SO MUCH has been written (by myself included, I must confess) about Poland's current sufferings that it is a relief to be able to write some good news on the subject. The first part of it is that the generous response of so many people from so many Countries has turned into a minor miracle of love and support for a country so hard done by history.
The second part is that I have heard from the Polish Refief Fund, which has gained the subtitle "A Church Appeal that grew in the Heart of Britain."
I mentioned one of their appeals just over two years ago and the result is the completion, in the face of great difficulties, of a new church in Gdansk.
In the words of the Fund's administrator, Mrs Elizabeth Cooper, "Building of a new church in Gdansk had already been delayed for six months, due to lack of foreign currency, of special glue needed for the construction of the beams. Parish priest and parishioners asked that we make an effort to help this rather than provide aid for them.
"While We could not divert aid donations for this purpose, we opted to try a special appeal and here pictured is the result which amazed even me. There are supposed to be shortages in building material, long delays by authorities in allocating any goods towards building churches, yet here is proof of what can be achieved with a little help from outside."
Koppers of Rotterdam in Holland, who manufacture the special glue needed, offered to match the Fund's own efforts pound for pound.
A parish in Glasgow donated the Italian tiles; Pilkington's of Merseyside provided glass at a special price; British Gypsum was used in the roof structure. British workmen devoted their spare time to the specialised work needed in the gypsum boards which the builder had never used before. All work was done on a voluntary basis. The result was this "British Church" dedicated to Our Lady of Czestochowa. At Easter a special service was held in thanksgiving for the coming true of a dream.
`Help the hospice'
EIGHTY years ago, my great aunt, Mabel Dease, whose religious name was Sr Mary Pauline, bought a house in Hackney with funds raised with the help of a well known Jesuit of that day, Fr Galway.
The house in question was on the site of today's St Joseph's Hospice, Mare Street. Sr Mary Pauline was the foundress of the original Hospice for the Dying — so it was then called — and the first person to die there was her own mother, my greatgrandmother, Charlotte Dease, on March 30, 1905.
The St Joseph's of today is a magnificent, model and modern, example of hospices for those with terminal illnesses which are increasing greatly in number.
Twenty years ago there were very few of such hospices and they were mostly in London. Now there are 80 in-patient units in the United Kingdom and a similar number of home care teams.
On Thursday of last week the Queen officially opened the new teaching unit of St Joseph's. It is called the Norfolk Wing because the main inspiration in the raising of the million pounds for its construction came from the Duchess of Norfolk.
The latter is now carrying on working for hospices with a new charitable project aiming to help all hospices in the United Kingdom. The aim this time is not to train hospice staff as such, but to help all the hospices involved with problems in meeting running costs.
A pre-launch press conference of the new charity — "Help the Hospices' — was held on Tuesday of this week and offices have been established at BMA House, (Tel: 01-388 7976, ext. 21). Dame Cicely Saunders has kindly accepted the Presidency of the new charity.
The first major fundraising event for "Help the Hospices" will be a royal gala preview of the Rodgers and Hart hit musical, "On your Toes", at the Palace Theatre, London, on Monday June 4.
The star of the show is the brilliant dancer Natalia Makarova who defected from Russia just over ten years ago. (Tickets may be obtained from the theatre box office, tel: 01-437 6834; credit cards: 01-437 8327).
A mouthpiece for underdogs
THE philanthropic and, by now, well known originator of the Templeton Foundation Prize for Progress in Religion, John Templeton, had a proud and busy day on Tuesday of last week. It was also a great day for the Rev Michael Bourdeaux and the publishers, Darton, Longman and Todd.
Having. heard three months ago that Michael Bourdeaux was to be this year's recipient of the Templeton award, DLT rushed through production of an excellent paperback account, by Jenny Robertson, of Michael Bourdeaux and Keston College. It was ready in time for publication on the same day that the prize was presented.
In the morning, John Templeton hosted a convivial press conference, in what one might call the "Hall of Mirrors" at Claridges, to launch the book. Its title is Be Our Voice and a pre-publication extract has already appeared in the Catholic Herald.
Then, at 2.30 that same afternoon, there was a brief but most impressive ceremony at Buckingham Palace at which the Duke of Edinburgh made the actual presentation of the prize.
Among the select few invited to this part of the day's activities was, very appropriately, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Coggan.
For Michael Bourdeaux's valiant (and fruitful) efforts on behalf of those persecuted for their faith in Russia have extended to Jews as well as Christians.
Thus embraced is a particular as well as a general concern of Lord Coggan, a profound Hebrew scholar and Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Council of Christians and Jews.
The day was climaxed by a public ceremony at the Guildhall at which Edward Du Cann payed generous tribute to Mr Templeton.
Michael Bourdeaux's speech of acceptance of the prize moved many to tears. The value of the award, £140,000, is thought to be the biggest annual prize given to an individual. Its first recipient, in 1971, was Mother Teresa, while Michael Bourdeaux is the first Englishman to receive it.
A memorable day for all concerned — despite the surprising apathy of the national press.
Grab those gowns
IT IS NOT often I have occasion to wear my Oxford MA gown, but I must beg, borrow or hire one soon in order to take part in a most important election coming up shortly. For John Jones is on the point of "retirement" after serving as Oxford's Professor of Poetry for the traditional five years. Who will his successor be?
The papers have hinted that there will ultimately be more than the two men who I had taken to be the only viable candidates: Peter Levi, the favourite and a valued friend; and James Fenton.
My desire for further information from someone on the spot was unexpectedly rewarded by a splendidly playful passage of purple prose which I feel I could do worse than pass on (more or less) intact.
For "Jones of Morton" (writes the Oxonian sage in question) time is up. On May 31 and June 2, the Sheldonian Theatre will be busy with officials receiving loyal figures up from the shires in diesels and motors to vote.
It is a fight to the finish between "Fenton of Magdalen" and "Levi of St Catz." The former is in neither the University Calendar nor Who's Who but has the nomination from the President of Magdalen (surprise!); Sir Peter Strawson, Sir Richard Doll and Anthony Storr of Green College; and Professor Carey of Merton.
The latter is in both of those good books and has a list of nominatores filling a whole page of the Gazette for May 3.
The list includes the Master of St Catherine's (surprise!) and a plethora — or potententatia of presidents and principals, deans and rectors, masters and wardens, and even such eminent men as Sir Dimitri Obolensky and Lord David Cecil, not to mention such Famous People as A N Wilson.
A poignant reminder of the past is the little block of nominations from the Fathers of Campion Hall, Frs Brayley, Edwards, O'Higgins, and Yarnold.
For Peter Chad Tigar Levi FSA — was he ever called "Tiger Lily" at school? began his adult life, from 1948 until 1977 (when he became a Fellow of Catherine's College) in the Society of Jesus.
For Jesuits he became "our other poet", reminding one that it was the editor of The Month who rejected "The wreck of the Deutschland" when Gerard Manley Hopkins humbly submitted it for publication.
Besides priesthood and poetry, Peter Levi has taken to archaeology and classics and, more recently, to television.
His list of publications in The Book are neatly divided into poetry, prose and translations, none before 1960. So many are they, and so much of a wondering minstrel's life has it been, that Levi has already felt ripe to pipe an "autumnal" autobiographical" flute ("Whom the gods love die young").
He has no "canon" of works, but had he such, his "opus one" would surely. be "Study to be quiet," an essay on seventeenth century literature in the Downside Review for autumn 1955, written (before Oxford) with the advice of Christopher Devlin, SJ, who really did die young.
So, fellow "senior" Oxonians, grab your gowns and start motoring!