Randy Engel
Catholic Castle -- a monthly online magazine for the Catholic family
An Interview with the Editor and Creators of Catholic Castle
By Randy Engel
October 8, 2013

Randy Engel: I'd like to thank you David, and your wife Rosemary and daughter Helen for the opportunity to discuss your very exciting literary breakthrough in Catholic children's literature, Catholic Castle. Would you mind taking a few minutes each to introduce yourselves to Renew American readers and to explain the role that you play in the development and publication of Catholic Castle?

David Fielding : Well, Randy, I am an Englishman who converted to Catholicism from the Church of England, almost fifty years ago largely through my contact with Padre (now Saint) Pio of Pietrelcina. I wrote to him just two years before he died, and received a brief handwritten note dictated by him to one of his secretaries which addressed my concerns and assured me of Pio's prayers. At that time I received a sudden and complete understanding that the Catholic faith was the true faith.

For 15 years I served as a schoolmaster and later entered a Benedictine monastery, but my vocation laid elsewhere, in creating and publishing literary works for children. When I came to America I found a kindred spirit in my future wife, Rosemary. Catholic Castle contains the distilled experience of twenty years in Catholic publishing.

Rosemary Fielding: I am a "cradle Catholic." I graduated from Duquesne University with a B.A. in English and went on to teach writing and literature in local parochial schools in the Pittsburgh Diocese and later in private schools and at the university level.

I met David in 1995, we married and have a wonderful daughter, Helen, whom I home schooled, and still do. I have continued to write for numerous Catholic publications including Our Sunday Visitor and Culture Wars.

I was obviously delighted when David decided to publish a children's magazine designed for young Catholics because it was an enterprise which would involve the whole family, and spread the Good News of Jesus to both children and parents.

In addition to helping with the technical editing and proofing of the magazine, I have created the "Helpers," a group of imaginary animals, each with a different personality, who live a Catholic life together at the Castle. Since they live in a medieval castle (with a brother and sister who are the Guardians), their lives include a medieval perspective, such as studying Latin and Logic. Yet these characters straddle the past and the present, because they also talk about many things that face children today.

Helen Fielding: I just turned 16 years old, and I'm in 10th grade. Because I'm homeschooled I have been able to contribute in many ways to Catholic Castle. In addition to helping design the many characters that populate the magazine, my dad has encouraged me in other phases of my art work for the magazine. Right now my school schedule is very hectic, but I look forward to vacation time and the summer when I can do more work on the Catholic Castle.

Engel: David, when did you start up Catholic Castle? How did the idea for a monthly online magazine for Catholic school children come about?

David: The idea for a weekly Catholic magazine for children came, whole and entire, when I was at the Benedictine monastery in England, but I was only able to realize that dream after I came to the United States, and married Rosemary. The publishing business today is a difficult one especially for printed matter. Although Catholic Castle is an online magazine, I have designed the publication so that it can be easily downloaded and printed out so that the reader can still experience the pleasure of holding the material in their hands rather than merely viewing it on-screen.

Engel: How would you compare children's magazines of the past with Catholic Castle? Are young people of the computer generation still interested in good plots and lively, colorful characters and settings?

David: Catholic Castle is, as a matter of fact, very similar to children's magazines of the past. It employs the same mix of stories, informational pieces, puzzles, activities and so on. It is really based on what was, in the judgment of many, one of the most successful children's magazines of all time. That was Eagle, started by an Anglican vicar in England six years after I was born. I still remember it vividly. And yes, children still love good plots and fascinating characters. It is here that parents can play an important role in their child's education by "clearing a space" in the home where a child can read and enter into the remarkable wordls that good books and magazine open for children

Engel: As editor of Catholic Castle what are your priorities and hopes for the magazine? I know from reading the magazine that the stimulation of creativity has to be one of your main considerations.

David: Yes, the stimulation of creativity is a big one. That is why we have a craft project every month, as well as pictures to color for the younger readers. Again, children love to make things with their hands. Reading is another big priority. Children who like to read have a huge advantage over those who do not. Our stories are simple and fast-paced, but they are also well-crafted. This is even true of the science-fiction comic strip we have created. Our hope is that every child's experience with Catholic Castle will be a delightful one. To bring children to the love of the Catholic faith is, of course, another of my goals.

Engel: Rosemary, would you describe the typical contents and regular features of Catholic Castle? Does the subscriber have a choice of printing, downloading and saving the magazine?

Rosemary: Yes, the magazine is very user friendly. The whole magazine can be printed out or it can be printed out section by section.

The contents are as follows: one children's novel which is an adventure story (so far they have been about homeschooling families); one graphic novel which is science fiction; and one purely catechetical section on the life of Christ and the teaching of the Catholic Church. These three sections are serialized every month, with new installments to develop the stories or the teaching. There is also a craft project. Then there is a "Faith Quiz," which asks significant questions about the Faith that children can easily look up to learn more about their Faith; a crossword puzzle, again on the Faith; pictures to color, and the Helpers' story for that month. The emphasis of the magazine is a positive one that helps children to love Jesus and love the catholic faith more and more each day.

Engel: The magazine is published for a broad age range from 9 to 15, and also for boys and girls. Has this presented any special problems?

