Royal Reels: Gambling


Two covers caught my eye because of the unusual address of the recipient, Brother Francis Xavier, c.s.c.*, The Bengalese, Washington, 17, D.C., U.S.A. The first had a red ‘3 Opened by Censor label’ and a purple diamond ‘3 /PASSED/ BY/ CENSOR/ 237’ and the green 1½d queen Elizabeth and the red 2½d KGVI stamps were canceled by a MELBOURNE / 3 PM/ 21 OCT/ 1944/ VIC AUST roller cancel (Figure 1).

The reverse was uninteresting, with a neatly typed Footscray, Victoria address, and both were from the same sender. The second cover was to the same addressee, sent from Melbourne 3 weeks after the first, but a single 3d purple-brown KGVI stamp was applied, so that it attracted a black octagonal tax stamping, ‘T/ S b C’. The same red censor label was attached, as well as the purple diamond of ‘Censor/ 107’ (Figure 2).

Brother Francis Xavier was initially difficult to track down, but persistence eventually won out. He was born James Michael Hunihan on January 7, 1915 in New Haven, Connecticut. He entered the Congregation of Holy Cross in August, 1938 and professed his First Vows in August, 1939. He was assigned to the Holy Cross Foreign Missionary Seminary in Washington, DC and The Bengalese. He was dispensed from his vows on May 20, 1945 and left religious life. No further information and no photos were found of him.

The Bengalese was a publication of the Holy Cross Foreign Mission Seminary in Washington from September 1919 until June 1956. The Congregation of Holy Cross began its missionary work in Bengal, India in 1842. Bengal became East Pakistan in 1946 and in 1991 became Bangladesh in 1991. The Bengalese promoted the work of Holy Cross missionaries in Bengal. In 1956 it evolved into another publication called the Holy Cross Missions because the Congregation of Holy Cross began missionary work in East Africa and Chile as well as Bengal. The cover of the October 1944 issue of the former is shown in Figure 3 .

The subscription for The Bengalese was $1 per year, and there were 10 issues per year. The index for the October 1944 issue showed a varied content and included: The Bishop’s Pen; a poem ‘Certainty’; Malaria Blues; What a Language; Jolly Jungle Juniors; and, another poem, ‘Jewels of the Madonna’ (Figure 4).

The Province of Eastern Bengal, coextensive with the Diocese of Dacca was a large one with an area of more than 50,000 square miles and a population of 17 million, the overwhelming majority of the people were Hindus and Muslims. In the city of Dacca, the brothers devoted part of their time to secondary education; in the country districts, the usual foreign missionary work was carried out, catechizing, baptizing, preaching, instructing converts and building modest chapels, as well as serving on occasions as medical doctor, judge and peacemaker.

* C.S.C. is latin for: ‘Congregatio a Sancta Cruce’.

I am indebted to Jacqueline Dougherty, Assistant Archivist, Notre Dame, Indiana, Heather Morgan, The American Catholic History Research Center, Washington, DC and Dr. Timothy Meagher, University Archivist, Catholic University of America, Washington DC.