Opened in 1928 by a convert Orthodox priest, the Archimandrite Nicholas, taken over in 1939 by Fr. F. J. Wilcock, an English Jesuit of the Byzantine Slavonic Rite, who was later joined by two other members of the Society of Jesus, Fr Maurice Meyer, an American, and Fr. Henry Milner, a Yorkshireman, the Russian Catholic parish in Shanghai nourished until the outbreak of war with Japan.
Released from internment, the thiee priests have now returned to the work described by the late
Cardinal Hinsley as " this mission on which so much may depend for the future of Russia."
The following extracts front an article written by a priest in the current issue of the Montle will indicate the missionary wolk which has gone into this remarkable Russian parish in China—and will perhaps remind those in F.ngland of the need for helping the soldiers of the Church on perpetual foreign service--the missionary priests.
The beginnings of organised Russian Catholicism in Shanghai were hallowed by the apostolic self-sacrifice and poverty of its first parish priest, the
Archimandrite Nicholas. This convert Orthodox priest came to Shanghai in 1928. He rented a room with the small funds he received from Rome: but what with the irregularity of these payments on the one hand and his own generosity to those poorer than himself on the other, he was often literally starving.
In true Russian fashion he shared all he had with those in need, himself doing without when there was not enough. Gradually he built up a small parish of Russian rite: a handful of Catholics was there already; others came from Harbin and elsewhere, and in eight years he had himself received two hundred and thirty Russians into the Church. But he was getting old, and in 1935 a Slovak Jesuit Was sent to take charge of the parish.
A NEW PHASE A now phase opened in 1939, with the arrival of Fr. F. J. Wilcock, an English Jesuit of Byzantine-Slavonic
rite. In June of that seeir he took charge of the parish, helped only by the Archimandrite Nicholas, Ordained priest at Rome in 1934 after his theological studies, Fr. Wilcock had spent a year as Subminister at the RUSSiCUPIA (the Roman seminary for Russian secular priests). After that he spent two years teaching and protecting at St. George's College for Russian boys at Namur (Belgium), before being posted to Shanghai. At this point the work of the mission gathering impetus flowered in a burst of notivity which soon resulted in the need for new labourers in the RussoChinese parish. Further help did at last come to Fr. Wilcock. " We Cannot cope with the work," he bud written. " Instructing converts alone would be full work for one man ; they have to be well instructed or they easily go back later."
Resides his two main lines of activity—directed to breaking down prejudice between Catholics and Orthodox, and to securing the Christian formation of Russian youth—besides all the ordinary pastoral cares of his Russian parish. Fr. Wilma had been given charge of the refugees from Germany and Austria ; had regular English sermons to preach anti retreats to give; for months set daily for two hours in the Chancellery. listening to the woes of the Russians, Orthodox or Catholic, and trying to find work for them, In twelve months there had been fifty-three reocemiliations of Orthodox, a.s well as seven baptisms; the number of communions had been quadrupled (in the following year it was again nearly doubled); and at a visit to the Russian Church the French bishop was amazed to find a congregation of over two hundred.
Already Shanghai contained by far the largest single body of Russian Catholics in the world.
In August, 1940, " a young man wearing a long beard, dishevelled clothes, a battered hat, and a broad smile " for so his Jesuit compatriots in Iraq described him), arrived at Shanghai from Rome via the Balkans, Istanbul, Baghdad, Bombay, Patna and Calcutta. He was Maurice Meyers, of the Chicago Province of the Society of Jesus, a deacon of Slavonic rite.
lie had still to finish his theology at Zikawei, but during week-ends and holidays could help Fr. Wilcock at the club and in the parish. In December
came Fr. Henry Milner, SJ., a Yorkshireman, ordaine.d priest in the Byzantine rite at Rome in 1937. After his theology Fr. Milner had spent a year at the Russicurn, before going to help Fr. Bourgeois at Ensa in Estonia. Ordered to leave the country when the Soviets seized it, Fr. Milner journeyed south through the U.S.S.R. to Palestine, where he received a telegram telling him to go to China to do his tertianship and then help in Shanghai After spending a few weeks with Fr. Wilcock, Fr. Milner went to Wahu, oamc back for a short while at Eager, and returned finally to Shanghai in
July, 1941. Fr. Meyers had been ordained priest on May 31. From the first, both men were greatly impressed by " the almost unlimited field for work and development " among the Shanghai Russians. And now that their help was assured, the long-debated plans for a Catholic " Internet " or hostel for Russian boys could be brought to fulfilment, Tho priests were interned during the war and now returned to their parish are facing the task of reconatruction.
BRITISH ALMS Since 1939, alms from the United Kingdom had been their chief material support. About £150 a year was first
sent. This was interrupted in December, 1941; but in September, 1942, it again became passible to send Frs. Wilcock and Milner first £20, then £30 a month: until in April, 1943, after Vichy's renunciation of her extraterritorial rights and the Japanere occupation of the French Concession, all three Fathers were interned at Zikawci.
From then on they oould be sent only a small sum for strictly personal needs. However, a certain amount for the upkeep of St. Michael's could be borrowed from the French Mission, on the strength of the money that would eventually be sent by their English friends.
It must be stressed that the regular support from England has been a printery factor in the consolidation of Russian Catholicism in Shanghai during the past six years.
At the end of August, immediately after their liberation, the three Jesuits returned to the college, which they found substantially intact. They are themselves quite tit, and eager to make the school an even greater success than before. When writing on September 3, they were very busy refitting and repairing, making ready for the re-opening of the college on September 10.
Councillor Albert J. Gates, J.P., vice-chairman of Southwark Diocesan C.P.E.A., and Councillor
John J. Keen, Treasurer, were returned for Central Southwark in the London County Council elections lnst week. They received strong C.P.EA, backing and their polls were noticeably higher than surrounding divisions, while the percentage was well above the average.
Another Catholic, Mr. .1, H. MacDonnell, was returned for North Southwark, and Councillor Bernard Sullivan retained his seat at Greenwich, All are Labour.
C.P.E.A activity was noticeable in the Kent County Council elections, where Mrs. M Hetherington, Chairman of Crayford C.P.E.A., who won the Crayford seat for Labour with the highest poll in the whole of Kent, was the first Catholic elected to the Council for some years.
Among the defeated candidates in the Kent elections were Mrs. Colburn. who lost by only 150 votes in a poll of over 3,000 at South Orpington in weather conditions which prevented many people from going to vote in this rural area, and Fr. Augustine Keniry, O.S.11., who failed at Eastry. Ti Surrey. Councillor A. T. Finer, Chairman of Morden C.P.E.A., failed by a narrow margin.