Rosemary: As a teacher, I know that most readers – and Catholic Castle is a magazine for readers – enjoy a broad range of literary works, games and puzzles. This variety is reflected in our magazine so there is always something that will attract children in the age bracket you mentioned. If a child is not a good reader, then I think parents would enjoy reading the material aloud. David's stories are great! I know because I had read many, many books written for younger people with which to compare his work. When David first gave me his novels to read and critique, I was worried that I might have to tell him they were not good enough. To my amazement, I found they were as good or better than some published children's novels I had read. What a relief for me, his wife, to be able to say, "This is excellent." Boys and girls will both like the novels. We have had enthusiastic comments from both.

Engel: Helen, what is the most enjoyable aspect of your work with Catholic Castle? Is it fun being able to work with your parents on the magazine?

Helen: I'd have to say that drawing characters for the Helpers is my favorite task. You see, many of them are actually based on stuffed animals I played with when I was little.

It is definitely fun to work with my mom and dad on the magazine. It makes me feel more mature to be able to make a contribution to this family project and it certainly makes me realize that I have two amazing parents!

Engel: I will say "Amen" to that Helen. May I ask each of you who is your favorite character living in the Catholic Castle? I'm sure you each have a favorite character or section of Catholic Castle. My favorite from the very first issue was the story and drawings of robots in Planet Giannes I find it great fun. How about you?

David: I too certainly get a kick out of the science-fiction world Giannes, in which the would-be settlers struggle in Catholic Colony, but I would have to say that at the present moment, my favorite character is Andrew, whom readers will meet for the first time this October in Five Firm Faithful Friends Forever. Actually I have fallen in love with all five lead characters in this new novel and the adventures that engulf them. Neglected loner Andrew though, with his deep and desperate desire to belong, has my heart.

Rosemary: I have grown to be a great fan of David's novels which are more dramatic than humorous although there is always plenty of wit and fun in them. I think my favorite character is Alec in Get Toni. Alec is a very down-to-earth teenager who, like many young people, doesn't always make the most prudent decision even though he is trying to do his best.

Helen: That's a hard question for me. I like Catholic Colony a great deal, like you do, but I also love the novels which are serialized in Catholic Castle. My favorite novel would be Five Firm Faithful Friends Forever. My favorite character would be Fairy the Helper, because she is based on one of my favorite stuffed animals and she has managed to remain true to her original character.

Engel: David, what are advantages and disadvantages of creating an online magazine as opposed to a regular children's book?

David: The immediate advantage is, of course, that we manage to avoid the hassle of dealing with printers and mailing companies, the many associated costs. The big disadvantage is that people expect everything on the internet to be free. Some people do not quite realize that "free" online material is paid for by advertising and links to other sites. We, however, have chosen not to have advertising or links to sites that might prove a danger for young readers. In any case, I am happy to say that we have been able to keep the annual subscription price down to a very modest $33.00.

Engel: I know that the online magazine is set up for the individual young person to use, but it seems to me that reading the magazine is fun, many times over, when you have a friend or parent by your side. Do parents who subscribe to the magazine find this to be true?

Rosemary: All of us who read for pleasure know that reading is actually a very communal thing. To answer your questions, Yes, I know at least one family who reads David's novels aloud. They all enjoy them – parents and children. My daughter Helen has subscribed to Cricket magazine for years. In the "Letters" section the children love to talk about the stories and characters they like, and then, they often branch into things about themselves and the way they spend their time. We are hoping that someday Catholic Castle would be such a forum for Catholic children in opposition to many of the occult, immoral, and irrational materials today that dominate children's literature.

Engel: Rosemary, I know there are some amazing hands-on arts and craft projects found in the magazine. Is it fun to create these projects? Do you recall any disasters?

Rosemary: David taught elementary education in England for many years. He was renowned for his art and craft projects, so no, we haven't as yet had any "disasters." The projects found in Catholic Castle are really quite remarkable. They teach children many different ways to use their hands and their mind to create things, construct things, solve problems, be careful and conscientious, and be patient. Crafts like these can absorb a child's attention if you start them on simple projects at a young age, and you limit the distractions that draw them away to much more passive, easier things to do.

Engel : David, what new ideas are you exploring for Catholic Castle?

David: Yes, I would like to begin carrying the work of other people in Catholic Castle. However, our magazine is still very new, and we do not have a broad financial base as yet. Still we would be happy to hear from any potential contributor.

Engel: Will you tell readers how they can learn more about Catholic Castle? Is there a sample issue available online? I think that, as a parent, grandparent and great grand parent, the most wonderful things about Catholic Castle is that it is the gift that keeps giving. A perfect gift for the upcoming Christmas season I think.

David: There is a free sample issue on the Catholic Castle website at (www.catholiccastle.com) which can be read online or download. There is also an information site for parents at www.castleofgrace.com. The annual subscription rate is $33.00. Renew America readers can contact me at david@catholiccastle.com with any other questions they might have concerning Catholic Castle.

Engel – Thank you David, Rosemary and Helen Fielding. It was a privilege for me to interview your family and to promote worthwhile Catholic children's reading materials. May God bless your enterprise.

© Randy Engel


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
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Randy Engel

Randy Engel, one of the nation's top investigative reporters, began her journalistic career shortly after her graduation from the University of New York at Cortland, in 1961. A specialist in Vietnamese history and folklore, in 1963, she became the editor of The Vietnam Journal, the official publication of the Vietnam Refugee and Information Services, a national relief program in South Vietnam for war refugees and orphans based in Dayton, Ohio... (more)


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