From a Special Correspondent FRIDAY
SIX HUNDRED Catholic schoolchildren are back home in England tonight at the end of a 15-day educational pilgrimage to Lisbon, Fatima, Gibraltar, Rome and Genoa.
Organised by the Catholic Teachers' Federation and taking place in term time at £47 a head, the children sailed in the B. I. ship Dunera.
But the big query in the minds of educational authorities and teachers is ; Has the experiment been justified?
On the answer depends the future of such cruises.
As a cruise it was worth every penny; as a pilgrimage it was a great spiritual adventure; as an educational venture it was a lesson in discipline and courtesy; even previously dubious teachers returned quite convinced about the worth of the experience.
As a cruise there was fine food, company and entertainment.
As a pilgrimage it will be a lifelong memory. At Fatima
rain teamed down; in Rome they were received by Pope Paul.
Seven priests were aboard the Dunera and three chapels were in use; Mass was optional, but each day more than half the Catholic pilgrims were at Mass and Holy Communion, A noon Mass was arranged specially for group leaders who were on duty at earlier Masses.
Attendance at classes was rigorously enforced, many schools had been set specific work in order to keep pace with their companions at home.
Additional work was under taken in such as the log book competition, the scrap hook competition. the Captain's prize competition, and the Church Council competition.
But beyond bookwork there was a real wealth of education discovered on this tour. There was discipline, there was "house pridein the dormitories, quiet control during the day by Matron and by the Master of Arms after lights out.
British India Shipping has brought its system of care and control to a high pitch of excellence.
The Dunera experiment has proved its worth.