The Story of “An Active Branch”
By R. J. DONOVAN, Hon. Sec., Richmond Branch
THE Richmond branch of the . National Christian Workers’ Movement has been featured in most of the daily and Catholic newspapers in recent weeks because of the practical way in which they have shown their interest in the Catholic youth in Richmond. I refer to the machine shop established by our branch, which was blessed and opened by his Grace, Dr. Mannix, on Sunday afternoon, August 4. Arising out of this publicity, numerous enquiries have been made by people unable to attend the opening as to who the National Christian Workers are and what are their objectives. In this article I will tell you something about our Movement and the various activities we are engaged in at Richmond. The National Christian Workers’ Movement is a Catholic Action organisation, binding ^together all adult workers in one
movement. It is a workers’ movement—it is run by workers —it is for the workers. It has nothing to do with’ an alleged body called “The Movement,” said to be working in trade unions, according to recent Com 1 -. niunist propaganda. The Christian Workers’ Movement is primarily a spiritual movement, concerned with the saving of souls, with the parish group as its basic unit of organisation. It works among Catholics, not non-Catholics. But it is not only concerned with their spiritual activities, but with the problems of the whole life of the worker —it wants to assist in the lightening of the burden of the worker—it wants to strengthen his family life. It wants to educate its members not by taking them back to school, but by inducing them to attend regular meetings, by the free discussion of their problems, in groups, by talks, lectures, debates, and by study and reading. NEEDS OF WORKERS It wants to help them to learn more about their religion—more about the Church’s social teachings, and lastly, how to apply these teachings to their everyday problems. The Movement realises that in the lives of Christian workers there exist many needs, and is prepared to establish services for every need that exists. It is hoped that the Movement will become a representative body, which will represent the views of Catholic workers and safeguard their real interests in national affairs. I have briefly explained what are to me the most important features of the Movement, and
I will now tell you how we went about forming our branch at Richmond and some of the services we have established in our few years of existence.
FIRST DISCUSSION GROUP
With the consent of our parish priest, the Rev. Fr. Lockington, our first Leaders’ Group, commencing twelve men, met together for the first time on, March 29, 1942. It took a few months for the Group to settle down, but as each Leader became more familiar with the Movement, the interest deepened and discussions became more enthusiastic and more to the point. For twelve months we studied, and at the end of that period we had fins hed our training and were ready to establish our branch. The Movement was inaugurated at a meeting held on Sunday evening, April 18, 1943, and about ninety parishioners attended .this meeting, at which they were told all about “the aims and objectives of the Movement.” A considerable number of those present joined up, and it .was decided to hold our monthly meetings on the first Sunday of every month. Our first move was to form a Diiission Group to study “Pattern for Peace,” and these men, by mutual consent, met in one another’s homes each Friday night. This was our way of introducing to one another men who had been residing in the same suburb and attending the same church for many years, but who were still complete strangers to one another. • We next interested ourselves in Credit Unions, because our investigations prove to us that very few men were in a position to save money; the expense incurred in rearing and educating a growing family was for ever mounting; lodge, doctor, insurance and school fees had to be paid; purchases were being made on the time payment and hire purchase and credit order systems; and a considerable number of our men were gradually falling into debt and had to borrow at very high rates of interest. On all sides we heard stories of the continual struggle to balance the budget. Hence cur reason for introducing the idea of forming a branch of Credit Union to our members. Twelve members formed a subcommittee to study Credit Unions and to devise ways and means of establishing one at
Richmond, and after three months of continuous study this committee reported that they were
prepared to take up the fight tc lighten the burden o£ the worker —our members. Members learned that a Credil Union was a group of persons bonded together by Christian charity for two reasons:
(1) To supply members of that group with a plan of systematic saving;
(2) To enable members to borrow money from that pool of savings at a very low rate of interest. The Credit Union was established at Richmond on February 18, 1944.
The following figures, after two and a half years trading, make interesting reading: 109 members have paid into the Credit Union £2000. 62 different loans were granted, amounting to £1355. Loan repayments totalled £810/13/’-. Part savings withdrawn from the bank was £440/4/2. Credit balance in the bank amounted to £623/18/1. Loans were granted for the following purposes: To settle accounts for clothing obtained on credit orders, and goods obtained on the time payment and hire purchase system. To pay for doctor, taxation, dental expenses, house repairs, yearly railway tickets, lodge, insurance, superannuation and holidays. The biggest loans granted were £400 (1) and £200 (1), to enable members to finalise the purchase of homes.
LEAGUE OF MASSES
The above facts indicate that our Credit Union has been of considerable assistance to our members, and besides supplying a saving and a lending, scheme, has been responsible in no small way in inducing members to join our branch. While the sub-committee was studying Credit Unions we introduced the League of Masses.
