By Mgr. FRANZ KOENIG, Coadjutor Bishop of St. Polten ENGLISH newspapers. reporting on the autumn conference of the Austrian Bishops, expressed concern over the apparent difficulties and dangers experienced by the numerous Austrian girls in England. Some newspapers misrepresented the Bishops' points of view.
As I took part in that conference. I should like to state the case clearly and to interpret the Bishops' intentions in detail.
To understand the present situation one has to separate the Austrian girls into several groups, taking into account the various motives which prompt a girl to go to England.
The first group arc students from secondary schools who have their school-leaving certificate or matriculation, or who have already begun their studies (languages) at a university. They go to England above all to increase their knowledge of the language and to get to know the country and its people through personal experience.
Thanks to the knowledge of the language they have acquired at school, they find it easy to be placed in a household where they soon become part of the family. In their spare time they attend courses and make trips all over the country.
I know a number of such girls who have used their stay in England to the full and regard the time spent over there as a valuable and happy experience. In most cases they remain in contact with the family and arc often invited back for a visit.
Thoughtless parents ASECOND group are those
girls who, after completing their elementary schooling, and with at most a rudimentary knowledge of the language, go to England to take up employment as domestics, factory or hospital workers, because they can earn more money than they would at home.
Many of these girls—or, I regret to say, the parents—think only of the money, and completely disregard the difficulties facing a young girl in her teens, quite alone in a strange country (it is immaterial which country), earning her own living, without any experience of life, and having practically no knowledge of the English ways of life.
England is absolutely in no way to blame when such situations arise; the guilty ones are the thoughtless and naive parents and advisers at home.
I would like to add here that these girls would experience far greater difficulties in countries other than England, where the social conditions are far and away better than anywhere else.
THE third group is composed of
girls who leave home for some specific reason: it may be disappointment of some sort, a personal problem or tragedy which they cannot overcome. At all events. they are, spiritually, not quite in order, and dream of a rosy future in a foreign country where everything will be better and more attractive than at home. That such girls are faced with danger and disillusionment, that they succumb to nervous breakdowns or fall a prey to unscrupulous men is evident. Obviously such girls arc small credit to Austria. A fourth group comprises the adventuresses and those who fight shy of work and who, even at home, will come up against the law sooner or later. Such girls, as well as those in group three, are a handicap to those of their compatriots who are industrious and anxious to work. They are a disgrace to their country and. more often than not, end up in prison or remand homes and eventually have to he repatriated.
It is not generally known that a special department in Asprey's is devoted to WHEN the Austrian Bishops discussed the problem of the girls in England "suffering from religious and moral neglect" they were not referring to the large majority of these girls, whose stay in England can only be regarded as a success and which has enriched their lives considerably. They return home full of gratitude to the country which gave them hospitality.
These girls will surely, in a way, foster a better understanding between nations. Just as the English like to m i tne so e t
coo Austria in the sum do our girls like to go to England, and they have so many nice things to tell ushere at home about their stay when they return. From this great number of girls— between 10.000 and 12,000—it is apparent that the total of those who do not come up to expectations or go off the rails completely is on the increase. and steps must he taken to remedy this very urgent problem.
Although the total of these girls (belonging to groups three and four) in proportion to the 12,000 is relatively small, it is far too high, and it was these girls the Bishops were discussing at their autumn conference.
The Bishops did not intend in any way to reproacheengland. hut to draw the attention of Austrian families arid girls to the great difficulties es CO., LTD., 165/169 NEW BOND STREET, LONDON. NV•I attached to employment abroad in Telephone.. HTDE PARK 8767 France. Sweden, Hol lend. a, ;;ill as England. THE question of guilt and negli gence does not apply to England but to Austria herself. We have failed, in that we have not briefed these girls sufficiently on the many difficulties to he faced in connection with every sort of employment in a foreign country: difficulties which are indubitably greater where young and inexperienced girls are concerned, especially those who have not reached maturity and are more vulnerable to spiritual and moral dangers if there is a lack of religion and of family or social life.
This applies especially to those who have to work in factories.
Added to this come the language difficulty, national characteristics and, above all, the different religious backgrounds.
SIRCCCSSIeei, IT has been proved that those girls who make the most of social contacts are the good practising Catholics who go over with the firm intention of establishing contact with their local Catholic parish as soon as possible.
