Interview with the Organiser
By a Special Correspondent IN a pleasant room overlooking old-fashioned Eccleston Square, just behind Victoria Station, I was greeted by a young priest who was typing hard at his desk when I was announced.
" Come in. Take that chair, it's more comfortable. Cigarette
. . . 9,s " I have interrupted you, Father
" Not at all. I am here to answer questions, specially just now. Every paragraph about the A.P.F. in the Press will help to make a success of the centenary celebrations."
" It is precisely about them that I came to bother you . . . "
" Well, in that case, it's my business to answer every query. Shoot ! "
I explained that I had seen notices about the centenary in June and that I was hoping to get a story. Would he begin at the beginning and explain what exactly the A.P.F. was, as I only had the woolliest ideas about it? The following lines are made up from the notes I made as Fr. Herbert Keldany, who is an occasional contri• butor to the literary page of the CATHOLIC HERALD, as well as the Assistant National Director, described his work.
The A.P.F., as we call it colloquially, is really the Pontifical Association for the Propagation of the Faith, a society established wherever there are Catholics, to enable them to share directly with the Holy See the burden imposed upon all his followers by Our Lord when He said " Go ye and teach all nations."
If that sounds somewhat theological —and what else can it?—let us say that it is the main fund which enables the missions to the heathen to be kept up and to grow. Without the A.P.F. grants the missionaries in the field would be dependant on the spasmodic generosity of readers of agony columns. It depends upon the Congregation of Propaganda Fide, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that upon the A.P.F. depends the programme of Catholic missionary expansion, for propaganda has but few resources of its own to-day; that is why the Pope of the Missions, as we call the late Pius XI, " adopted " the well-tried and very democratic system of the A.P.F. as " the official channel for collecting the alms of the faithful for the benefit of all the Missions" to quote the A.P.F. charter.
Woman Founder The system took shape in the mind of a young Frenchwoman, called Pauline Jaricot, rather more than a century ago. She had wanted to become a missionary nun, and when this was not found possible, she saw no reason why she should not pray and save for the missions while remaining at home. She was very practical and evolved a system of circles of ten people giving a sou, or a halfpenny, a week and wrapping an Our rather and a Hail Mary a day round each. The idea caught on like wildfire and spread across Europe, so that to-day it is found everywhere, even in the newly-converted parts of the earth, where the gratitude of the new Christians leads to generosity, if not to great monetary outcome.
Fr. Keldany told me that there is talk of an early canonisation for Pauline Jaricot, and he looked forward to the day when the honours of the altar will be accorded to "our Mother Foundress."
The latest news from Rome indicates that her cause is progressing very favourably indeed. It would doubtless help our work if that much desired event would take place during the centenary year of the English branch.
Mgr. Mathew's Appeal
The centenary is being kept this year because although there had been a few individual enthusiasts earlier it was not until 1839 that the formal launching of this work occurred.
The Appeal to the Catholics of Great Britain, which is in part reproduced in the current issue of the A.P.F. magazine, gives a very good indication of the enthusiasm the first members shared with the 16th Earl of Shrewsbury, the first President, who, to quote Bishop Mathew's thumb-nail sketch, " combined
an external Gothic magnificence with a life of extreme personal poverty."
Mgr. Mathews writes : " To the Catholics of England we appeal! To the children of confessors and martyrs, whose only comfort and support was that religion which we seek to spread, we appeal: we call on your gratitude to aid her cause. To the lofty spirit which endured, and the Catholic spirit which has forgiven persecution, we appeal. We claim its zealous assistance for still suffering churches. To the descendants of a people which in its hour of darkness was fain to receive the light of faith from foreign missionaries, we appeal. In the name of those who yet abide in the shadow of death, we invoke sympathy for the missionary and his flock.
" In aiding strangers by this little subscription, can you think that you prejudice any nearer and more domestic claim? We do not ask you to alter, but to extend your charity: and were it otherwise, the diminished fund would be compensated by a more valuable equivalent. Increasing zeal would supply the deficiency and the good example of your growing piety would do more for your country than your halfpence. France has found it so: she has gained more by the spread of religion than she would have lost if the whole funds of the society had been subtracted from her charities. And France was already Catholic. England is yet to be converted."
The Beginnings For many years the A.P.F. remained a voluntary lay society, dependent upon the zeal of a minority who could see beyond the needs of the day at home to the claims of " those who sat in utter darkness."
Throughout this period when money was required to build churches in England grants were made by the A.P.F. central council towards the cost which far exceeded the small totals collected here. This interesting, but little known, practice went on until 1909, when England upon ceasing to be attached to propaganda ceased to have a claim as a missionary land. It was not until 1929 that the total contribution of Britain exceeded the amount previously voted by the A.P.F. for our needs; so in one sense the A.P.F. has only begun to help the missions in the last ten years.
But that is anticipating. The gradual awakening of interest in the missions was largely monopolised in the later part of the 19th century by the missionary college established at Mill Hill by C rdinal Vaughan. Later other missionary establishments came into being and there was a danger that the claims of the missions as a whole might
be completely forgotten, so in 1910 Cardinal Bourne determined to give the A.P.F. a new lease of life by appointing a priest to establish it on a national footing. Mgr. Canon Ross, now living in retirement, did this very successfully and, as a result, the A.P.F. has never ceased to grow.
The Present A.P.F.
To-day the A.P.F. is found in most parishes. It groups together, as a rule, a few mission-minded enthusiasts whose interest and zeal only affects a fraction of parish life as yet, but the foundations have been well laid and our present task is to form the "missionary conscience " of the rest of the faithful; to make them that is, first, see the importance of co-operating with missionary work, and then take their part in the regular supply of the life-blood of the missions.
The centenary is a very valuable occasion for bringing the need of this to the greatest possible number, but it really is a genuine thanksgiving as well. We have been a long time growing, now it is only a matter of growing pains. Competing with immediate needs, anxiety about the international situation, etc., is not easy even with a Missionary Pope and a Missionary Cardinal at one's back.
Fr. Keldany explained his work to mc.
" The subject in which I have to arouse interest," he said, " is as interesting as it is important, and it is a source of constant bewilderment to me that the moment I gain a hearing (whether in the pulpit on Sunday, the schoolroom on weekdays, or private conversation every day) keen interest is aroused.
"I spend quite a lot of time getting items of missionary news of general interest into the Press, and here again the interest shown is very encouraging.
" We print Missions and Missionaries, for grown-ups, and The Annals of the Holy Childhood, for children, three times a year. The one runs to 100,000 copies, and the other goes to most of the schools in the land. We have of late years issued a missionary calendar at Christmastide, and a few weeks ago we have issued a set of six illustrated missionary pamphlets at 2d.
" All this with a view to satisfying the mission-minded younger generation which is used to thinking in terms of international relations, long distance flights, competing ideologies, and so is ripe for the study of the Catholic implications of all these questions, which are enthralling.
" The growing membership of the Missionary Union of the Clergy, which is pledged to encourage interest in the missions, the development of the Students' Missionary League, and isolated, but enthusiastic, cells scattered up and down the country indicate that we are on the eve of a new era."