David Browne looks at the way that missionary societies inform their supporters on what they are doing. ALMOST all the missionary societies and associations produce a magazine or newsletter aimed at informing their supporters about the work of their priests, sisters and brothers in the mission field.
The publications vary from the simplest duplicated newsletter to sophisticated, colourful glossy magazines. Some have become a regular feature of the bookstands in church, like the Columban Fathers "Far East", and the Kiltegan Fathers' -Africa" magazines.
Others, printed with meagre, but carefully managed resources, are struggling to maintain any sort of circulation in the face of higher and higher postal charges.
One such magazine is "The Forum", a very neat and informative magazine which used to be produced by the Franciscan Missionaries of the Divine Motherhood. It ceased publica(ion last year.
Although there does not appear to be any unified policy among the producers of mis sionary news publications, the basic aim is common to all — to give news and information of the work of the organisation. But more and more of the magazines are venturing into wider and more general issues.
The October issue of "Africa", for example, carries a hardhitting article on action for justice in Chile, and also a thoughtprovoking personal reflection on the experience of a charismatic prayer meeting.
An article in the same issue about the life and work of Mother McAuley and the Sisters of Mercy is very topical so close to their 200th anniversary, and shows that "Africa" is rapidly becoming a very respectable general interest religious magazine.
Measured by the standards of journalism and magazine production "Africa" must rate as one of the best of the missionary magazines, and the one which is making most progress towards developing a more general readership. It should be assured of a place in Religious Press market, given a more vigorous circulation and promotion effort.
The Consolata Fathers define their aims in producing a magazine. They point out in each issue of "Consolata Missions" that it is published as a means for promoting vocations.
This is an aim which is shared by all the magazine editors to a large extent, even if they do not always say so. Certainly news of new vocations to the priesthood and religious orders working in the missions seems to be a prominent item in magazines.
It may come as some relief to find that appeals for cash to support mission ventures do not figure. The emphasis is on personnel and on what people are doing. The "Jesuit Mission" quarterly magazine makes a strong point of "setting the scene" for articles rcfcrring to specific regions of the mission field or Third World countries. A recent item about a sister working in Angola included a short account of who's who among the various African nationalist forces which were involved in the civil war in that country.
And the Jesuits are not slow to report "hard" news in their magazine, like the confrontation between the Philippines Government and members of the Church mass media office over activities the regime say were subversive.
But all this not to say that the missionary magazines are turning into political journals. Rather they are meant to encourage support for the missionary effort by recording the progress being made and recounting personal experiences of life and work in circumstances so very far from the relative comfort of Britain and the Western countries.
There is still an element of fascination in how the other half lives, as the saying goes, which can be a vehicle for conveying something of difficulties the peoples of the Third World countries live under, and the courageous work undertaken there by missionaries.
In a recent issue of the White Father's magazine, there is a most informative article outlining the background of Mauretania, the African country which is the latest missionary venture for a group of White Sisters.
A White Father this month writes about the plight of Nairobi's "parking boys". youngsters who roam the streets living off tips for looking after cars. The White Fathers are engaged in welfare projects for deprived young people and aim to provide basic education for them.
A library of mission magazines and other sources of information is now maintained at the Centre for Missionary Education in London. It is run by Sister Vincent_ Franey and Sister Honoria McInerney as a resource centre for teachers, students and adult groups.
They send out literature, films and other materials for exhibi
tions and projects on the missionary work of the Church. There is as yet no equivalent centre in Ireland, but information and ideas about promoting interest in missionary work is available from the Irish Missionary Union and the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, in Dublin.
Propagation of the Faith has produced a catalogue of films dealing with the missions, from various sources. and give each film an up-to date rating. Considerable effort has been made over the last few years to make this weekend Mission Sunday more than just a time for a cash collection for the missions, and instead to become a focus for inrormation and encouragement. This way it is hoped to get everyone involved in some small way in an important work of the Church.
Last year £237,000 was available for the central fund of £32 million of the Association for the Propagation of the Faith. All of this has been distributed throughout the 850 missionary dioceses in 1978.
From England and Wales, £98,000 was contributed to the central fund of the St Peter Association for Native Clergy, which this year reached over £10 million throughout the world.
The Society of the Holy Childhood, which finances educational missionary projects for children, received 163,000. mainly from collections in junior schools in England and Wales.
CAFOD collected £883,520 last year in England and Wales to assist projects under the sponsorship of Catholic dioceses and missionaries, designed to overcome hunger and poverty.