By Richard Mammana
This editorial, written by TLC editor Clifford P. Morehouse (1904-77), addresses the responsibility of the Episcopal Church to a substantial population of new residents of the United States in the wake of the Second World War. The late-1945 War Brides Act allowed the spouses and children of United States military personnel to come to the United States without reference to the immigration quota system then in place. Given the large number of war brides who came from countries in which Anglicanism was established by law or numerically strong, TLC urged an awareness for the emergent pastoral care Episcopalians owed to returning servicemen and their families.
“G.I. Brides” in The Living Church, Feb. 3, 1946, p. 13.
THE NEWSPAPERS have given quite a bit of publicity to the problems of transporting to this country the wives and children of American service men who have married overseas. Many and complicated are the problems that beset these “GI brides,” their husbands, and the new in-laws — problems that require the full exercise of all the Christian virtues, from fortitude to a sense of humor.
We recall the plight of a Marine friend of ours in the South Pacific. Back in 1943, after the Guadalcanal campaign, his division had been stationed for many months in Australia. There he had married a charming Australian girl, and there his son was born. In due course he applied to have his wife and baby transported to the United States, and at the same time (to hedge against the probable refusal of his request) he put in for a leave to visit them in Australia. By some queer fluke, both his requests were granted. We were with him one frantic day on a South Pacific island when a California-bound transport, on which his wife and baby were passengers, anchored offshore and unloaded supplies, while he was unable to get permission to board the ship, receiving instead an air priority and leave to visit Australia!
Now the wives and children of service men are beginning to arrive by plane and by ship from Europe, from Australia and New Zealand, and from all parts of the world in which American troops have been stationed. For some, this means the happy reunion of a family separated by war, and a chance to begin life anew amid congenial surroundings. For others, it means disappointment and disillusion, perhaps leading to the breaking of the family ties that were never strongly welded. For all, it mans readjustment and adaptation to a new and different life, among strangers in a strange land. The GI brides will need all the help they can get, from their husbands, from their new in-laws, and from the communities in which they are to live. Above all, especially for those who have had strong Church connections in the “old country,” they will need the help of the Church in their new homes.
The Presiding Bishop has called the attention of the Church to the need of making plans for welcoming and assisting brides of service men who are members of the Church of England. There are many thousands of Anglicans — probably a majority — among the 20,000 British brides. Many of these have little or no idea of the identity of the American Episcopal Church with their own Church, and they will not know where to turn for a Church home in their new communities. Happy indeed will they be if their husbands are of the same faith, and have strong parish ties; but if not, they will need help from the local parish or from a diocesan agency to enable them to establish their new Church connections. In the diocese of New York, the Episcopal City Mission Society has the matter in hand.
We suggest that each diocese in the Church, and the larger parishes as well, appoint a special committee to seek out overseas brides of service men in their communities who are members of any branch of the Anglican communion, or who are not practicing members of some other Church, to welcome them, to help them in any special problems they may have, and to offer them and their husbands and children a congenial Church home. Here is a really tremendous opportunity for the Church; one that can mean much to the future of the Church itself as well as to the young people involved. For who shall say what future leaders in Church and State may come from these trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific marriages, and what influence they may have upon the future of our country and of the world? Surely it is both the privilege and the duty of the Church, wherever these brides from overseas may settle, to help them say happily, as Ruth did of old, “Thy people are my people.”
We shall welcome reports from parishes and dioceses everywhere, telling what they are doing about this important matter, and will gladly publish as many as we can as a guide and inspiration to others. What is your church doing to welcome these young women and children from overseas, who come to us not as guests but as new members of our communities and our nation?
Richard Mammana is archivist of the Living Church Foundation.