Sunday Mass alone affords this contact with the parish priest and other churchgoers. There they are able to meet girls from their homeland or other German-speaking districts. The very fact that the Mass is celebrated there exactly the same as at home is a bridge, a connecting link, with the new country. Sunday Mass affords a splendid opportunity for meeting girls from other European countries who are in a similar position, Those who do not
lake their religion seriously, and those who do not attend Mass find it far more difficult to acclimatise or adjust themselves to new environments, Emergency measures
ANY of these girls come from Austrian industrial districts, and working-class milieus which, unfortunately, have become lost to the Church in Austria for the past 50 years. The newly formed Young Catholic Workers' movement has begun to pave the way for the Church amongst the working classes. This is not yet sufficient, however, to bridge the great gap which still exists between the Church and the worker. Therefore, the religious situation in England seems doubly strange to the many girls who come from such districts.
On the other hand, one might suppose that loneliness and the need of social contacts would be an excellent motive for inducing them to learn to practise their own religion again in a strange country.
Austria therefore intends to undertake various emergency measures: a little booklet is in preparation in which all young girls who contemplate going to England to work will have their attention drawn to the possible difficulties they may have to face and which will also set out those spiritual, moral and physical attributes which are necessary for such an "emigration." Further, they will he fully informed as to where they can obtain help and advice in this new country, and which organisations run by English Catholics are at their disposal. Above all, the religious position in England will he explained in detail, and the girls will he encouraged to take part in the religious life of their Catholic community, so that even in a foreign country they will be able to find a little corner of home.
Co.operation IN the coming year it will probably not be possible to send a priest to care for the Austrian girls alone, as all dioceses, as a result of the war, are suffering from a shortage of priests. This will. hoe ever. greatly improve in the next o or three yerms. It isintended. therefore. to send over a substitute. either a nu who sears, or lived in England for mare ears, Or a Catholic social worker elm knows the eountr Fly closest co-operation U. Oh eiholic organisations. we hope. at least in the larger cities. to acquire the part-time use of clubrooms. or to open centres which will he available to the Austrian girls. In the last few sears the Austrian Embassy has intervened in many difficult cases, taking the utmost trouble, but with the limited staff at its disposal it is, of course. impossible to cover all the cases. which are spread over a large area.
Youth leaders IWOULD like to stress once more that the Bishops conference had not the slightest intention 'of holding England responsible for the difficulties which have arisen. The Bishops do hope, however, that with the help of Catholic south in England it will be made much easier for the newly arrived girls to get into touch with their parish priest and parish generally. The leaders of the Catholic youth in Austria arc already making arrangements for girls who are taking a leading part in tlw Catholic Youth Movement to he sent to England fur short periosl. They will devote themselves emir's], to working out e solution to this most distressing problem. Always complain T HEARD the other day of a I new club whose name I have forgotten—perhaps a good thing. The members undertake never to allow bad service, bad materials, defective goods, etc., to pass without kicking up a row. The member who told me related how his wife had some home with soe stale cakes. True to the club's promise, he rang up the headquarters of the makers of the cakes. Next day—so he said—a
e up outs
large car drove his door and a neatly dressed gentleman emerged carrying a box. He entered, apologised and handed over a box of cakes as a compensation and present. I give rather less credence to the details of a story—by this time we had had a drink or two—ofa neighbour who complained to the authorities of the bad state of the highway outside his house. Next morning. steam-roller, etc., duly arrived, but, mistaking the address, laboured hard to mend a perfectly good patch of road some yards further up, leaving his own patch untouched. Moved by these stories, I wrote a stiff letter to a famous car manufacturer who had delivered a car to me without the heater ordered. My garage had been trying to get the heater out of him for two months without effect. I demanded not only a heater, but expressed my deep surprise at not having received an apology for the omission of the heater. Believe it or not--and this part of my note is, gospel truth—a heater was delivered next day to my garage, and a letter of fulsome apologies duly came after. It pays to join that club.
Wrong sort of old.fashioned Christmas D ENI ARKS made last week .1\about the tastelessness of so mane Christmas cards produced by our large commercial Catholic firms have brought me the welcome news that one of these firms is spending hundreds of pounds to improve them. The difficulty they are up against is finding contemporary artists who can produce good 'designs which nevertheless appeal to the man in the street. I am surprised at this, because the man in the street has now got very used in advertisements, textiles, interior decoration, etc., to bold lines, ingeniously arranged lettering and striking contrasting infinite variety of colours. In fact much of the commercial output of Christmas cards, whether religious or secular, stands out as a harking hack to the sentiinentalit■ of 50 and more years ago. is dist people want what they call an "old-fashioned Christmas"? It seems to he carrying the idea rather far. 1 am sure there are artists in pleat} reads to produce modern designs that would sell like hot cakes—