CLITHEROE SOCIAL STUDY CLUB AT WORK
Education : Public Speaking : Press Work
THE CLITHEROE (LANCASHIRE) CATHOLIC SOCIAL STUDY CLUB WAS INAUGURATED 11\1 SEPTEMBER.
It contains sixty members, of which twenty-five are ardent workers.
Public lectures and study circles supplement one another. Members are trained to speak in public and to defend the Church in the local press—and success has already been achieved in both departments.
A literature stall has been installed, but experience shows that cheap snappy leaflets by the thousand for distribution are required.
Below the Catholic Herald gives the story of how this Club was founded, what it is –doing, what it hops to do.
From a concrete example one can learn more than from many text-books and derive far more encouragement.
What Clitheroe Catholics can do, thousands of other towns can achieve.
It all started because someone wanted to revive the Debating Society. Like many a Catholic society, this had enjoyed a certain popularity for one or two seasons, then it had been obliged to put up the shutters. Early in February last, someone suggested a revival.
We Evolve For an hour or so speakers waxed eloquent on the rival powers of the pen and the sword. Then came the second suggestion. Someone wanted the debates to be interspersed with lectures. The following Sunday a member gave a short lecture on " How we are governed.
This provoked yet another suggestion: why not invite a visiting speaker to lecture on some subject of urgent interest to Catholics—and Communism was suggested. A C.S.G. speaker, ex-student of the Catholic Workers' College, fulfilled the general wish. The Debating Society had given place to a Social Study Society holding public lectures every fortnight.
A Study Circle
The final lecturer was Mr. Thomas Leyland, organising secretary of the Catholic Sdiäl Cittildl and he it was who advised Clitheroe to form a Study Circle when the darker evenings came again. During the summer months Alse small committee was active, and plans were drawn up for more comprehensive work this winter. The secretary attended the C.S.G. Summer School at Oxford, secured good lecturers for the present season and picked up hints on how to run a Study Circle.
On 19, 1937, Clitheroc Social Study Club began its work. " We called our society a Club rather than a Circle, because the name sounded more friendly and more interesting," a member stated. " We worked chiefly along two lines; first we sought to capture the interest of the whole parish by means of public lectures and distribution of literature; secondly, we formed a study circle proper, at whose regular weekly meetings we tried to hold the interest of a smaller number of enthusiasts, to give them a deeper knowledge of the social teaching of the Church, to train their minds by means of study and discussion, to train them as public speakers and to give them a desire for further private reading."
Stream of Congratulations
Visiting lecturers never fail to congratulate Clitheroe on the size of its audiences, which they say are far above the average. The study circle began with eighteen members: within a week the membership was doubled, and now there are over sixty names on the register. Some of these, of course, attend only occasionally, but there is a reliable " core" of about twenty-five enthusiasts who are following the course with admirable tenacity.
A literature stall has been a feature of all meetings, but, as the average takings are only sixpence, one cannot challenge the statement, often made, that people seldom buy Catholic literature.
" It is my opinion," writes Bernard Winkley, who is the founder of the Circle, " that the only way to bring Catholic social teaching to the notice of the masses is to print thc salient points prominently on handbills and push them into the hands of as many people as possible.
"And there is press work.
" Our experience in Clitheroe has been that local editors are always ready and willing to print whatever news is sent to them. A full report of every lecture fills from one to two columns, and it is always given prominence.
" Study Club Notes, which cannot claim a wide appeal, are never refused, even when it is only, a case of announcing future events. Letters to editors arc published promptly and in full.
" Members of our circle have taken a prominent part in press controversies: criticisms of the Church are never allowed to go unchallenged; criticisms of our lecturers are always sent on to them, and they invariably furnish splendid replies. A local Communist wrote that the Pope was a supporter of capitalist exploitation of the workers, and added, 'there are many En cyclicals to prove it.' At once he was challenged to name just six of them—and he never did so.
" A prominent Socialist wrote that the Pope was a Fascist and an enemy of democracy, and with difficulty we persuaded him to reveal the source of this information — a newspaper commentary on Divini Redemptoris.
" We sent him a copy of the Encyclical and asked him to study it: two weeks later he admitted that there was no evidence whatsoever in support of his accusation.
" Several press correspondents accused us of denying freedom of speech because we sent a protest against the proposed Atheist Congress to the Home Office: a reasoned reply was published, and the flow of criticisms ceased."
Special articles have been written for the local press by study circle members. Even a "dry " summary of Rerunt Novarum was accepted for publication—a splendid way of getting it printed cheaply!