ST.FRANCIS – Since St. George Publishing Inc. ceased operation March 5, after 11 years of business, because of “economic conditions and the sharp decline in advertising sponsorship,” parishes have scrambled to get their bulletins printed elsewhere.

In a letter dated Feb. 20 sent to bulletin and newsletter customers, St. George informed them that operations would cease and recommended J. S. Paluch Company in Franklin Park, Ill., for bulletin publishing service.

However, New Berlin-based Liturgical Publications Inc. also came to the rescue and printed bulletins for free for 54 churches last weekend, according to Pat Cannon, president of the company celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. He said LPI will print parishes’ bulletins for free in the short term, no questions asked, and then in the long term work with them to form an agreement that is “fiscally prudent.”

“We got all their bulletins to them on time and we redesigned every single ad on all of their ad grids to provide the advertisers with the coverage and our people were just fantastic in that effort – they were working 12 and 14 and 16 hours a day….” Cannon said of the company’s graphic designers, church customer service people and church technical support people.

Because LPI uses a different system, they had to redo the churches’ templates and each ad, and train the people in the churches to use them.

“LPI’s employees saw this as part of their mission and they rose to the occasion like you wouldn’t believe and I couldn’t be more proud of how they helped these churches,” he said.

LPI sent the 107 known St. George accounts an email presenting LPI as another option, and held an open house so they could see the company’s employees, processes, products and services available, Cannon said. The open house drew dozens of church staff, according to Cannon.

Bryan Martin, administrator for 12 years at Nativity of the Lord Parish, Cudahy, said he attended the open house with the parish secretary, Mary Jo Hallfeld, and the operation was “very professional.”

“As soon as you walked through the door you were treated with respect as a customer and they knew that this was an upheaval for the parishes with Lent and everything going on so they took the bull by the horns,” he said, “and, plus, technically, they’re printing our bulletins for free because the advertisers on that paid St. George, so Liturgical actually is printing bulletins for nothing.”

The transition was easy and the people at LPI were “warm and welcoming,” Martin said, noting that the day he called, someone from the company came out to the parish to meet with him and Hallfeld, who planned to print the bulletin like a newsletter on a few sheets of paper if they didn’t have someone lined up.

The parishioners didn’t seem to notice a change, according to Martin.

Fr. Gregory Spitz, pastor of Our Lady Queen of Peace, Milwaukee, said that unless they told the parishioners about the switch, he didn’t think many would have noticed at his parish. The business manager sent out an email to the Business Administrators of the Milwaukee Archdiocese looking for a recommendation, and the resounding result was LPI because of the quality and the fact that it was local. The transition was also easy because LPI downloaded its program for the church and walked the bulletin editor through it on the phone, he said.

“It was pretty much almost a nonevent because it was so simple,” said Fr. Spitz, noting that the company has been very sensitive to what they’re going through.

“LPI deserves a pat on the back for this one. They really showed some class and they’re taking a hit, I mean, they’re publishing with no income from those advertisers so, they deserve a real pat on the back,” he said.

Cannon said the company understands the bind the situation put churches in. He said not only did the churches lose their bulletin publisher during the middle of Lent, but they also lost out on rebates promised to them by St. George Publishing.

“The St. George product – it was attractive. Churches looked at it. It was a very high-end quality, but it was an unworkable business model because they tried to use all digital technology and compete on rebates and it effectively was close to a ponzi scheme in that they had a higher cost product but they were still competing on dollars. From the churches’ perspective, it seemed too good to be true, and it, in fact, oftentimes, as our mothers all told us, if something looks too good to be true, it probably is and that was the case here,” he said.

As of press time, Cannon said it’s undeterminable how many bulletins LPI will print this weekend, but his company will continue to help the parishes. “Our people are rising to the challenge to ensure that no parish goes without a bulletin no matter how late in the week they are able to provide their information,” he said.

Attempts to contact St. George Publishing for comment were unsuccessful.