DOWN IN THE EAST END
Young Men Who Read the Encyclicals
Where social conditions are most hard there might expect to be found the greatest endeavour to make them easier. The East End of London, therefore, suggests itself as an important power house for Catholic Social Action.
In a quiet way there are many activities working through Catholic hands to ease conditions of poverty and need in these districts, and there are springing up many organisations which strike at even deeper roots through study of applied political theory along the lines laid down by the Pope's social encyclicals.
—And Practise Them
Groups of young men are gathering together under the auspices of the Catholic Social Guild all over the East End to study these encyclicals. They write papers upon them, discuss them among themselves, even hold public meetings to debate them with outsiders. A member of one of these circles told me that through the demands of members a really first-class section of Catholic books had been collected together in St. George's, Cable Street Public Library.
Those who are members of borough councils (and there are, for instance, some twenty or thirty Catholic members on Stepney borough council), can go even beyond the theorising of the study circles and put into practice the teachings of the encyclicals. In the question of housing, much is done by Catholic councillors who prevail upon the general opinion to increase accommodation in fiats from two or three rooms to four or five to allow for families.
Probably no one has done more for rehousing in the East End than Canon J. Rearden, of St. Patrick's, Wapping. Rows of new and superbly built flats surround his own parish church, which his excellent work upon the council helped to bring into being.
Catholic Worker Group
The Catholic Worker group is another branch of social activity which for all its short life (it has only been formed two years) is ambitious to do great things. It is made up of those who read and support, and sell the Catholic Worker. Meeting each wcck, they study in the evenings, sell their paper on Sundays and at every meeting possible, and endeavour to help and be helped by other organisations.
One of their enthusiasts describing all this to me said, " I have told you of how we are working now, but I have not spoken of our hopes of organising information on particular jobs, of getting a busman to tell us how and under what conditions he works, a clerk to do the same, a street cleaner, a teacher, a typist, a nurse, a docker, a seaman. I have not told you of our determination to have a house of our own, where we can practice the corporal works of mercy as well as the spiritual."
Beyond these new organisations growing up, are the numerous social clubs for the various parishes in East London. Every church has its own attached; there is the Holy Guild Settlement at Poplar, the Working Men's Club at Tower Hill, Children of Mary are organised nearly everywhere, the Catholic Labour Women's Guild is doing yeoman service, so are the Ladies of Charity. The Apostleship of the Sea has its club now on the dockside at Shadwell (vide Catholic Herald of last week.) Providence Row Night Refuge, houses hundreds of destitute nightly during the winter months, and the Little Sisters of the Poor are home helpers everywhere.
On the whole it would appear that women and girls, owing to the constant work of nuns, are better catered for than men. More social clubs for men is a need which most workers acknowledge.
Although this quiet work is going on in study circles and among local clubs, Catholic Social Action is not the simple, visible and organised force it ought to be in the East End. What is evident to a reporter who looks round at East London is not lack of Catholic enthusiasm but lack of co-ordination and leadership.