The Franciscan Printery, Chicago

The Franciscans, even during World War II, began publishing some periodicals of which more will be said later. These included The Croatian Catholic Messenger from 1942, the Croatian Almanac from 1944, and the Croatian weekly Danica (The Morning Star) from 1945. On one hand these publications were necessary as an informational service to numerous Croatian immigrants, and on the other hand they conveyed a specific answer to a number of pro-Yugoslav papers which were circulated throughout the United States and had a negative influence on the Croatian immigrants. Publishing these periodicals required much effort which was aggravated by nearly insurmountable technical difficulties. The Franciscans could only publish their publication far from Chicago in an American printery located in Teutopolis, 220 miles from Chicago.

When the Franciscan friary in Chicago was purchased and renovated, the Franciscans seriously considered purchasing their own printery. Therefore, towards the end of 1946 the necessary machinery was purchased from the Slovenian printery, Edinost Publishing Company. The machinery went into the building which once served as a horse stable and now was transformed into a printery. Fr. David Zrno, Commissary, was especially insistent on purchasing this equipment. However, the name of Fr. Celestin Raguz is most closely associated with the printery. After the temporary director, Fr. Anselm Sliskovic, Fr. Celestin was named the director, and successfully administered this endeavor until 1979, a total of thirty years.

PrinteryThe printery began operating in 1947 and continues to the present. Certainly much machinery has been replaced, and there have been technical improvements. These constantly improve the quality of work in the printery. The printery was expanded in 1952 after the purchase of the building on Ellis Avenue, and additional machinery was procured. The publications of Croatian Publishing Company Croatia which were initiated by Fr. Dominic Mandic were also printed there. More new machines which in many ways facilitated the work were purchased in 1978. During all this time other friars helped Fr. Celestin, as did the Sisters who arrived in Chicago in 1968. Civilians, many of them Croatians, obtained employment through the printery. The time came when Fr. Celestin was no longer able to fulfill this demanding and strenuous position due to illness. Subsequent directors were: Fr. Karlo Zovko (1977-1980), Fr. Steve Raich (1980-1982) and Fr. Paul Maslac from 1982 until the present. Today the printery is equipped with a modern computerized system. However, since Croatia has achieved political freedom, which allows the publishing and distribution of the Croatian press, concern for the continued existence of our printery has arisen. Its irreplaceable role of issuing necessary publications was fulfilled in the best possible manner.

Fr. Vjekoslav Bambir was correct in writing:
"The Croatian Franciscans claim that for over 80 years they did much for the Croatian people in the United States and Canada. They did much as missionaries in the Croatian parishes which they often, together with the Croatian people, founded. They also were their defenders and cultural leaders who enriched them through their writings. They supported the faith and hope of the people that freedom would eventually come in their homeland. That is evidenced by the existence of their numerous parishes, cultural centers, books, magazines and newspapers. The Croatian printery has participated in this work since 1947."ą

Directors of the printery:

1947.-1977. fr. Celestin Raguž

(1961.-1966. fr. Dominik Ćorić, assistant)

1977.-1980.   fr. Karlo Zovko

1980.-1982. fr. Steve Raich

1982.-   fr. Pavao Maslać 

Publishing Activities

The Custodial Board regularly names a director for the Croatian Franciscan Publications. Together with the editors of the periodicals and the director of the printery he is responsible for the publications (Croatian Catholic Messenger, Croatian Almanac, and Danica), and also for other books, especially those for liturgical services (prayer books and rituals), various parish jubilee books, annual reports, and others. In that way Croatian Franciscan Publications has been and still is a publishing house, or umbrella organization, for everything that the Franciscans of the Custody print. Directors, among others, were: Fr. Ivo Sivric, Fr. Vendelin Vasilj, Fr. Vitomir Naletilic, Fr. Trpimir Musa, Fr. Serafin Vistica, Fr. Zoran Ostojic, Fr. Ljubo Krasic. Every magazine, newsletter, or almanac had its own editor named by the Custody. Sometimes a single publication had several more editors.

1. Croatian Catholic Messenger (1942-1994)

The Franciscans felt a need to initiate a religious publication for the numerous Croatians living in the United States during World War II. Therefore, in 1942 they started publishing The Croatian Catholic Messenger. The decision proved beneficial especially since the feared communist regime after 1945 banned and abolished almost all the Catholic publications in Croatia. We can certainly say that the Messenger assumed a role and served its purpose exceptionally well. Specifically, it educated Croatian Catholics in their faith and united them spiritually. Even though the contents of the publication were religious and spiritual, it possessed a positive Croatian feeling and spread the idea of freedom and independence for Croatia. The Messenger was a monthly publication with twelve issues a year. It was printed in a small easily readable format which was doubled in size in January, 1985. Until 1985 the cover page was stenciled in a single color such as black or white or some other variation. Then in the new enlarged format the cover page always depicted a painting, usually in blue. Finally from 1992 until 1994, the cover was printed in colors.

