ONE MILLION CONVERTS TO THE FAITH EACH YEAR
"Mission Fields Are Now On Our Very Doorsteps"
By ANDREW BOYLE
In this rapidly shrinking world the mission fields are no longer remote. The radio and the aeroplane have put them on our very doorstep. And the proletarianisation of increasing numbers of natives formerly living a tribal life is bringing with it new problems and new opportunities..
These facts were brought home to me very forcefully by missionaries with whom I have talked on this eve of Mission Sunday (Oct. 24).
"For the pagan, the native Catholic and the missionary, this is a new era of modern dangers and modern opportunities in the mission fields of the world, "The aeroplane and the radio have brought us to your very doorstep—but we sometimes wonder how many Catholics at home realise it."
This was the verdict, for example, of two experienced missionary priests I interviewed.
From all they told me, and from my own attempts to piece together a composite picture, it is clear that Catholic missionaries in five Continents are still striving to surmount the colossal difficulties created by the recent war. Vital statistics are incomplete, but they are sufficient to give a rough outline impression of the task and its tremendous proMise.
It is estimated that throughout the world's five-and-a-half hundred territorial missionary divisions-from archdioceses to independent missions not yet added to established prefectures or vicariates— there are now between 25 and 30 million Catholics.
And the number is soaring at an approximate rate of a million fresh converts every year. But what I find most significant about these million souls who annually enter the Church is that fully half of them are Africans.
This fact, coming hard on the heels of the London Conference which brought together last month scores of native delegates from British Colonial Africa. suggests it is to the so-called " Dark Continent " that Catholics in the West can look to-day for a great and steady expansion of the Faith.
When I put the suggestion to Fr. Alfred E. Howell, English Provincial of the White Fathers whose work is confined exclusively to Africa, he said : " I believe that the recent African Conference indicates the huge stride forward the Continent has taken towards ultimate selfgovernment. though political awareness obviously varies widely from protectorate to protectorate.
" And the most hopeful fact is that the missionary Church is strong and active in those parts where big development enterprises are afoot.
" In Uganda, Kenya, Tanganyika and East Africa as a whole, the missionary to-day has something like a revolution in social and economic growth to deal with. Indeed don't think it's going too far to say that the modern missionary in Africa has become more than ever before—an educationist."
The meaning of that term" educationist "—was pinned down to earth by Fr. Howell like this: " Material progress is rushing ahead so fast—and missionaries are still so few—that there is a constant danger that religious and moral progress may be left behind.
" Often, when we cannot reach him, the African finds himself cut oft from his tribal and ancestral traditions—with nothing to replace them. Family life is disturbed as thousands on thousands move to new centres of development where a strange new life opens to them.
" What's more, the African is hecoming through it all quite a strong nationalist; and the first traces of Communism have already been seen. The strikes that took place some months ago in Uganda. Madagascar and the Cape arc no chance accidents, though it would be easy to
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