Wife. Mother. Editor-in-chief. Art historian. Each of these describe Maria Wiering. She and her husband of 10 years have three children, and they live in St. Paul, Minnesota where she is editor-in-chief of The Catholic Spirit, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Maria holds a bachelor’s in Catholic Studies and a master’s degree in art history from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul. In our interview with Maria, she shares a little bit about the world of journalism and how she integrates her career with being a devoted wife and mother. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Radiant: You interned with The Catholic Spirit when you were in college. Did you know then that you wanted to be a journalist?
Maria Wiering: I’ve always loved writing, but I hated my first journalism classes, although I can’t remember why. A year or so later, I was majoring in communications and Catholic studies when my advisor told me about The Catholic Spirit’s internship. I got an interview and rode my bike from my university to the newspaper’s office. I was 20. The editor hired me for a semester, and due to a series of events, the internship turned into two years. I loved it — meeting new people, hearing their stories and perspectives, the privilege and challenge of sifting through information in order to make it clear for readers. I had amazing mentors who have also become friends. I joined The Catholic Spirit as a reporter following graduation, but, if my master’s degree is any indication, I still wasn’t entirely sold on a journalism career.
In Rome, I had fallen madly in love with sacred architecture, and I wanted to craft a career around that somehow. I moved to Washington and left journalism for a year, but when a job came up at the Catholic paper in Baltimore, I jumped at the opportunity. I had realized that my talents, knowledge and interests melded perfectly in this journalism niche, and I deeply desired to serve the Church and help others understand her. After three years as reporter in Baltimore, I returned to The Catholic Spirit as editor.
Radiant: When you became the editor, what was your goal for the newspaper?
Maria: I wanted The Catholic Spirit to be true, good and beautiful. That meant adhering to journalistic standards, to feature inspiring stories and be enjoyable to read, and to be attractive, so readers would leave us on their coffee tables a little longer than other papers.
It’s also important to me that in this heyday of the virtual world, we continue to publish a physical product. [It] resonates with the sacramental nature of our faith, which says that things people can experience with their senses matter. A newspaper is a long shot from holy water, but it’s a vehicle for readers to have a tangible connection with their church.
Radiant: What are your favorite kinds of stories to report on?
Maria: All sorts, but I especially like a complex story that includes a variety of perspectives, establishes historical context, upends presumptions and gives me — and hopefully the reader — something to chew on long after the last line.
Radiant: What is something about the world of journalism that others might not know?
Maria: It’s important for the editor and reporter to approach each story from the posture of a student, rather than the expert. Each event, situation and person has something to teach, and a good reporter is a good listener.
Radiant: How do you integrate your life as the managing editor of a major archdiocesan newspaper into your daily life as wife and mother. Are there challenges that come with this?
Maria: All sorts of challenges! Most are those of any mother who has a career outside the home, such as managing schedules, household logistics, condensed time for homemaking, and less flexibility and latitude for when things don’t go according to well-laid plans (which, especially with young kids, is all the time). It also means that my husband and kids need to give me the flexibility to jump quickly on a breaking story, even when it’s not convenient. I’ve left Labor Day parties to cover breaking news, or spent the beginning of social events holed up in the host’s bedroom wrapping up a story to post online. I’m rarely entirely “off.” But, I’m grateful for an employer that genuinely supports family life, and when I need to drop everything at work to handle a family situation, my team makes that happen.
My great aspiration is to be fully present to wherever I am, so when I’m working, I complete my tasks and not let things slide into my family time, and when I’m home, to set aside my phone and laptop, so I’m truly with them. At this time in my life, I feel called both to motherhood and this work, so I trust our heavenly Father to provide the grace I need. “Give us this day our daily bread” is my frequent prayer. What do I need right now? Patience? Mental clarity? A restful night sleep? That’s what I ask God for.
Radiant: What is your advice for women who desire to pursue their career alongside their motherhood?
Maria: Consider your personality and temperament, practice resilience and patience in situations where you’re easily flustered, and choose work that aligns with your passions. Develop good organizational habits. Determine your family’s priorities, because a perfectly tidy house, scratch-made meals and kids’ completed homework will rarely — if ever — align. Prayer is necessary. Nurturing your marriage, and helping your children love and know God must be your greatest priorities. Be prepared to say no to other outside obligations, even the ones you really want to say “yes” to. Seek advice and mentorship from working mothers you admire and trust. Limit Facebook and Instagram, and don’t compare yourself to other moms you only know through social media. And don’t engage in the “mommy wars.” No peace comes from that.