By PETER NOLAN
Many new ideas for reaching Catholic children at county schools — about a third of the total in the Westminster Archdiocese — were discussed at a special conference this month.
Canon Herbert Veal, who has recently been appointed head of a group of IS religious and lay people concerned with Catholics attending county schools in Westminster, said this was the first conference they had organised.
One of the most interesting initiatives was that employed by Southall parish to continue the instruction of young people after Confirmation.
Fr Peter Sharp told the 58 religious and lay people attending the mid-week conference at Westminster Diocesan Pastoral Centre, London Colney, Hertfordshire, that in Southall young people spent weekends investigating social problems.
. The "72 Club," founded in 1972, aimed to provide social and educational activities geared to the young, allowing them "to grow together in faith and in life, in understanding and in practice."
Project weekends were organised to investigate drug addiction, homelessness, violence in society and other social problems, using films, talks and participation in social surveys.
The weekends, lately organised at a centre in Sussex, include games, a disco and a liturgy aimed at drawing the conclusions of the discussions on the topic. Fr Sharp said the weekends also profited from the exercise of living together in community, sharing in catering and other tasks.
Topics for future weekends included "Authority," "Sex and the Right to Life," "World Poverty," "Marriage" and "Careers."
Fr Sharp said: "The activities of the club are beginning to interest others of like age and interest, including non-Christians. If they are interested, wish to be involved and will fit reasonably easily into the group, they are admitted to the weekend projects, as well as social events."
The cost of these "Away Weekends" was about £3.50, met by the participants themselves, with a small subsidy from parish funds.
Fr Sharp said there were signs that the community spirit built up by these efforts was broadening the scope of activity, both social and missionary, in the parish.
Jr tternara choles, of Highgate parish, explained why a number of religious taught in State schools as ordinary teachers. Priests and nuns taught in them "because the Church has a mission to all men, not just to its own people.
"The Church has to resist the temptation to become inwardlooking and merely selfpreserving — an end in itself rather than an instrument of service to all."
No "privileges of the cloth" were enjoyed and "our first concern is to be capable and conscientious classroom teachers."
Several had been involved in pastoral work that was part of the modern school today, such as individual counselling and visiting the families of children. he said.
"We involve ourselves where possible in the shaping of policy and educational philosophy of the school, and in the common concerns of teaching colleagues."
In fact, religious had been so readily accepted by their colleagues that one priest had been elected teacher-governor of his school, another a National Union of Teachers representative and a third chairman of his school's staff association. They had also
helped in starting extracurricular sporting and other activities.
I Fr Scholes stressed that the apostolate in county schools was not to be seen as belittling the work of Catholic schools, nor as an extension of the Catholic Schools system to county schools.
It was "important in its own right, as pait of the missionary work of the Church in London, in line with the Vatican Council's recurring theme of involvement of the Church in the modern world," he concluded.
Fr Tim Firth described the success of "Encounter Days" in reaching Catholics in Hertfordshire's county schools. They were an attempt to supplement religious education through offering an experience in Christian community in a relaxed and inform-al atmosphere.
A team of up to 12 religious, parents and teachers helped to set up a day for up to 25 sixthformers in someone's home. Usually on a schoolday afternoon, the students were released with the permission of the head, to whom a personal approach was made. A day began with a sing-song and various games which enabled pupils from different schools to get to know one another.
This was followed by a film, perhaps on "Penance," and discussion groups met 63 evaluate it, coming together to pool ideas, Later, afternoon tea was followed by a special Mass, at which participants presented a "collage" they had prepared, the day ending with a "party and a rave-up.
Twelve such "Encounter Days" had been held tO date and had proved verysuccessful, said Fr Firth, Music played an important part and follow-ups had included reunions and putting people in touch with the local clergy.
He added: "There is no magic formula. Probably the best thing is to talk it over with someone who has been on one and come to one yourself and experience it."
Fr George Stack described SHARE, "Southall tianwell Action for Religious Education." This was aimed to help catechists in two Ealing panshes.
Meeting every six weeks, the teachers saw a film or slides on some liturgically seasonable topic, such as Easter. and heard a theological talk. Ideas on music, mime and other visual aids the catechist might use were discussed.
Other speakers at the twoday conference included Mrs Bronach Reid of Fulham, on Catechists in her parish, Sister Winifred Wilson and Fr Barry Ffrench, who explained the activities in a parish and the pastoral centre, involving children from county schools.
Canon Veal said the conference would he followed by others dealing with further aspects of the problem and drawing ideas from what was being done outside the diocese.
The meeting had concentrated on secondary students, because these were in the area of most need. Most children in this sector did not have any real connection with the Church. he said, Although originally planned for clergy, the 60-odd attending included about 20 lay people, he said. Most said they had got a lot of ideas at the conference.
Canon Veal's group had been so recently formed, he said, that he did not yet even have an official title, nor did the group.
"Before we get a title, we need to be clear on the main thrust of the work. We are presently holding monthly meetings."
Canon Veal can be contacted at the Westminster Religious Education Centre, 209 Old Marylebone Road, NW1 5QT.