As a no longer young New Zealand Catholic, I must admit that the past 40 odd years have been a painful and discouraging experience.
Prior to that I had lived the usual stable Catholic life of my "class", attending orthodox schools and participating in accepted Catholic practices provided by dedicated priests and religious. My original school education under the Catholic system served me very well indeed.
Although I reached only Grade Six Standard Proficiency (age 13 years) - most children leaving school to work at that age - yet it enabled me to reach senior rank in our Air Force, retiring as a Wing Commander. Classes were large - some about 60 pupils - with discipline often pretty severe, sometimes even violent, but not unusual as times were hard, being mid-Depression.
I became a permanent member of our Air Force and throughout a fearsome and deadly war of six years was ably supported, along with many thousands of other Catholics, by chaplains of the highest calibre. Those of us who survived were thus strengthened in our Faith and this played a prominent part in the great success of our Church up to its peak in the 1960s.
However, its base was then subject to severe forces of erosion, permeating our schools, universities and seminaries; and then parishes through the products of those institutions.
Over the years an immense number of Catholic parents in like category to myself have witnessed the wholesale desertion of family members from the practice of their Faith in any form. Often this sadly led to their own children not been baptised. The fall-off has certainly been dramatic and continuous.
Your publication over the years has achieved a great deal to hold together and strengthen the dwindling remnants of the old pioneer Irish Catholic Faith which was our treasured heritage. For that you may be well proud and thankful as I am too.
Strangely enough, it took the crisis to awaken me to the deep worth of the Faith and to study it in depth. By way of contrast, it does reveal just how ill-prepared most of us were to meet the challenge of the crisis which arose to face us. The spirit was there with many of us, but the resources were scant.
As these matters stand at present, the chances of our Church in New Zealand recovering its former state and circumstance in the foreseeable future are exceedingly remote.
KEVIN E. FENNESSY
Hastings, New Zealand