Dublin Letter Dublin Letter
ENGLISH priests working
in areas with heavy concentrations of Irish emigrants may shortly undertake "familiarisation" trips to Ireland, if a revolutionary new scheme, first discussed at the Easter Emigrant Congress in Dublin, is ever put into operation.
The scheme emerged from the Congress as a whole, and officials cannot pinpoint the man who first suggested it, but it is being welcomed with growing enthusiasm both in Dublin and in London as a way of solving one of the Church's major pastoral problems.
In the past. as the Congress readily recognised, the main emphasis has been on the provision of Irish priests to work in England both as chaplains—on a temporary basis—and as curates in areas where there is a large Irish population. But there have never been enough priests to do all the work that has to be done, and the call of the English mission has often depleted seriously many Irish dioceses.
The situation is more serious in that members of religious orders in Ireland do not, as a rule, undertake parochial work. The effective ratio of priests to people is. therefore, lower than is generally supposed.
Under the nea scheme, English priests could come to Ireland, if possible to the areas where many of their Irish parishioners hail front, and spend up to several months here familiarising themselves, in an informal but not superficial way, with the background of their parishioners.
Their place in England could be taken by an Irish priest from the same diocese or parish, whose own experience would thereby be broadened and who would be in a better position, when he returned, to advise any of his own parishioners who were thinking of emigrating.
Mgr. Casey, who represented Cardinal Heenan at the Congress. has expressed his support for the idea, which is as yet only in its Initial stages, and there was equal support for it from Irish priests. It may take as long as two years to work out its full implications, but the preliminary work is already being undertaken and the growing sense of urgency that underlies the emigrant problem may well prompt a speedier response.
Tipperary to Deep South
ANOTHER AREA where Irish priests are in short supply—and. surprisingly enough, in great demand—is below the MasonDixon Line, in the Southern States of America. This week I talked to a young, enthusiastic Tipperary priest who has spent the last three years in Columbus, Georgia. He is Fr. Timothy Ryan and he has been working in America, on his own express wish. ever since his ordination,
In the past three years he has built as many churches (one of them converted from a roadside "diner") as well as an attractive little grotto with money collected by his brother, who runs one of Ireland's top show hands. His accent, after three years, is an intriguing mixture of Tipperary and Deep South, and he is firmly committed to life and work in his new home.
Not far from him. he points out, there is the city of Dublin, Georgia a city larger than Limerick, which was in all probability founded by an Irishman and which has no resident priest. The great problem is not the first generation Irishmen, but the second and third generation Irishmen who came to the Southern States and who lost the faith simply because there svere no priests to minister In them.
It's mission territory with a vengeance, even though the old suspicion of Catholicism is rapidly dying out. Fr. Ryan also has other problems on his hands. integration, for instance. The parish schools for which he is responsible have been integrated for two years now, and the public schools in his area will he integrated this autumn.
Nevertheless, things in Columbus, Georgia, have not been as difficult as in Birmingham, Alabama, and he does not anticipate any violence. Ile also criticises newspapers for inflating Ku Klux Klan stories out a all proportion to their significance.
One of his classmates from All Hallows College, Dublin, was on the Selma March, and, although he acknowledges there have been differences of emphasis as between one diocese and another, he is proud of the part the Church is playing in the Civil Rights movement.
By the way, he will welcome with open arms any Irish priests who wain to join him,
1 HE NEW Bishop of Raphoe, Dr. McFeely, whose appointment was announced at the weekend, is the third Donegal member of the Irish Hierarchy. He shares with the other two Donegal men—Bishop Farren of Derry and Bishop O'Doherty of Dromore—the other distinction of being a past-president of St. Columb's College, Derry.
He was actually a student at St. Columb's when, after a brilliant academic career, he secured the Donegal university scholarship and went to Maynooth in 1926. In his second year at St. Patrick's be won the coveted Solus in French, in open competition. and in 1929 he graduated with first class honours.
From Maynooth he went to Rome and the Lateran university, and was ordained in 1932. He was attending further courses in the University of Fribourg, after acquiring his doctorate in Rome. when he was called back to St. Columb's: in 1951 he was appointed President of the College by his present colleauge in the hierarchy, Dr. Farrcn.
Since 1959 he has been parish priest in Strabane, where he continued to take a keen interest in educational matters.
THE SEIZING of John McGahern's new book, The Dark. by the Customs in Dub
lin has been made, as one might expect, the occasion for all sorts
of moralising from both sides of the censorship fence. Mr. McGahern, who is probably wisest of all. is enjoying his holidays elsewhere and has not seen fit to comment on the situation at all.
Probably the best comment on the situation was made, in an indirect way, by another Irish writer, Augustine Martin, in the Jesuit magazine Similes before the news of the seizure was forthcoming. Referring to John McGahern's earlier novel. The Barracks. Mr. Martin showed how one incident in the book—the twining of rosary beads around a church's railings—could he completely misread by an English critic unfamiliar with the writer's
background and with some of the more harmless Irish customs.
The rosary beads. of course, were there because they had been lost and were waiting for their owners. The reviewer saw much more symbolism in it than Mr. McGahern probably ever intended.
Likewise, the conflict of opinion over his latest hook has been centred on his treatment of adolescent masturbation in such a way as to make objective discussion of the book as a whole almost totally impossible—and to create a climate of suspicion arid resentment in which it is becoming more and more obvious that the core of the debate on censorship has been lost in a sea of emotionalism and that people, however well-meaning, are trying unsuccessfully to deal with the problem on several different levels at the same time.
I have not read Mr. McGahern's book. but the members of the Censorship of Publications Board arc reading it at the moment, and their dilemma is an obvious one. They deserve a certain amount of sympathy.
-Living wordcourse FR. PLTER McCONVILI F, of Newry, Co. Down. whose work for the catechetical re newal described in my last letter, has asked me to remind those readers who may he interested that "God's Living Word", a weekend course in religion, is being organised in Newry on July 3 and 4, under the patronage of Bishop O'Doherty of Dromore.
It is open to teachers, Sisters and priests, and to any others who are interested in Sacred Scripture, and applications will be dealt with by the Summer' course Secretary at St. Clare's Convent, High Street, Newry, Co. Doan. Please bring your Bible.
WHICH REMINDS ME that judging by the amount of seminars, lecture-courses, studygroups and the rest now going on in Ireland, our people will be the most aggiornamento-educated in the English-speaking world.
It is very encouraging to see the waythese gatherings are being patronised. But 1 feel there arc two problems. One is that in many cases the lectures are far above the heads of .the audience. The other is that people tilled with the new ideas are going to find it hard to accept the Slid tIA (jilt) at parish level.