The below article from The Catholic Spirit newspaper of the Metuchen Diocese is a feature on Caldwell University alumna Joanne Ward ‘69 .
Medal recipient honored for work in communications, journalism
Joanne Ward, associate publisher and editor-in-chief of The Catholic Spirit, received the Benemerenti medal for her “exceptional leadership in the area of diocesan communications, especially her guidance of our award-winning newspaper, which I believe has been one of our most effective tools in the cause of the New Evangelization,” said Bishop Emeritus Paul G. Bootkoski.
“Ms. Ward will soon be retiring and the Holy Father’s bestowal of this honor is a fitting tribute to her dedicated service to the Church,” he added at solemn vespers in the Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi, Metuchen, June 13.
Ward served as director of the Office of Communications from 2001 to December 2012 when the office was restructured and she assumed her current role. “I welcomed the change to concentrate on my first love – journalism – and be in a position to more directly have a positive impact on the faithful in the diocese through The Catholic Spirit,” she said.
That positive impact was evident recently after the newspaper published a story about the prison ministry of Immaculate Conception Church, Annandale. Ward said one of the deacons, Mike Meyer, emailed her to express his thanks for the article. “He said the article was already bearing fruit because another parish in the diocese had offered to help provide the ladies with Catholic reading materials,” Ward said. “He thanked us for our evangelization.”
As director of communications Ward said she was involved in helping to create videos for the Bishop’s Annual Appeal, coordinating Masses to honor the men and women law enforcement officers and firefighters, and redesigning the diocesan website. “What I liked most about the position was the challenge of never knowing what situations or problems the day would bring,” she said. “You had to be ready for anything. I was never bored and my days always flew by.”
During this time Ward was project director for the 2006 publication of a “coffee table book” to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Diocese of Metuchen. “It took months to produce and it was very well-received,” she said. “I still consider it one of my top accomplishments at the diocese.”
As editor-in-chief of The Catholic Spirit Ward said her primary responsibility was developing story ideas and obtaining photos for the paper and deciding what would be covered and how it would be presented.
Ward also wrote “many, many stories” herself, two of which earned her individual awards from the Catholic Press Association. In 2015, a story on the Pope Francis Garden, a joint project between Holy Family Parish, New Brunswick and St. Peter and Paul Byzantine Parish, Somerset, captured first place for news reporting on a local issue.
In 2014, an article on the Deacons’ Table, a ministry of The Church of the Good Shepherd in the Hopelawn section of Woodbridge Township that brings food and fellowship to attendees, earned Ward third place for news writing.
One of her top accomplishments as editor was to have The Catholic Spirit distributed in all parishes. “It took a year to get that done and we were blessed to have Bishop Paul approve such a bold move,” Ward said. She also was instrumental in establishing El Manantial, the Hispanic language newspaper of the diocese.
The special supplement recently published when Pope Francis visited Philadelphia is a memorable one for Ward. “All the stories were written by clergy, religious and laity of our diocese,” she said. Ward said it was their hope that the supplement would make readers feel proud to be Catholic and proud to be part of the Diocese of Metuchen. “From the reaction it received, I think it did,” she said.
Prior to working for the diocese Ward held various public relations positions and also worked as a legislative aide where she was responsible for speeches, press releases, newsletters and public briefings. When her husband died in 1999 Ward said she felt she needed a position that was not dependent on elections.
Applying for director of communications “was the best decision I ever made and I feel it was God’s way of taking care of me and my children,” she said. “Without a doubt, my faith has grown immeasurably and in many ways since I started working at the diocese.”
Ward received a bachelor’s degree in English from Caldwell College, Caldwell, N.J. and a master’s degree in journalism from The Pennsylvania State University, State College, Pa. She also was the recipient of the Regina Nostra medal for outstanding service to the church and diocese in 2006.
“I was very surprised when the bishop told me I was to receive a papal honor,” Ward said, “and feel it honors not only me, but also the staff of The Catholic Spirit and our freelancers whose work makes the newspaper possible.”