READERS who support the AngloPolish Medical Foundation* will be interested to hear how their donations helped their most recent deliveries of urgently needed medical supplies to Poland, by Mrs Vi Thomas, Medical Director, who accompanied the delivery.
Immediately the consignment reached Warsaw deliveries were made at once, on the city outskirts at the Pruszkov Hospital. The life-support machines, bedside lockers, blankets, surgical dressings, drugs and medical journals were received with great excitement and heartfelt thanks.
The other Warsaw deliveries went well, and everyone was very grateful for the wonderful presents from Britain. "It was lovely to meet old friends again: at the Praski Hospital, the Primate's Committee for the interned and their families, and at the children's hospital", Mrs Thomas said.
There they were very thrilled with the 100 visitors' gowns. Originally many parents were unable to visit their children because of the lack of gowns. They were able to be brought this time, through the generosity of an anonymous donor, and also the children of Christchurch Sunday School in Slough. The final call was to the Konstancin Rehabilitation Centre. "It was 11.30 p.m. when we unloaded more than 50 cartons of surgical and orthopaedic supplies, and quite a number of crutches and walking sticks," Mrs Thomas added.
On Sunday an early start was made for Lodz, about 80 miles from Warsaw, where the group was met at the church by young people, badly shaken from an unpleasant visit from local officials. "After satisfying themselves of our goodwill, they telephoned our friend, Fr Miecnkowski, who hurried over to give us his usual warm welcome"..
He instructed the young people to unload, and soon the baby milk, food, clothes, medical goods and soap were safely stored. The pharmacistin-charge asked permission to unpack the drugs as soon as possible.
After a speedy lunch at the presbytery, the group started on the long return journey to Gdynia with the empty trailer. The next day another trailer was driven to Poznan. The long drive was made less tiring by the beautiful lakeland scenery, of this north western area. In the late afternoon the group arrived at the Albertine Convent, whose nuns care for the old and infirm of Poznan. They carried 200 cartons of supplies three flights of stairs to the top of the convent. "We never cease to be amazed at the strength of body and will, besides the kindness, of these reverend ladies of Poland", Mrs Thomas said.
The group set off for Katowice after making necessary temporary repairs to a headlight and a radiator. The situation had not improved; hospitals remained seriously short of even basic essentials; food — when not rationed — is very dear. During the stay, sugar came off the ration, with the price increasing by 10 per cent.
Four hundred miles later, after a brief stop in Lodz, the group arrived in Katowice at 9.30 a.m. "Dr Golba and his staff had been waiting anxiously for us, and were on the pavement as our truck drew to a halt outside the hospital. After a very welcome cup of tea, we felt strong enough to unload the large quantity of supplies earmarked for this hospital for the chronically sick", said Vi Thomas.
With speedy despatch and great joy, the portable X-ray machine, dressings, drugs, blankets, soap, disinfectant, medical journals and food were removed for the laborious sorting and listing, demanded by the authorities. The group was so pleased to learn that the supplies brought do help this dedicated doctor and staff to make the last days of the patients reasonably bearable, and helps them to die with some dignity.
"We said our farewells" said Vi Thomas, "and headed for the mountains, reaching medieval Krakow in glorious autumn sunshine, and leaving the mist and snow behind, Again we made a late afternoon arrival the hospital in Rabka".
"We drove up the hill to the convent of the Sisters of Nazareth, which is like home to us. Always, we receive a warm welcome, hot baths and comfy beds. We unloaded in darkness, assisted by the nuns and some of their neighbours. The contents of the many boxes would be distributed throughout this far southern area, which receives little of western aid."
The last part of Poland the group visited was the extreme south-east. Here is the grim psychiatric hospital at Jaroslaw, where there are exactly eleven doctors who arc responsible for seven hundred extremely mentally ill patients. "This place causes us great concern", said Vi Thomas "and it is a picture I would prefer to forget, but will always remember. Our final delivery was to the Carmelite nuns in Przemysl, an ancient town near the 'new' Russian border. We had problems reaching this convent, as every road to it seemed to have a low railway bridge! When we returned to Warsaw, we had driven about 2,500 miles around Poland."
The last day in Warsaw was the commemoration of All Souls, a public holiday in Poland, when many people visit graves of relatives and friends. The small plots of sacred soil are covered with huge blooms of chrysanthemums and are ablaze with lighted candles. "The graves of thousands of young men and women who died for their country, were being tended by young soldiers and by children", said Mrs Thomas.
She closed her report with the description of a poignant sight of thousands of crosses — some on graves of unknown soldiers — marking the last resting place of a generation. A generation of young people, who died defending Warsaw between 1939 and 1945, where small candles burnell, flickering flames of hope. for their souls, and hope for the eventual freedom for which they died".
