THE WORLD AND ITS CATHOLICS
WE in Fleet Street get many queries from readers and we do our best to answer them. But often it is not easy to get the right answer. During the week one correspondent sent us a poser asking how many Catholics there are in the world and what proportion they are of the human race.
It is difficult to get a reliable figure. Finally, I sent him a photostat copy of the numbers of Catholics in the world's political divisions, as given in the Catholic Directory. and encouraged him to work out for himself what was the Catholic percentage of the whole world population. The Directory gives the total number of Catholics in the world as 547,643.000. The 1962 edition of the U.S. "Catholic Almanac" gives it as 550,356,000, including catechumens. This indicates that about one person in every six is a Catholic.
Not all of these are, of course. practising. Indeed, 1 saw wnere a colleague, writing recently in "Information", the New York publication, estimated that perhaps only 140 million people, or one in every 21 persons in the world, are practising Catholics.
I T is also clear, as Patrick O'Donovan pointed out in Liverpool recently, that the Catholic proportion of the world's population is steadily falling. Our conversions are not increasing at as fast a rate as world population in general.
This sad state of affairs seems to be more defined in Africa than anywhere else. The Moslems are making converts at a much faster rate than we are, perhaps because, as an African priest told me recently, an African has hardly to change his way of life at all to be a Moslem. At the same time, improved medical and health services are ensuring that more and more babies are surviving and the adult mortality rate is being cut down steadily.
Maryknoll Magazine has put the issue pretty starkly as follows: "It doesn't take a computer to establish the fact that the world's population is expanding at the rate
of 50 million persons a year. This adds up to half a billion in 10 year — an increase of as many people as there are Catholics in the world today. Against such a frame of reference certain facts are pertinent. The population of non-Christian lands is exploding at a 40 million increase, while conversions number less than 200.000 a year. Some 10.000 priests must be ordained each year to care for
present needs. But only a little over 5,000 are now being ordained. For every knowledgeable Catholic, it should be painfully evident that the Church is losing ground at an alarming rate. The question is what are we going to do about it?"
IHEAR that automation has 1 invaded the serenity of Loyola Hall, the Jesuit retreat house at Rainhill near Liverpool. No longer does a selected reader occupy a rostrum in the refectory to improve the minds of his hearers as they eat. Instead a recorded voice fills the ether from a loudspeaker fixed high on the wall.
Tried as an experiment last year the new method is now a regular feature of all retreats. Appropriate film shows in the lecture hail are also an accepted fact. For instance, a sound film of the ordination ceremony was recently shown to clergy retreatants.
Taken over by the Jesuits nearly forty years ago, Rainhill House is a Georgian mansion of ample proportions. It was originally the home of the Bretherton.s, and later of the Stapleton-13rethertons when the families were united by marriage. Opposite is the Ship Inn, an elaborate public house in the modem idiom. Previously it was a thatched hostelry where the first change of horses was made on the coach run from Liverpool to London.
By the end of December, 3.500 laymen and 138 priests will have made retreats at Loyola Hall this
year. Married couples also will have taken part in Cana Days of recollection, apart from moral leadership courses for the R.A.P., and men engaged in industry. All will have experienced the automatic voice to their spiritual benefit.
Little Miss Luck
THE lively little lady in the blue coat, who stands outside the Oratory a nd Westminster Cathedral selling the CATHOLIC HERALD, is known by sight to thousands but by name to few. Actually. she is Miss Luck and her incredible devotion to her selfappointed task is one of those encouraging things which makes us proud that we produce more than just another newspaper.
Miss Luck has been at her job for the past 14 years and every week, no matter what the weather, keeps at it until she has soul six quires (that is 156 copies) of the CATHOLIC HERALD.
When times were less hard she used the money to bring a sick person to Lourdes every year. Now, she tells me, she needs the few shillings she makes to pay her season ticket.
Voluntary self-sacrifice of this kind is rare but if there are any readers who would like to do a little to help our sales I would be glad if they would get in touch with us.
THERE is hardly any excuse for mentioning Christmas as early as this except that I have met a few acquaintances who have already laid in their Christmas cards. Before the rest of us do, 1 would like to remind readers of the excellent cards published by many voluntary organisations. Buying them, in preference to the stagecoach, reindeer and robin atrocities, can greatly help the organisations' funds.
Over fifty such organisations will have their cards for sale this year. They include the Cheshire Foundation Homes, Amnesty. the various organisations engaged in the fight against diseases, Oxfam, the Sons of Divine Providence Homes for the Aged, and the Children's Relief International, to name a few, The London Council of Social Service. which is a sort of liaison body for the voluntary organisetions, has organised an exhibition of these cards (October 2 to Central Club, Great Russell Street.
R. P. G. FOTHERG1LL,
F.R.S.E., F.I.A.L., tells me he has been asked by the University of Liverpool Press to write a hook on Teilhard de Chardin, particularly from the scientific aspect. He would like to know if readers can suggest any scientific points on which they would like clarification. "This would be a great help to me in a rather difficult task", he says. Readers should write to him direct cio Botany Department, University of Durham, King's College, Newcastle-on-Tyne.
SHEILA O'DONNELL is the pen name of an attractive Irish nurse in her twenties who spends her spare time — if nurses have any spare time! — writing about the lighter side of hospital life. Her second book, "Nurse in Naples", is due from Robert Hale on September 19, and it deals with her experiences with Medical Missionaries of Mary in a large Italian hospital.
Miss O'Donnell, who has just won a six-month scholarship to the Royal College of Nursing, spent last year at Downside, where she worked in the sick hay, Her first book, "Babes in the Ward", was based on her early training at Whipps Cross Hospital and the Coombe Hospital. Dublin.
She doesn't intend to become a full-time authoress — "I like nursing too much", she says. Nevertheless, she is sharpening her pencil at the moment for an account of her experience as an ophthalmic nursing student at Dublin's Royal Victoria Hospital.
December 14) in the Y.W.C.A.