Hugh O’Sullivan’s Notes for Leaders

Pentecost Sunday is also the anniversary of the death in 1997 of former Australian and International YCW chaplain, Hugh O’Sullivan, a priest from the Archdiocese of Adelaide.

Many of us of that generation had the privilege of learning personally from him.

To me, he was and remains the priest who best understood Cardijn and his conception of the specifically lay apostolate of lay people.

So many memories to recall but today let’s just look at his classic Notes for Leaders first published in 1977 as he worked with Michael Campbell, John Bonnice and others to rebuild the Australian YCW as a national movement.

Stefan Gigacz

Hugh O’Sullivan’s Notes for Leaders (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Hugh O’Sullivan website (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Helder Camara: An oath inspired by Cardijn

Yesterday, we remembered Cardijn’s vow beside the deathbed of his father, Henry; to dedicate his life to the working class and especially young workers

Today, we recall how Brazilian Archbishop Helder Camara was so inspired by Cardijn’s vow to propose that he proposed that Vatican II bishops follow his example.

The outcome of this was what is today known as the Pact of the Catacombs eventually signed by up to 500 conciliar bishops.

Here is Camara’s original letter to Cardijn proposing to follow his example.

Read the whole story at the Pact of the Catacombs website:

Rome, 17 September1965

Dear Mgr. Cardijn,

May I make a suggestion to you.

It is very important to ensure that the Council reaches workers and to bring workers closer to our brothers, the bishops.

Let us imagine the following:

– One Sunday in October or November (when there is not other canonisation or beatification ceremony)

– In your Cardinal’s parish church here in Rome,

– A concelebrated Mass with about 20 bishops gathered around the Workers’ cardinal,

– Specially devoted to Workers (and there would be adequate publicity in Rome and we will also host representatives from neighbouring countries, particularly France and Belgium),

– A concelebrated Mass in the presence of the largest possible number of Council Fathers and in which the concelebrants would take an oath prepared by yourself similar to the vow that you took at the deathbed of your father…

– A very concrete vow appropriate to the present time and appropriate to the understanding of workers…

After the Mass, there would be a fraternal meeting between workers and bishops.

If the idea seems worthwhile to you, we would need your blessing.

As far as everything else goes, your friends are here and ready to act.

Filially yours in Jesus Christ

+Helder Camara

D 28

Domus Mariae

Via Aurelia, 481

Domus Mariae

Via Aurelia, 481


AGR, Archives Cardijn, N° 1625


Helder Camara – Cardijn 17 09 1965 (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Henry Cardijn & his son’s consecration to the working class

Today is the 120th anniversary of the death of Joseph Cardijn’s father, Henry, which means it’s also the 120th anniversary of Cardijn’s consecration of his life to the working class.

Strangely enough, perhaps, we don’t know many details of the life of Henricus Hieronymys (Henry Jerome) Cardijn, who was born in 1850 and died at the age of 53 in 1903.

Fortunately, however, his son Joseph recorded a few of the essentials of the humble, hard-working life of his father:

According to the birth registry, I was born on 18 November 1882 in Chaussée de Haecht, Schaerbeek, where my parents were caretakers and my father a coach driver. Following my baptism in Saint Servais church on the 16 November, they sent me to stay with a nanny at Halle in my father’s region of origin as my mother was seriously ill.

Five or six years after my birth, my parents moved back to Halle where they initially established a small grocery that they were soon obliged to close for lack of customers in order to begin managing a small coal store which at first had only a small cart for supplying customers and then later a horse-drawn cart to load coal from the station or the boat.

My father worked hard and from a very early age I helped him to unload the coal and serve customers and as soon as I knew how to read and write to prepare invoices and orders since my father did not know how to read or write.

Nevertheless, Henry must have been a social-minded Catholic. Marguerite Fiévez and Jacques tell us that it was from his father that Cardijn first learned of Pope Leo XIII’s famous 1891 encylical on the situation of the working class, Rerum Novarum:

As a small boy, nine at the time, Joseph Cardijn had heard it talked of. His illiterate father had asked him to read it aloud to him.

Despite this, Henricus (or ‘Rikus as he was known) had little understanding of Joseph’s “thirst for knowledge.”

As Cardijn later wrote:

At home, I devoured books and newspaper to the great disgust of my father who feared for my frail health and understood nothing of my passion for reading

As Cardijn also often recalled, life was a constant financial struggle for the family. This eventually took a toll on his father’s health:

Following my Solemn Communion, the question arose of placing me as an apprentice and going to work. My father was exhausted and his small business was in decline. Then, one evening, no longer able to contain myself, I jumped out of bed, descended to the kitchen and told my astonished parents of my desire to become a priest for which my father and mother both sacrificed themselves.

Despite the burden that this would cause the family, Henricus immediately gave his consent to his son’s priestly ambition:

Fiévez and Meert tell the story this way:

One evening he could keep to himself no longer and while his brothers and sister were asleep, he got out of bed and came down to the kitchen. He stood in the doorway barefoot and in his nightshirt. 

“Well, what are you up to there?” asked his father in surprise. “Are you sick? No? Then, my boy, off to bed !” 

“I can’t sleep . . .”. 

“A likely story . . .”. 

“Father, let him speak,” cut in the wife, feeling there was something here that had to be faced. 

Joseph was choked up but resolute: “I would like to be able to carry on at school. I want to be a priest and you have to study a lot for that. I want your permission not to go to work.” 

His mother’s face turned white. Her intuition had not deceived her. His father spoke: “Woman, we have already worked hard. But if we, small folk as we are, could have the joy of giving our son to God, well, we’ll work on a bit more!” 

“And you”, to the boy, “off to bed!”

Henceforth, we hear little of Henri Cardijn until the time of his death on 24 May 1903.

Once again Fiévez and Meert tell us the story:

Back in the seminary to finish his studies in philosophy, he was suddenly called home. Henri Cardijn was dying. He had laboured all his life; had worked to the end and was now dying prematurely. 

With his emotional and passionate temperament, young Joseph was bowled over by this fresh shock. 

As he knelt to receive his father’s last blessing, he felt drawn to respond to a new call from God, a call that was clear and decisive. In his innermost being he swore to consecrate his whole life as a priest to save the mass of the workers. 

For more than sixty years he would live to the full that commitment in daily fidelity by the total gift of himself.

Cardijn never forgot the debt he owed to his father and he did indeed honour his commitment to the workers for the rest of his life.

In tomorrow’s reflection we’ll look at how his vow also inspired 500 bishops at the Second Vatican Council.


Stefan Gigacz


Marguerite Fiévez and Jacques Meert, Cardijn, Chapter 1: Birth (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Marguerite Fiévez and Jacques Meert, Cardijn, Chapter 2: Seminary (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Joseph Cardijn, Background (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Family Tree (Geneastar)

Family Tree (My Heritage)

The laity and the Council

In this article from September 1965, Cardijn’s successor as chaplain to the International YCW, Mgr Marcel Uylenbroeck, praises the Vatican II Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, which had adopted at the Third Session of the Council in 1964.

Without saying so directly, he is advocating for the Council to continue in the same line with its draft decree on the apostolate of the laity.

History records that this was indeed what occurred.

Stefan Gigacz

It is still too soon to present to our readers what the Council will decree on the “Apostolate of the Laity in the Church,” because the schema will only be presented for a final vote of the Fathers during the Fourth Session, which began in September 1965..

Nevertheless, the Council has already voted and the Holy Father, united with the Council Fathers, has promulgated the Dogmatic Constitution “Lumen Gentium” on the Church, and a special chapter in this Constitution deals with “Laity in the Church.”

The doctrinal richness of the Constitution is immense and, as a movement of the apostolate of the laity, we must rejoice deeply that the Supreme Authority of the Church has defined the place and the mission of lay people in the Church in such an official way. At the same time, it is a call to all YCW leaders and chaplains, whose mission is to animate and train lay leaders, to believe ever more deeply in their vocation and to commit generously to the apostolate among the working youth of the world.

I will take the liberty of underlining a few essential statements in the Constitution.

Let us note first of all the extent to which it insists on the dignity of the laity as members of the People of God and the way they are called to participate in the mission of the Church.

“The lay apostolate, however, is a participation in the salvific mission of the Church itself. Through their baptism and confirmation all are commissioned to that apostolate by the Lord Himself.” (§33).

It is undoubtedly the first time that the Church has emphasised the specific character of the lay apostolate  in such an official document. We know how much Cardinal Cardijn has always been an ardent defender of what he calls “the lay apostolate proper to lay people.” If the Council has now emphasised this so clearly, is not it because the “Message of Cardijn” has gradually made its way in the universal Church? On several occasions, the Constitution mentions this: “But there are certain things which pertain in a special way to the laity, both men and women, by reason of their condition and mission. (§30).

“(The sacred pastors) understand that it is their noble duty… to recognise their ministries and charisms, so that all according to their proper roles may cooperate in this common undertaking with one mind.” (§30).

“These faithful… are in their own way made sharers in the priestly, prophetical, and kingly functions of Christ; and they carry out for their own part the mission of the whole Christian people in the Church and in the world.” (§31).

What then does this character “proper to the lay apostolate” consist of? The Council’s response is clear:

“What specifically characterises the laity is their secular nature… They live in the world, that is, in each and in all of the secular professions and occupations. They live in the ordinary circumstances of family and social life, from which the very web of their existence is woven. They are called there by God that by exercising their proper function and led by the spirit of the Gospel they may work for the sanctification of the world from within as a leaven. In this way they may make Christ known to others, especially by the testimony of a life resplendent in faith, hope and charity… ”(§31).

Applying this to young workers, we can say that they are therefore called to make Christ known to others but that this will be done through the witness of their lives, that is to say by being present in life and amid the problems of life in their milieux, by acting as a leaven in the dough, by mobilising other young workers and doing all this with Christ and like Christ. Re-reading the document on the apostolic character of the movement that the International Council of the YCW adopted at Rio in 1961, we find the same fundamental doctrine there.

“This evangelisation, that is, this announcing of Christ by a living testimony as well as by the spoken word, takes on a specific quality and a special force in that it is carried out in the ordinary surroundings of the world.” (§35).

Here, I would particularly like to emphasise another truth that the Constitution highlights and which the YCW, particularly through the action of its founder, has emphasised from its beginnings. This is the collaboration, which is essential for the mission of the Church, between the laity and the pastors of the Church (Hierarchy and clergy). It is a fraternal collaboration that needs to be based on respect for the mission specific to each of the two categories, which is the way the Constitution expresses it:

“For the distinction which the Lord made between sacred ministers and the rest of the People of God bears within it a certain union, since pastors and the other faithful are bound to each other by a mutual need. Pastors of the Church, following the example of the Lord, should minister to one another and to the other faithful. These in their turn should enthusiastically lend their joint assistance to their pastors and teachers.

Thus, in their diversity all bear witness to the wonderful unity in the Body of Christ. This very diversity of graces, ministries and works gathers the children of God into one, because “all these things are the work of one and the same Spirit.”

“… Therefore, from divine choice the laity have Christ for their brothers who though He is the Lord of all, came not to be served but to serve… ” (§32).

“The laity have the right, as do all Christians, to receive in abundance from their spiritual shepherds the spiritual goods of the Church… They should openly reveal to them their needs and desires with that freedom and confidence which is fitting for children of God and brothers in Christ… Let the spiritual shepherds recognize and promote the dignity as well as the responsibility of the laity in the Church.” (§37) .

Isn’t it interesting to note that the Constitution twice uses the word “brothers” and that we do not find the traditional “father-son” image here, which, without lacking a certain value, has gave rise in the past to so much paternalism.


May all YCW leaders understand deeply the riches embodied in the Constitution “Lumen Gentium” so that they may better live it out and work for it to increasingly inspire and animate the whole pastoral care of the Church.

There are many other points to emphasise in the document, but the limited scope of these pages will not allow me to do so. I therefore propose to devote a few more pages of this bulletin to this same subject following the final session of the Council. The decisions taken there will be of great importance to us.


Chaplain General.


Marcel Uylenbroeck, The Laity and the Council, in Action 103, 1965


School leavers

The fate and destiny of young workers was Cardijn’s lifelong concern.

And so he also emphasised the importance of the transition of young people from school to work.

Education and the School-Leaver

(Reprinted from New Life, May-June, 1957.)


Young workers, like all others, are destined to the glorious life of heaven and to eternal happiness. This eternal destiny is the supreme end of their life, the source and the basis of all their rights and of all their duties; this is the essential truth which must enlighten and guide the whole of the earthly life of the young workers.

The development of their intelligence, the formation of their wills, training for their job or profession, the preparation and founding of a family are the means willed by Providence for their personal protection and for their social mission. In the fulfilment of their temporal destiny, the young workers should be the conscious and free collaborators of the Creator and the Redeemer. Their temporal welfare and their eternal happiness depend essentially on this.


Learning to know and to love this temporal and eternal destiny — that is the task of the Christian education which the young workers should receive.

The task falls first to the parents; it is the basis of their authority over their children.

Parents must he able to obtain by their work the resources necessary for this mission of education.

Parents should be aided by the school which must be the collaborator and not the substitute of families in the work of the Christian education children. A neutral school education cannot satisfy thh demand. It will he inevitably irreligious and against the family.

It is for the Church to make known to parents and teachers the demands of this Christian education and to create the necessary institutions for its accomplishment.

This Christian education does not finish with the period of school. it must be given to young workers as to all other young people during their adolescence and their youth, which are par excellence the axe of true education,


The action of the Y.C.W, with those beginning work must begin it year before they leave school. At this time all the Y.CW. sections should get to know all the young people of their locality who are beginning their last year at school.

In our own schools the list can he obtained by an approach to the headmaster or teacher concerned. In other schools other means may have to be sought.

Collaboration with the teaching personnel should be a constant pre-occupation with chaplains and Y.C.W. Committees.

