THIS is an SOS: Nearly 500 Catholic overseas' students working in Britain have written to the London headquarters of the East and West Friendship Council, seeking an introduction to a Catholic home where they could spend an occasional weekend or enjoy a family meal one or two evenings a week.
But the Council has been able to find only 50 Catholic families willing to extend the hand of friendship to them.
Mgr. Coonan. of the London Chaplaincy of Catholic Overseas' Students, addressed a congregation of over 2,000 in Westminster Cathedral recently, on the need for wider Catholic interest in the work of the East and West Friendship Council.
Bishop Reck of Salford arranged for 500 appeal letters to he distributed in the Salford diocese during the same period.
Yet the position is still desperate, so far as Catholic contacts are concerned.
The Council's General Secretary, Mr. Oswald Gibson, an old boy of Ushaw College, told me that many Catholic students seeking friendly contacts are having to be linked up with Anglican families because there just aren't enough Catholic contacts to go round. The East and West Friendship Council was founded in 1921 to help the 3,000 non-European students then in this country. Today there are nearly 50,000 of these students, 38,000 coloured. The aim of the Council is to serve as an introductory link between these students and British families, promoting better understanding and greater friendship as the foundation for better international relations.
The Colonial Office notifies the Council of all students arriving in Britain, and the Council then writes to the students, detailing their work.
"Thirty per cent. of the students writing to us are Catholics," says Mr. Gibson, the Council's General Secretary. " They ask particularly for a Catholic host. But Catholic hosts on our books total less than three per cent.
"It isn't the student in the university whose need is greatest. It's the chap in the Technical College. When the college closes at the end of his day's work all he's got is his liitle room in a not particularly homely boarding house."
The need for Catholic hosts is greatest in the Home Counties, but there is a pressing need also in areas around Birmingham. Bolton, Bradford, Leeds, Derby, Huddersfield, Hull, Leicester. Lincoln, Liverpool, Newcastle, Northampton, Norwich, Portsmouth, Rugby, Sheffield, Sunderland. Cardiff, Swansea, Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow.
The Council, pointing out that many of the young students seeking hospitality in Britain today will be holding responsible positions tomorrow in their own country. asks: "Is it not in our interest (as well as theirs) that they take home with them an impression of good will and tolerance, knowing something of the spiritual inheritance of this country? "
If you feel that it is, the address to contact is East and West Friendship Council, 101 Gower Street, London, W.C.1,