I WILL never understand the -11American election process (or the Americans for that matter) but you, like me, must have been flabbergasted that the newly-elected Democratic vicePresidential candidate should so eagerly and publicly declare himself as a Catholic.
Before the late John F. Kennedy became President this would never have been considered a vote catcher.
'Before Kennedy there was a feeling in the States that you would not see a Catholic elected to the White House. But Kennedy changed all that," I was told by Ray Sherer. NBC correspondent in London.
"Senator Eagleton made his announcement with unusual frankness. He made no secret about the fact that he expects it to win votes. But I don't think Catholics will vote Democrat just because Eagleton is a Catholic."
Senator George McGovern, the man who aspires to the Presidency, was determined to have a Catholic as his running mate it seems.
He failed to woo Senator Edward Kennedy. Then after hours of discussion a short list of 25 men was narrowed down to two city mayors both Catholic.
There were objections because neither was nationally known. Finally three black leaders suggested Thomas Eagleton.
That clinched it. The coloured population got a man they admired, and McGovern got his Catholic.
PAT BRADY, press officer for Anglia Television, tells me his company is screening a special documentary on Walsingham this Sunday evening.
"Here in the heart of the Norfolk countryside, for centuries, the story of a woman's vision and a shrine has lived on despite almost total destruction during the Reformation, and later scepticism from many churchmen and laymen well aware that in the early days of Christianity people took a much more superstitious view of religion, and visions were not unusual.
"Some 900 years ago, Lady Richeldis, wife of the Lord of the Manor was reputed to have had a vision of the Virgin Mary. As an act of private devotion she built a replica of the wooden house at Nazareth, the scene of the Annunciation. This became a shrine and later a priory was founded there to safeguard it.
"The Anglia documentary, which is called 'Highway to Walsingham' looks at this little village, where the old ticket office of the railway station is now a Russian Orthodox chapel, where the Anglican chapel of Our Lady of Walsingham is in one part of the village and the Catholic slipper chapel which also has a shrine is in another."
As something like 100,000 people make the pilgrimage to Walsingham each year I hope the other TV companies will find it interesting enough to slot into their schedules.
67 years a priest
NINETY YEAR OLD Canon Gerald Quirk, of York, will have been. a priest for 67 years on Tuesday. He was ordained by special dispensation at the age of 23, a year earlier than customary.
The ceremony was at Middlesbrough Cathedral.
After two years as a curate at Grangetown and Thornaby, he was a curate at St. Peter's Church, Scarborough, from 1907 until he became parish priest at Pocklington in 1921.
From there he went to Hull in 1926 and was responsible for the building of the Church of the Sacred Heart.
He moved to Mahon in 1929 and was there until being appointed chaplain to the Poor Clares at York in 1946.
Canon Austin Wood, who succeeded him as chaplain in 1968 when Canon Quirk retired, was his curate at Hull "I was the only curate he ever had," he told me.
"Although he is housebound now, and nearly blind, he is still very alert. He is a very cultured man, extremely well read.
"He had a lot of visitors for his birthday in March but he won't be marking his 67th anniversary as a priest in any special way."
Helping hand for Scripture
FOR some time now, "Scripture Bulletin," journal of the Catholic Biblical Association of Britain, has been at tempting to provide an ecumenical perspective on Scripture, both at a scholarly and at a popular and pastoral level.
The magazine has enjoyed considerable success but has been operating almost exclusively within a small Catholic framework and has been something of a financial liability.
Its future was in doubt. But it has been given a new lease of life by generous donations from the Bible Reading Fellowship and the Society for the Promoting of Christian Knowledge.
The executive editor, Mr. Duncan Macpherson, a lecturer in religious studies at St. Mary's College, Twickenham, has been joined by Rev. Ian Thomson of the Bible Reading Fellowship and Dr. Raymond Foster of the SPCK as associate editors.