Teachers who take the last-year in school, if they are won and helped by the Y.C.W., can orientate all their teaching towards the life of work. Lessons and responsibilities given can be based and related to the problems which the lads and girls will soon have to        meet. Collaboration with the families of the school-leavers should be sought as much as possible, by visits to their homes and parents’ meetings.

One or two good leaders of the section should be given the responsibility of recruiting and grouping the lads or girls in the last-year at school and these meetings of the school-leavers should be quite distinct from the ordinary Y.C.W. meetings. The school-leavers’ meetings follow the programme outlined in the Pre-Y.C.W. booklets and should be simple, enthusiastic and friendly affairs, and not too long. The programme of meetings should include recreative events and activities adapted to the particular group.

They should be inspired from the start with the spirit of conquest and they can be trained in a concrete fashion, through useful tasks and real responsibilities, such as the sale of the magazine and acts of service in the neighbourhood.

Outings, games and general meetings specially for the school- leavers, build up the bonds of friendship in the group and provide the leaders with useful opportunities of contact and influence.


Concrete initiation into the life of work supposes contact with the latter. Those beginning work should be able to know ahead what is a factory, a work-shop, or an office. They should have a chance of forming and expressing their impressions and building up ideas and sentiments which will stand them in good stead when they are actually working in these places later.

Moreover, in the right choice of a job or profession, the choice and taste of the boy or girl is an important element. This demands that they have at least had the chance of seeing people working in the different trades or occupations among which they will have to make their choice.

Leaders will, of course, need to accompany the school-leavers in these visits, to places of work and the groups should be fairly small, to allow for the attention of all being directed to the essentials of the visit and for discussion and questions.

Later in their group meeting their comments and remarks will give plenty of opportunity for building up a right altitude and conviction towards the life of work.

It is the task of local and regional Pre-Y.C.W. leaders to organise and prepare these visits.


Entry into work is a great event in the life of young people. To inspire all concerned parents and the rest, with the sense of this, every section should organise during the course of the year a series of school-leavers’ meetings. All the members of the section should be associated with these, for their own formation and renewal.

Details of these meetings will vary. Smaller sections may need to get together to run a joint event. Besides the actual meetings, with demonstrations and discussions between the young workers and school-leavers, there should be religious ceremonies, with instruction on the Christian meaning and supernatural value of work and a special Mass and Communion.



Joseph Cardijn, Education and the school-leaver, in The Catholic Action Chaplain 1957 Vol. 2 N° 3A, p. 14 – 16.



Paul Efe / Pexels

Coming down from Mount Tabor

This is Cardijn’s closing address to the delegates of the First IYCW World Council in Rome in 1957.

After ten glorious days of sharing which he likens to what the apostles experienced with Jesus on Mount Tabor, it’s time to come down and return to work!


For ten days we have lived with the Lord on Tabor and with the Holy Spirit in the Cenacle.

We have seen the Y.C.W. transfigured—its apotheosis. This is not the true Y.C.W. We could say like the apostles on Tabor: “Let us build three tabernacles.” No, we must leave here, go down from Tabor, go out from the Cenacle to the masses who suffer, who have not the means of human livelihood, who cannot read or write, who know not their human dignity nor their Christian destiny. That is the only true Y.C.W. It begins today.

We believe in the possibility of saving the last of the young workers and working girls, whatever their colour or race, civilisation or continent. They are the sons of God and we must save them.

When I was a student nearly sixty years ago, we loved to declare the verses of l’Aiglon, Edmond Rostand’s new piece which had just appeared. There was a particular scene in the second act at the castle of Schoenbrun where Aiglon, guarded by the old marshals of Napoleon’s army, asked them why they had betrayed the emperor. And one of them, not knowing what to answer, made the excuse: “In the end we were too tired!” Then suddenly, a lacqey, an old soldier of the emperor’s guard, dressed up as a servant to wait on Aiglon, unable to restrain himself cried with a voice of thunder: “And what of us! we small ones, the unknown ones of the ranks, we who marched foot-rotten, wounded, dirty and sick” (there follows a long tirade on the ills suffered by the simple soldiers of Napoleon). “Maybe we were not tired?” And the scene finishes with these words of Aiglon:

“Dans le livre aux sublimes chapitres,

Majescules, c’est vous qui composez les titres,

Et c’est sur vous toujours que

s’arretent les yeux. Mais les mille petites lettres . . .

ce sont eux. Et vous ne seriez rien sans l’armee humble et noire,

Qui faut pour composer une page d’histoire!”

In the Y.C.W. army, which has just written this beautiful page in the Church’s history, there are thousands of unknown humble leaders and members who are the real, the only Y.C.W., the movement which is transforming the working youth of the world, the movement to which we must remain faithful.

Go into the field of the Lord where millions of young workers arc waiting for you. Let none of them be able to say like the workers in the parable:

“No man has hired us.” Let there be no Y.C.W. unemployment! No missionary unemployment! We must take the good news to all and that will be the proof of our love for the Church, for the Pope and for working youth. We shall say to them all: “We bring you good news; we bring you Joy, Security, Confidence. The Lord is born, the new working youth in whom the Lord lives, is born; do you see it coming to birth in all the countries of the world?”

I thank all those who have contributed to this joy in this Domus Mariae. I thank Patrick Keegan and Margaret Fievez who for twelve years have prepared this day. I thank Romeo Maione and Maria Meersmans and look forward to their work with still more confidence than in the past. I thank Rene Salanne and all the old leaders of the International Bureau.

Go forward! The Church sends you, the Pope sends you, the working youth of the world awaits you.

Joseph Cardijn


Joseph Cardijn, Closing Address, in New Life, 1957, Vol. 13 N° 6, November – December 1957, p. 230 – 231.


The mission of young workers

In this talk from 1959, Cardijn summarises the work of the YCW drawing once again on his famous Three Truths trilogy.

The Mission of Working Youth

Speech of Monsignor Cardijn to the Teenager Boys Study Week (British) at Dunkerque, Monday, 27th July, 1959.


I regret keeping you waiting—I lost my way. I have just addressed 450 school leavers (girls) in one district of Belgium. Yesterday, I spoke to an International Camp for working youth, representing Belgium, Germany, Austria, Italy, Spain, Holland, Peruvia and Portugal; all these young people are spending a fortnight in tents, studying the problem of working youth. In September, I set off on a visit to all the countries of South America and next year will see me in Africa. Monsignor Cardijn, at 76, addressed three meetings this day, travelling about 250km by car to do it.


You, young workers, must save the world; no Priest, no Bishop, no Pope, not Christ himself will save the world without you. You are the essential collaborators. When you are in the office, the workshop, the factory, you have there a mission. This is the revolution—the answer to communism. Workers may live for the dance, the cigarette, the girl, the drink but, they are not machines, they are not animals, they are the image of God. If I go to Mass every day and do not understand this first truth —I am not a Catholic—I cannot save the world. If you do not realise your vocation, Christ cannot take your place. You are mandated by the Pope, by the Bishops, to help all the working boys of the world, for they are the Sons of God.

The second truth presents the reality—most of them living to satisfy their instincts. They do not believe in their dignity. They are not to blame because their conditions are in contradiction with the truth.


Sixty-four years ago I discovered the reality. I am now 76. At fourteen I was to go into the factory, but I went into the Seminary. When I came back I found those lads and they had been more intelligent and more pious than I—corrupted. They had all lost their faith, I did not because I was in the Seminary. They said now: “The Priest is the friend of capitalists, the rich—we do not speak with Priests.”

I said to myself, “this cannot go on, I will consecrate my life to change this, I will destroy this contradiction. We must educate these working lads and girls to be the missionaries of their fellows.”

First, I made my own investigations in Belgium and England. I visited the factory; I had a look at Manchester, Liverpool, London. Forty years ago, what did I see? Unemployment, low wages, no holidays, Sunday work, no unemployment benefit—like Asia to-day.

We must see the real situation—we must begin where we are. I began in my parish with one boy: “Are you alone?” I said. “No, I have my mates.” “Then bring some of them.” Slowly we spread. I had my first team.

Everyone said: “It is impossible to unite young workers in a movement; they are not intelligent enough —they haven’t enough faith.” I replied, “We shall make more sections and then we shall have a movement to unite and sustain them. We will form a regional movement and then a national movement. We shall unite the nations; the workers are united because they are brothers. They must be respected in mind and body. They must share in the greatest mission of the Church.

Now I am glad to see you here, devoting your holiday to studying the problem of the workers. Every day, you must become better leaders. You are mandated to help all the working boys of the world. You must not only be pre-occupied with good conditions in Great Britain. So much of the world speaks English, you have a responsibility—a thousand million young workers. I have seen boys and girls who live, eat and sleep in the streets— unrespected in body (no Doctor, nurse or hospital), where most of the children were still-born because their mothers were undernourished. How can they believe? The young workers prefer to dance and to satisfy their desires.

This is the great mission of the Y.C.W.—a movement of the Church, mandated by the Pope to help all the working boys and girls of the world—all. We cannot do it alone—we must recruit. We must more and more seek others, attract others; we are not allowed to be selfish. We shall save millions. We can save the Church—we can fail the Church.

If you do not realise your mission, you will be unhappy, you will not be a Christian—you must make your own resolutions.



Joseph Cardijn, The mission of working youth, in New Life, 1959 Vol. 15 N° 5, September – October 1959, p. 158 – 160.


A campaign to shorten the Eucharistic fast

Today, we present a historic document from the IYCW dated 1 March 1962 in which the International Secretariat wrote to national movements asking them to study the issue of the length of the Eucharistic fast.

For many years already, the Belgian JOC had been campaigning for a reduction in the length of this fast so that young workers would not be forced to go to work without breakfast.

Now the IYCW was encouraging its member movements to contact their bishops and even write to the Vatican II Preparatory Commission on Sacraments.

As we all know now, this campaign in which the YCW was not alone was ultimately very successful.

And we also note poignantly that one of the signatories of the letter was IYCW vice-president Betty Villa from the Philippines who died just a few days ago on 13 May 2023 at the age of 96.

RIP and thanks for everything, Betty.

March 1st, 1962



Dear President, Dear Chaplain,

Dear Friend,

On a number of occasions, during trips or meetings, we have noted that in numerous countries the present discipline governing the Eucharistic Fast keeps many workers away from Communion.

There is no doubt that the Ecumenical Council, which opens October 11th, will make a thorough study of this aspect of the canon law of the Church, with the thought of allowing all men easier access to the Sacraments.

May we suggest, therefore, that you study without delay, just what form this problem takes amongst the young workers of your country, particularly those who, through Catholic Action, have come to discover the meaning of the Eucharist and who wish to partake of it more frequently.

If you believe that a reduction in the duration of the Eucharistic Fast would be advantageous, we ask that you speak of it to your local Hierarchy, and that you write a letter to the Preparatory Pontifical Commission on the Discipline of the Sacraments.

As a model, we are attaching the text of the request submitted by the YCW of Belgium.

We believe that a reduction in the duration of the Eucharistic Fast would be of benefit to the workers of the world.

Yours fraternally in Christ,

Permanent Committee of the International YCW

Denyse Gauthier


Secretary General

Betty Villa Vice-President

Norbert Balle Secretary General

Joseph Cardijn General Chaplain

M. Uylenbroeck Assistant

General Chaplain

Bartolo Perez



Reducing the length of the Eucharistic fast (Cardijn@Vatican II Blog)

The solution: Specialised Catholic Action

After his powerful critique of the “bankruptcy of evangelisation”, which we looked at yesterday, here is Part II of Cardijn’s report to the IYCW.

Here he is much more positive, rejoicing at the amazing development of the YCW in Brazil, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Panama, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Mexico, the USA and finally a stopover in England.

And without saying so explicitly he offers his response to the bankruptcy of evangelisation that he had so sharply criticised:

At a time that is so decisive for the future of the country as well as for the whole of Latin America, I felt gripped with anguish at the urgency and immensity of the problems that have been caused by the lack of housing, teaching and social security for the working masses, both in the agricultural sector and in the industrial regions. I was also struck by the need to develop a Christian social sense at all levels of society but particularly among the highest levels, and to ensure a formation and positive organisation of the proletariat, which is spreading everywhere. Purely negative anti-communism will never save the country.

And more:

I was struck by the opposition between the extreme poverty and the extreme opulence as well as between the technical progress and the backwardness of the housing, health, education and working conditions for the indigenous masses. I asked myself where the social sense was to be found as well as respect for the human person and the human family. Once again, evidently purely negative anti-communism will not be able to resolve these vital problems. It is urgent everywhere to develop social education particularly among the upper classes if we wish to repair the only too evident social injustices and social revolts.

Only genuine Catholic Action will be able to achieve this. The JOC has an immense and providential task here! Please God let it be understood and achieved!

In other words, for Cardijn, the solution to the bankruptcy of evangelisation is found in the development of Specialised Catholic Action as incarnated in the JOC.

A bold claim indeed but that’s what Cardijn believed!

Stefan Gigacz

Joseph Cardijn

First impressions of a world tour – Part II


After leaving Dakar at 2.30 in the morning, I arrived in Recife following a seven hour flight over the ocean. Then, after a short stopover for refueling, we took off for another seven hour flight to Rio de Janeiro. Here, we experienced a long and painful disembarkation process by bus, boat and bus once again right up the city centre with all the complicated formalities of customs and the police. Finally, the friendly faces of Canon Tavora and the jocist militants appeared and I eventually reached the diocesan centre.

After a short visit to His Eminence Cardinal Camara, I was able to wash up after the long trip. Then followed a meeting at the JOC secretariat as well as a well-deserved rest and a morning of letter writing. Later we had a visit to the sumptuous city with its new skyscrapers, avenues, beach and rich villas – and alas! – three time alas! – its horrible “favelas” with shelters of corrugated iron, tarred cardboard and wood lining the flanks of the mountain where more than 300,000 workers and worker family members are piled up like animals.

