by MAUREEN VINCENT
A VOCATIONS exhibi tion organised by laymen might sound, at first, rather like a contradiction in terms, but that is in fact what Harvest '69 is. The idea was devised and is being carried out by members of the Haywards Heath Circle of the Catenian Association.
Haywards Heath, Circle No. 167, is a relatively junior member of the Association having been inaugurated only in 1953. It is also one of the smallest Circles numerically. At the time when the exhibition project was started there were only 23 members. although membership has now increased to 30.
Of this number, five are ex-seminarians, one — a convert — has a son a priest and two daughters nuns, and one is the brother of the Novice Master at the Cistercian monastery at Bemenda in the Cameroons. In view of these associations, it is perhaps not quite so surprising that this particular body of laymen have thought up such an ambitious venture.
"All the members of the Circle have been involved in varying degrees." explains Mr. Peter Hick. who is in charge of publishing and publicity for the exhibition. "But initially the bulk of the work fell on our chairman, Mr. R. B. Foord-Brown, who is also president of the Circle this year."
Mr. Hick himself, although he does not mention it, has certainly put a great deal of time and effort into the project. "I had never had anything to do with this type of job before—there is no expertise about this."
New life He is one of the Circle's exseminarians, having spent three years at St. Edmund's College, Ware. "Even after I had left I was always closely bound up with the college and keenly interested in vocations to the priesthood. But in those days the layman was not expected to play any real part in that side of the Church's activities. You put your.few pennies in the plate every Sunday and that was about it."
Then came Vatican H. "It was unbelievable — a whole new life—real involvement open to the laity for the first time."
Haywards Heath Circle. caught up in the spirit of Vatican II. decided to do something. The idea was first mooted before last Christmas. The members unanimously assented to the presentation of a vocations exhibition, and the practical hard slog of detailed preparation has gone on ever since.
What is it all about? "We thought we might be able to demonstrate, in some small measure, the need to answer the call from God that each of us receives.
"We think in a very special way of the great need that always exists for good and holy priests; we think of the work of those religious brothers and sisters which, if it is to bear more fruit, must have more labourers in the vineyard.
"But not all of us receive a vocation in this way and we hope that in addition Harvest '69 will produce an awareness in each and every one of us that we still have our part to play."
This is why the vocations of parents, teachers. nurses and ether ordinary laymen and women are being given equal prominence with those to the priesthood and to the religious life on Harvest '69's publicity material. "Be we 9, 19, 39, 69 or 109 years old— we all have a vocation — a calling from God."
Harvest '69 aims to be a live exhibition of a living Church — teaching, suffering, healing, contemplative, pastoral and, above all, involved. Forty religious orders of priests, brothers and nuns from all over the country, in addition to St. John's Wonersh; St. Edmund's, Ware: Campion House, Osterley, and 40 lay organisations will be exhibiting.
"Collectively the aim to show the living Church in which we all have a part to play, each according to the talents given us and the calling received from God." I asked Mr. Hick if there was an age group at which the exhibition would be primarily aimed.
Chance to think
"What it is important to remember is that Harvest '69 has been especially mounted for those of mature mind," he recited. "Children nowadays are continually being pressurised—by their parents and by their schools—to think in term of 0-levels. A-levels. university or professional qualifications.
"They have no real chance to stop and think. Given this situation, probably one does not really mature until about the age of 24 or 25. It is at this point, and not until then. that one is really in a position to think seriously about one's vocation in life."
Although it is the matureminded age group which the organisers are putting first, they also very much hope to attract younger children and adolescents to the exhibition.
"Let'; face it, an exhibition can be a pretty dull place for a child. So we have arranged a few things especially with the younger visitors in viewcanoe training on an open-air swimming pool. a Diocesan inter-Deanery basket ball competition and displays of judo and table tennis."
'Planting a seed'
The organisers accept that it is unlikely that a younger child will derive much direct benefit from the more serious side of the exhibition. "But it is like planting a seed. Perhaps some day, years from now, a child who has been to Harvest '69 will find that he has remembered something —has some picture in his mind—which will help him to make a decision for God."
In arranging Harvest '69 members of Haywards Heath Circle have had the fullest support and co-operation from Bishop Cashman of Arundel and Brighton and from many vocation directors of religious orders.
Bishop Cashman himself has become Patron of the Exhibition and has written a foreword to the souvenir booklet which has been produced for the occasion.
Articles of special interest in the booklet (priced at 2s. 6d.) include The Role of the Priest by Bishop Derek Worlock and Our Part in the Church after Vatican II by Bishop Butler, O.S.B.
Harvest '69 will be open from 10.30 a.m. to 7.30 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, July 4, 5 and 6. at St. Paul's Catholic School. Haywards Heath, Sussex.
Masses in the morning, afternoon and evening will be concelebrated in a marquee big enough to accommodate several hundred people at a time. Bishop Cashman will be the chief celebrant at the 11 a.m. Mass on Friday, July 4.
Choirs from local schools, the White Fathers and St. John's Seminary will lead the congregations in singing. Words and music will be available and every effort will be made to ensure that those attending the Masses can take the fullest possible part in the liturgy. Confessions will be heard at intervals each day.
Films are to be shown at various times throughout the exhibition and closed-circuit television will be in operaton continuously. There will be one television camera and four viewing points. Interviews and discussions will be televised.
Bill for £1,700
The diocesan Audio-Vision Centre is to have a pavilion at the exhibition and the new travelling mission church— the largest church on wheels --will be there for inspection. Two 000kshops, a repository and a record/music bar will be open for the sale of goods and refreshments will be available.
It seems fairly obvious that all this is going to cost quite a lot. When I inquired about this, Mr. Hick told me that the total bill is likely to come to something in the region of £1,700.
Although the project is being run by members of a Catenian Circle, it is not in fact being sponsored by the Catenian Association as a whole and funds are proving to be rather a headache. "You can say we are banking with the Bank of Divine Providence!"
At the moment, however, attendance is a subject which is worrying the promoters far more than finance. "It's just impossible to estimate how much support we're likely to have."
Full details of Harvest '69 have been sent out to every parish in the Arundel and Brighton Diocese. Posters, car stickers and leaflets have been circulated. The organisers are hoping that people will come, not only from the diocese itself, but from all over the South of England.
Certainly. if sheer enthusiasm on the part of those making the arrangements is anything to go by, the exhibition ought to be an exciting and important event.
Four hundred years after the troubled times of Elizabeth I, Peter Hick has written, "a challenge, perhaps even greater, faces us all, priest. religious or layman. Will we, the Church, respond or are we prepared to sit back and say, think and do nothing? Is apathy to rule triumphant?"
The Catenians of Haywards Heath have done what they can to take up the challenge personally. Their response has taken the form of a unique and courageous experiment.
Bring the family to Harvest '69 if you can. It deserves to be a success.