Douglas Hyde, writing in the Catholic Herald 20 years ago, gave a warning that Communists were meeting students from African countries immediately they landed at Heathrow Airport. Fr Hugh Thwaites, Si. said recently that this article had led
to the foundation of the Catholic Students International Chaplaincy, whose team of six
priests an-sl three sisters work
ith more than 40,000 African iiid Asian students in London. Fr Thwaitcs is student chaplain at the Tooting Centre in Southwark diocese, which has study rooms, television and a small chapel.
It is one of four London centres, including a hostel for 200 men at Manor House, with headquarters at Holland Park,
where Er Sean Murphy MHM, for 13 years a missionary in Uganda, was recently appointed National Chaplain tooverseas students.
"We try to be a welcoming Christian presence," he said. "We see ourselves as t4e Catholic Church in England being at home to students of the world."
Fr Murphy said the chaplaincy, open to students of all denominations, worked with students of 43 nationalities, a great number coming from Africa. While in the past most had been young men, many Asian girls were now arriving
from Malaysia the Philippines and Japan, the products of convent schools in their own -countries. .
Fr Thwaites said he had "inherited" 200 students from his predecessor in 1968. The number had since grown to about 600, the largest group being lbos from Nigeria. Many were already graduates of
African universities coming here to do post-graduate work
and were older than the average student, often having a wife and children, he said.
Many of them faced money and accommodation problems and a number who had successfully graduated as lawyers took on part-time jobs, in some cases as night . watchmen.
Often the wife would work while the husband studied, and
as both had come for qualifications. when he had completed his course, she would lake on a shorter training course before both returned.
The vast majority did return to their own countries, but some of those who did not, stayed because they were ashamed to admit their failure at home, he said.
With Huss, the brightest boy in an extended family or village
was often chosen by his people to go to university, said Fr Thwaites.
The boy's relatives pooled resources to send him to study abroad, and if he was successful it was expected of him that he ould help others to complete hieher education. -Some students actually sent money home, and when they returned were expected to give up to 11,000 worth of presents.
In addition to the pressure to succeed the black student also encountered prejudice. This showed itself in all sorts of ways, and even in Church many Catholics whould not sit beside overseas students.
In one case Fr Thwaites knew of. a member of a congregation had turned to his neighbour to exchange the kiss of peace and suddenly seeing he was black. refused to give it.
Fr Thwaites said he found his work very rewarding and many he worked with had a "very strong faith." "Asking them 'Do you pray? is like asking them
'do you eat'?' it comes so 'naturally to them," he said. "They very often have an absolute assurance in talking about God and have a personal relationship with Him."
The Faith was grossing in Africa, he said. On a visit there last summer he had found 22
new along six miles of r new along six miles of r
He had no doubt that students who returned would help the Church, but he also knew of cases where students who returned who had come to Britain had not been made to feel welcome and returned determined to damage Christianity.
One such individual was at present in an influential position in Nigeria's Education Ministry and was attacking Church schools. he said.
A quarter of all overseas students in Britain arc nurses, according to a .survey carried out for the International Chaplaincy in 1970.
Sister Pius Singleton or the Infant Jesus has special responsibility in this area. A former missionary in Malaysia, she speaks Malay. the language of many student nurses.
Sister Pius is careful to slain] that she does very little and that all students are welcomed by the Church Missionary Society :Ind the British Council. the latter body backed by generous funds from the Government, which allow it to organise familiarisation courses for new arrivals.
Sister Pius was recently invited to attend such a Course for 21 nurses at the Metropolitan Hospital, Hackney, London. Most were from Malaya, two from the Philippines.
They heard talks by a policeman, a bank manage, a youth officer and an official of the nurses' students' union, as well as enjoying a tour of London during which t he mysterious workings of London Transport were revealed to them.
She has also participated in an outing for 102 students, including nurses, to Cambridge and to the tulip fields or Spalding, Lincolnshire. organised by the Hackney Committee for Overseas Students. Such activities help her make contact with the students, and she is always available to them for "consultation."
Sister Pius said mans student nurses got very lonely alter they had finished their work. knowing no one in London.
Last year they had begun a campaign asking Catholics and others to invite an overseas student nurse to their homes for a meal or other visit. She said she would be delighted to hear from any families to do so at her headquarters — 16 Portland Rise. London, N4.
It was reported in Paris some years ago that about 700 priests from overseas who had conic to the French capital to study had become "dropouts" and "disappeared," ceasing all contact with their home dioceses.
Fr Thwaites knew of some who had "dropped out" in London, though no accurate figures have been compiled here.
He said he would like to see a large house adjoining his centre in Tooting, now up for sale. bought for the use of overseas priests.
Many, he thought, lacked sufficient funds and faced other problems. Overseas priests were even more important to the work of the Church than overseas students, and every effort should be made to help them.
Fr Murphy said the suggestion would be considered by the International Chaplains Committee. A Mill Hill Father himself, he thought most priests coming from overseas had contacts with missionary orders
11'4're ar by them.
Overseas swebrieshoacpcs had studied abroad themselves, and few lacked contacts to make provision for any priests they Sent to study, he said. Of the priests who "dropped out". many had probably decided to do so before they came and might avoid any centre set up to terms of personally getting to know the students, a girls' hostel would also be welcome, ideally run by an order of nuns.
The girls, many or whom are student nurses, are especially open to exploitation. But Fr Murphy also feels strongly that the obligation of providing student accommodation to match student places falls primarily on theliGoiolavnedrnpmaernkt.cenire is used including a number national grotrs, nos Japanese and Nigerians, for special gatherings. and they are allowed the run of the kitchens to tperrenp;tre their own foods. For Catholics among them, confessions are also available in their own language and Masses for each group are held once a T h Holland Park headquarters was originally. started by Mgr John Coonan, STL, director ol the Association for the Propagation of the Faith which, with the National Catholic Fund of the Bishops' Conference, helps to finance the work for overseas students.
The International Chaplaincy has close ties with the ordinary student chaplaincies, some of which have special responsibilities for overseas students outside London — about hall of the total numher.
But the in ternational Chaplaincy is keenly aware of the importance of its work among the intellectual elite of the developing world-likely to become the leaders of over two-thirds of mankind,