Youth Leader's Survey
SIR,-One of the most astonishing facts about the Catholic community of the country in general and the London area in particular is that most people seem to be aware of the dreadful rate of "leakage" of young Catholics once they have left Catholic schools, and yet nothing constructive has been attempted to deal with the problem. Priests who know the facts say that between 75 and 90 per cent. of the young people passing through Catholic schools in the poorer parts of London lose their Faith. If the firres were half those given, it is difficult to imagine how any Catholic could be complacent, leaving alone those who could do something to reduce this appalling loss. Some of the youth organisations of the Church can and do attract a small number of lapsing boys and girls, but most of them have little chance with the majority of this type of youngster. In my opinion one of thebest Ways of reaching these young people is through youth clubs because clubs can offer the things which attract and should provide the link with the Church, which is nearly always missing. Only the clubs which can provide the best will be able to compete, and it is important that Catholic clubs should have trained leaders, part-time or full-time. the best in their programme of activities and the best facilities. Many parish
priests have had unfortunate experiences with badly run clubs but this should not blind them to the value of the better clubs.
In this country the average boy or girl who attends a Catholic secondary modern school leaves at 15 and starts work in completely nonCatholic surroundings, 11: his parents are indifferent Catholics there is little that will keep him to the Church. One of the biggest influences in the life of an adolescent develops in the place where he spends his free time and from the' people with whom he spends it. There is nothing which continues for young Catholics the good work done in the schools. To spend millions of pounds on schools and then watch the children leave first the school and then the Faith seems to me to be a terrible waste. From personal experience I know that youth clubs can do much towards solving this problem, and I believe many parents would support meproviding the clubs are of the highest standard. This cannot be unless they have encouragement and money. The Catholic Youth Association in any area should be foremost because it has a real reason for existing, but in most places such associations, where they exist, are almost without income and in the hands of very busy people. Quite apart from the youth service, which deals with clubs, the lack of hostel facilities is shocking. There is not one hostel in London for Catholic working boys! And 'still people profess to be surprised that so many ofthe young Catholic men who work in London, away from home, have lapsed. A Catholic marriage warms our hearts, and yet many discourage one of the agencies" where such marriages may be engendered. Any experienced club worker could quote numerous examples of how Catholic youth clubs have brought about the meeting of Catholic partners, when one has sometimes been
lapsed or a convert.
The youth service as it applies to Catholic clubs at present is as inefficient as the whole of the State scheme; but with a good-sized injection of encouragement. authority and material help it could become a strong weapon in the fight against the "leakage" problem. I recommend the youth service as part of the solution of the problem not because I am a full-time youth leader but because I think this is one way we can reach the boys and girls who are being lost and the renewal of the contact with them seems to be the stumbling block. My opinions may not be approved of in many quarters, but at least the people whom 1 represent-voluntary and part-time leaders as well as the few full-time leaders in Catholic clubs-have a right to be heard because, generally speaking, they form a large proportion of the Catholics who are in touch with the young people between the ages of 14 and 21 who are leaving the Faith.
E. R. Newman 128 Lancaster Road, London, W.11.