Kongolo sounds the keynote
By Marian Curd
A MISSION altar, broken and desecrated. An upturned tabernacle, stained vestments, ugly African knives. A list of missionaries murdered less than 18 months ago. This frightening reminiscence of Kongolo is the focal point of the Holy Ghost Fathers' stand here at the Newcastle Religious Vocation Exhibition.
Amid the admittedly colourful attractions of nearly 100 stands, this Kongolo scene gives a sharp reminder that days of persecution, though they have moved from this country, are not a thing of the past.
it may he the "done thing" in England today for a top airline to advertise "portable altars supplied anywhere at short notice," as BOAC are doing here, but it is Kongolo which seems to pour out emphasis on the sense of urgency today pernieating every sphere of the Church's apostolate, overseas and at home.
And that sense of Christian urgency, Iriendship, charity, colossal goodwill, call it missiology, ecumenism, what you will, does enliven the whole of this exhibition.
I heard it today in the words of a White Father back from Mubende in Uganda. "In my diocese there is one church, with 42 chapels in 2,000 square miles. In your diocese, where today one person in nine is a Catholic, you have 222 churches and chapels...."
Beside him on the crowded stand are an Arab tent, a straw and bamboo mission chapel, a heavily-loaded mission motorbike with the registration PIKIPIKI 1212—it's not a joke, it's an East African word for motorbike.
Behind him stands an enormous ciborium to hold 20,000 hosts—a day's supply. "Your parish ciborium.' he says, "usually holds 500 hosts."
There's urgency again in the work of the Sisters of Sion with their centres for biblical and Jewish studies. "We are doing everything we can to follow the Pope's lead. to break down prejudice," one Sister told me, and went on to explain the Jewish ceremonial articles displayed on their striking stand.
Urgency strikes again through the work of the Brothers of St. Paul at Langley. Bucks, using every modern means. particularly films, records and books in a 20th century apostolate. Their camera
studded stand appears ready to shoot at least a minor epic.
Urgency strikes home through statistics : The Franciscan Missionaries of Mary with 10.600 Sisters in 413 countries and desperately needing vocations; De La Salle Brothers teaching some 648,000 boys; English Passionists in Sweden with one parish of 3,000 square miles. . . .
It would have been good for some of this week's visitors gazing at the spotless white and nylonlike blue habit of the Franciscan Missionaries of the Divine Motherhood to have seen them arriving last week having driven their giant lorry up here all 300 miles from Godalming in Surrey. On their stand they show little of the toughness and altogether goheadedness of this modern nursing congregation, which farms, builds and mends its own shoes.
Just beyond their stand is the great high altar set high on a stage under a tented steeple of blue—a credit to the inspiration of Mr. W. H. Looker, who has used his outstanding talents as Chief Colour Designer to British Paints Ltd.. to enhance this and many other aspects of the exhibition. But his design didn't include the little confessional which has appeared this week behind the altar, a cometo-the-rescue operation offered by Tyne Tees Television, who have done so much to put this exhibition on the TV map.
A letter from a missionary priest reads in part " If ever you can undertake another foundation, come to my parish. In 200 square miles there is no Catholic school except a private one with five pupils. There are 320 known Catholics." He writes, he says, "in desperation." But his address is not a distant one. it is addressed front Wales to the Sisters of St. Anne, who have their Cyfeillion Cymru (Welsh Mission). at Eglwysfach.
" Who has become a Catholic because of you?" asks a streamer over the Catholic Enquiry Centres stand, exhibiting for the first lime. But these not easily surprised Fathers of the Catholic Missionary Society had a shock within a few hours of Sunday's opening ceremony • their casually displayed supply of 500 leaflets specially
provided for non-Catholics had all gone—in spite of tieing placed out of reach of leaflet-happy small children.
"I'll have to get on the 'phone quickly for more." said Fr. Gallon. who confirmed the impression that a great many non-Catholics were in fact visiting the exhibition. Many had stopped for a word, some for more.
Ushaw students and priests busily explaining a large model of their college. including scaffoldingladen extensions, had the diocesan statistics at the ready. and stacks more on the walls for anyone doubting the need for more priests, sisters.
It was a pleasure to meet for the first time Mother Mary Joseph, foundress • and Mother General of one of this country's up-andcoming congregations, eighteen years old 'but erected formally as a religious congregation only last year. TheSe are the Vocation Sisters, or to give them their full name, The Daughters of Our Lady of Good Counsel and St. Paul of the Cross.
Their apostolate must be unique. Their main work, Mother Mary Joseph tells me, is to increase among women and girls understanding of a religious vocation. In their houses information is available on every Order and Congregation. and enquirers may stay as long as necessary to decide their vocation.
"Over a thousand girls and women have been guided into various orders." I was told. The sisters live precariously ny running a couple of hostels, their work is for others, and little backwash of glory comes their way.
incidentally, the Vocation Sisters are staying in Newcastle — at St. Mary's Training College — for a few days after the exhibition closes. The reason is. I think, obvious.
Urgency strikes a different note at the Marists stand : Teaching Brothers state their need : "Of the Catholic boys of England, fully 35 per cent. do not receive any Catholic education," says a streamer.
Great crowds round the White Fathers, the Salesians and the Mill Hill Fathers are easily matched by those at the O.M.I. stand. I think every child on every crowded train in every packed-full bus and coach has stopped for at least a few minutes before the 0.1V1.1's dog team and sleigh. and their model snow-house (full size) with a model priest inside saying Mass. And all the while they listen to small greybearded Fr. Coty. a French Oblate Missionary, who, he told me, has spent 26 years among the Eskimos in Northern Canada " with temperatures at 70 degrees below zero. Semi-retired now. TIC is to go on teaching English in the Cameroons.
Yes, voices are going to be hoarse and throats sore by the end of the week. A short talk on the mechanics of producing the CATHOLIC HERALD given impromptu to a bunch of boys visiting our own smart (may I say it, with due credit to the designer, Angus MacDonald) stand convinced me that it's better to stick to the written word.
Come Sunday night and it will all be over. Bishop Cunningham's Family Day will, we hope. bring the 100,000th visitor, The ice cream and hot dogs will go home. The stalls will be folded, the tents come down, but the praying and the work will go urgently on.