The Messenger was terminated in 1994. There were a number of reasons for this. However, the main reason stemmed from the proclamation of the independence of Croatia which created new conditions and relations between the immigrants and their homeland. It is very easy for Croatians living in America to purchase the Croatian Catholic press from Croatia now, no longer burdened by silence and restricted writing. As a somewhat substitute for the discontinued Messenger, the Custody, under the leadership of Fr. Paul Maslac, initiated a Custodial Newsletter. Under Fr. Slavko Soldo this Newsletter has been expanded. It contains news about events in the Custody, in the parishes served by the Custody, and also includes other newsworthy items.˛  We concur with the thoughts of Fr. Timothy Majic, the last editor of the Messenger, who wrote: "The Croatian Catholic Messenger, during its 53 years of existence, has played a major part in the intellectual and spiritual education of our immigrants who have accepted it wholeheartedly from the beginning. When it began during the difficult war year in 1942, it was the only voice in the Croatian diaspora which at that time publicly committed itself to the newly independent Croatian Republic."3

The Editors of Messenger were:

1942.-1949. fra Silvije Grubišic

1949.-1952. fra Vendelin Vasilj

1952.-1954. fra Kruno Pandžic

1954.-1958. fra Zoran Ostojic

1958.-1961. fra Ljubo Cuvalo

1961.-1967. Fra Vendelin Vasilj

1967.-1984. fra Gracijan Raspudic

1985.-1986. fra Dionizije Lasic

1986.-1992. fra Hrvoslav Ban

1992.-1994. fra Castimir Majic

2. The Croatian Almanac

The Croatian Almanac began in 1924 and was published by Ivan Kresic. It was based in New York under the title of Koledar and was advertised as the "only one in the United States." Mr. Kresic published the Koledar until 1944. Its orientation was completely pro-Croatian, and it was very critical of everything that was Yugoslav. When Mr. Kresic was no longer able to publish it he asked if the Croatian Franciscans in Chicago, who were already publishing the Croatian Catholic Messenger, would also publish the Koledar. The Franciscans purchased the Koledar and continued to publish it. The first edition in 1944 was published under the title of the Calendar of the Croatian Catholic Messenger. It continued to be very pro-Croatian, but understandably, the Catholic dimension was highlighted. Since 1945 it has been called the Croatian Almanac. Even in the first volume, news and photographs about the Croatian parishes in the United States were included.

Fr. Silvije Grubisic was named the first editor-in-chief. This Croatian Almanac, under the direction of the Croatian Franciscans, continues to be published today. It includes stories, songs, essays, and especially highlights, people and events relative to the lives of American-Croatians as well as the lifestyle of Croatians now living in their homeland, who once suffered under Serbocommunist oppression. For this reason a major portion of the 1946 edition was dedicated to the tragic destiny of the Catholic Church in Croatia including the persecution and murder of priests. The quality of the Almanac was improved with the advancement of technical skills, and thus it was more accommodating to the reading public. A large number of Croatian writers, poets, historians, philosophers, theologians, and other scholars have published items in the Almanac.

Editors of the Croatian Almanac: 

1924.-1944. Ivan Krešic

1944.-1949. fra Silvije Grubišic

1950.-1952. Fra Vendelin Vasilj

1953.-1954. fra Dominik Mandic

1955.-1958. fra Silvije Grubišic i fra Kvirin Vasilj

1958.-1961. fra Ljubo Cuvalo

1962.-1967. fra Vendelin Vasilj

1968.-1975. fra Ljubo Cuvalo

1976. Fra Hrvoslav Ban

1977.-1978. fra Dionizije Lasic

1979. fra Silvije Grubišic i fra Celestin Raguž

1980.-1982. fra Gracijan Raspudic, fra Silvije Grubišic i fra Ivo Sivric

1983.-1985. fra Gracijan Raspudic

1986. fra Dionizije Lasic

1987.-1993. fra Hrvoslav Ban

1994.-1996. fra Castimir Majic

1997.- 2006. fra Ljubo Krasic

3) Danica (The Morning Star)