During the afternoon, I flew to Sao Paulo arriving at 5.p.m. The air field was invaded by several hundred jocists from Sao Paulo with banners, cardboard boxes, flags and pennants and above all with shouts, songs and cheers. What a din and crowd! Lots of photos and film! A short visit to Cardinal Motta and two auxiliary bishops then lodging with the Holy Cross Fathers. Fr Mélanson is the assistant chaplain of the Sao Paulo JOC, which seems very alive to me and is working ardently to become an authentic JOC.

The Brazilian JOC’s first National Study Week was quite an event. Several delegates had travelled for several days to take part. There were more than 600 participants. The opening took place before His Eminence, an auxiliary bishop and a sympathetic audience.

It was a genuinely jocist event. The subjects were introduced by the young workers. Then, they met and discussed in commission groups – young men and young women grouped separately and by state or groups of states. Finally, there was a plenary gathering where the secretaries of the groups reported the findings made and the conclusions proposed. All the delegates spoke very well, sometimes too well. In any case, the whole event was very jocist! It’s a revolution for Brazil! There is untold richness and opportunity here.

The Study Week was supported by university people, both from the YCS and the bourgeois milieu, who did not fail to show their support with very moving testimonies. The Hierarchy itself insisted on multiplying its encouragement.

After the Study Week was over, the first Study Week for priests took place. Four hundred priests and seminarians took part at the cost of praiseworthy effort. Visits to coffee and sugar cane plantations as well as worker neighbourhoods and jocist sections in various cities of the province enabled a number of contacts to be made in the region.

After two weeks in Sao Paulo, I returned to Rio de Janeiro for contacts with the Hierarchy, university academics and to give talks to clergy and jocists.

From Rio, I travelled directly to Porto Alegre where the cardinals and bishops of Brazil were meeting for the Catholic Action Congress and the National Eucharistic Congress. I had the great honour of being able to address them as well as the opportunity to speak to academics and to visit several projects.

A stay of 25 days in three centres of Brazil evidently does not allow for a judgement on a whole country that is as large as Europe. Its climate varies from tropical to temperate. It has immense coffee, sugar and tropical fruit plantations. Its current population of 50 million people could quite easily triple with the industrialisation that advancing with giant steps in regions that are so rich and which will make Brazil the most industrial country in Latin America, if not the whole of the Americas.

There is a striking mix of people, which, in contrast to what happens on other continents, results in a more homogeneous and united population. At a time that is so decisive for the future of the country as well as for the whole of Latin America, I felt gripped with anguish at the urgency and immensity of the problems that have been caused by the lack of housing, teaching and social security for the working masses, both in the agricultural sector and in the industrial regions. I was also struck by the need to develop a Christian social sense at all levels of society but particularly among the highest levels, and to ensure a formation and positive organisation of the proletariat, which is spreading everywhere. Purely negative anti-communism will never save the country.

Alas, the lack of clergy and the lack of priestly vocations is painful in a continent that has never experienced schism or heresy. Only genuine Catholic Action, preparing young people for an apostolate in life, will be able to multiply the number of Christian families and ensure priestly vocations at the level needed for such an important task as that which faces Brazil at this time in its history.

* * *

Other Latin American countries

The trip to Brazil gave me an opportunity to repeat the voyage that I had made two years earlier. One day in Montevideo – with contacts full of interest with the Hierarchy, chaplains, jocists and the general public – enabled me to appreciate the serious progress achieved by the JOC.

Thanks to the same multiple contacts, after four days in Buenos Aires, I was deeply moved by the attachment, heroism and perseverance of the chaplains and militants despite the seriousness of the obstacles and sometimes painful misunderstandings.

It was in Chile that the progress of the JOC took place with the greatest assurance thanks to the support of His Eminence Cardinal Caro Rodriguez, archbishop of Santiago, and the whole hierarchy of Chile. Thanks above all to the understanding, value and devotion of the national chaplains and leaders formed by them. The first National Study Week for jocist chaplains, which took place at Santiago from 2-7 November, was remarkable in every aspect. The attention of His Eminence, His Excellency the Apostolic Nuncio the auxiliary bishop of Santiago moved me deeply and inspired the most beautiful hopes for the future of the JOC. Here also growing sympathy on the part of the academic and bourgeois milieux helped create a climate taht is very favourable for jocist action.

In Lima, I unfortunately could only briefly greet His Eminence the Cardinal, the chaplains and jocist militants. Indeed,this caused great disappointment.

I was able to stay nearly a week in Quito, the homeland of Garcia Moreno. The city, which is situated at 2,800 metres elevation and is surrounded by high mountains, maintains a rather temperate climate despite its tropical location. The first national Study Week for jocist militants and the day for priests were a great success thanks also to the support from the Hierarchy, the Apostolic Nuncio and the Superiors in the Major Seminary.

Finally, after a day in Panama, I reached Nicaragua. Managua on its beautiful lake; Léon with its beautiful cathedral and its old university. This country of lakes and volcanoes with its Indian population as in Ecuador made a deep impression on me. Here I also met the young and valiant bishop of Léon, so devoted to the JOC and the whole working class, as well as the national chaplain of Costa Rica who travelled to offer me his aid and so much sympathy for the JOC. The national study days held in Léon with its tropical environment and reports presented by young workers illustrated well that the JOC was at home everywhere and that it has no homeland or borders.

* * *

A bird’s eye view such as this excludes the possibility of a personal enquiry. However, these images nevertheless remain anchored in my memory. I was struck by the opposition between the extreme poverty and the extreme opulence as well as between the technical progress and the backwardness of the housing, health, education and working conditions for the indigenous masses. I asked myself where the social sense was to be found as well as respect for the human person and the human family. Once again, evidently purely negative anti-communism will not be able to resolve these vital problems. It is urgent everywhere to develop social education particularly among the upper classes if we wish to repair the only too evident social injustices and social revolts. Only genuine Catholic Action will be able to achieve this. The JOC has an immense and providential task here! Please God let it be understood and achieved!

* * *

United States

A hop over the Sea of Mexico and there I was in New Orleans where my friends and colleagues awaited me. Then after a talk to seminarians and a flight of several hours over Texas, I arrived in Chicago. Pat Keegan, national president of the English YCW and international secretary of the JOC had arrived there several days before me. The two secretaries of the YCW and Girls YCW are now in contact with every state in this great Republic.

A series of quite intimate contacts with chaplains and leaders helped me understand the progress achieved both from the point of view of the jocist ideal as well as in the unity of the movement.

If you think of the role that the US is called to play in the world, you will understand how much this observation pleased me. This was also confirmed in New York where jocist friendships moved me both on my arrival as well as my departure. A delegation from the Canadian JOC and LOC also came to bring a moving testimoney of this well-loved sister of the Belgian JOC.

Here also the mission of the JOC was clearly urgent. Materialism, the thirst for comfort and enjoyment threaten to atrophy the sense of responsibility among young people and to kill family life. When one realises the frightening number of divorces and the family crisis that is developing in the US, one measures the imminence of the danger and the urgency of a solution. Only formation for the lay apostolate in life seems to me to be capable of preparing young people for the great and noble family, social and international responsibilities. And here too the JOC has an irreplaceable role to play.


A magnificant flight and splendid weather above the ocean gave me hope for a rapid arrival in Brussels after a short stop at Heathrow airport. But I had not counted on the famous impenetrable London fog. This obliged us to land in the south of England at 11a.m. and finally to reach London at 9p.m. by rail and to wait for two days in the English capital.

However, this forced stopover also enabled me to meet His Eminence Cardinal Griffin and to once again appreciate his unlimited confidence and total support for the YCW as well as to take part in a rally with the London jocist federation during the evening.

I believe that it is in England that the JOC has made the most progress since the war. It certainly owes this to the confidence and support of the Hierarchy that the movement has completely won over but also to the competency and devotion of the national chaplains and the marvellous team of propagandists that it has managed to form. If the English YCW continues its progress forward – and that is clear – it will soon be leading the International YCW.

* * *

An international responsibility

This missionary trip to Africa and the Americas has revealed to me once again the great international responsibility of the Belgian JOC. The audience with the Holy Father last May as well as the many letters from His Excellency Monsignor Montini have demonstrated the extraordinary importance that the Holy See attaches in current international circumstances to the worldwide expansion of the JOC. The latter depends to a great extent on the vitality, the influence of the Belgian JOC.

A person needs to have experienced the moving moments that I had at the landing and take off of the planes, at the receptions and meetings, in the welcome in every country and every city, including even the smallest jocist section, in the bled and in the bush, in order to understand the expectations of millions and millions of young workers with respect to the message that the Belgian and International JOC brought them. It is on site, in our sections and through our militants that we are building the International YCW.

The announcement of the JOC jubilee events in 1950 have sparked an enthusiasm in every country of which we hardly have any idea. All are preparing to take part in the Jubilee Congress and hope to be able to bring the homage of the International YCW to the Holy Father during the Holy Year.

May all chaplains understand this international responsibility to their militants and find there the stimulus to renew in depth the missionary spirit in each of our sections. Never have the words of Pius XI, “Jocists, you are the missionaries of the world of work” found a more urgent and more complete realisatoin. It is the providential hour of the International YCW!



Joseph Cardijn, Premières impressions d’une randonnée mondiale, in Notes de Pastorale Jociste 1949 T. XIV.3 p. 73-78.


The bankruptcy of evangelisation

Returning to Belgium in 1948 after a tour of Latin America and parts of Africa, Cardijn could not contain his shock at what the “anguishing problem” he had witnessed.

The Church had allied itself or at least failed to separate itself from a series of evils that he summarised as follows:

the occupying power of the colonists and the Europeans;

the scandalous profits of the colonists and the great exploiters alongside the shameful misery of the indigenous masses;

the ignorance of the indigenous languages by nearly all Europeans;

the several hundred thousand Europeans in the face of millions of Muslims and indigenous peoples;

the inadequacy of the efforts deployed in the fields of education, housing, water services, etc. as well as many other factors explaining this watertight partition of two juxtaposed worlds.

This, he warned, had led to what he did not hesitate to call out as “the bankruptcy of evangelisation.”

Often, mostly in fact, Cardijn was extremely diplomatic. Not on this occasion!

Stefan Gigacz

A letter from Fr CARDYN

First impressions of a world tour – Part I

The missionary problem

Almost like a disturbing film, my far too short tour of the continents unveiled to me the immense missionary problem that the Church, the Hierarchy as well as the laity are all facing with increasing acuity and inescapable urgency: 350 million Muslims – Arabs, blacks, Hindus – 30 million pagan fetishists as well as hundreds of millions of Christians who fail to live out their Christianity.

And this global missionary problem is complicated by all the human problems that embody it, namely problems of colonisation, races, industrialisation, tentacle-like cities alongside immense desert regions, towns and bush; problems of language, idiom, customs and civilisation; family, women’s social and cultural problems; problems that stoke opposition and hatred; impenetrable barriers in the face of solidarity, exchanges; aspirations that increasingly tend to break down separation and distance and unify humanity as part of an inseparable community.

And everywhere and above all else there is the problem of the masses, the indigenous and proletarian masses, hundreds of millions of wage-earners that the world economy is multiplying in every race and on every continent and who, alas, are condemned to misery and exploitation as well to live in unworthy conditions, in ignorance and insecurity, to feel like “the wretched of the earth” and eventually form a breeding ground for disturbance and revolts.

Even less than ever the Church and Christianity must not be confused with a race or a class, with an economic, political or nationalist interest. More than ever the universal mission of Christ “Ite et docete omnes gentes… evangelizare pauperibus misit me” seems to me to be the only solution to the unity and peace of the world. And everywhere, in the face of an urgent lack of clergy, we repeat the Master’s prayer: “Rogate Dominum ut mittat operarios in messem suam.”

Alongside certain painful misunderstandings and shorcomings, how happy we are to find an increasingly numerous and more active elite everywhere and an extraordinary missionary spirit, which today more than at any other time of our history, is spreading throughout the Churrch, and which above all difficulties is sparking generosity and heroism that arouses admiration and makes tangible the incommensurable love of the Divine Master.

North Africa

After leaving Brussels at 8p.m.1, I arrived in Algiers at four o’clock in the morning. It was not without emotion that I set foot for the first time in this old land of North Africa, so illustrious for its saints, martyrs and doctors: St Cyprian, St Perpetua, St Monica, St Augustine and so many others.

A secretary of the archdiocese and three jocist militants were waiting for me as I descended from the plane. After mass and a brief rest, we had dinner with the venerable Archbishop Leynaud, so young at heart and full of attention, as well as with the auxiliary bishop, the vicar general and the superior of the seminary.

The next day there was a visit and dinner at the Square House, the headquarters of the White Fathers in Africa, where, as well as the superior generals, I was happy to meet his Excellency, Archbishop Mercier, the new Apostolic Vicar of the Sahara.

Meanwhile, there were also contacts with jocist leaders and militants as well as the MPF family movement, visits to the city, the port and to indigenous neighbourhoods.

A day later, there was a trip to Constantine through the mountains and desert regions, with visions of camel troops, little donkeys, sheep and cattle, which was followed in the evening by a reception with the forty day students who came for the Study Session.

Constantine, which with its rocky escarpment managed to resist the most famous sieges, is like a relic of Phoenician, Roman, Christian and Arabic civilisations, and with its deep gorges, its souks, mosques, retains an imperishable attraction of curiosity.2

There were also visits, interviews and meetings as well as talks with young Bishop Duval, the miltants as and former jocists.

From there, we travelled to Bone via Bled and Philippeville with a visit to the famous cathedral of Hippone, barely started diggings at the former seat of St Augustine as well as meetings and talks. So many emotions, particularly during the too fleeting contact with the most glorious centres of the Church, now sadly still almost buried beneath the sands.