A roster was drawn up, and by this means we guaranteed one member of our branch being at Mass and Holy Communion daily throughout the year. The Masses were offered for the Pope’s intentions, the safety of our service men and women, and the success of our Workers’ Movement. The League of Masses is still being carried on. Last month saw the commencement of regular monthly Holy Communions on the first Sunday pf every month, and our intentions for September will be for those charitable people who re ponded to our appeal for funds for the machine shop. Acting on a suggestion made by Rev. Fr. Lockington, we decided to reopen the St. Ignatius Club, which had been closed for some years. A working bee was formed from members, and the task of renovating the club was commenced. After about three months’ work we opened the club to our members and to senior members of the Y.C.W. All our meetings are held at the club. The Credit Union transacts its financial affairs at the club. In fact, the club has become our headquarters, and all our services are operated from there. Through the. reopening of the club we were able to give our members a further service. As in pre-war days, tobacco had been obtainable at the club; we found that we were justly entitled to our quota again. This service has helped in no small way to lighten the lot of our members.
INCOME TAX SERVICE
During this time there had been no increase in our membership. On the contrary, there had been a steady decrease in attendances at monthly meetings, but never once was our faith in the ultimate outcome of our fight for Christ in doubt. In spite of a number of setbacks, we forged steadily ahead with our plans. We called a parish meeting, and at this meeting we introduced the Movement, and a series of speakers enumerated the various services we had established. As a result, a number of new members were enrolled. We next organised a meeting of the men of the parish, Dr. K. Rush being our guest speaker, who took for his subject,’ “The Responsibility of Parents in the Instruction of “Their Children.” The attendance was good and more members were enrolled. Another service we have introduced is the income tax service. All problems relating to returns —intact, any problem at all in the taxation field are dealt with by our taxation expert. Our next venture was to organise a- Christmas party for our Catholic children attending St. Ignatius’ School: When we thought:, up this idea we anticipated about 100 children attending, but three weeks before the function took place, to our alarm, the number had risen to approximately 350. However, we had been working for five months prior to this making toys—toys which were selling at an exorbitant price everywhere—and with an extra ‘effort by the working bee, we made the grade. Every child received a toy distributed by Father Christmas, plus a party cap and a bag of sweets. The children were entertained by a ventriloquist and Mickey Mouse Cartoons. Refreshments were set out in the quadrangle, and outside- amplification added to the fun. The function will be repeated this year. We” also have a wanted to buy,
sell or exchange session at our monthly meetings, and this session has proved not only a very popular one, but also a very valuable one to our members.
Considerable time was devoted to investigating the pros and cons of establishing a vocational guidance and employment bureau Richmond. After many months a plan was drawn up and our bureau was opened. Already a number of boys have been placed in positions, and it is fully expected that as time goes on more will avail themselves of the facilities placed at their disposal. We know that this service is a most important one, and it is hoped that other branches of the Movement will recognise this and take some action to establish a bureau in their parish. In ‘ furthering the spiritual education of members, arrangements were made for the Rev. Fr. Lockington to give a series of illustrated lectures on “The Ma s,” and these lectures have taken place over the past year. Recently we arranged public speaking and writing classes, and these take place every Monday night and are conducted by Fr. Lockington. At the completion of this series it is our intention to form a debating class. We have also established a Buying Club, and it is hoped that this will develop into a Cooperative Store. Our last service to be established was the machine shop. This was our biggest concerted effort, and has opened up a new avenue of thought for our educational authorities. Only those who have had something to do with enterprises of this_ kind have any idea of the difficulties and obstacles and apathy which have to be overcome in realising a plan such as ours was. It is hoped that this work will be an inspiration to other parishes similarly situated, and teach all Australians the lesson of standing on their own feet and sticking their own backs into a problem instead of lying down and asking “why the Government” or somebody else “doesn’t” do something about it.
The equipping of the machine shop which we established for our Catholic youth at Richmond cost a little over £1200. Judging by \he poor response forthcoming from our Catholic populace tc the appeal supported by his Grace Archbishop Mannix, on the opening day, it is apparent that very few Catholics realise the value of this machine shop to our youth, and just how many souls will be kept within the true fold by giving them a chance to make good and keep out of the “dead-end” job. We are left with the tremendous financial burden of £1000, and it is hoped that some of our good friends who can so easily afford to do so will recognise the value of this wonderful venture and forward donations to R. J. Donovan, 113a Richmond-terrace, Richmond, E.l; or to the editor, “The Advocate.” The machine shop can be inspected at any time. In conclusion, we feel that with numbers steadily increasing —we now have 220 members— the Richmond branch will be able to carry out -further new projects in the future. But no branch can afford to relax. If we want this Movement to spread throughout the whole of” Australia, we must work and fight unceasingly. The responsibility for our expansion cannot rest upon the efforts of any one person. Individually, we pan do little. Organised, we can do much to restore Christ to the workers, and restore the workers of Australia to Christ.
Lad at work in the machine shop of the Trades School, conducted by the Richmond branch of the National Christian Workers’ Movement.
The National Christian Workers’ Movement (The Advocate, Wed 28 Aug 1946) (Trove)