As time passes the problem of the preservation in the Faith of Catholic evacuees becomes more and more acute.
In next week's issue, we intend to begin an inquiry into the conditions, cultural and spiritual, under which our children are now living.
Upon the parish priests of the safe area rests the tremendous responsibility of seeing to the children's spiritual welfare.
The, letter we print below is from. a parish priest. 1Ve consider the subject of such pressing importance that we reproduce it in full.
SIR,,—AS a priest working in a very scattered reception area, I should be grateful for the opportunity to suggest some practical points to priests and parents in areas from which evacuation takes place. They, I know, will be equally glad to receive these suggestions. It often happens that a village far from a Catholic church receives one child, or perhaps two children, who are Catholics. These may arrive unattached to any school, or with a non-Catholic school. In either case the nearest priest cannot know of their arrival except by dint of patient investigation over wide tracts of country.
I myself have found several such children by enquiring at village schools echere they attend. The foster-parents and teachers, for the most part, Ice? some responsibility for these children. and do not 'wish, them. to "run wild-" Therefore Catholic children are frequently given non-Catholic religious instruction and are taken to nonCatholic services on Sundays.
Although (with a few exceptions) the local foster-parents and teachers are ready to assist the priests, little can be done. Thus the priest can give the children prayer-books, catechisms, etc., and try to see them at intervals; but he cannot get them to Mass and the Sacraments unless some kind benefactor will bring them to Mass by cur, say once a month. This is often impossible to arrange. Meanwhile, unless parents themselves write to the school, the religious instruction is given to all who attend. Occasionally one meets a refusal to allow children to be taken any distance on Sunday by car, unless the parents Insist. Also, even though attendance at Sunday services is not required by the Education Aet and Regulations, Catholic children are sometimes included in local Sunday arrangements. To claim legal freedom is often mere theory, because in practice obstruction is easy-unless parents will insist.
I Would Suggest
The suggestions I would make are these: (1) Priests in danger areas can give to such parents the address of the nearest Catholic church from the Catholic Directory and tell them to send information of their children to the priests in reception areas. (2) Priests can urge such parents to
Write to foster-parents and schools, insisting on (a) exclusion of their children from religious instruction and Sunday services other than Catholic; (b) freedom for their children to be taken to Mass when possible.
(3) Priests can urge parents to supply their children with catechisms, prayerbooks, etc., as it Is an expensive matter for us to buy and distribute them to all concerned. N.B.--Usually these children are too far from each other to be collected into one class for instruction, and too scattered to be visited often. But they can be given enough to learn by the next visit, which is better than nothing.
(4) The following is the best course of all s It is possible to transfer such children from one place to another, for good reasons. One reason admitted by the evacuation authorities is the lack of facilities for religious practice and instruction of the kind desired. Therefore priests can urge parents to apply to local evacuation authorities for the transfer of such children to billets clime to Catholic churches, and also io have them attached to Catholic schools. in reception areas. This includes Catholic schools which have been evacuated as such, and can take other children on the spot.
Careless or Bewildered
It is true that in many cases parents are of the careless type, or that sometimes mixed marriages cause difficulties. Rut it is also true that in many cases parents are simply bewildered by circumstances and do not realise what should be done. However, whether careless or bewildered, experience proves that their own priests can usually persuade them to act as suggested. The S.V.P. Society also can (and do) effect much in this direction.
The labour would not be great, because there would not normally be many such parents in any one parish. On the other hand, our task would be rendered possible instead of almost impossible.
To emphasise the need some typical details may be given. One priest of my acquaintance (like many others more handicapped than himself) has no car, His parish is roughly 12 miles by 12 miles in length and breadth. He is not young and does not enjoy the best of health. He can count perhaps 150 villages, hamlets, groups of houses, etc., where these children may be found. This particular work is added to what is already a busy and taxing life. Thus the progress is slow, even in good weather.
I can quote other parishes much bigger than his, with fewer and poorer means of transit,
The Problem Would be Solved
If the above suggestions were to be followed the problem would be solved. We should know where to look without useless search, for half of these hamlets, etc., would not normally be visited, not containing Catholics. We should then have that backing from parents without which our efforts are apt to be thwarted -to the great injury of the souls of our children.
I should like to finish with one thought of encouragement. Experience shows that children evacuated from careless homed often display a remarkable zest for their Faith under their new conditions, if only we can be enabled to do our part. What chance !--PAGANICUS.