WAUKESHA — St. George Publishing, a major producer of bulletins and printed media in Wisconsin, recently announced it is ceasing operations.

In an open letter to the parishes which subscribed to its services, dated Feb. 20, St. George’s president Steven P. Karides wrote: “economic conditions and the sharp decline in advertising sponsorship have, unfortunately, made it impossible for St. George to continue… Regretfully, St. George will cease printing bulletins and newsletters as of March 5, 2012…. We appreciate your past support, but sadly find no alternative to closing our family business.”

newsletterPictured above is the Dec. 11, 2011 St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Milwaukee bulletin, published by St. George.Susan M. Karides, vice president of the Waukesha-based St. George Publishing, Inc., added that “difficulties currently occurring within the Milwaukee Archdiocese, as well as other dioceses,” also contributed to its demise.

The company listed 13 employees on its website, including designers and bindery operators and sales associates. It formed 11 years ago, when employees of Liturgical Publications Inc. broke away to start the venture.

Karides provided neither specific numbers for the quantity of bulletins printed annually nor specific parishes and organizations served, but the number is easily in the dozens and may be closer to 100, and includes Milwaukee’s Blessed Sacrament, SS. Cyril, Methodius & St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Gregory the Great, and SS. Peter & Paul. Others include: Whitefish Bay’s Holy Family, Menomonee Falls’ St. James, LeRoy’s St. Mary & St. Andrew, Madison’s SS. Mary & John, and St. Anne, Pleasant Prairie.

The March 5 closure date was less than fortuitous for those involved – with the faithful engrossed in Lent, and parishes facing one of the liturgical year’s busiest holidays in Easter. But while few parishes were willing to comment officially for the Catholic Herald, several requesting anonymity said the transition had been smooth.

One parish leader from Sacred Heart, Horicon, said St. George’s closure “wasn’t a real big challenge. They let us know back in February, and we just switched publishers.”

Chiara Sainer, pastoral associate at St. Gregory the Great, has worked for several parishes in similar capacities over the years. She noted that parish-publisher relationships are generally “cooperative working relationships.”

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“The idea is to get the information out, so if a company is having any difficulties, we swing with what needs to get done and move along,” she said. “We would never wish any ill will or make any judgments on an entity, because we are not running that business and are not challenged by what may be other issues for them. Any disruption of services is a non-issue.”

Several regional publishers are ready and willing to pick up the slack, including LPI inNew Berlin, and J.S. Paluch of Franklin Park, Ill.

Mary Prete, vice president for sales at J.S. Paulch, was quick to point out that “it’s very a difficult time and climate for all local businesses. St. George called several weeks ago, and said they’d like someone to make sure churches aren’t in trouble with the community, especially during Lent.”

Bill Rafferty, of J.S. Paluch, agreed to print bulletins for any former St. George customers for free, Prete said, “for as long as it takes them to make a good sound decision.”

“I, myself, don’t think it was necessarily a good business decision,” said Prete. “But he pointed out that we’ve been in business for 100 years and it was the right thing to do. Pressuring is not our way.”

“We don’t want to force anyone in a tight spot into a contract,” she said. “Folks are free to do their good due diligence and research and homework, but until then we’ll print for free.”

J.S. Paluch will also open its resource library of intellectual properties , including catechetical, editorial, liturgical, musical, prayer and worship content, to former St. George customers, Prete said.

“We have a lot lined up already,” she said, “including Lenten activities and suggestions for alms giving. And we’ll be putting out at least 27 (new) bulletins this week and next.”