Youth work can use it after the war
—FATHER KELDANY A new career in Youth Work is being offered to young men who are, or who will shortly be, returning from the Services, so said Fr. H. Keldany of Islington, London, with whom I have been discussing Catholic Youth. Views from other priests also interested in the subject. and who can tell readers what they have learnt from their experiences, will be published from time to time.
Neither Fr. Keldany nor any other of the priests I have talked to feel the least depressed by the slow progress so far made and which is unquestionably attributable to a great extent to war circumstances, but they look with eagerness to the prospects that peace-time conditions will offer. A chorus in which they all heartily join in is: " Let's form a Youth to be Apostles to other Youth."
" A very wide scope for leadership is open in new Youth Service," said Fr. Keldany, " and
many young men and women in the
Services have discovered latent aptitudes in themselves which are too valuable to be wasted when they return to ' eivvy street.' Among the most important of these aptitudes is that organising ability which will be such an asset for the Youth Service which is due to play a big part in post-war plans for those who have left school."
6,000 CANDIDATES WANTED
While attention has been focused properly enough on the enormous number of teachers who will be required to work the new Education Act, it is still hardly realised that " an average of one full-time leader to every 300 boys and girls between the ages of 15 and 18 " will require between 5,000 and 6,000 full-lime. fully-trained and properly-paid youth leaders. This fact, he went on, is disclosed in the report drawn up by he committee which was appointed by Mr. Butler to consider the supply, recruitment and training of youth leaders as well as teachers. Called after its chairman, Sir Arnold McNair, Vice-Chancellor of I.iverpool University, the McNair Report makes it plain that Youth Service, still in its infancy, offers wide scope for the right kind of talent since it is an integral part of the new educational system and yet quite distinct from school work. This expanding service will no doubt attract the best type of men and women, especially as pay, pensions, etc., are on a par with other openings.
A NEW CAREER
Before the war work among young people was a little-known career offering poor prospects, low salaries and no pension. It was staffed by a handful of enthusiasts and pioneers, largely dependent on the fluctuating finances of voluntary organisations and enlightened local benefactors. That system is now outgrown. It never leached more than a fraction of school-leavers. Already during the war the field has been extended, hut plans for demobilisation will be found to make provision for a steady intake of candidates for training.
In future, after the first rush for which provision in the way of short courses is being planned, something like 300 or 400 fully-trained youth leaders of both sexes will be coming out each year with three years' training behind them.
Because in the past recruits have drifted into the work from to many angles there was little in the way of formal training courses. Plans for their provision are sketched in the report: they will be based on the short courses which have been evolved to tidy up the
Will time intake. One thing is plain, the training will not be the same as that of teachers, though it may run parallel in part of the course. The.task of leading adolescents between the ages of 15 and 20 will largely hinge on " personali y." A potential You' h Leader " must he the kind of person who is acceptable to young people and to his colleagues in the service, and he should have sonic genuine sense of vocation for the work.'
VOCATION PLUS SKILL
Besides this indispensable foundation he or she will require a fairly high standard in some knowledge. or craft, of their own choosing, as well as a general interest in the normal activi ties of young people, such as MUJiC, drama, gym. and crafts of all kinds awl also some experience of working conditions, public health and local government. This practical knowledge will be necessary if they are to guide people to the right kind of interest in public life, which is one of the main purposes of the whole service.
The Catholic share in all this was then dealt with by Fr. Keldany. He said : If the barest arithmetical proportion of future youth leaders is .composed of Catholics, then at the conservative rate of one in ten there should be MOM for some 500 or SO in the national youth service when it is fully recruited. Even at the rate of 30 to 40 a year this will offer a wide choice which, it is to be hoped, parents and school heads will bear in mind. Perhaps it will even he possible in times to come for the bishops to put some priests through this course, as they now go to a university for purely academic tdaTinhiengiew Catholics who are already engaged in the service of youth agree that there is in this work immense scope for Ifte right type of candidate. There is a certain hesitation perhaps in some cases on the grounds that our faith and morals are not shared by all members or directors of the Service, but experience haS shosin that as a rule the Catholic with a flair for youth work is much appreciated in non-Catholic clubs.
Without entering into the hitherto barely explored territory of specifically Catholic youth work, which will no doubt grow in time to serious proportions, it is plain that the methods and past experience of Catholic individuals and organisations can contribute much to the growing Youth Service on both the moral and spiritual side. The report emphasises that there are three topics which arc of great significance to young people—religion, politics, and sex. Leaders must be prepared to discuss them and to do so helpfully. here the Catholic, without directly embarking on any form of proselytising, can be very helpful; but in order to be able to make the most of the opportunities, which will be plentiful. he or she must be thoroughly equipped. lor this reason steps to equip hundreds of potential youth leaders should be Pitt in hand without delay. All social workers trained in the existing colleges and universities stand in need of an adult course in social and moral questions, but our future leaders of youth will, we trust. be the first to be so thoroughly equipped. Every bit of experience and potential must be pooled—now.
fA second article on Youth will appear shortly by Fr. J. Leo McGovern, whose death at the age of 38 is announced below.1