From there, we moved to Tunis, Carthage and Sousse! Here again, we had several great encounters and moving meetings with Archbishop Gounod of Tunis, another veteran of North Africa, his auxiliary, Bishop Perrin, and so many priests, White Fathers, religious and seminarians as well as militants, former jocists, a few MPF families. There was also a visit to the rich museum of the White Fathers in Carthage, ancient basilicas and Carthaginian and Roman ruins, Arab souks, and, alas pitiful “slums” not to mention encounters with interminable processions of Bedouins and nomads with their camels, little donkeys, veiled women with dresses and bright jewels as well as with so many kids whose eyes sparkled with intelligence.

Then, we returned to Algiers for more talks with the clergy and the general public under the presidency of the indefatigable archbishop.

From there, we travelled to Bel-Abbes, the centre of the Foreign Legion with its highly flourishing jocist groups, to the Study Session at Mercier-Lacombe; then to Oran, where, under the presidency of Bishop Lacaste there were more talks to the clergy and militants.

Finally, we had short stays in Rabat and Casablanca3. Rabat, the capital of Morocco, the city of Lyautey, a genuinely imperial residence, still stained alas by its poor medina and its “slums.” Casablanca is destined to soon become the most industrial and most populous city in North Africa but the contrast between the European city and the indigenous neighbourhoods is as sad as in any Algerian, Tunisian or Moroccan city.

Bishop Lefèvre, a former jocist chaplain, the new bishop of Rabat and Morocco, spent himself tirelessly to host me with all his affection and to preside over meetings with so many clergy, seminarians and lay people.

An anguishing problem

Evidently, it’s not possible to offer judgment after such a quick visit. But one remains confounded before the immensity of a missionary problem that people hardly suspect.

This impenetrable world of Muslims quickly turns into an obsession: the veiled women, the closed families, the proud Arabs, dressed in turbans or chechias, in their white or coloured burnous; groups seated alongside the objects they are selling; old people and ragged beggars; Muslims praying in the mosques, the fields, the streets and trams; ragged yet sparkling kids; souks so crammed with people, their shops, workshops, tissues and jewellery which is sometimes so artistic; with morals as well as a mentality and conception of life so opposed to ours and which has demonstrated itself to be so impermeable to the Christian apostolate for centuries.

In addition to this religious fanaticism, there are many political, economic and cultural causes for this bankruptcy of evangelisation: the Church and Christianity assimilated to the occupying power of the colonists and the Europeans; the scandalous profits of the colonists and the great exploiters alongside the shameful misery of the indigenous masses; the ignorance of the indigenous languages by nearly all Europeans; the several hundred thousand Europeans in the face of millions of Muslims and indigenous peoples; the inadequacy of the efforts deployed in the fields of education, housing, water services, etc. as well as many other factors explaining this watertight partition of two juxtaposed worlds.

And this juxtaposition seems untenable. Industrialisation is advancing in giant steps and carying along the indigenous and Muslim masses, who proliferate in the face of falling birthrate of the occupier, all this creates a situation that does not appear to be viable and which depends on military force that is extremely ephemeral.

The only solution

“Humanise in order to Christianise” appears to be the primary condition for all effective and lasting evangelisation.

It is here that Catholic Action, the lay worker apostolate and the JOC in particular, take their irreplaceable and primordial place for the solution of the missionary, indigenous and Muslim problem.

Cohabitation in the same neighbourhoods, working together on the same chain and in the same establishments raises common problems, multiplies opportunities for contact, mutual aid and joint efforts, as well as offering opportunities for living, direct, irrecusable witness that will end up by causing prejudices and misunderstandings to disappear.

Long term work is the only thing that will enable us to overcome oppositions and misunderstandings that have lasted centuries. This work of approaching and collaborating at the human level, which operates at the top among intellectuals and leaders as well as developing from below among the deepest layers of the people, will foster a vision of longstanding problems in a more sympathetic and confident atmosphere.

Alas, many missteps, neglects, political, social and economic injustices multiply the defiance and hatred.

But there are so many magnificent examples of fraternal collaboration, heroic sacrifice for this penetration of the charity of Christ among the milieux which seem the most closed. How to fail to pay homage to those colleagues, propagandists – young men and women workers – who have sacrificed everything for this missionary apostolate? To those teams of militants, young couples, who with an unheard of faith and disinterest so often give us the example of a missionary spirit and heart, open to every audacity and initiative?

How many times at every stop on my trip, at study weeks, personal meetings, etc., I felt moved and upset by the facts, tracts and examples that made me feel ashamed and led me to repeat the words of the Master: “Blessed be, my Father, because you have revealed these marvels to the small and the humble whereas you have hidden them from the proud and powerful.”

Certainly the problem is a long way from being resolved. However, it will be. This will evidently require formation that is forever deeper and more appropriate to the leaders and militants.

The Muslim world is a world of believers and only a deep and absolute faith will enable the dissolution of criticisms that an officious mentality and a Christianity that is too little lived out have so often accumulated.

The penetration of the worlds of women’s and the family, which seems to be possible by lay women militants, will require sustained aid and support.

And in order to coordinate these efforts, that scattering seems to have condemned to sterility, the establishment of a jocist front in North Africa that will combine initiatives and realisations on site in an intimate union and collaboration appears to be the only effective solution to the Muslim problem which is similar throughout all the regions of North Africa.

West Africa

After leaving Casablanca at 4p.m., I arrived at Dakar towards midnight. The Holy Spirit Fathers were waiting for me at the airfield. They welcomed and hosted me and took me around with an affection and attention for which I will always have an emotional and grateful memory. During the months of September and October, Dakar is a furnace, where the boiling water vapour penetrates you and your clothes. The humidity and moistness are very tiring. Nevertheless, although I sweated profusely in Dakar, I also left part of my heart there.

The highly endearing black population is sweet and good natured.4 The women wear their large multicoloured dresses; they have glittering hairstyles and clinking jewels. Their children are comfortably attached to their backs, as they elegantly carry vases, packets, or even a pair of shoes or other object on their heads. Young people are well-built, polite and clean; kids are louder than anywhere.

And there are such crowds at the busiest and most varied markets, with groups squatting along the roadside placidly awaiting the time of arrival. Above all, what a welcome, what fervour in the little huts among the fields of millet, peanuts and bushes, near Thère, in the bled and the bush. There is a childish joy that expresses itself in shouts, gestures and songs under the eyes of the missionary fathers who love them and in whom they confide.

The visit to the island of Gorée,5 which became famous during the slave trade and which was for long centuries the bridgehead and the port of entry into West Africa, was also highly interesting.

Dakar, the capital of French West Africa, seems destined by its geographical position to have great international significance and by that very fact a great influence. Although the housing crisis does not seem to be as serious as in North Africa, it must nevertheless be very difficultl. The Muslim problem, although unsolvable until now, does not seem as highly charged with fanatacism. The black, European and Syrian populations appear to be closer to one another.

However, here too, how urgent and inescapable the missionary problem is! The great cities attract the indigenous masses of all the states of West Africa. People and races mingle and interpenetrate. A few thousand Europeans find themselves facing millions of indigenous people of whom more than half are Muslims. It is enough to raise the issue to understand how important it will be to find a solution.

And once again, the task of Catholic Action, particularly the JOC and JOCF, seems to me to be immense and irreplaceable.

These thousands of young people, attracted by the city and by industrial work, find themselves facing life problems that are unsolvable without apostolic action, organised by young people with a spirit and methods for missionary achievements. What influence and prestige could such a movement acquire?

Certainly, developing formation and perseverance of the leaders is difficult among such changeable young people. However, how necessary and ineluctable for effective long term action.

Here too, the coordination of efforts in view of a powerful action requires understanding and unity among the various bishops and the various religious superiors; but how such understanding and coordination would strengthen the prestige and influence of the Church at one of its strategic points which will be decisive in its penetration to the depths of the African continent.



1On the plane from Brussels to Paris there was a jocist air hostess from the JOC section at Ste Marie at Schaerbeek. I was very proud that the JOC had penetrated the aviation industry. She should be interviewed for “Joie et Travail.”

2Population of 150,000 inhabitants, mostly Arabs, Jews and a few Europeans.

I met two Belgian priests there: Fr. Charlier, seminary professor from the Charleroi region and Fr Callewaert, a former curate who formed Hillaire Willot et Paemans in Brussels. He is parish priest around 100km from here.

3 This city will soon host a million workers. Huge factories, parks, gardens, banks, big shops and all around incredible poverty among the indigenous people. Terrible.

4At the mass I was served by a little black guy, barefoot, wearing a red soutane and with a ring on his finger! Deep piety! After lunch they gave me a bit of quinine.

5Gorée Island about half an hour by boat from the city, famous for the slave trade, a very movemented history: taken and re-taken by the Portuguese, the English, the French, etc. It was a great slave market. There are still slaves! A very picturesque people: sailors, soldiers, children, women with their child on their backs, their possessions on their heads, their multicoloured dresses as well as Europeans in shorts!

6 On 1 October, Fr Cardijn wrote to us from Rio de Janeiro. This morning, we left very late at 2.45a.m. from the Dakar air field. I arrived in Recife at nearly 11a.m., i.e. after nearly seven hours of flight. There, we had a short stop for formalities before another seven hour flight to Rio. And finally I am here at the Cardinal’s palace!


Joseph Cardijn, Premières impressions d’une randonnée mondiale, in Notes de Pastorale Jociste, 1948-49, T. XIV p. 36-42.


The Christian conception of work

In this short 1942 article, Cardijn explains what he calls “the Christian conception of work.”


Militant ouvrier, publishes an article by Canon Cardijn devoted to the Christian notion of work.

The “eternal, universal, sacred, divine value of human work,” writes the author, “is the foundation, the unshakeable and indispensable basis of all rights and all duties, all application and all regimes, no matter what kind of human work is involved in time and in space.” Then he continues as follows:

Work is destined to meet the needs of all people; it must not serve the greatest enrichment possible of one person or another. It exists to satisfy human needs, adapted to the time and place of each one in order that man may pursue his temporal and eternal destiny.

This divine and Christian conception of work differs from other conceptions.

1. The liberal conception: Work is a form of merchandise and its only value is that of profit, an economic value influenced by the law of supply and demand, determined by free competition. Work has no moral value. The logical outcome of this conception is the capitalist dictatorship.

2. The socialist conception: Work is the unique source of material wealth; wealth is thus due uniquely to work; hence the class struggle between workers and capitalists. It ends with the dictatorship of the proletariat.

3. The communist conception: Here each man loses his personal vocation because all work must serve the enrichment of the community.

4. The nationalist conception: Work is the means of enriching and strengthening the nation. The worker is a soldier who, through his work, arms his country against his neighbour.

All these systems have forgotten the divine, social, family and personal value of work.

Let no-one say that the Christian conception is a beautiful ideal…but a utopia… No, this conception is the only realistic one; it alone exalts, protects and provides a basis for human work in all these aspects.

It alone illustrates the human aspect of work, the difference of human work from the activity of an animal, a machine, a slave; it alone preserves human dignity, the educational character, the spiritual character of work. It alone responds to true human needs.

The Christian conception of work enables one to place in order the various kinds of human labour. It distinguishes:

1. Priestly work: The priest is a worker in the direct service of souls; his work is the most divine form of labour. Not only does he increase the divine wealth in the world but he is the representative, the depositary, the official representative of God. He is posted to the production of spiritual and eternal wealth.

2. Government work: In a world where public authority is disdained, it is necessary to again honour this work. It is the work of the public authorities that enables all people to work in order and security. It is a labour full of richness but also heavy with responsibilities.

3. Family work: This aims for the conservation, the spread and the education of the human race. It presupposes household, procreative and educational work.

4. Professional work: This may involve administration, management or implementation. Its objective is to provide the objects necessary for life, its preservation and its development.

One may distinguish manual work, which produces products; intellectual work, which seeks the truth; technical work, which aims to discover new work processes. Artistic work which in summary expresses the need for beauty.

There are necessary links between all these kinds of work: The Church here sums up the law of these relations under the double heading of justice and charity.

Outside the Christian conception of work, there is no way to determine the exact value of work. There is no way to distinguish good work from bad work.

One cannot determine what kind of work turns people away from their destiny. Only the Christian conception allows us to determine the limits of work: one does not live to work nor to have the greatest wealth possible but one works to live. This alone enables us to determine all the conditions of work.

The mission of the YCW is to give the working class this essential conception of work, without which liberation of the working class will not be possible.

The YCW must be the school which enables young workers to seek, discover and apply this doctrine.


Joseph Cardijn, La conception chrétienne du travail, in La Croix, mercredi 30 décembre 1942, p. 2


Joseph Cardijn, The Christian conception of work (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)


Lawrence OP / Flickr / CC BY NC BY ND 2.0

The working class problem

Talking about the “working class” has gone out of fashion.

In part, it’s no doubt due to the decline of factories employing thousands of workers in one place.

It’s perhaps also a consequence of the end of the defeat of communism and the end of the Cold War more than 30 years ago.

But Cardijn always spoke about the working class. What did he mean by it? Why was it important to him?

Let’s see how he explained it in this 1947 to French YCW chaplains.

Stefan Gigacz

The Working-Class Problem in the World To-day

Address to the Y.C.W. Chaplains of France, September, 1947

How must we consider the working-class problem in the world to-day? No one can understand the Y.C.W., no one can build the Y.C.W., without seeing the movement in the light of this general and essential problem.

One hundred and fifty years ago, a new economic system was brought into existence by the discovery of modern machinery and the growth of Capitalism, under the inspiration of materialistic “liberalism.” It was inevitable that there should be an increase in the number of “wage-earners,” of those workers who labour for a wage during the whole of their lives, who each morning leave their home, their wife and children, to go and work outside. The inevitable development of mechanised work, with its incredible progress, demanded an ever-increasing number of labourers. Millions of men and women, young and old, would every day of their lives, leave their home, often a slum, to work by day, by night, on Sundays, in an environment of work which had inevitable repercussions on their personal, family and social life.

This system, which at first developed in Western Europe, is now spreading over the whole world. In the colonies, in the three Americas, in Australasia, in Asia, everywhere millions upon millions of workers leap several centuries in a few years. From one day to another they find themselves in the grip of industrialism.

