By GRACE CONWAY
" I feel desperate. if Catholics in England don't come forward and join our medical missions in India, I don't know what we are going to do." This S.O.S. for women doctors, midwives and nurses with a religious vocation is sent out by Dr. Anna Dengel, who founded the Medical Mission Sisters in 1925, and who is passing through London on her way back to the United States. Not the least difficulty that has to be met in India, Dr. Dengel explained, is that very often, where hospitals are established on British territory, only British degrees are acceptable. " We have difficulty with American degrees," she said. " And yet the need for doctors is overwhelming. Just imagine. In India there is only one doctor for every 10,000 of the population—by that I mean properly qualified doctors. The place, however. swarms with native doctors,' or hakims, which for want of a better term, I call ' pre-scientific ' men." Dr. Dengel recalled briefly the history of the establishment of the Catholic Medical Missions in India in 1925, largely owing to the great i pioneer work of the distinguished Scottish woman doctor — Dr. MacLaren — who, at the age of '70, made repeated visits to Rome to implore the Pope to lift the embargo on religious practising medicine as doctors and midwives. It was not until 1936 that the embargo was lifted, but magniti cent work was being done in the meant time by Dr. MacLaren in establishing hospitals in co-operation with Mgr. Wagner, the Mill Hill Prefect Apostoi R7.
The hospitals under the direction of the Society of Catholic Medical Missionaries consist of St. Catherine's Hospital in Rawalpindi for women and children, now amalgamated with the Holy Family Hospital; the hospital at Patna, with 175 beds, is also inadequate; Dacca—a Government institution, with Sisters in charge, has 300 beds—it could easily do with 1,000.
At Travancore the first group of four of the Indian Medical Mission Sisters who were trained in the Holy Family Hospital at Rawalpindi, have now formed themselves into a religious community.
" The extraordinary thing," Dr. Dengel remarked, " is the way in which our hospitals seem to stand outside all political and racial friction. In the riots of 1941, the Moslem leader came to the hospital in the morning to assure the Sisters that they were in no fear of molestation from the Hindus and that he had placed a special guard outside to protect them. In the afternoon the Hindu leader came to assure them of protection against the Moslems!"
LACK OF POSTULANTS
But at every hand the great work that the Sisters do is handicapped by lack of postulants. Holland has done better than England or even Ireland and has 15 postulants training. " But I have great hopes of Ireland," Dr. Delve] added.
" The Catholic bishops are eager to help us in every way. Not the least evil we try to combat is the terrible mortality rate among mothers-200,000 of them die every year in childbirth. We try to change that and we also try to change the attitude towards girl babies—often the birth of a girl is regarded as a financial catastrophe. But we often notice that when we offer to take the children and keep them, the mothers change their minds about giving them up when the day comes for them to leave hospital."