In 1945, the Croatian Franciscans also purchased the Hrvatski list and Danica hrvatska in 1945 from Mr. Ivan Kresic who, after 24 years, was no longer able to publish them. For the first two years the paper was issued under the joint name Hrvatski list i Danica hrvatska, but since the end of 1946, only under the name Danica (The Morning Star). The moment at which the Franciscans took over the weekly Danica was one of most difficult in the history of the Croatian people. Thousands of Croatian patriots, soldiers, and civilians fled from the bloody communist butcher knife after the fall of the independent state of Croatia. Especially difficult was the loss of a country. murder of thousands of Croatian intellectuals and all who thought Croatian or Catholic. Because of the conditions Danica basically became a weekly political newspaper whose main purpose was to circulate the truth about Croatians, and broaden the national thoughts and ideas of an independent home. For such writing one would risk one's life in Yugoslavia. Danica simply and firmly took that stand throughout the time of its publication. The directors and editors of Danica were the Croatian Franciscans, but a number of other patriots contributed to it, among them the best Croatian news writers in the United States and elsewhere. The content of the weekly was diversified.

It delivered much news from Croatia, and gave many warnings that the creation of a communist Yugoslavia could not and would not continue to exist because of political, nationalist, ideological, economic, religious, and other reasons. The weekly consistently published news of the Croatians living abroad, especially those living on the North American continent, and their accomplishments. It spoke of persecutions in other foreign countries. There was always a special place for cultural events, especially those tied to the Croats in the homeland, as well as those living in the free world. However, regular consideration was given to specific world movements and events, as well as basic national and religious movements. Historical philosophical, theological, and related movements were also included. Dan ica was regularly published in 16 pages. In 1981 the format was shortened to 8 pages.
Danica ceased publication at the end of 1990. There were various reasons for this, but the most important was the fall of communism and Yugoslavia. The basic reason for publishing this paper ceased to exist, namely, because of the censored press in the homeland during the rule of the communist regime. The Custody decided that more emphasis had to be put on pastoral work, and that the publication of the weekly be discontinued.

The last editor of Danica, Fr. Josip Abramovic, writes in the last issue of Danica (December 21, 1990): "This paper was in no way biased, but worked for justice, dignity, and freedom among Croatian people. Dan ica tried to fight off false anti-Croatian propaganda, provide the people with true facts, and defend the right of the Croatian people to freedom and independence." Speaking of the editors of Danica, Fr. Josip writes:
"They all worked without salary. Their only motive for accepting this difficult task was the love for their people."4  The basic truth was that the main orientation of Danica was a positive Croatian stand, and its editors and associates worked at reconciling various Croatian factions.


1945.-1946. fra Ljubo Cuvalo

1950.-1951. fra Kruno Pandžic

1951. fra Zoran Ostojic

1951.-1961. fra Castimir Majic

1961.-1975. fra Ljubo Cuvalo

1975. - 1978. Urednicki odbor

1978.-1988. fra Castimir Majic

1988.-1990. fra Josip Abramovic


4. Croatian Publishing House Croatia
and the Croatian Historical Institute

Both of these publishing companies are mainly tied to the name of a well known Franciscan, Fr. Dominic Mandic, once a Hercegovinian Provincial, and later a Commissary in the United States. Visualizing a need to disseminate, publish, and promulgate beneficial and entertaining literature for the Croatian immigrants, Fr. Mandic decided to establish a publishing company which would publish books with spiritual, intellectual, entertaining, and contemporary themes. Therefore, in 1953 in Chicago, the Croatian Publishing House Croatia was established. It was a very courageous project. The goal was to publish four books a year on different topics. Due to various reasons, but mainly because of the limited appeal of such works, this project ended in 1955. During that time several valuable books were published, but the most valuable was an anthology of Croatian history written in the English language, which was put together by the best Croatian historians living abroad. The book was entitled The Croatian Nation in Its Struggle for Freedom and Independence, Chicago, 1955, editors A. Bonifacic and C. Mihanovich."5

Even though the above project did not enjoy much success, Fr. Mandic still did not want to stop issuing valuable books for the Croatian immigrants. Therefore, in 1955 in Chicago, the Croatian Historical Institute was founded. The goal of the Institute was to raise money and publish historical books outside Croatia, because at that time in Yugoslavia it was strictly forbidden to openly write about Croatian history. In 1963 a similar institute was founded in Rome became the largest number of Croatian immigrants, especially the war refugees, still lived in Europe. The Chicago Institute united with the one in Rome and merged by mutual agreement. The Institute in Rome was also run by the Franciscans, specifically, a well known editor and writer, Fr. Dionizije Lasic."6

Following are some works, mainly by Fr. Mandic, which were published by the Croatian Historical Institute: 

  • D. Mandić: Crvena Hrvatska u svijetlu povjesnih izvora, Chicago, 1957.