We must face this problem fairly and squarely; masses of workers, working families of every race, of every colour, of every tongue, live under a system that has become international. Conditions of work in one continent have their repercussions in all the others; a strike or unemployment in one part of the world reacts upon the rest.

We must look positively at all the problems that are facing this mass of millions of human beings. To-morrow more than half the human race, more than one thousand million men working under this system, will be asking themselves these questions: What is the meaning of my work? What is its value? Am I just a piece of machinery? What is my wage worth? What is my relationship to the anonymous direction of my firm? What is this law of competition that decides everything? Is it inevitable that according to economic hazards I may be condemned to unemployment or disablement; that I may, with my children, be condemned to a life of insecurity?

The mass of the workers are faced by all these problems. They must be enabled to give a positive answer that will bring into their lives a sense of working-class pride, honour and responsibility. “What are the effects of my work? of my wage? of conditions of work on my family? What is a working-class family? Is it like a middle-class family, or something different? What do husband and wife undertake in marriage? What are their responsibilities towards their children—towards their future? What are the effects of the present system on the family life of the worker? What is our place in society? Is it true to say that we are excommunicated from the social and cultural community? Are we really Godless? Has the Church, has the parish really a place for us? Who are we? Where are we going? What must we do?”

The fundamental problem is not the existence of Communism, it is the existence of this system of work and life which is daily becoming a world system, affecting millions of men, women and working-class families, who are influenced by this system in the essentials of their physical, intellectual, cultural, professional, social, family, moral and spiritual life.

Go to Africa, go to Australia, to South America, which is being utterly transformed at the present time; go to Asia or to Japan, everywhere you will find the same problem; millions of men who all at once and for the whole of their lives become wage-earners, proletarians.

The Church and the Problem of the Workers.

In facing this world fact of proletarisation, we must remember another: all these men have an immortal soul, an eternal destiny. The life of that soul, the achievement of that destiny is the most fundamental right of every human person and therefore of every worker. This life and this destiny must not merely be ensured after death; it is to be begun now here below.

Religion would be the opium of the people, Marx would be right, if the Church said to the working masses: “You will be happy after death.” No— “Hallowed be Thy Name, Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” On earth! From the moment of their conception, from the start of their earthly life, which has an eternal import, which is the preparation of eternity, which is eternity in gestation, establishing here below the reign of God in faith, to foe fulfilled one day in the beatific vision.

These millions of men, these workers are marked here – below with the Divine seal. They have a right to the recognition of their dignity on account of their divine origin, on account of their divine destiny. And they have the right to ask the Church: “What must we believe concerning our life, what is the meaning of our work, of the conditions of our work; what is the meaning of our family life, so that here below we may achieve our destiny of love, our destiny of beauty, our destiny of greatness? “

To achieve its destiny the working class needs the Church; it needs her doctrine, her life, her authority, her influence. But the Church herself needs the workers. Without the working class, the Church would no longer be the Church of Jesus Christ. We must fully realise this; a Church of the rich, a Church of capitalists, a Church of the powerful could not be the Church of Christ. The touchstone is; “When you did it to one of the least of my brethren here, you did it to Me Christ has identified Himself with the poorest: I am the poorest, the most forgotten; I am the weakest little child, the poorest of the young workers.

The working class does not only need a doctrine; it also requires a movement, an organisation. To expect the working class to work out its salvation with a doctrine alone is an impossible suggestion, and it would be ridiculous to think it possible. A doctrine must not just become incarnate in individuals, it must also become incarnate in institutions. This is an indispensable condition at the present time; and furthermore, these institutions must be to the scale of the world, since the problems of the working class have to be faced to the scale of the world.

Furthermore, the working class needs leaders who will promote this doctrine of life, the incarnation of this doctrine of life, the victory of this doctrine of life in the working class, through working class institutions, through the workers’ movement.

Without those three elements; doctrine, institutions, leaders, the working class cannot live the divine life to which it is entitled.

When I met the Holy Father for the first time after the Liberation, he expressed to me all his anxiety: ” The greatest danger to the Church to-day is that the working masses know nothing, absolutely nothing, of the social doctrine of the Church.” The greatest danger is not Communism: that is but a consequence. The greatest danger is the ignorance of the working mass which needs this truth, which needs the incarnation of this truth, which needs apostles of this truth.

How can you explain this mystery; fifty-six years after Rerum Novarum, so many years after Quadragesimo Anno, after Divini Redemptoris, the working class of the world knows nothing, absolutely nothing, of the social doctrine of the Church? There lies the problem of the workers, the problem that the Church must solve positively if she is to fulfil her redemptive mission.

The Problem of the Young Workers.

It is in the light of this problem, in the perspective of this problem of the working class of the world, that we must situate the problem of working youth. We are not inventing anything, we are not devising something peculiar or fanciful. We are not concerned with the young workers merely to have them around us. Our task is to concern ourselves with them in the perspective of a problem of life on which depends the temporal and eternal future of millions of men, a problem which grows daily in depth and extent.

It is in the light of that problem that we must situate the problem of working youth. Each year, twenty million young people leave for the first time their family, their parish (where there is one), their school, to begin their working life away from their family, their school, their parish. And not for one or several years, but for their whole life.

These young people are at the decisive age of life, the age of education; the age when the boy becomes a man, the age when all the problems of life appear before a lad’s intelligence, before his conscience and his heart, when these problems have to be solved personally and freely by the lad himself; the age between school and marriage.

These adolescents are faced with the choice of a profession, a choice of vast importance in their working life. They must find means of learning this profession, not only its technicalities, but also its sense of professional duty, of professional pride. At the outset of their working life they must become aware of professional and Trade Union problems, they will be in danger of accidents, of occupational diseases, of overwork, of immorality in the environment of work.

There are in the world over two hundred million young workers of every race and colour who, from the time they leave school, must prepare for marriage under certain conditions of life; who must prepare themselves for the family life which will determine their happiness, the happiness of their wife, their children, the happiness of the working class. A working class without family life is like a herd of cattle.

All these young people are faced likewise with the problem of leisure and culture, of health and holidays. To-morrow they will be citizens with social and civic responsibilities; these are of the utmost importance, since we areliving at present in truly revolutionary times, when the basis of all things is put into question, and the most contradictory solutions are put forward.

These young people are to be found in all the countries of the world. It was most striking at Montreal1; the delegates from all countries, the delegates from China, India, Australia, all say the same thing. The problem we know in our own country faces millions of young people on the threshold of life, with their youth’s ideal, their youthful ardour and freshness.

Before these problems, the young lad asks himself: “What am I? Am I a machine, a beast of burden? Is my work a punishment, a curse? And my boss, and the foreman, and my wage? And the girls, my companions at work; are they just toys to play with? And what is love? At my age I feel its need. Is it just a passion, a lust? Is it simply a selfish quest? Or is it something holy, something sacred, of infinite value for each man and for the whole of humanity? What does it mean to court a girl, to become engaged and to prepare for marriage?” All are faced with these problems. They are not the problems of exceptions, of a chosen few, but the problems of the mass, of the whole mass without any exception.

Consider then all the difficulties that arise as-the aftermath of war; a sense of frustration, an escapist outlook; young people who have no hope for the future, who dope themselves with ‘fun’ at the dance halls and the pictures, who ‘couldn’t care less,’ who are unwilling to accept responsibilities; and there you have the problem.

When fifty years ago I entered the junior seminary, my schoolmates went out to work. They were intelligent, decent, God-fearing. When I came back for my holidays they were coarse, corrupted and lapsed from the Church-—whilst I was becoming a priest. I started to make enquiries, it became the the obsession of my life. How did it come about that young lads brought up by Christian parents in Christian schools should be lost in a few months?

The only solution.

To achieve a fine destiny, to face the demands of life, young workers above all need education. They must discover the problems of their life in their family, in the district, at work, in their journeyings, in their leisure. They must judge and weigh up these problems in the light of their Christian vocation, of the beauty of their life, of their responsibilities. They must have the will to win their comrades to this view of life.

United together they will form a workers’ movement of young workers, lads and girls, which undertakes to be responsible for the entire working-class problem—but it must be by young workers and for young workers.

They will create services of every kind, for without these education is ineffective and emancipation impossible. They will build a permanent, powerful, conquering organisation; a real institution which will lead to conquest, organised education and services, and undertake the representation of working youth before all the social authorities.

The Y.C.W. must train working-class leaders for every establishment, every district, every institution in which the interests of the workers are involved. In a number of countries of the world to-day many of the workers’ leaders are Communists. Christian leaders are lacking because they were not trained, because, at the decisive period of their lives, from fourteen to twenty-five,’ nothing was done for them.

The children of the middle-classes are not neglected at fourteen. If they were neglected they would get nowhere, in spite of their money. The working class has to-day come of age. It is becoming the greatest force in the world, it will determine the civilisation of to-morrow. It will need many competent leaders. It is from the age of fourteen to twenty-five that they must be trained. Afterwards it will be too late.

Basic Action.

On the international level the Y.C.W. already enjoys considerable influence, especially with the great world organisations like the I.L.O., U.N.E.S.C.O., U.N.O.

In countries where it has already existed for several years, the national organisation could easily be nothing else but a facade, a deception. In Belgium, for example, with our vast ‘Centrale,’ we could pretend outwardly to considerable influence, we could deceive the Government, public opinion, the Communists.

We could also deceive working youth itself, because the essential strength of the movement is not at the top but at the basis, in the life of the district, the parish, the factory, the environment of work. It is there that they are trained to see, to judge and to act. It is there that they are in contact with the masses; it is from thence that must arise the militants and leaders for the building-up of the movement.

The militants, working in team-fashion in real, daily life, in direct contact with the masses, build up the Y.C.W. in each country, thus creating the real Y.C.W. International, ensuring the liberation of youth and of the working class.

The Y.C.W. is a pyramid. Its strength comes from the solidity of its basis; it would be catastrophic to place it on its apex.

The Y.C.W. front is made up throughout the world by the local sections leading the offensive. They consitute not only a national, but an international chain of which no link can be broken.

I began the movement in a parish. For thirteen years I worked quietly, training that first local nucleus, with young working lads and girls.

Later on, other Brussels parishes started up. Then slowly, the movement spread throughout French-speaking Belgium and the whole country. Then it went beyond the frontiers. To-day, in countries where the movement is being launched, the start must be made at the basis, by the building up of real local sections.

The Chaplains.

The problem of the international Y.C.W. is in the hands of the local clergy, in the hands of our local chaplains who are, on the spot, the chaplains of the international liberation of the youth and the working class of the world. That is what we must understand and make others understand.

The chaplain must enable the young workers to discover the problem; how many are leaving school in the parish? How many are beginning work? What happens to them at work? Who are their companions, what are they like? What are your responsibilities? These responsibilities are magnificent, and you are capable of fulfilling them.

What can I do to-day, and to-morrow? Not the creation of a Y.G.W. International in the air, but showing these lads and girls their definite responsibilities in this world-setting. It will fill them with excitement, they will live an epic story, they will become enthusiastic in spite of difficulties, crises, failures.

Our study-circles, our meetings, do nothing else. Together they undertake responsibility for everything by the revision of life, the revision of influence, but always in relation to their life, their daily life, in the district, with their comrades, with their parents, with the sick, in the environment of work. And naturally, since practice makes perfect, they will become working-class leaders through the fulfilment of responsibilities.

In one big industrial firm, where strong Communist influences are at work, there are about 10,000 workers, and only 50 are affiliated to the Y.C.W. But they have such an influence over their non-Christian workmates that, at the last election of the Works Council, when the workers were given the opportunity of freely electing their own representatives, twelve Y.C.W. were chosen out of a total of twenty delegates.

That is what I mean by the Y.C.W. It is an apprenticeship in responsibility, for the workers’ problems and the workers’ apostolate. The chaplain’s task is to supernaturalise all this, to Christianise it, to bring about in it the incarnation of Christ.

I have too much respect for the proletariat, I have too much ambition for it, to be content with a sort of ‘laicised’ religion, a sub-religion for the working class. Religion means the life of Christ in us, the influence of Christ within.

The chaplain must bring about this discovery. He may take time over it, but that must be his final aim. His task is a priestly one, he must give these sacred, these divine things which link each working lad and girl to the Divine Plan, to this life of Christ, to this life in Christ.

Within these Catholic, missionary perspectives we rediscover the whole of working life, the whole of social life, leisure, culture, courtship, marriage, love, all the problems of the working class and of working youth. I cannot give a general formula; every priest must seek for himself. One cannot do with Europeans what one does with Chinamen; but it must be done with them and by them, and one cannot do it without them. There lies the problem!

After years of efforts there is a danger of escapism, for all of us, for me as well as for you. Maybe we tried for three or four years and it didn’t succeed. Or else we thought we had succeeded, we had thirty or forty lads with a Y.C.W. label and in fact we were mistaken. . . .

The most generous are in danger of wanting to substitute a priestly apostolate for a workers’ apostolate. But however much a priest may try, he will never be a worker, he can never be anything better than an ersatz worker precisely because he is a priest. The Church needs a working-class laity which is a hundred per cent, worker, taking over working-class responsibilities which the priest has renounced. The laity is responsible for the whole of that life of uncertainty, of insecurity, which the priest can never get to know thoroughly, because at any moment he is able to withdraw. But the worker is committed for life.

Another danger lies in directing the young workers towards an escape from working-class realities. Of course, they prefer to go camping, to dance, to go scouting, to roam the countryside, to sing . . . but is that going to give the working class its leadership, a workers’ movement?

And there is another danger still, the practice of a kind of pietism; one can become contented with spiritual things for their own sake, with devotion for devotion’s sake, without seeing its necessary incarnation in personal and social life, without putting the leaven in the paste. This means separating our people from reality. Perhaps we shall have workers with a fine piety, with an exemplary eucharistic life, but what will be their influence over working-class problems, what will be their influence in the environment of work?

