THE OUTLOOK FOR THE FOREIGN MISSIONS WAS BLACK. SUPPLIES WERE CUT OFF; MISSIONARIES WERE CALLED UP OR INTERNED; THERE WAS A DEARTH OF NEW RECRUITS. BUT NOW, AFTER TWO YEARS, MISSION WORK SHOWS NO SIGN OF FALLING OFF, CONTRIBUTIONS HAVE EVEN INCREASED AND FROM BRITAIN AND AMERICA SMALL GROUPS OF HELPERS ARE STILL REACHING THE FARTHEST OUTPOSTS OF CHRISTIANITY.
War is Teaching the Missions to be Self-supporting
From a C.H. Reporter
I found Mgr. Telford, national director of several of our Missionary efforts, as communicative as ever when I called at 23, Eccleston Square to ask him to talk to me about Missions, the A.P.F., and anything else he chose. But no one had told me his offices had become a sort of department to the Ministry of Information and to the Colonial Office!
" Yes," he said, " all priests and nuns of whatever nationality, even those from Ireland, wishing to go abroad or to the Missions come here first to obtain some papers they require with which they can then apply for Government permits. So far I have dealt with about 200 applicants, many of them Trish priests. Incidentally, I have just heard that two Irish Redemptorists whose ship was sunk arc now safely on their way to South America."
" What does it cost you to run this place?" I asked inquisitively, remembering that he has at least two full-time assistants and a very large house. " In managing the affairs of the A.P.F., the Missionary Union of Clergy, and the Society of the Holy Childhood and of St. Peter, allowance must be made for some considerable overhead, of course," he replied, " and most charity organisations estimate a fair overhead at 25 per cent. Now these are our figures for last year : " The SUM of £13,500, which we collected, went to the Missions, incidentally all of it went to India, and our overhead was £1,200. That is not even 10 per cent. Our magazine, which from 24 pages before the war has gone down to 16 pages, cost us 4715 to produce; it carries no advertising, and it is free. Much of the work is therefore voluntary.
ENGLISH GIVE 20. A HEAD
" How do English Catholics respond to the Missions?" T asked.
" Their contributions amount to 2fd. per bead per year," he answered, so 1 gathered there is room for improvement for each and every one of us.
" But," rddcd Mgr, Telford, " I am not complaining, for the £13,500 we sent to India represents £1,000 more than the previous year, and I know that members of the A.P.F. have been working particularly hard. You sec, the regular income of a missionary at his post averages one-tenth of his needs. Were it not for money worries, missionary effort would be even better. If we want the Church to do her best abroad, we must pull our weight here in England."
" I hear Rome is worried about the lack of new missionary priests, due to war," I remarked.
" Yes," he replied, " which shows how wise Pope Plus XI was in insisting on the need of a native clergy. Much of the burden will now fall on the catechists and the native sisterhoods, too. • The former, as you know, prepare the prospective converts for the reception of the Sacraments, and instruct and baptise catechumens, and normally get about £5 per year. The snag is that as money does not get out to missionaries some catechists have had to be dismissed. This is really tragic, as it means whole groups of catechumens and schools being completely abandoned."
"Tell me about China," I prompted.
SOCIAL WORK IN CHINA
" Well, its in the news, of course—from a missionary point of view. But though progress is good, what is 100,000 converts a year among those millions? No, what impresses me about China is the preparatory work being done through social welfare, and I estimate that 2,000,000 are brought into contact with the Church through hospitals. orphanages, schools, and the rest. The practice of corporal works of merey.is what will tell in the long run.
" I can give you an instance. I have just heard from a community of nuns who in 1939 were helping 137 starving families, and now they minister to more than 1,000 through their orphanage, home for old people, and hospital. But the misery is great, and all the wonderful work of relief being done in China cannot prevent the frequent deaths among the refugees.
" Here's a touching bit from the nuns'
letter," went on Mgr. Telford. " ' The babies come in basketfuls, many of them little wasted mites, just ready for Heaven, Nothing can be done for them, but feed them and make them comfortable till God takes them. We call them the little thieves of Heaven? This means that the most that can be dune for many of the Chinese spiritually at present is to baptise the numerous dying."
According to an American report, by the way, there arc one million catechumens in China.
NATIVE CLERGY COME INTO THEIR OWN
A few days later I met Fr. Scriven, of the White Fathers of Heston, who bore out Mgr. Telford's statements on the need of catechists, native sisterhoods and Brothers, as well as native clergy, filling, as far as possible, the gap made by the dearth of missionary priests from war-ridden Europe. " Those missions that have trained a native clergy are now reaping the fruits of their labour," he said. " I know of a bishop in Central Africa who, thanks to an unexpected reinforcement of six young priests from Europe, and to the ordination of five native priests, has been enabled to open five new stations in his densely-populated district. He hopes to ordain seven more in the course of this year."
Agreeing that the greatest immediate danger faring the Missions is the forced unemployment of catechists. Fr. Scriven said that " letters from other bishops in Africa speak of the necessity of curtailing their budget for catechists, of paying them less or even sending them home. If this necessity were to become general. it would be qisastrous for the Missions," he concluded, but added : " I have heard instances, however. of catechists continuing to work on a voluntary basis after being told they could no longer be paid."
With reference to native sisterhoods, whose members in mission-fields are increasing in number, Fr. Scriven told me: " I can tell you the story of what led to these sisterhoods being started. A priest was once preaching to some native men on the vocation of the religious Brother, showing them the benefits of giving their lives to God.
"I WANT TO BE A BROTHER "
"After the sermon a girl came to him and said, ` f want to be a Brother." You can not,' he replied, you arc a girl.' What she exclaimed, ' is it only Brothers that can give their lives to God?' Both the priest and his bishop when they heard this began to ponder seriously on the possibility of starting communities for native women.
" There arc several now, and among the flourishing ones is the young institute of Ana a Maria Teresa, numbering 18 me,m bets, with five novices. and eight postulants. in the Vicariate of Northern Nyasaland. The novices receive a grey habit with cape and a short grey veil, and two years later, when they make their first profession, the grey veil is replaced by a black one and they are given a crucifix to wear on their breast. The Sisters teach, apply themselves' to domestic occupations, are in charge of the church linen, bake the hosts for the Missions, and sew the uniforms for the seminary. Many similar communities have now sprung up in other parts of the mission-fields."
Fr. Scriven believes that the inconveniences resulting from the internment of German and Italian missionaries have not been so great as at first feared, and is appreciative of the " spirit of understanding displayed by the British Colonial authorities " in allowing many German priests to continue working with very little hindrance.
He hopes, too, that many of the Italian missionaries interned in certain districts bordering on Abyssinia will be allowed to return to their posts, now that hostilities have practically ceased there.
Finally Fr. Scriven said : " The picture the mission-field presents is one of dogged determination. Funds being low or nonexistent, missionaries are living ore reserves, and by exercising every possible economy, their work is being continued. Those Missions are the happiest that hearkened to the advice of the Pope's to endeavour to become self-supporting. A priest from West Africa has written to say that the war makes little difference to us, al we have learnt to live on the produce of the country."