by Fr. George Dwyer
HE Catholic Missionary Society has just finished a series of missions in the new towns and housing estates of Essex, at Debden, Collier Row, Hainault; Harold Hill, Aveley, Harlow
and Elm Park.
This vast building programme is a social phenomenon of the highest interest. It ranges from the completely new town of Harlow-still only in its earliest stages with a few hundred Catholic inhabitants to completed estates such as Harold Hill with close on 3,000 Catholics.
In spite of a desperate shortage of priests the diocese of Brentwood has erected parishes everywhere and the churches and church hall "dual-purpose" buildings are rising everywhere.
The missions were given under varied circumstances. In Hainault the still uncompleted church was used, windowless and doorless. In Harlow a tent housed the congregation, In Aveley a works canteen, in Harold Hill a hall in a local State school with the roofless church hall used for the opening and ending service.
There is a magnificent spirit among the parishioners. Every parish has, of course, its quota of backsliders, hut in all of them there is a keen and hard-working body of men and women who are determined to make a vigorous Catholic community.
In Harold Hill. for example, a team of 70 men visited every house on the estate in preparation for the mission.
In Debden they organised a great procession from the old church in
Lough ton to the new hall with flower decked floats on which were tableaux of the "first church," i.e., the Crib.
Our Heavenly Queen, with a statue of Our Lady Our Earthly Queen (with a photograph of Queen Elizzbeth, it was just before the Coronation).
To work on these new estates is an exciting experience. It can only be compared to the great development of Catholic centres that took place, for example, in Lancashire in the last century. Thousands of young married couples, tens of thousands of young children-yes, they have big families! You can see the Vine of Christ visibly growing.
Non-Catholics were invited to the missions also. They came-in varying numbers. Enquiry classes have already started in some of the parishes and there will certainly be conversions.
How many will depend not least on the prayers of all of us. Certainly hostility was rare, friendliness was general. In Harlow a band of urchins wrecked the fittings of the marquee
one night, but they broad-mindedly wrecked a Protestant establishment also.
We are still pondering the implications of a remark by an 11-year-old boy as he observed the crowds coming for the mission-"I wouldn't like to be a Catholic-Coo! they ain't 'arf religious!"
Bishop Beck was the driving force in these missions. He visited all of
them and spoke to the people. One felt vividly that here was a leader and his people heart and soul in a great flowering of the Faith.
Medals for the women behind the scenes
The Holy Father has conferred the Bane Merenti medal on Miss Gertrude Merchant and Miss Sybil Wilson, for their many years' of hard work in the Plymouth diocese.
Miss Merchant who now looks after the priest at Mullion, Cornwall -had been housekeeper to Bishop Grimshaw almost from the time of his first appointment as parish priest at Fishponds, Bristol. After his appointment to Plymouth, she superintended the restoration and refurnishing of "Vescour t," the Bishop's residence destroyed by enemy action.
Miss Watson has for a number of years made altar furnishings and vestments for poor churches, and her work is well known in Cornwall. Latterly, in spite of ill-health and failing sight. she has entirely renewed the vestments and sanctuary furnishings of the Cathedral at Plymouth.
Vicar becomes a Catholic
The former Vicar of St. Peter's, South Tottenham. London, Mr. W. E. C. Dykes was received into the Church on Wednesday last week by Canon C. M. Davidson at St. Teresa's, Beaconsfield.
Previously he was of the staff of St. Paul's Cathedral, and held curacies at St. Saviour's, Pimlico, St. Augustine's, Highgate, and All Hallows, Gospel Oak, Hampstead.
Two pilgrimages to the shrine of Our Lady of Consolation at West Grinstead, Sussex, will take place in July. On Sunday, July 12, the Children of Mary will have their pilgrimage at 3.30 p.m. On Tuesday, July 14. the 73rd annual pilgrimage will be led by Bishop Cowderoy of Southwark with High Mass at 11.30 a.m. and procession at 2.45 p.m.