All the Clergy Together.

The problems of the post-war period are to be found everywhere. I have travelled in America, in England, in Germany, in Austria, in Italy. Everywhere one meets the same problems and the same difficulties.

Woe to the local chaplain who would try to face all these problems alone! He is lost, as the isolated young worker is lost. We must work in team-fashion. It is all the more necessary at the beginning of this decisive phase of the international Y.C.W. We need teams of chaplains who tell one another the conquests made by the militants, who share their difficulties and their experiences, who build up that priestly and apostolic friendship, that priestly mutual aid in facing the greatest problem of modern times, the problem of the working class laity.

The greater part of the clergy does not see clearly enough the problem of the salvation of the working class. On the parochial front it is not just a question of the parish church and the parish organisation; it is the problem of all the souls, all the flock, in an apostolic and missionary spirit.

The Y.C.W. chaplain must meet with the understanding, the fraternal and enthusiastic assistance of his colleagues, of the Parish Priest, of the Dean. If they do not understand, if they are not concerned, then no solution is possible. Woe to the Church if on account of the clergy she is absent, she abdicates, she allows her enemies, the ‘children of darkness’— and they are many—to play their game!

I beg you not to believe in a solution by violence. At present two extreme camps face one another in growing opposition. If these two camps brought about another world war, with the modern weapons at their disposal, with all the fury they are trying to excite, we would be faced with the greatest catastrophe in history. Not a half, but three-quarters of the human race would be lost and, on whatever side victory could be claimed, the true solution would be retarded by a hundred years.

To-day, more than ever, the world needs a mediator between God and humanity, and a mediator between men, to prevent them hating one another, killing one another. Christ alone is that Mediator, that Redeemer, that Saviour, that Liberator. There can be no other.

Read once again the encyclical against Nazism, in which Pius XI denounces those who would substitute a man or a system to the only Mediator. Our task is to give that Mediator to the world, to the working class, to working youth. The love of Christ must beat in the heart of the masses. That is working-class Catholic Action; that is the Y.C.W.

In the hands of the clergy: Without you, the mandatories of Christ, there can be no solution. The clergy can, with Christ, through the laity, save the working class, the working class of the world.

Joseph Cardijn


Joseph Cardijn, The Church and the young worker, Speeches and writings of Canon Joseph Cardijn, Collection Young Worker Library No. 1, Young Christian Workers, London, 1948, 74p. at p. 63-74.



1The International Y.C.W. Study Week held at Montreal in the summer of 1947.


Stefan Gigacz, May Day March, Lille, France, 1 May 2023

Prayer and the genuine jocist revolution

Today we present Cardijn’s preface to a book by another Jocist chaplain, Fr Jean Cardolle, entitled “My Jocist prayer in my daily life.”

In this preface, we see how important Cardijn regarded prayer in bringing about what he called the “genuine Jocist revolution.”

Prayer teaches the YCW leader to transform his or her life, Cardijn explains.

And the YCW also produced many beautiful prayer cards to assist young workers to develop that prayer life.

Stefan Gigacz

Jocist prayer

My dear militant,

You’re made of the stuff of an apostle and you have the temperament of winners. You like your jocist work. You are not afraid of chores, visits, services to be rendered, meetings to be prepared, rallies to be organised. You have the soul of a leader. You know how to speak, act, you dare to commit yourself. You’re proud to be a jocist. You love the YCW You know how much good it has done you. You know its history. You understand how much the mass of working-class youth needs to be won over, conquered and formed by the YCW

When I see you and hear you, how happy and proud I am of you!

At the same time, I also hope that you will be able to develop and deepen all the riches and all the promises that are within you! How I wish that you could discover and experience more deeply in yourself the strength and the value of genuine jocist “life,” that life which transforms a soul, which renews a heart, which decides its will… for this interior, spiritual, supernatural and divine life!

Indeed, jocist action is not a purely human, purely temporal and external action. The jocist revolution is not simply social, economic and political.

As long as we haven’t understood, discovered and experienced this, we have not understood the genuine YCW, genuine YCW action, the genuine JOCIST revolution. And to understand this the jocist militant must learn to “pray,” not to recite a prayer with his or her lips, aloud, repeating words and formulas as a parrot might do, but to stop before God, to come into contact with Him, to speak to Him with one’s heart, with one’s soul, with one’s intelligence… interiorly, spiritually, without words or formulas… by thoughts, feelings, impulses and aspirations which take hold of his or her entire being and whole person.

It is this interior silence, this interior way of praying which must teach him or her to transform little by little his or her whole day, whole work, whole life into a prayer, to pray not only with a rosary and a prayer book, but to pray with his or her hammer, pick or work tools, to pray not only in a chapel and in a church, but to pray in the street, on a construction site, in a factory, an office, a mine.. .to pray everywhere and always.

And it is this inner life which must make him or her understand the true value, the divine value of his or her whole daily life, work life, family life, life today and in the future..

Dear militant, this little book will help you; by revealing to you the beauty, the richness of your jocist prayer, it will reveal to you the greatness and the value of your daily life, so simple, so humble as a modest young worker… but with a greatness and value that exceeds everything our imagination and our ambition. could conceive… the life of God in the life of every young worker…

And you,

dear group leaders,

dear chaplains of the Pre-YCW,

study, meditate on this little book to make yourselves capable of explaining and commenting on “jocist prayer” to aspirants and apprentices.

Ah! How we need to be able to live out the jocist prayer ourselves, to overflow with it, and communicate its meaning to our young comrades, to reveal to them the value and the importance of their jocist life, to inspire them with pride and enthusiasm for the jocist crusade in which they will participate and above all, to initiate them into the value, the beauty of the divine life to which Christ calls young workers in their daily, secular and ordinary life.

* * *

It is with joy that I recommend this little book to all jocists and to all those who want to understand the real YCW.

May it associate them more intimately with the great jocist revolution, with this divine crusade, through prayer, by prayer, by union with God in their daily life.

And may their gratitude be shown by a pious and fervent thought for  the authors of this brochure and for

Your Chaplain General



Joseph Cardijn, Preface, p. 5-8, in, J. Cardolle – P. Lefebvre, My Jocist prayer in my daily life, Eighteen meditations on Jocist prayer, Jocist Editions, Brussels, 1941, 64.

Joseph Cardijn, My jocist prayer in my daily life (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Cardijn honours Gabrielle Petit

Today , we present Cardijn’s emotional sermon in honour of Gabrielle Petit, a young Belgian woman, who was executed for her work spying on German invaders.

Soon after her death, Cardijn celebrated a mass in her memory at the Church of St Michael and St Gudule in central Brussels.

No doubt he was particularly moved by the fact that she was a young worker.



Madelgarius / Wikipedia / CC BY SA 4.0

Te Deum for Gabrielle Petit

« Inter coetera potentiae tuae miracula etiam in sexu fragili victoriam martyrii contulisti »[1]

« One of the miracles in which divine power shines the brightest is the victory of martyrdom won by a young woman. »

She was 22 and an orphan. She lived simply from her humble shop assistant’s salary. She drew on the principles of righteousness and honesty proclaimed by the precepts of her religion. Love sang a hymn of hope in heart. She was engaged to be married. None of us knew her. Indeed, a young girl who respects herself usually has little history.

Then the great war broke out, sowing ruin but also awakening heroism. The young shop assistant transformed herself into an ambulance worker, caring for the wounded, both friends and foes. But such devotion did not suffice for her. She needed to make even further sacrifice.

She led her fiancé to the front then returned to her occupied nation to undertake a task punishable by death. Despite her gender and her youth, she was reported, arrested and condemned to be shot.

She refused to sign a petition for mercy. Then, on the eve of her execution, she said: “If they try to place a band over my eyes before shooting me, I will tear it off and tell them: ‘See how a young Belgian woman understands the way to die’.”

The story was indeed very short.

One spring morning, her virginal soul flew from her frail chest, holed by bullets, towards the place where martyred virgins chant their hymns at the side of the Immaculate Lamb.

Returning late, tired and meditative on the evening of the day that I read the pink poster, I came across some scruffy young women chatting in the arms of some cheeky soldiers, calling out dirty words to me. And I thought of the young shop assistant and envied her fate.

Brothers, there are blessed moments in life where the truth bursts forth dazzlingly, irrestibly and irrefutably.

We see this in the stories of those privileged beings within whom the enigma of life and destiny is resolved with a gesture so magnificent that it conquers every soul and rejoices every heart.

Greater than Iphigenia[2] and the daughter of Jephthah[3], like the Maid of Orleans[4], bringing victory through her own ordeal; understanding that a great cause requires the most sublime renunciation.

Discovering in the conscience of a young girl a means more powerful than any strategem or invention. A conviction that the final word of Love is immolation. That sacrifice itself is more eloquent than any caress. That beyond any gesture and beyond the idea that inspires it, there is something invincible at work.

The soul incarnated in this young girl. The soul, image of God, which braved death to be reborn to eternal live. The soul that transforms the eternal shell into a seed thrown to ground in the autumn of life to flower again in the spring of immortality. The soul, a phoenix reborn from its ashes.

And yet, this soul of our soul, this heart of our heart, this Faith, Love and Grace also makes us participants in divine nature, and communicates eternal happiness to us, provided only that we remain faithful.

That is what this young woman understood. That is what she teaches us, what she in a blessed hour taught our Homeland, devastated everywhere but still resisting.

It is an invincible Homeland because its weakness is founded on the force of its law. A Homeland conquering the world by its gesture of immolation.

A Homeland that neither you nor I nor our children knows or understands. We do not enough love because we do not participate enough in the greatness of the sacrifice of this young woman, immolating herself freely, voluntarily to prevent time from running out and to keep the wound open.

Brothers, let us strive to be worthy of experiencing these moments, let us strive to be worthy of becoming true children of our Homeland, brothers and sisters of this poor child. Let us not incur the criticism of our Divine Saviour to his compatriots:

“They would have an excuse if they had not seen. Are they not blind and deaf? Because when was there ever a time more fruitful in miracles?”

The miracle of a king, who has such confidence in his people that he himself takes on heroism as a duty. The miracle of a people who respond to the confidence of their king by maintaining their heroism for two years.

The miracle of this young woman who joins herself to the heroism of this king and this people, and who raises up its weakness by renouncing the most legitimate joys in order to immolate herself for their common salvation.

Brothers, have faith more than ever in victory of the soul over death, in the victory of the Faith that makes the small strong and confounds the powerful, and in the victory of the Homeland, which draws its strength from weakness.

As Montalembert said, “When a man is forced to fight against a woman, provided that woman is not the least of creatures, she can brave him with impunity.”

She says to him: “Strike, but you dishonour yourself and you will not defeat me.”

Like a poor, weak woman, O Belgium, O my beloved mother, you said: “Strike, but you dishonour yourself and you will not win.”

Let us pray, Brothers, for those who do not believe, let us pray for those who slip into doubt and defiance, let us pray for those who do not believe enough. Let us pray for those who have died in glory and let us pray for those who are going to die.

O Christ, dead on the Cross, because of their weakness

Rendering from your breast a painful sigh;

When their hour comes, remember your own

O you, who know how to die![5]

Let us pray for our Homeland that, soon, crowned with glory, it will be able to reward all such heroism and commemorate all such oblations as it should.

Let it be so.

Joseph Cardijn

Probably April 1916

Te Deum à la Cathédrale St Michel et Gudule

Cardijn’s homily at the ceremony commemorating the execution of of Gabrielle Petit

Archives Cardijn 106

[1] Prayers for saints, Pro virgine, Old Roman Missal: 

[2] Sacrificed daughter of King Agamemnon in Greek mythology:

[3]Jephthah was an Old Testament Jewish judge, whose own daughter was sacrificed: 

[4] Joan of Arc: 

[5] Citation from Alphonse de Lamartine, Le Crucifix.

O Christ, mort en Croix, que leur faiblesse obtienne

De rendre sur ton sein, un douloureux soupir;

Quand leur heure viendra, souviens-toi de la tienne

O toi, qui sais mourir !

Biography of Gabrielle Petit

Born on 20 February, 1893 at Tournai and shot dead on 1 April, 1916 at Schaerbeek, Gabrielle Petit, full name Gabrielle Aline Eugénie Marie Ghislaine Petit, was a Belgian nurse and resistance fighter who spied for the Allies during the First World War .

She was the daughter of Jules Charles Marie Petit, notary clerk and Aline Irma Victorine Eugénie Ghislaine Sgard. Her mother died while she was a child and her father abandoned her and her sister to the convent of the Ladies of the Sacred Heart at Mons . Shortly after, they were picked up by an uncle who entrusted them to the convent of the Sisters of the Child Jesus in Brugelette. At the age of 17, she returned to her father’s home but ended up moving to Brussels where her sister found her a job as governess.

She was 21 when German troops invaded Belgium in 1914. As a result, she had to postpone her marriage. While her fiancé, Maurice Gobert, signed up for military service, Gabrielle joined the Belgian Red Cross as a nurse. Wounded during an early battle, Govert was taken prisoner, but escaped almost immediately and hid in occupied territory. While convalescing, he sought to join the Belgian army entrenched behind the Yser river. However, he was forced to travel via the neutral Netherlands, England and, finally, the north of France. Gabrielle accompanied and supports him on the way.

While in Allied territory, following a short training course in espionage, she was offered a mission, which she accepted. Returning to Brussels at the end of July 1915, she collected information and transmitted the positions and the movements of the enemy troops in the sector of Maubeuge and Lille to Allied staff. She also distributed clandestine newspapers including La Libre Belgique as well as sending letters to interned soldiers and assisted Dutch soldiers to cross the French border. Her pseudonym for the Allies was Mlle Legrand.

When she fell under suspicion from the German secret police she was arrested, questioned then released for lack of evidence and continued her missions until she was again arrested on 20 January, 1916 . On 2 February, she was transferred to the prison of Saint-Gilles . On 3 March, she was sentenced to death by a German military tribunal and was shot on 1 April at the National Firing Range. At that moment, she called out: “Long live the King!” Long live the…” but did not have time to finish her sentence.

