Page 3, 4th October 1946

4th October 1946
Page 3
Page 3, 4th October 1946 — Bernard Keelan, of the " C.H. " Editorial Staff, has • recently toured Wales to study the progress of Catholic
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Organisations: Cylch, Cylch Catholig
Locations: Dublin, Liverpool, Cardiff

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Bernard Keelan, of the " C.H. " Editorial Staff, has • recently toured Wales to study the progress of Catholic

ism in the Principality.

His conclusion is that WALES IS A

MISSIONTERRITORY

UUNDER God, Wales can only be won for the Faith through the Welsh language. This is the opinion of those who know the country intimately.

Recently, at the lovely church

of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

Lampeter, in Cardiganshire, I had the opportunity of meeting several of those who have dedicated themselves to the cause of bringing Wales back to the Church. To appreciate the situation at the present time, it must be realised that the faithful in Wales are composed almost exclusively of Irish or Englishmen or of non-Welshspeaking people of Irish extraction. They are chiefly located in the anglicised industrial South and in the Butliniscd coastal towns.

In the agricultural hinterland of Central aori West Wales, there is only a small handful of Catholics who are true Welshmen. the majority oi whom are converts. With some knowledge of the sacrifices involved, one's admiration for the courage and the quality of these brave souls is doubly magnified. Not only must they renounce much of their social life which, in mid-Wales, is normally centred round the Nonconformist chapel, hut. living. as so many of them do, miles from a Mass centre. they are also deprived of the Sacraments.

Within living memory there was no church between Aberystwyth and Rhyl. And, even to-day, in spite of several recently established Mass centres. the churches inland are pitifully few. Lampeter, for example, is the only inland church in the whole of Cardiganshire and Merioneth has hut three, it is not hard, therefore. to imagine the loneliness of the Welsh convert.

"The Catholic Circle" Striving to carry out the dying words of their cotmtry's Patron, St. David, who said, " Hold the Faith and your belief. and do all things, even the smallest things, as •1 have taught you," a group of Welsh-speaking Catholics decided, in 1941, to torm themselves into a society which they called Y Clych Catholig (the Catholic Circle). Its aims are the sanctification of its members by the holding of an annual Retreat and to set forth Catholic teaching life and practice in a magazine and other publications in their native tongue.

The first number or their journal, Efrydiart Cathulig (Catholic Studies) appeared recently. This large, wellproduced publication has made a con siderable impression on non-Catholic readers. Edited by Saunders 'Lewis, the great Welsh leader and man of letters, himself a convert, it contains scholarly articles and what is generally admitted to be fine poetry. There is an article on the Theology of the Mystical Body, another on Tudur Aled. the last of the Welsh classical poets; and the Archbishop of Cardiff, a keen Welsh scholar. contributes a study ot medieval Welsh devotion to Our Lady. The spreading of Catholic culture by this means, among a people with a great natural culture of its own, is likely to prove of greet value in the work of restoring the Faith in Wales.

/ spent a day ai Lampeter recently while members of the Cylch were mak

ing their Retreat. The conferences. given by Fr. Mimi Evans. OP.. of Blackfriars. were In Welsh. Welsh. too. was the language of the hymns and the extra-liturgical devotions such as the Rosary and the Way of the Cross.

Unlike the normal Retreat, silence between conferences is not observed here. and much of the time is spent by these isolated Catholics in getting to know each other and in discussing the many problems connected with the consersion of Wales.

I talked with several of the retreatants, who come from all walks of life. and was deeply impressed by their spirit aality and missionary ardour. To learn. indirectly. of their difficulties overcome and those still to be faced was a humbling experience. Thc atmosphere of the Cylch, resembling that of it good platoon with a common purpose in some lonely outpost. is that of a young church : it reminded me of the early Christian spirit that one senses among Catholics in Africa. Quite unobtrusively. Lampeter has become thc centre or a new and wonderful epostolate.

Four Enclosed Convents The grey les, factor justifying hopes for the conversion of Wales is the existence of four enclosed convents in the country. There is a comnrunity of Benedictine Mins at Talacre and Carmelite Sisters have houses at Dolgelley. Llandovery and Bride!!, near Cardigan. The venture is founded and steeped in prayer..

Ir. Malachy Lynch, 0.Cartn., is the spiritual guide of the missionary movement. HQ told me something of the work that lies ahead. " The first thing we need," be said, " is more Welsh.

speaking priests. Wc have a small junior seminary in Aberystwyth but we need many more vocations to this great work of evangelising Welsh-speaking Wales.

" We can be thankful," continued Fr. Lynch. that Wales has a religious outlook that is still profound, in spite of a definite decline of nonconformity in all but its social aspects. Men still discuss theology and customs of Catholic origin still survive." The central plains have not suffered from the incursions of materialism from across the border that arc manifest in the industrial valleys of the south, and, to a lesser extent, in the playground of the English Midlands in the north.

I asked Fr. Lynch about the attitude of Welshmen to the Faith. " Well," he replied, " In some measure, they fear the Church but they realise, too, that Catholicism is something very deep. And, although they have forgotten the Catholic history of their country—they are always surprised to hear that St. David was a monk—they will kindle to stories of the Saints. They are approachable, lovable people and they show nothing but respect for any man of God. It must be remembered, also, that the Welshman is no stranger to

religious expel ientv. There is prejudice

in some quarters. of course. but. on the whole, Wales is not hostile to the Faith to-day."

Catholic Formation Saunders Lewis has said:

" On all Welsh history and Welsh culture J see the mark of their Catholic formation. This land of Wales is not a land where Catholics need feel strange and ill-at-ease. And I make only one appeal—it is that Catholics in Wales, who pray for Wales and its conversi(nn, should help this country to repossess its traditions and should help to reeewtablish its langtrage and its faintly life in the old ways."

Welsh is still the living speech of Wales and it is the language of home and of religion. It has always been the policy of the Church to foster the individual charaeteristics of a nation, and her missionaries in WaleS, so few

at present, will win the people's confidence through the language of their hymns and their own firesides.

The new apostolate will bc very largely a lay-apostolate. A member of the Cylch Catholig (Catholic Circle) has recently published a moving accoutn of her return to the Faith, together with the old Welsh family to which she belongs. (" Eastward of All." by Frances Wynne; M. H. Gill. Dublin.) " They never talked religion to us." she writes, " or seemed in the least anxious to influence us. But their very presence was an influence. One sensed about all Catholics a something indefinable, which

seemed to set them apart. Certainly there was no feeling of hostility. I got the impression that they possessed some secret—something very precious which they would share if they could." This small band of Welsh apostles is fully aware of its great responsibilities.

" So far," said Fr. Lynch, " There have been no quick results of our labours. It is line-fishing at present." But the Cyleh is preparing itself for the heavy task of mending the Fisherman's rot Practical Problems Apart from the shortage of priests, the practical problems are many. Catholics in central Wales are few and priests must be supported and new churches built. To help the heroic work of the priests in these small, isolated parishes, an organisation called Cyfeillion Cymru (the Apostolate for Wales) has been formed in England. Its headquarters are at St. Anne's, Edgehill, Liverpool, and several Circles have been formed in other parishes to adopt churches in

Wales. They assist them by prayer, alms and visits, but many more are required

The Cyfeiilion also publishes articles and information of great interest to all Catholics in a quarterly newsletter in English, called Llais Cyfeillion Cypriot.

The Welsh mountains are a considerable barrier, physically and mentally, for us in England, but we cannot let it be said that we Catholics neglected a missionfield outside our very doorstep.

BERNARD KE.ELIN.




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