Open Pilgrim from 1873 to 1876, then still “organ of the general council of pilgrimages”, it is to plunge into a time when all the energy of the title is put at the service of the Christian renewal of the country. Dates of pilgrimages, news from the local committees of the Notre-Dame-de-Salut association, organization of novenas and subscriptions (for “the sick poor”, “the construction of the parish church of Lorudes”, etc.) occupy most of the pages. The editorial staff regularly publishes the amount of donations: Torcy committee, 50 francs; Miss Bick, in Paris, 20 francs; Mrs. widow Ribon, 5 francs. And reminds the generous “zealots” that the work of Notre-Dame de Salut “offers a free weekly subscription to anyone who collects the figure of fifty francs in subscriptions during the year.”
But at the end of 1876, the newspaper peaked at 400 copies. His reading, somewhat monotonous, has she tired subscribers? From the revised formula of January 1877, its editor-in-chief, Father Vincent de Paul Bailly, enlisted the reader in a new battle: that of the distribution of the title. Because at the end of the 19th century, any additional subscriber is a recruit removed from the anticlerical camp! Crowdfunding and its famous “compensations” do not yet exist, but the editor-in-chief is not short of ideas: “Any former subscriber who will provide two new subscribers to the work of the Pilgrim will be entitled to receive his subscription on good paper”, he promised on August 2, 1886.
Bringing “good press” to life
Readers get down to business. In the department of the North, relates in 1887 The Cross of Committees, “we note an increase of 20,000 numbers of the Pilgrim for eighteen months. This magnificent success is due to the dedication of the young sellers who are not afraid to shout it in the streets and in the public squares.” This so-called “propagandist” reader, who pays in person to publicize the titles of the Good Press, foreshadows the reader-broadcaster who flourished in the first half of the following century.
Watching over the renewal of the press stand present in his parish, not hesitating to go door-to-door, the latter is often linked to his magazine by a long loyalty: “I was a reader-broadcaster in my parish as a child , and now, Pilgrim is on our family table from Thursday noon”, testified a subscriber in 2020. It must be said that Father Roger Guichardan, at the head of the weekly from 1935 to 1973, never ceased to involve his readers. The entry into the war forced Pilgrim to stop? “Let everyone know that he has returned”, he exclaimed in November 1940 in the first editorial of the Foyer, a lighter version of the title, published in the free zone. In October 1956, Pilgrim inaugurates a state-of-the-art web offset press. “La Maison de la Bonne Presse has made a colossal effort. You, make us new friends”, he urges them.
For a united society
In the post-war period, the spread of Pilgrim becomes more professional, and volunteer committees are gradually dying out. In a world in full recomposition between countries of the North and the South, the weekly opens up to other forms of solidarity. As its readers invest in the Catholic Action movements, it echoes their aspiration for greater social justice. Her Almanac Annual Report of 1957 thus opens with a pressing appeal from Cardinal Maurice Feltin, Archbishop of Paris, to “support the great campaign launched by Pax Christi against the scourge of hunger.” At the end of the 1970s, its editor-in-chief left to report with the CCFD in Dakar. The beginning of a long collaboration, still in force, which will effectively amplify the NGO’s Lenten campaigns.
The title also engages in public debate by launching citizen petitions. In 2007, he called on his readers to support his campaign against tax havens. The dozens of postal bags containing a few thousand petitions are sent in person to Claude Guéant, Nicolas Sarkozy’s secretary general. Coincidentally, on January 22 of the same year, Abbé Pierre died. “Immediately, our competitor, the magazine La Vie, mobilized its readers to demand its beatification. Everyone was campaigning for their paradise!” Recounts smiling René Poujol, then editorial director.
From France to Togo
During the following decades, calls for generosity from readers multiplied in all directions. Two operations will however mark the life of the editorial staff, by their duration as by the quality of the partnerships forged. The first, “100,000 cards, 100,000 smiles”, launched during Advent 1993 with RTL, then renamed “Les Cœurs d’Or” and continued with Europe 1, will make it possible to redistribute tens of thousands of francs for thirteen years – then euros – to the highlighted associations. From 2004, the magazine’s website even offers live monitoring of the evolution of the kitty thanks to a “donation barometer.” But in the hearts of readers, it is undoubtedly the long-term support given to Sister Marie Stella, a Togolese nun with “1000 children”, who will leave the deepest mark. (see box opposite). From the 2000s, many of them, by sponsoring an orphan, made a lifelong commitment to this magnificent work.
A support fund to build the future
And today? More than ever, Pilgrim knows how to count on its readers. In February 2023, faced with the increase in the price of paper and a tense economic context, our title launched a support fund on its pages. His goal? Allow readers to contribute to the development of new audio and video formats, to the enrichment of the digital offer. The latter have responded: with 65,000 euros collected, the results have greatly exceeded the announced objective of 50,000 euros. The adventure goes on.