A Te Deum was celebrated in her honour in the collegiate church of Saints-Michel-et-Gudule in Brussels. The event was announced via postcards and drew a large crowd. Father Cardijn, the future founder of the YCW, celebrated the mass.

When the war was over, the remains of Gabrielle Petit were exhumed. A state funeral was held in May 1919 in the presence of Queen Elisabeth of Belgium , who placed the cross of the Order of Leopold on the coffin in a moment of great popular emotion. She now lies in Schaerbeek Cemetery.


Gabrielle Petit (résistante) (

Cardijn & the world of labour and technology

There is an opportunity to bring awareness of See-Judge-Act and the insights of Joseph Cardijn into our world of Labor and Technology. We are entering a new era—emerging Technology, particularly AI, will impact Labor regardless of your collar color or if you even wear a collar. As the old saying goes, “That ship has sailed” We are into the era of the autonomous revolution. The question today is how well-educated people become to understand & manage Technology as a society. We need to begin thinking about culture and societal phase change. The See-Judge-Act method gives us a framework to understand better the reality we are facing. It is now for us to innovate-educate-collaborate

Using the See-Judge-Act methods to innovate-educate-collaborate will focus on the core issues we face as a society, the constraints we encounter, and what actions we need to take to manage the constraints and collaborate for the greater good of humanity. Let’s consider where we are as a society and look at history. We see similarities between the early 1900s and the rise of labor unions in the US and European labor organizations during the life of Joseph Cardijn. What was at the heart of the matter was humanity. Think of Catholic Social Teachings and the historical development of the encyclicals to provide insights into our thinking.

Do we understand what it means to be human and the difference it makes? Today we are in the depths of the autonomous revolution; unlike its predecessor, the industrial revolution, this one won’t span 200 years. The World Economic Forum predicts AI will alter or eliminate 27% of what we consider a job over the next five years. IBM is replacing 7,800 jobs with AI and robots driven by AI.

What do Blackrock, the Business Roundtable, and the World Economic Forum share? Surprisingly they are coming in line with labor social teaching and ethics. Not 100%, but they see the cause/effect of emerging technologies on society. 

They’ve all endorsed stakeholder capitalism and corporate social responsibility. Look at the writings of Pope Francis to gain a perspective in our thinking about stakeholder responsibility. Remember that we now live in a time where only thinking about shareholders is insufficient. 

Using the See-Judge-Act methods, we can collectively focus on FOUR main areas: People, Planet, Purpose in Life, and the overall Prosperity of all human beings. 

Using the See-Judge-Act method, we start by looking at our current situation and asking “what is happening” in our local areas and our economic world. Ask ourselves how to identify the problems we see and where the GAPS are in our collective understanding of the greater good. We then collectively and collaboratively think and develop Enablers to fix the issues and close the gaps. But understanding the solution’s impact and benefits becomes essential in our modern times. The resolution and benefits must be for the greater good of all humanity and the planet.

Keep your eye on a guy named Ilya Sutskever from a technology company called Open AI. He is the collective brains behind the launching of AI and surrounds himself in his work at Open AI with philosophers, historians, sociologists, anthropologists, etc., besides engineers. The Valley, once again, is starting to look more like it did 50 years ago than what it looked like in the late 90s and early 2000s. The companies are only all expressing concerns about the cause/effect of societal phase change with proper guardrails in place.

More than ever, we will experience societal disruption like we have never seen in past revolutions. This is an excellent opportunity for Catholics and Labor to innovate, educate, and collaborate with society for the greater good. We have a chance to draw more and more people into the fold with an understanding of how Catholic social teachings with Labor can provide the leadership and oversight necessary to create the essential guardrails in society as we did in the early 1900s and through the “New Deal Era.” 

It is a time for Catholics & Labor to engage in public discussions about the digital capacities and infrastructures affecting our work and what it means to be human. To provide the critical analysis of dynamics such as digitization, automation, mobile computing, surveillance, the gig economy, pre-care, care work, crowdsourcing, outsourcing, etc., and what is necessary to manage the growth of Technology in society.

Catholics and Labor together can bring a deep and contextual analysis to society by asking: Whom are the workers being left out of the story? How is Labor fundamentally connected to systems of inequality based on, for example, race, class, gender, and sexuality? And does Technology enable disparities, and how Catholics and Labor can help correct the advances? 

We must let society know that we understand how Labor and technologies are rooted in political economies, legal systems, state regulations, and social ideologies—significantly beyond the US and Europe, particularly in the Global South. This will show the world and those traditionally viewed as “suburban independents” that the future is brighter with the Catholics and Labor working collaboratively.

How are different groups shaping Technology from the ground up with grassroots initiatives? And where do we need to involve Labor and the party in helping form the message? Catholics and Labor should aim to provide a space for a nuanced, multidimensional, and research-informed conversation. This will draw in younger, college-educated, and skilled trade voters. In doing so, we tie together discussions sprinkled across various disciplines, creating a cohesiveness platform for analyses of the meaning of work and an anchor for future debates.

We use the See-Judge-Act methods to bring about solutions that drive fairness across generations. Provide equality of opportunity for all and not just the few. In the age of autonomous Technology, the See-Judge-Act method, when used properly, provides fairness to those in society who are currently prevented from participating in the entire economy generated by the new technologies. Pope Francis has called us to understand better what inclusive capitalism means to everyone. Go and read

As we start to use the methods with the appropriate questions we ask, we also MAP the actual steps that characterize the negative experiences we are sensing and feeling as a group. I suggest learning more about Hassle Maps, which have been used in marketing programs that will have applicability to our efforts. To learn more, see

God is using us–He needs us to accomplish His work. This is cause for great joy. Without our help, God cannot bring about the miracle that He intends to effect in each one of us through us but not without us.” ~ Louis J Putz CSC


Richard Pütz


Field Engineer / Pexels

Marcel Carrier, another YCW martyr

As we commemorate the end of World War II in Europe on 9 May 1945, let us also remember Marcel Carrier, a young YCW leader aged 23, who died in the Flossenberg concentration camp just three days before the war’s end.

This is his story.

Stefan Gigacz

Marcel Carrier

Born in Paris on 29 April 1922, Marcel Carrier joined the French JOC at an early age and rapidly became a federal leader.

Still aged only 18, he married on 3 August 1940. He and his wife had three children.

However, he was called up for Compulsory Labour Service (STO) just days after the birth of his third child.

He left for Germany at the beginning of August 1943 out of fear of reprisals against family members. He was sent to Weimar where he became a leader in the clandestine Catholic Action movement. He took part in a secret meeting of militants on 15 August and another on 4-5 September.

Priest prisoners, who had hidden their clerical identity, joined them in organising masses.

Although the sending of books from France was prohibited, he managed to launch a library.

Every Sunday he travelled around the region to develop contacts and organise meetings. He and Jean Tinturier were the two main organisers of the “Thuringia Federation.”

He was arrested at Weimar on 17 April 1944. He was interrogated by the Gestapo at Gotha, where he was subsequently along with 11 companions.

On 25 September, he signed the official document convicting him for “his Catholic action among his French comrades during his compulsory labour service” and being “a danger to the German state and people.”

On 12 October 1944 he was sent to the Flossenbürg camp where he was given N° 28 905.

According to the testimony of survivors, he died at Neustadt-sur-Tachau on 6 May 1945 while being evacuated from Flossenbürg. Still aged only 23, he left his wife and three children.


Marcel Carrier (Mémoire et espoirs de la Résistance)

Country of origin

English France

Birth date

April 29, 1922

Birth place


Death date

May 6, 1945

Death place



Marcel Carrier (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

The Catholic school as a place of dialogue

The Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education published The Catholic School (CS) in 1977. The Congregation stated that it “is aware of the serious problems which are an integral part of Christian education in a pluralist society” (CS 2). In its consideration of the place of the Catholic school in world, the Congregation stated that through the school, the Church “participates in the dialogue of culture with her own positive contribution in the cause of the total formation of people” (CS 15). The Congregation used the term “dialogue” just twice in the document. By 2022, the emphasis on dialogue had increased dramatically with its publication of The Identity of the Catholic School for a Culture of Dialogue (ICSCD), in which the word “dialogue” appears 44 times in just 18 pages. 

The pluralisation of society has led to a heightened sense of urgency around the part that Catholic schools play in the interaction between faith and reason. That sense of urgency is evident in the concerted efforts of the Church to have all Catholic schools be identical. Here, identity is defined as having “the Christian concept of life” as their reference point (ICSCD 18).

It is obvious to those who are part of Catholic education, that the pluralisation of society applies also to Catholic schools, both to the students, their families and the staff. The dialogue being promoted by the Congregation for Catholic Education must happen also in school as well as in society. The understanding of Catholic identity that is promoted by the school will be a dominant factor in determining the nature of the dialogue. 

Coincidentally, there is a dialogue school project involving Catholic schools in Flanders. The researchers have replicated their work in Australia. The findings from research conducted in Flanders and in Australia yielded four models of Catholic identity. One model focused on dialogue that “re-contextualised” the Catholic faith. The researchers explained it in the following way:

As the world evolves and changes, so do the idea of what it means to be Christian in this world and the way the original evangelical inspiration is given a concrete form. Catholic faith must change her profile and ‘re-contextualise’ herself as she enters each new era.

Is there an echo here of a Jocist understanding of the place of dialogue in the integration of faith and culture and life? The Joseph Cardijn Digital Library has as one of its many sources, a document titled Reflections on Dialogue, which was written by Marguérite Fiévez (1914-2000), a Belgian Catholic, who was at one time the secretary of Cardinal Joseph Cardijn (1882-1967) and collaborated with him during the Second Vatican Council. 

Marguérite Fiévez presents a clear and comprehensive description of what constitutes true dialogue. Written during the time of the Council, her opening statement is worth repeating here: 

“Dialogue” is one of the key words of the world today, one of the signs that expresses a major aspiration of our time, that which calls for a human solution, personalist and community, universal and peaceful, to the fundamental problems of the world. And this at a time when society is becoming increasingly and inseparably both one and pluralist in perpetual transformation and development.

Fiévez views dialogue in much the same way that the proponents of the dialogue school do: dialogue offers those who engage in dialogue the opportunity to appreciate the power of difference in building communities animated by faith that is both human and divine. 

So, how do Catholic schools become places of dialogue? The answer lies in her view of dialogue as aspirational in character: we are united in the task of addressing the “fundamental problems of the world.” And the Catholic school curriculum in the twenty-first century is created through the re-contextualising of its Tradition so that it can dialogue with others as brothers and sisters working together for the common good. 


Pat Branson

Read more .,. 

The Identity of the Catholic School for a Culture of Dialogue 

Biography of Marguérite Fiévez

Reflections on Dialogue, written by Marguérite Fiévez

Len Faulkner kept the faith in the YCW

It’s five years today since the death of Archbishop Leonard Faulkner of Adelaide, Australia.

I first met Archbishop Len, as he liked to be called, or “Lenny” as we almost always called him among ourselves, at the Australian YCW National Council in May 1977.

It was a tough meeting, the first national council since 1971, with a lot of conflicting ideas.

One of the rules was that priests could not speak in plenary sessions.

Eventually, after a particularly challenging session, Bishop (as he was then) Faulkner finally stood up to interrupt and tried to have his say, before he was brutally shut down by the chair of the session.

The meeting quickly relented, however, and gave him the opportunity to speak after the coffee break.

Unlike many other bishops, he did not take this personally.

On the contrary, he maintained his faith in the movement even during the most difficult periods.

When other Australian bishops wanted to close down the YCW, he spoke up the bishops conference telling his colleagues that the YCW was a “prophetic” movement.

Thus, even after the Holy See had derecognised the International YCW 1989, he did not hesitate to allow Adelaide priest, Fr Hugh O’Sullivan, to take up a post as IYCW chaplain in Asia Pacific, based in Hong Kong.

Two years later, he welcomed the 6th World Council of the IYCW to Adelaide.

He maintained a lifelong friendship with another former international YCW chaplain, Brian Burke, who had left the priesthood and lost his faith in the Church.

A great man, great bishop, great bishop and true believer in the YCW.

Here are some further details of his life.

Stefan Gigacz

Archbishop Len

Archbishop Len Faulkner was a YCW chaplain in Adelaide, Australia, who later became episcopal delegate to the YCW for the Australian bishops.


Born on 5 December 1926 at Booleroo Centre in South Australia, Leonard Anthony Faulkner studied for the priesthood at St Francis Xavier Seminary, Stradbroke Park then at Corpus Christi College, Werribee in Victoria, where he first learned of the YCW from Fr Frank Lombard and other lay YCW and Catholic Action leaders.

He then moved to the Pontifical Urban University and Propaganda College in Rome where he was ordained on 1 January 1950 in the Chapel of the Epiphany at Propaganda Fide.

It was while studying in Rome that he first heard Cardijn speak.

Upon his return to Adelaide, he was appointed as an assistant priest at Woodville Park where he served from 1950 until 1957 when he became administrator of St Francis Xavier Cathedral.

In 1955, he was appointed diocesan chaplain of the YCW, a post he held until 1967 when he was appointed as bishop of Townsville.

For his episcopal ring, he chose to incorporate the YCW logo.

He became coadjutor of Adelaide on 2 September 1983 and was installed as archbishop on 19 June 1985. He retired on 3 December 2001.

During the mid-1970s, he supported the Australian YCW when many other bishops had lost faith in or abandoned the movement.

In 1991, he hosted the Sixth International Council of the IYCW just two years after the Holy See had withdrawn its recognition for the movement.

As bishop, he introduced many innovations. He launched an Aboriginal Ministry, the first diocese in Australian to do so.

He created a Pastoral Governance Team involving lay people and religious as well as priests.

He died on 6 May 2018.


