address is
Q. How will you handle controversial issues?
A. When we deal with issues that need airing, we intend to be even-handed. There’s an awful lot of certainty in the world, maybe too damn much. We can use a dose of healthy skepticism. So, ideally, where there are two or more valid positions on a given subject, we’d like to commission pieces from advocates for each of those positions, and run them in the same issue. That will help make JUST GOOD COMPANY "a place where great conversations happen."
Q. The Web has millions of sites. How do you propose to get noticed?
A. Good question. In fact, it is our key question. One of our friends, Alex Auerbach, a former business editor for The Los Angeles Times, puts it this way:
The major stumbling block of most Websites is they are too damn easy to create. Imagine if anyone could easily create a full-color magazine. How many of the resulting publications would be a Time or Esquire? What attracts readers, and keeps them coming back, is a richness of content, attractively presented and relevant to their interests. Even then, they have to be hammered on the head fairly regularly to remind them that it's there for them to read. Print magazines accomplish the latter by arriving in your mailbox. Online publications don't have that luxury. Finding, attracting and retaining an audience is an enormous challenge, regardless of whether the 'zine is for profit or for God.
We have an initial advantage. We start with a special community of interest, an international network of ex-Jesuits, Jesuits and millions of Jesuit alumni. If at the very beginning we can produce something intellectually exciting for them, something they cannot find anywhere else, we will have made a good start.
After that, we have to find ways of getting the word out to a wider audience. We have some preliminary ideas on how to do that, and we are also open to your suggestions. We think we can make co-op arrangements with the owners of other websites, like America magazine, for instance, and the prayer site of the Irish Jesuits, Sacred Space, at http://www.jesuit.ie/prayer/ which gets more than 6,000 hits a day. America magazine can send its readers to JUST GOOD COMPANY. We can send our readers to America, or to Sacred Space through what are known as “hyperlinks.” And so on, with a myriad of other Catholic and Christian sites that are out there in cyberspace. Networking is the key here, something that is done especially well on the Internet. (We hear that religion sites also do well online; they are now surpassing sites that feature pornography.) We will also seek to make a splash in the public prints, hoping that our stuff will start a buzz going among Catholics, among Christians, among anyone interested in religion and culture.
Q. Will you have a Spanish Edition?
A. We are giving this serious consideration. To do that, we’d need an infusion of some dollars, or pesos, or … whatever, principally to pay translators whose native language is Spanish. Any volunteers out there? But this raises another, more radical question: if we have a Spanish edition, we should have a certain number of articles written out of Latin America and Spain. Then we would have a truly international magazine, not merely an Anglo-American magazine translated into Spanish. We have a feeling that, if this is supposed to happen, a Spanish edition will evolve.
Q. How will you know when JUST GOOD COMPANY is a success?
A. We aren’t looking for commercial success. We will be pleased if we can, over the next two years, attract 100,000 regular readers across a wide ecumenical and inter-faith spectrum. We have technology at hand that can tell us how many folks visit our site, and how many keep returning. This technology can even tell us how many people read each article – which is something that the best newspapers and magazines in the world cannot do. We will have other indications to measure our success. For example, letters to the editor, of which we plan to print a good many.
Q. Will you print every letter that comes in?
A. No. We have high standards, and we would like to think that getting a letter printed in JUST GOOD COMPANY will be something of a literary coup, a privilege, not a right. When our Letters Editor regards a letter, he or she will put a premium on clarity, verve, zest and iconoclastic wit more than perfect grammar. If letter writers don’t got good grammar, but do have good ideas, we can fix their grammar.
Q. How much will a subscription cost?
A. Nothing. The folks who inhabit cyberspace are used to getting their information free; paid online magazines usually need a subsidy to sustain them. (Slate has a Bill Gates. A confession: we’d like to find a Bill Gates.) And collecting money would not only bore us, it wouldn’t be worth our time and effort.
Q. But you will have subscriptions?
Q. So, what good is a subscription?
A. With a subscription, we will notify you by email that a new issue has hit cyberspace. The notice will include an overview of the month’s top features, and a link to our web address http://justgoodcompany.com. Click there and you’ll be in JUST GOOD COMPANY. (If you do it now you will visit our proto-site. Be careful. It’s still under construction, and you don’t want to get hit by any falling beams.)
Q. Can people visit who are not subscribers?
A. Yes. We will have no gatekeepers, no passwords. People who hear of it, can just go there and browse, copy and download an article, and, if they give us and the author credit, pass it on to their friends. We would hope that if they like what they see, they will keep coming back to re-join the conversation represented in JUST GOOD COMPANY.
Q. But you will need some funding?
A. Yes. We will need some funding to edit and deliver JUST GOOD COMPANY. But we don’t need enormous funding, perhaps no more than $10,000 a month, $120,000 for an entire year. This will pay our techies, our server-charges, our editors and our contributors. This is an absurdly low outlay, compared to magazines in print, which cost millions to mount, and often go belly up for lack of advertising support.
Q. Where will you get your funding?
A. We hope to get contributions from individuals, from corporations and from foundations that have some sympathy for what we are doing.
Q. Will JUST GOOD COMPANY carry advertising?
A. This is a bit premature, but, when we have won a large number of regular readers, we can carry ads from businesses that would like to reach our special audience. We suspect these potential advertisers would likely be book publishers. We could also earn income by directing our readers to booksellers on the Internet who would give us (small) sales commissions. There may be other sources of income that we are overlooking right now. Please let us know what we are forgetting. (If we should be fortunate enough to make “a profit,” the WCCI has a number of apostolic works that can use the money, and we will not be shy telling our readers about those works.)
Q. What else does WCCI do?
A. WCCI already has an association with the Jesuits’ California and Oregon Provinces in a number of their works, some led by the Jesuits, some led by us. Our Robert Holstein, for example, has spearheaded a movement to involve students and faculty from all of the Jesuit colleges and universities in the U.S. (and others with no special Jesuit affiliation) in an annual public protest against the U.S. Army’s murderous School of the Americas at Ft. Benning, Georgia. Holstein’s Ignatian Family Teach-In, is tied to U.S. Jesuit universities and secondary schools, but not in a legal sense. The impetus and the organizing comes from WCCI and Holstein. Other members of WCCI are running or contributing to social outreach and literary programs in Mexico, Haiti and in Central America. For further information, visit
Q. What can we do right now?
A. If you received this email, you are among our special, founding friends. You can suggest story ideas, books to review, submit that story you’d been saving for a rainy day or….
You can help us raise some money in a number of ways:
1. Make out a check to WCCI (with the notation, JUST GOOD COMPANY) in U.S. dollars or Euros or yen – or whatever, and send it to:
702 Cree Drive
San Jose, CA 95123-4614
2. Help us raise start up funds, by sending email to people you know who have the ability to help us, and ask them to make out their checks to WCCI (with the notation, JUST GOOD COMPANY) and send them to:
702 Cree Drive
San Jose, CA 95123-4614
3. Or, give us the names and (preferably e-mail) addresses of people you know who might be intrigued enough to give us some financial support for this experiment.
You can tell them that WCCI is a 501c(3) organization, which means that their contributions are tax-deductible. Our treasurer, David Van Etten, will send them an acknowledgement that they can show their tax preparers and/or the IRS.
Robert Blair Kaiser, editor
Doug McFerran, managing editor
Robert R. Rahl, technical advisor
You can email any of us with questions, comments and suggestions at email@example.com.
We hope you do, to tell us what you think….
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