A monthly letter from Orbis Books Publisher, Robert Ellsberg

Robert Ellsberg

It is a pleasure to recognize another two authors honored this month by the Association of Catholic Publishers (“Excellence in Publishing Awards”): Elizabeth Johnson received a First Place Award in Theology for her edited volume, The Strength of Her Witness: Jesus Christ in the Global Voices of Women. Jim Forest (in his third award of the season) received a Third Place in General Interest for The Root of War is Fear: Thomas Merton’s Advice to Peacemakers.

Such recognition from our publishing peers affords an opportunity to say “Thank you”—words that are more than an expression of courtesy. According to the editors of our new book The Way of Gratitude, “When spoken with a grateful heart . . . ‘Thank you’ is a beat that reverberates through space, ricochets off stars, and absorbs the fire of the sun as it warms our hearts and the hearts of those who hear it. Thankfulness, appreciation, gratitude—these are modes of being that guarantee us joy.”

The editors are our own Orbis staff members, Michael Leach, James T. Keane, and Doris Goodnough. Like their previous volumes, All Shall Be Well and Goodness and Light, this volume draws on the wisdom of famous poets, philosophers, and spiritual masters from across the ages, including, in this case, David Steindl-Rast, Thich Nhat Hanh, Thomas Merton, Joyce Rupp, Anne Lamott, and Joan Chittister. Amidst such a spiritual banquet it would be hard to single out any particular pieces, but I was particularly moved by an exchange between a young fan of Harry Potter and the author J.K. Rowling, as well as by the parting wisdom of Dr. Oliver Sacks, as he contemplates his long life and his impending death.

And this letter offers me an occasion to express a personal note of gratitude to Mike Leach, who will be retiring at the end of this month after an eleven-year stint as part-time “editor-at-large,” which in turn followed his eleven years as the previous Publisher of Orbis Books. It is impossible to summarize or tabulate the contribution that Mike has made—not just to Orbis, but to the world of Catholic publishing through his prior career at Seabury Press and Crossroad Publishing. Apart from the many authors he mentored and the ideas he made public, Mike leaves behind a marvelous series of books he co-edited for us: The Maryknoll Book of Prayer, The Maryknoll Book of Inspiration, and The Maryknoll Book of Poetry--not to mention this season’s Joyce Rupp: Essential Writings in our Modern Spiritual Masters series.

For over two decades we have treasured Mike’s encouragement, his wisdom, and his friendship. But this is not goodbye. As he would surely quote his favorite movie character, E.T.: “I’ll be right here.”

And so shall we.


With warm thanks to all of you,

Robert Ellsberg

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