Cardinal Heenan was presented with a pipe and tobacco when he officially opened two new Catholic Junior and Infant Schools in the London Borough of Harrow last week. Timothy Donovan and Janet Steele, pupils of St. George's Junior school (above) made the presentation to the Cardinal. St. George's first opened as a single form of entry Junior school in 1965. Last year the Junior school was extended to have two forms of entry and a two form of entry infant school was built on the same site, sharing kitchen facilities.
Professor Douglas Jones of Durham University and Rev. John Baker, of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, have also joined the editorial board, which also includes Fr. Lionel Swain, of St. Edmund's College, Ware, Fr. Wilfred Watson and Dom Bernard Orchard, of the World Secretariat for the Biblical Apostolatc in Rome.
Fr. Reginald Fuller, former chairman of the editorial committee, founder of the magazine and for many years the leading light of the Catholic Biblical Association, has now taken up a post at the University of Nairobi.
New chairman of the "Bulletin" committee is Bishop Guazzelli, Vicar General of Westminster Diocese.
Friar meets Queen
FRANCISCAN Fr. John Dockery of the friary at Clevedon, Somerset, was presented to the Queen at the Royal Agricultural Show at Stoneleigh, Warwickshire.
Fr. Dockery has been the steward of beekeeping for the Royal Agricultural Society of England since 1947 and is the longest serving steward in the Society.
For many years when the show toured the country he used to say Mass on the show ground for those engaged in preparing for the show.
Now, with a permanent site this need no longer exists. But he takes part in the united service which is held in the Grand Ring before the show hegins.
It is of particular interest that the committee which arranges Royal presentations asked if it would be possible for Fr. Dockery to wear his Franciscan habit, which of course he did.
Confessions of a convert
AREPORT that 60 per cent of Catholics in England and Wales have lapsed doesn't seem to have raised many eyebrows, although I find the situation quite staggering.
I am less surprised, however, that the annual meeting of the Converts' Aid Society was told that changes in the Church have caused distress in some quarters.
I was interested therefore to talk this week to television personality Michael Barrett of BBC's Nationwide. Mike is a convert who has now lapsed.
"I certainly don't like the new liturgy, 1 much prefer the Latin. But I could stomach that," he said.
"The thing that attracted me to the Catholic Church above all else was its absolute doctrine, which did not and I believed should not change with the times.
"1 was greatly concerned about all the attempts made a few years ago, and still being made, to update doctrine to get 'with it.' It seemed to me that this was eroding the Church."
Now that Mike no longer attends Mass, does he consider himself still a Catholic?
"I don't like labels. But if I am asked what is my religion am never quite sure how to answer these days. I suppose the honest reply is that I am no longer a Catholic."
Yet he still believes in all the dogmas of the Church. What troubles him is the lack of authority.
"For example. although I thought the Church was right. and still do, about contraception being wrong, I found to my alarm that many Catholics, including priests, were making their own rules.
"If this is going to he a please-yourself religion, why bother? You may as well join the legions of others who do the same. Rules have to be obeyed or there is no point in anything."
Mike described his decision to lapse as "agonising". It seems that many, like him, have gone through the same experience.
Children in prayer
HUNDREDS of schoolchildren wrote their own prayers for the morning service televised live from St. David's Cathedral, Cardiff, on Sunday.
The sung Mass marked the end of primary school education for more than 600 children from the city.
Children in the top classes collaborated in writing the bidding prayers.
They reaffirmed their baptismal vows before Archbishop Murphy.
Fr. Edward Regan, administrator of the Cathedral, who celebrated the Mass, said "The service was essentially a re-affirmation and a renewal. We hope that it will become an annual event."
The art of communicating
nUR cartoonist John Ryan le, is currently having his "Sir Prancelot" series repeated on BBC television. A favourite with the children, it was previously shown at the beginning of the year.
It took him two years to produce it.
He had previously had great success with another character he created "Captain Pugwash."
John loves doing these animated cartoons. "As an artist I find it fascinating. The whole history of art is in communicating. When you get 7-1million people looking at your work through television, that really is something."