It can’t be a coincidence that Meg McDonnell ended up editing a magazine whose very name means “truly.”
“I have always been struck by the notion that we don’t believe certain things to be true because the Catholic Church teaches them,” she says. “Rather, the Catholic Church teaches them because they are true. In my work as an editor of a women’s lifestyle publication, we spend a lot of time thinking about what fosters meaningful, purposeful and happy lives for women and their loved ones. Repeatedly, we find that social science data for happiness in relationships, work and life support the teachings of the faith.”
Verily, whose mission is to empower and inspire women, became one of the first to adopt a “no-Photoshop policy.” Their posture is this: “We firmly believe that the unique features of women – be it crow’s feet, freckles or a less-than-rock-hard body – contribute to their beauty and don’t need to be removed or changed with Photoshop.” Therefore, they never alter the body or facial structure of their models, remove their wrinkles or birthmarks, or change the texture of their skin.
“Technology has dramatically changed how we relate to one another,” McDonnell says, “and what is expected of us as individuals and families. For women in particular there is still a lot of pressure to ‘have it all,’ and women’s happiness and fulfillment levels have not quite kept up with the rapidly changing expectations. My work at Verily is to use media to help women sort through these expectations to find what works best for her, her relationships and her work. … This has obvious benefits to the common good, because by empowering women we are also fostering better relationships between her and her loved ones.”
Verily’s mission is clearly fed through McDonnell’s studies at St. Thomas. She recalls, “It has been said that ‘journalism is the first draft of history.’ When I think of my work, I often think about this, and particularly about how my work can be a draft of how the people of God responded to the culture and the times they lived in. Ever since I was a little girl, I knew I wanted to have a job that allowed me to help people who didn’t know or love the Catholic faith come to see the beauty of her teachings. … I feel grateful for the fulfillment of this dream. Particularly, I find my work as a writer to be creating that historical draft of how people continue to desire and hold tight to the good, the true and the beautiful in a rapidly changing and sometimes very difficult culture.”
It’s a challenge she meets with great joy and Christian hope. As an undergraduate student, the Catholic Studies administrative assistants Mary Kay O’Rourke and Kathy Fell affectionately referred to McDonell and her cohort as the Giggle Gang.
“We still joyfully call ourselves that,” McDonnell recalls. “Catholic Studies helped us find and know authentic joy, and we’ve never stopped holding tight to it.”