* 26 Campden House, Sheffield Terrace, London W8. Telephone: 01-727-3161.
Something for the stocking
AFTER Catholic journalism I imagine that one of the most exciting and equally rewarding professions, must be that of a Catholic publisher.
Nigel Fowler Wright, of Fowler Wright Books, has been telling me about his current range of publications, both those published by his company in Leominster in Herefordshire, and the enormous and diverse range of Catholic books, many of them American, distributed from there.
My personal choice among the current productions is Prayer Forms by Christian Brothers, for classroom youth group work (price £3.95). The Christian Brothers have taken their cue from the Grail, and their stepby-step approach to traditional prayers, starting with the "Our Father", is highly original and practical.
I was glad to see the shared decade of the Rosary getting a fair hearing. Similarly, the Jesuit Fr Donal Neary's Masses With Young People, (£4.95), for those aged 14 and upwards, is a most sensitive piece of writing on youth Masses, particularly useful for those celebrated in halts or school classrooms.
Disturbing the Peace, by Eamonn Bredin, (£7.95), on the discipleship of Christ, is very well worth investing in, not the least for an inevitable reassessment of one's own discipleship.
Denis Blackledge SJ, Superior, Campion House.
Funeral Homilies, (£4.95), reminded me that not so long ago, in conversation with a leading Catholic undertaker, who had attended a lifetime of hundreds upon hundreds of funerals, he told me that he had heard only one sermon on one occasion which, in his opinion, gave any consolation to the bereaved. Perhaps Funeral Homilies, 60 reflective pieces, is the basis of an answer to the problem? As the Fowler Wright list of publications is too long to do adequate justice to a telephone call to them, 0568-4461, can bring, you up to date on their listings.
A place of healing
THE CROSS pictured here is that worn by the Daughters of the Cross, and it is taken from the front cover of their annual report for their St Elizabeth's School and Home for Children and Women with Epilepsy.
I have been reading, with great interest, the work of these zealous nuns whose" management team is led by Sr Elena.
St Elizabeth's is at South End, near the pretty village of Much Hadham, in Hertfordshire, which, in turn, is adjacent to Little Hadham. It was founded in 1903 at the request of Cardinal Vaughan, and today is a non-maintained special school offering 68 places with splendid facilities for children whose epilepsy and associated handicaps prevent them from attending ordinary schools where the pressures would, be too great on them.
It is also a home for 95 epileptics in sheltered accommodation. The management team of six sisters are all experienced experts in this particular field of work for the handicapped.
A visit to St Elizabeth's is a great joy, and a most rewarding experience as it is to witness to a place of happy and diverse activities.
There are self-supporting cottage groups in the grounds, around the "Mother'? house, a magnificent day centre, complete with an up to date horticultural therapy greenhouse, purchased by a grant of £800 from the BBC's "Children in Need".
Rehabilitation training programmes include looking after animals and on one of my visits I was deeply moved to see a blackbird with a broken wing, in a cage, in the classroom, on the mend, and on its way back to a normal life.
If you are interested in volunteering to help, or to become a "Friend", for a £5 per year subscription, you should contact Sr Elena, Sister Superior, St Elizabeth's School and Home, South End, Much Hadham, Herts, telephone 0279 84 3451.
St Elizabeth's is off the M11, a few miles from Bishop's Stanford.
On course at Osterley
JUST for the record, there are 38 students at Osterley, 26 in first year, and 12 in second year. They range in age from 18 to 43, and represent 15' dioceses in Britain and Ireland, as well as seven religious and missionary congregations.
In addition, there are about 85 ex-Osterley students in the pipeline in well over a dozen seminaries and novitiates in Britain and Ireland. Nine are deacons. They represent two dozen dioceses in England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland and Gibraltar, as well as sixteen religious and missionary congregations.
There are just over fifty exOsterley men in the four homebased English and Welsh seminaries. Which all adds up to well over 100 men on the road to priesthood, please God. — from the "Osterley Newsletter".
The College is run by the Jesuit Order, and is in the Archdiocese of Westminster. It is open to candidates for any diocese at home or abroad, or for any religious or missionary congregation. If you are hoping to train for the priesthood, you approach your local parish priest or vocations director, since you will need to be accepted and sponsored by a diocesan Bishop or by a religious or missionary Provincial. If he thinks that one or two years at Osterley would he helpful to you, he contacts Campion House,* and arranges for you to attend a "Candidates' Weekend".
* 112 Thornbury Road, Osterley, Isleworth, Middlesex TW7 4NN.