By a Special Correspondent
Twenty-one years ago last Tuesday, an engine driver from
Wales, a sheet metal worker and a textile operative from Lancashire.. along with a princlpal, took a couple of rooms in Oxford with resources at the bank of £12 as., and that was the Jaeginning of the Catholic Workers' College. By the next year enough was begged and borrowed to get premises which have served the college ever since.
The scheme had beert voiced by Fr. Charles Plater, S.J., shortly before his death, expressing the demand of Catholic working-men that residential training of the hest kind should be provided for picked leaders in a Catholic workMg-class apostolate.
Growth was slow; numbers never exceeded, nor were expected to exceed, fifteen in any one year. There were so mans limning considerations: scholarships available; freedom from family ties; reasonable likelihood of regaining work and of returning to a milieu br tering scope for leadership: an age range which expected evidence of maturity and enterprise but recognised that one much over 30 would be old for work with books; aptitude for study and some previous preparation—usually in the studs, clubs of the Catholic Social Guild which wa.s the parent of the college.
But the message of the college has been carried far and wide by the cighty who have passed out—helping the study clubs and seeking their support, serving in the work of other Catholic societies, in local government (two have been mayors and many are councillors), in trade union affairs, in countless opportunities of daily life.
The university approved the college for the purposes of diploma studims; that, without the requirements of membership of the university and entrance examinations, these adult wage-earners who had left school at 14 received a university education by a course which provided valuable training and they gained also a firm foundation in the social teaching of the Catholic Church.
The college is established as a charity, with the Archbishops of England and Wales as trustees, and is recognised and grant-earning under the Adult Education Regulations of the Board of Education.
Money came slowly and was spent on bringing more and more students rather than on bricks and mortar. Scholarship fees of £100, with the Board's grant of nil, sufficed, when the house was full, to meet all expenses : but there was nothing to spare and there were anxious moments. About hall' the scholarships were found by popular efforts of Catholic societies, as in the north-east where the Catholic workers of Durham and Northumberland raised in pence and shillings a scholarship for eighteen successive years.
The college is closed now, save for
its office with the Guild ; one cannot gct young men and women in war-time. But those who shared its life arc working hard to justify the trust imposed Oil them. They pray for the day of reopening when others will come torward and prepare to join their ranks. The needs of the future will be endowment for a residential teaching staff, for scholarships to supplement the heroic popular efforts on which the college will always rely for extension of /itemises, for provision' to meet plans for wider scope and development.
The college must look ahead; simply to await events would be false to ifs charge. The governing body of the college has launched a fund for these purposes. All gifts received will be placed in War Loan on behalf of the college with a view to immediate action when peace returns.