The Denver Catholic was born on March 17, 1900—St. Patrick’s Day—with the cover printed in green ink in honor of the saint. That it has lasted more than a century is largely due to the dedication and vision of one of its early editors, Msgr. Matthew Smith, who led the paper under the name The Denver Catholic Register from 1913-1960.
Msgr. Smith was a 22-year-old lay journalist when he took over the then-struggling newspaper, which was $4,000 in debt and had a circulation of just 2,800.
Deciding on a plan of “work and prayer,” the scrappy editor boosted circulation by turning the paper into a lively must-read publication, which under his leadership played a key role in ending the Ku Klux Klan’s power in the state in the mid-1920s.
In 1927, by now an ordained priest of four years, Msgr. Smith, convinced of the need to grow the presence of the Catholic press, bought a facility at 938 Bannock St. in central Denver equipped with presses, established a national edition—the National Catholic Register—and founded the Register System of Newspapers, which was a huge success.
At its peak in the 1950s, the Register System of Newspapers published some 35 diocesan papers and the national edition, boasting a combined weekly circulation of some 850,000.
On Dec. 6, 1954, Time magazine featured Msgr. Smith in a story headlined: “Catholic Press Lord.”
“As editor and boss of the Catholic Register, he is not only the No. 1 press lord of Catholicism,” declared Time, “but he runs the biggest and most successful chain of religious newspapers in the world.”
Our legacy and future
When Msgr. Smith died in 1960, he had headed the Denver Catholic Register for 47 years.
Eventually, changes in technology made it possible for dioceses to publish their own newspapers, which led to the sale of the Register System of Newspapers and its building in the 1970s. The legacy of that era in our history continues in that several of the papers once published by the Register are still in existence, including the National Catholic Register.
On the Register’s 100th birthday, Father Daniel Flaherty, who served as an editor and business manager under Msgr. Smith, told the Register he was convinced it had played a key role in the beginning of diocesan newspapers.The Denver Catholic Register’s sister publication, the award-winning Spanish-language monthly newspaper, El Pueblo Católico, started as a special section in the Register. It became a stand-alone paper in 1997.
Over the last century, the Denver Catholic, and now El Pueblo Católico, have witnessed numerous changes in the newspaper business in our service to the faithful of northern Colorado, but our goal has stayed constant: we aim to inform, inspire and engage you with the Gospel and the Catholic Church. Just as Msgr. Smith saw the need 100 years ago to claim print media to proclaim the good news, so today the Denver Catholic and El Pueblo Católico are claiming new media for the new evangelization. The good news has never been needed more. With God’s grace and your prayerful support, we plan to boldly serve the Gospel far into the future.