FROM all over the world this Christmas came letters which paid tribute to the geherosity of readers of this column. I wished, as I opened them, that those to whom the thanks were really due could see them too.
There was, for exainple, one from a man in London of whose plight I first wrote in September. 1957. Al that time he, his wife and two children (with a third on the way) were living in a single room of 10ft. by lift. It was so crowded and so noisy that when he wanted to write a letter he went out to a near-by cafe.
In a courageous but rather hopeless endeavour to extricate himself from such conditions, this semiskilled worker was doing two jobs, working from 8 a.m. to 11.45 p.m.
Readers responded by sending me the money for a deposit for the purchase of a house. The everwilling Catholic Housing Aid Society attended to all the many formalities and he was installed in his new home last month. He and his family have just spent their first Christmas in decent conditions.
He writes: "Nothing could describe the personal joy and peace which my wife. my children and myself are experiencing."
AFIER a holiday in North
Wales I described how the roof of the Church of the Most Holy Redeemer in Portmadoc leaked, the walls oozed and the windows splintered with the damp. The building needed £1,000 spent on it right away.
Fr. Gwilym Jones, the parish priest, wrote to me on Christmas Eve: "Your appeal brought in at once something like £300 and during the last week or two I have received £45 indirectly as a result ofHitis" parish covers some 100 square miles and includes 20-odd villages and towns. The 150
parishioners struggle to keep going a church which has to be large enough to accommodate hundreds of summer visitors.
FROM Hongehon, Karigwon Do, Korea, came a letter from Fr. Philip Crosbie of the Society of St. Columban. He is the author of "Three Winters Cold" which tells of his experiences on the death march to the Yalu River during the Korean war. I have written of him on many occasions in this column. Readers helped him when he returned to his parish after years in a Communist internmem camp.
"This parish," he writes, "has grown to 1,700 (there was something over 600 when I returned) and we should pass the 2,000 mark by the middle of next year—after the baptisms at Easter."
THEN there was a letter from Fr. Innayya, of Gunter District, South India, once more thanking those who between them had sent him enough money to engage two new full-time lay catechists.
He had earlier written to say that in two villages in his mission parish there were 50 families in nne, 20 in another all wishing to become Catholics but he could do nothing about them because he had so many other calls upon his time. Those 70 families, and many , others, are now able to receive the instruction for which they asked.
A FEW days before Christmas I
had the pleasure of entertaining Bill Murray, who is organising the Young Christian Workers in Nigeria.
When he got out there he discovered that the overwhelming majority of boys leaving school became, and remained, unemployed. He acquired an old garage, set it up as a carpentry workshop and, with the aid of European Catholics living in the area. started evening woodwork classes,
His little "school" can accommodate only 25 pupils. Another 25 a week come asking to be taken in. They have to be turned away.
When he returns to Nigeria in a few days time Bill Murray will take with him more than £70 (f55 of which came from an anonymous Irish navvy) to go towards extending the garage so that it may accommodate twice the number.
His hope is that the boys who finish the course will go back to the villages from which they have come and there establish themselves as the local craftsmen. As such they can he a powerful influence among their own people
But the majority have no money and the first requirement is a set of tools. Five pounds will pay for enough to start a boy in work. la other words, for this relatively small sum a young apostolic African Catholic can be given a passport to life.
I have always tried to avoid making this into just an "appeals column", although heaven knows there are enough good and urgent causes which come my way to fill every column in this paper. But I hope that there may be some readers who may start the New Year with a thank offering for their own Christmas in the shape of a gift to help Bill Murray's work. It should he sent, not to me, but to: Frank Lane, Treasurer, Y.C.W. National Headquarters, 106 Clapham Road, London. S.W.9.