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Daily devotional booklets meet an immediate, and enduring, need

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WASHINGTON (CNS) — If they could work from home, they would.

But for the production staff of the “Little Books” series in the Diocese of Saginaw, Michigan, customer demand is running the show. And the customer is always right.

For Leona Jones, operations manager at Little Books, a partial crew is putting in 12-hour days to meet the demand. It’s not a full crew, she told Catholic News Service on one of her own days off.

“There’s somebody in the front handling the billing, and there’s somebody in the back handling the shipping,” Jones said. And don’t worry about social distancing: “There’s 20 feet between where I work and where the shipping department works.”

Jones said she wouldn’t do anything herself that she wouldn’t ask “my girls” to do. By this, Jones, 82, doesn’t mean her daughters, but her Little Books colleagues. So two go in every other weekday to tackle the orders.

“We’re doing about 300 a day,” Jones said, “and they’re almost all individual” subscriptions, with multiple-copy orders not going above 10 at a time. “We figure they’d pick them up at their churches, and since the churches are closed, they are ordering them right from us.”

Jones has been with Little Books since it started in 2001. The books offer daily reflections for different liturgical seasons with a guide to that day’s Scripture readings. They are based on the writings of the late Bishop Kenneth E. Untener of Saginaw; Jones was Bishop Untener’s secretary until he retired. She stayed on for a year and a half for his successor, now-Archbishop Robert J. Carlson of St. Louis, then slid over to the Little Books department when it was established.

She still remembers one Little Books entry where the reflection focused on a water project operated by the Franciscan sisters. “We got a really nice note from the sisters and they said people saw it in their books and sent them money” to support the project. “In fact, they’re still sending them money.” Notes like that, Jones added, are passed around the office as a testament to the good work of Little Books.

“I am quite sure that all the comments I see on our website or what we see in email are helping them, and through them are able to help other people,” said Hugues de Foucauld, CEO of Bayard North America, which publishes the “Living Faith” and “La Fe Viva” devotional booklets.

Even though the booklets — Bayard makes 500,000 copies of Living Faith every quarter — were written well before the coronavirus pandemic, de Foucauld said they continue to resonate with the reader.

“Are the Scriptures outdated, or still updated and modern? I think you have the answer,” he said. “The common theme of Scripture remains perfectly on the news, perfectly fit to what’s happened any time of the year. … You are giving a different world, a personal self, to meditate.”

“When you are the reader of a devotional, you are trying to give yourself every day the sense of what is important in your life, a sense of ‘I do need to have some time for myself, to be myself,'” he told CNS in a March 27 phone interview from Boston, “and so I truly think that even though those scriptures, those comments of Scripture have been prepared two, three, four months ago, they’re still very appropriate.”

Added de Foucauld, “My understanding that reading such a devotional as ‘Living Faith’ today can bring you peace, reading the kind of ‘I’m starting my day intentionally.'”

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Editor’s Note: The website for Little Books of the Diocese of Saginaw is https://littlebooks.org. The website of Bayard North America is http://www.bayardinc.com

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