  • D. Mandić: Državna i vjerska pripadnost sredovječne Bosne i Hercegovine, Chicago, 1960.

  • D. Mandić: Bogomilska crkva bosanskih krstjana, Chicago, 1962.

  • D. Mandić: Rasprave i prilozi iz stare hrvatske povijesti, Rim, 1963.

  • Mandićev zbornik - u čast o. dra. Dominka Mandića prigodom njegove 75-godišnjice života, Radovi HPI u Rimu, sv.I-II, Rim, 1965.

  • Radovi HPI u Rimu, sv. III-IV, posvećeni o. Stjepanu Sakaću prigodom 80-godišnjice života, Rim, 1971.



ZiralZIRAL is an abbreviation for the original Croatian title which is translated The Community of a Publication: The Wounded Swan. This publishing house was founded in Europe, but an additional headquarters was located in the United States and Canada. In 1970 three Croatian Franciscans set in motion an idea of establishing a publishing company which would gather together the immigrant Croatian intellectuals. The initiators were Fr. Lucijan Kordic from Zurich, and Fr. Dionizije Lasic and Fr. Bazilije Pandzic from Rome. Even though ZIRAL was projected as a company independent of supervision in managerial as well as financial aspects, it still remained closely tied to the Franciscans, especially the three named above. The first president of ZIRAL was Prof. Dusan Zanko (1970-1980), and he was succeeded by Prof. Antun Nizeteo (from 1980). That was actually more of an honorary position. 

Fr. Dionizije Lasic, the editor-in-chief, was really the one who took charge and care of everything. The vice president of ZIRAL was Fr. Lucijan Kordic, the treasurer was Fr. Bazilije Pandzic, and Fr. Ljubo Krasic was the secretary. When in 1975 Fr. Dionizije Lasic moved from Rome to Chicago, ZIRAL moved to Chicago (1975-1980), and when he moved to Norval, Ontario, the headquarters moved there (1980-1984). From 1985 until 1995 the headquarters were again in Chicago."7  That year, 1995, Fr. Dionizije moved back to the homeland, and the headquarters of ZIRAL moved to Mostar. Since then it operates under the management of the Province of the Hercegovinian Franciscans and continues to be highly effective. Abroad in Rome, Chicago, and Toronto, ZIRAL publishing house has put out 66 books, which means 3 books a year were published. Only those who work in the field of publishing books know what a success that was, and especially for a small ethnic community such as the Croatians. How bitter the Yugo-communist regime was with such 'anti-establishment" activities of the Croatian Franciscans is evidenced by a simple fact that merely possessing one of their books or periodicals was cause enough to end up in the communist prisons.


1 See article by Fr. V. Bambir Hrvatska franjevacka tiskara u Chicagu. Croatian Almanac, 1996, pgs. 158-167.

2 See article by Fr. Slavko Soldo Vazno upozorenje, Croatian Catholic Newsletter 12/1994, pg. 324. Custodial Newsletter has been published since 1986 as an internal Franciscan newsletter. Since 1994 it became a 16 page quarterly, distributed among parishes and covering community news and activities of Croatian parishes. Fr. Paul Maslach was editor from 1986- 1994. Fr. Slavko Soldo is editor from 1994 until the present time.

3 Majic, Urednikova zahvala i oprostaj od citatelja, Croatian Catholic Newsletter 12/1994 pg. 325.

4 J. Abramovic, Uz posljednji broj Danice [With the last issue of Danical, Dan/ca, No. 51-52 (Dec. 21, 1990), pg. 1-2.

5 See the book Zivotopis dr. fra Dominika Mandica [Biography of Dr. Fr. Dominik Mandic] by B. Pandzic (Chicago, 1994), pp. 126-132.

6 See promotional article titled Croatian Historical Institute in Rome, Croatian Almanac 1965, pp. 151-152

7  V.D. Lasic, Kratka povijest izdavackog pothvata hrvatske knjige u slobodi ZIRAL (Short History of the publishing undertaking of the Croatian book in freedom ZIRAL], in Zbornik ZIRAL 1970-1990 (ed. L. Kordic), Chicago, 1990, pp. 130-



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