A LETTER FROM FATHER McCOY
ON HIS EXPERIENCES IN AFRICA

Taken from the Middlesex Chronicle, 23rd April 1938
(source: Andrew Rampling)


Members of the Catholic community in Heston will read with interest the first letter from Father Owen McCoy, former Parish Priest of Heston, who left for the African mission field.

"After an uneventful voyage," he says "we reached the small port of Abidjan on the Ivory Coast. As in most of the small ports there was no landing stage and we had the thrilling experience of being lifted from the ship in baskets, and being deposited by crane in a motor boat.

Now we had to spend two days in the train and two in a van or lorry. The train steamed very hopefully out of the station, but before very long we slowed down. First a terrible storm soaked the wood and made stoking very difficult, and then there were one or two climbs, which the engine could not manage at the first attempt, and this meant going backwards for a few miles to gather up steam before forging ahead again.

Add to this one or two breakdowns and long stops at deserted stations, and you will understand, why it took twelve hours to cover two hundred miles. At long last we reached BOBO, the headquarters of the White Fathers home, BOBO DJULASSO VICARIA TE,and were at home. Next morning being Sunday, I was invited to sing the high mass, my first among Africans. The church was packed and I felt a thrill of emotion when, like a peal of thunder, the whole community responded to my intonation of the Gloria.

In the afternoon we went to KOUMI , the Senior Seminary for the native clergy. We arrived for vespers and were amazed at the singing, this time by the rendering of plain chant by the seminarians. After Vespers we hurried to see the Provincial and receive our appointments. I jumped for joy, when I heard that I was to go to NANDOM, the most flourishing parish in the VICARIATE OF NAVRONGO. I left BOBO, and after a long day in the van reached DISSEN at nightfall.

The journey was not without excitement. At about 6 PM. darkness fell over the jungle, and Father Procurator told me to pray, that our van would not break down, for we were in the thick of the forest. and lions and panthers were plentiful in that area. I tried to be brave, but before the end of the journey, my heart had doubled its speed, and my brow was perspiring copiously. Antelopes, monkeys, owls, and rabbits, were there in plenty, but the lions and panthers obligingly kept out of the road, and we reached DISSEN safe and sound.




Early on Monday we left for NANDOM, and thus I arrived at my new home 31 DAYS AFTER LEAVING HESTON. All the little Africans flocked round to welcome me, their tiny eyes shining with delight. They all wanted to know why I had no beard, and one little fellow solved the problem by saying, I WAS ONLY A BABY WHITE FATHER. A baby I shall certainly be until I know the language.
We are at present PREPARING 750 PEOPLE FOR BAPTISM in a month's time. You can imagine the amount of work that entails. According to custom the Catechumens stay at the missions for at least two months (this is the close of four years preparation), and twice a day they have instruction, with a singing class in the evening. In their spare time the grown-ups go to the Father Superior's office to have their matrimonial situation examined and put right. It is really marvellous how they go through all this, and it shows their determination to become Christians. Unfortunately I cannot yet help with Catechism, but I do all the Baptisms and Funerals.

Our splendid Africans, though quite devoid of this world's goods are very generous. They bring millet to church on their heads, and in true Christian spirit give a tithe of their possessions. IT IS VERY INTERESTING TO SEE THE SUNDAY COLLECTION IN THE FORM OF SHELLS (100 equals a penny), MILLET, NUTS, AND SO ON. We have a special room to house the Sunday collection I!!. From the first day I was touched by the piety and simplicity of these poor Africans. Archbishop RIBERI, Apostolic Delegate had never seen anything like NANDOM. He was astonished at the fervour of the people.

"On Sunday I help to distribute Holy Communion, and the communicants are so numerous, that I inevitably have a stiff neck through bending down so often; and the crowd does not seem to diminish. I cannot help, but feel moved, when I see the innumerable little 'tots' at Holy Communion and when the mothers bring their babes along, and the little ones look so disappointed, when they do not receive, what mummie does. At high mass it is fine to see the church packed right up to the communion rail, and our church is the largest on the Gold Coast.

Everyone SINGS THE ORDINARY OF THE MASS BY HEART; one sees tiny tots peeping through the altar rails and singing to their hearts content. When I open the church at 5 o'clock on Sunday mornings, there is always a crowd of 30 or 40 people, who have left their village in the early dawn for the mass at 5.45. When the Angelus rings it is like Armistice day in England: all who hear the bell stop and recite the prayers, and every evening I can hear the people singing the" AVE MARIS STELLA" before curfew.



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WHITE FATHERS HOLY WEEK SERVICES HESTON

Taken from the Middlesex Chronicle, 23rd April 1938
(source: Andrew Rampling)


Holy Week Services church of Our Lady of Apostles were marked by good attendance throughout.

On the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evenings the service of Tenebrae was sung and on Saturday evening there was Solemn Matins and hands of Easter in which five priests took part.

A feature of the services was the singing of the White Sisters. On holy Thursday there was a Solemn High mass at which Father Bernard Thomas Brown was the celebrant, following which the Blessed Sacrament was taken in procession to the Altar of Repose.


The watching continued uninterruptedly throughout the day and night until Friday morning, when the Mass of the Pre-sanctified was celebrated by Father Thomas Tye. (left)

In the afternoon there was Stations of the Cross and sermon by Father Tye. On Saturday the Blessing of Five and the prophecies at 7. am, was followed at 8. am. by the Litanies of the Saints and Solemn High Mass.


On Easter Sunday morning the usual services at 8. am., and 9.30am. drew crowded congregations, and Solemn High Mass at 11. am, was celebrated by Father Brown. The church on Easter Sunday was beautifully decorated.


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