Len Faulkner (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)


Fr Maurie Shinnick, Funeral Tribute (Adelaide Archdiocese)

Archbishop Philip Wilson, Funeral homily (Adelaide Archdiocese)

Archbishop Len, a jocist bishop (

Archbishop Len Faulkner (Wikipedia)

Archbishop Leonard Anthony Faulkner (Catholic Hierarchy)

Nguyen Manh Ha, founder of the YCW in Vietnam

In today’s Cardijn Reflection, we present the story of Nguyen Manh Ha, the lay founder of the YCW in Vietnam during the 1930s, who was born 110 years ago in May 1913.

It’s an amazing story of a man, who later became a minister in Ho Chi Minh’s first government in 1945, and was eventually deported to France by the French colonial government.

Sadly, there is little available in English about his life, perhaps even in Vietnamese.

Another story of an amazing jocist leader that needs to be rediscovered and retold.

Stefan Gigacz

Nguyen Manh Ha

The founder of the Vietnamese YCW, Nguyen Manh Ha, was born in the town of Quy Suu in Hung Yen province in 1913.

His father was a doctor who took part in World War I and stayed on in France. As a result, Manh Ha also lived much of his life in France as well as in Switzerland.

After completing his baccalaureat, he studied law and politics at the University of Paris. He followed this by graduating from the Institute of Political Science (Sciences Po) and also obtained a doctorate in law.

Manh Ha married the daughter of Georges Marrane, the Communist mayor of Ivry a working class neighbourhood on the outskirts of Paris who later stood as the Communist Party candidate in the French presidential election of 1958.

He then returned to Vietnam where he was appointed by France’s Popular Front government as a Labor Inspector in the industrial port city of Hai Phong.

In 1939-40, he founded the YCW in the Hai Phong region.

In 1943, he became economic director and labor inspector for Tonkin as the northern part of Vietnam was then known.

In this role, he helped resolve a 1945 famine in Hai Phong leading to his recognition as a “saviour” of the people.

As a result of this, in August 1945, he was called upon to collaborate with the first national government under Ho Chi Minh following Vietnam’s declaration of independence from France.

On 2 September 1945, he was appointed Minister of National Economy in the Viet Minh Provisional Government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.

In 1946, he was elected to the Vietnamese National Assembly to represent Hung Yen.

During this period, he was given the mission of conducting negotiations with France regarding Vietnamese independence.

On May 28, 1946, he joined a goodwill delegation of the Vietnamese National Assembly to visit France. And he took part in the Fontainebleau Conference in July 1946 as a member of the Vietnamese delegation.

He then returned to Hanoi where he joined the National Resistance. Because his wife was French, the colonial government did not dare to arrest him. But, in 1951, since he was regarded as siding with the Viet Minh, he was deported to France on the orders of General Jean de Lattre de Tassigny, the commander of French troops in Vietnam until 1951. He spent the rest of his life in Europe.

In 1947, he issued an Appeal to French Catholics published in the magazine, Témoignage Chrétien.

Nous espérons que les catholiques de France, d’un commun accord, élèvent en ce moment la voix pour défendre la justice, la charité et la paix. Après les fusillades et les tueries, il faut avoir la paix. La paix véritable, la paix selon l’esprit du christianisme.

La condition essentielle, c’est que le Vietnam soit traité avec le respect que l’Evangile conseille vis-à-vis des nations comme vis-à-vis des personnes. C’est la France qui, ayant les armes pour la guerre, a aussi la grande responsabilité d’édifier la paix. La paix avec le Vietnam et non la paix selon les contraintes de la nation française.

Que les catholiques de France ne se dérobent donc pas à leurs responsabilités.

English Translation:

We hope that French Catholics, by common agreement, will raise their voices to defend justice, charity and peace. In the wake of shootings and killings, peace is necessary. Genuine peace based on the spirit of Christianity.

The essential condition is that Vietnam should be treated with the respect that the Gospel counsels in relation to nations as well as persons. It is France, which since it has the arms of war, also has the great responsibility of building peace. Peace with Vietnam and not peace based on the requirements of the French nation.

May French Catholics not back away from their responsibilities.

Once he returned to France, Manh Ha continued to work for the Vietnamese cause, championing the notion of a “Third Force” to bring peace to Vietnam.

He died in Switzerland in 1992 at the age of 79.

With other ministers of the Ho Chi Minh government 1945


Nguyen Manh Ha (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

The Catholic school and the vocation of the worker

A Catholic school functions as an ecclesial body and as a civic institution. Focusing on the first function, it has to be acknowledged that attendance at a Catholic school does not seem to exert an influence on religious practice. Based on figures published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), over the two hundred years that Catholic schools have operated in Australia, the number of Catholics in Australia has been between 20 to 25% of the population. However, the number of Catholics who demonstrate a strong affiliation with the Church has declined to the point where only around 10% of Catholics go to Mass regularly in their parishes. There is a disconnect between the mission of the Church and the lives of most of its members. 

Seventy-five years ago, Cardijn alluded to this disconnect in the second of his Godinne series of lectures given in 1948. Titled “The Church and the workers,” Cardijn presents the theology of the mission of the worker, which he prefaces with a statement from Pope Pius XII: 

‘The first time I saw the Holy Father after the war, he said to me: “The greatest danger facing the Church is not Communism or Socialism. It is the fact that the working class knows nothing about the Church’s teaching on the workers’ mission.”’

Once regarded as a Christian country, with over 90% of the population belonging to a Christian denomination, Australians now live in a pluralist society; people make their own minds up about the place religion plays in their lives, both in terms of what beliefs they hold and their religious practices. The moral authority of the Christian Church has been eroded and the majority of Australians vest authority in themselves and not in others, such as priests, or bishops. 

What Pius XII saw in 1948, holds true for today, except that “Communism or Socialism” have been taken over by materialism and consumerism and in general by all the “-isms” that put individuals in the place once inhabited by God in the prevailing worldviews that shaped nations and peoples. 

The process of change like this is referred to as “detraditionalisation,” which is the process of erosion of tradition in religion and society. The breakdown of tradition has been associated with postmodernism, which was born out of the disillusionment experienced by societies and individuals globally with the perversion of the promises of the Enlightenment. 

Cardijn was on about “retraditionalisation.” He was a young man when he committed his life to God and to overcoming the soul-destroying effects of industrialisation. While still a teenager and studying for the priesthood, he had witnessed the impact of work on his peers, who had turned away from the Church. More than forty years later, in his lecture on the Church and the workers, he begins: ‘Today we are living in an hour decisive for the Church. Will the Church succeed in the re-conquest of these millions of workers? She will, because the Church without the working class is not the Church of Our Lord Jesus.’

The return to being prayerful, going to Mass, receiving Holy Communion and practising mortification, all of which many Australian Catholics have abandoned (and the majority are workers), is not enough, according to Cardijn. His process of “retraditionalisation” involves coming to understand that the world needs workers who recognise and accept God into their lives, and that each worker ‘has a divine vocation, a mission that no one else can fulfil. Without that mission, the work of Creation and Redemption cannot be completed.’ Moreover, the workers need to come together to form a movement that has as its goal the fulfilment of this mission. Finally, says Cardijn, the movement needs leaders 

‘for, and from, the workers, working class apostles, missionaries, who, acting from within the working class will help it to know and fulfil its mission, and to organise and direct this workers’ movement.’

Jesus formed such a movement with workers. His twelve disciples, who were his leaders, became the first bishops of the Christian Church. Somewhere along the way, the Church (a movement of workers, for workers) lost sight of its origin. 

Catholic schools in Australia today are in the hands of the workers. There are very few priests and religious still involved in the day-to-day running of Catholic schools. For many years now, lay people have been exercising the responsible management of the formation of young people in the tradition of the Catholic Church. So what has gone astray that has led to the weakening of the ecclesial function and influence of the Catholic school in the life of our nation?


Pat Branson

Read more 

The hour of the working class – Lecture 2 – The Church and the workers 

Remembering the legendary YCW extension worker, René Delécluse

Today is the 20th anniversary of the death of legendary French YCW leader and International YCW extension worker, René Delécluse.

So many people I met while I worked for the IYCW in Asia during the late 1980s spoke to me of him and clearly had great personal memories of the man he was.

Sadly, I never met him.

But this excellent article on the French labor history website, Maitron, gives us a glimpse into who he was.

Stefan Gigacz

DELÉCLUSE René, Louis, Auguste

Born on 1 November, 1924 in Roubaix (Nord), died 4 May, 2003 in Roubaix; YCW fulltime worker in France (1946-1955), extension worker for the International YCW in India and South-East Asia (1956-1967);  Socialist assistant mayor of Villiers-sur-Marne (Val-de-Marne) from 1977 to 1983; Director of the National Federation of Home Help (1982-1987).

The parents of René Delécluse, who was the second of their three children, were at first caretakers at a spinning factory. His father, a typographer, who was an activist in the Fresnoy district of Roubaix, became a printer; his mother, a very religious woman, worked in a clothing factory before becoming a homemaker. René Delécluse attended a local Catholic school. A clarinet player, he was to show a very lively taste for classical music and jazz throughout his life.

Employed at the Société de Filature de Tourcoing from 1939 to 1943, except for the period of (wartime) exodus to Berck (Pas-de-Calais), he experienced a revelation of a religious nature whil reading Maxence Van der Meersch’s L’Élu (The Chosen One). He joined the YCW, revived the section in his neighbourhood, soon became its president and set up a theater troupe, the Joan of Arc Drama Club, in his parish.

His father then took him on at his printing press, initiating a financial partnership that lasted several years: the salary received by the son for what was actually a fictitious job left him free for his YCW commitments. This was the way in which he was able to spend almost a year in the United Kingdom as a prelude to his departure for India. Federal YCW President from December 1944 to 1948, then responsible for the “Côte” – the Dunkirk, Boulogne, Saint-Omer, Bergues, etc. coastal region – following France’s Liberation, René Delécluse worked very closely with Eugène Descamps, president of the Lille YCW, and with René Salanne, another fulltimer YCW worker, who would later help him reintegrate into French society on his return from his work in Asia .

In 1947, he joined the General Secretariat in Paris where he was responsible for young apprentices. Suffering from tuberculosis, he went to convalesce in a religious house in Saint-Pélagiberg (Switzerland), where he met Jeannette Dussartre, who was then head of the National Federation of Young Workers. A romance seemed to be developing, however, not without hesitation, René chose celibacy. As a fulltime national YCW worker until 1953, he was responsible for the “action at work” program as well as for the metallurgy sector in Paris. He followed this with a brief work placement at Citroën.

Having placed himself at the service of a “demanding spirituality of divestment”, he left to develop the YCW movement by organising training sessions for leaders, young people and adults, in Asian countries: India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and Singapore. It was in 1956 that he took his first steps in India as a trainee investigator for the World Association of Youth (WAY), an international umbrella body for youth movements. His task there was to provide young workers with support and a dynamic to break out of servitude. “Doesn’t my work for the YCW here have an evangelising aspect?” he asked. “To work with India, to gradually open hearts, develop their aspirations, and enable them to become capable of solving the missionary problems of India on their own.”

Backed by the International YCW, René Delécluse was to work as an extension worker, in other words as an expert/jocist development worker, to assist the movements that had already been created in India, in the province of Madurai, Madras (now Chennai) and Bombay (now Mumba). Accompanying him was Yvonne Tap, ex-national secretary of the French Girls YCW, who went to Madras for four years. From 1956, he traveled more than five thousand kilometers, in voluntarily precarious conditions, to take stock of the approximately thirty Indian Jocist sections that then existed. YCW founder, Father Cardjin, approved of his work and visited India several times.

Returning to France in 1958, René Delécluse had to wait a long time without work before finally a new visa for India, enabling him to return to Asia in January 1959. There he became responsible for completing the training of local leadres and above all for studying how better to implement the YCW’s educational mission in India while respecting the past, the traditions and the psychology of local peoples. Introduced to journalism, before his departure, in the Bayard Presse group, he became a correspondent for La Croix and eleven different newspapers in Pakistan, Ceylon, Malaysia and Singapore, for four months, before giving up this job as being incompatible with his role as a YCW leader.

A member of the IYCW Study Commission for Asia, he made prospective visits to Indonesia, Sarawak and Brunei in 1960, and contributed to developing a better understanding of the continent. In 1958-1959, he helped organised Cardjin’s second visit to Madras, Ceylon and Malaysia, as well as the first national gathering of Indian YCW leaders in Bandel (Calcutta, now Kolkata).

During that period, he spoke of his vocation as that of a “lay apostle” working to “set up a workers’ apostolate in Asia”. Among his favourite books was Au coeur des masses (At the heart of the masses) by Father René Voillaume.

In 1962, René Delécluse returned to France after four years of intense work. He travelled to Singapore the following year for the launch of John XXIII’s encyclical Pacem in Terris and accompanied Pope Paul VI to Bombay in December 1964. He visited Bangkok again in November-December 1965 for the Third International Council of the YCW, which was held in a predominantly Buddhist country for the first time. However, he did not speak, in order to allow the Asian participants to take the lead.

After this, he made a series of short visits as a “tourist”, without obtaining a residence permit. In Malaysia, he took part in the effort to train young people in school-to-work “camps”. Close to union activists and leaders, he worked in 1965 to launch sections of an organsation known as the “Christian Families/Social Movement” (CFSM). In 1964, he also assisted with the foundation of the Christian Workers Movement among ex-YCW leaders in Bangalore (India).

Because of illness, he turned down an opportunity to become Secretary General of the World Movement of Christian Workers, which was suggested to him by Cardjin in 1966. René Delécluse finally left Asia for good in 1967, as he had planned, “otherwise they will never feel responsible”. He left Bombay on 10 August, still hitchhiking, and the man who had become “an icon” discreetly participated in the World Congress of the Lay Apostolate in October of that year.

Living temporarily at the YCW secretariat in Paris, René Delécluse took care of the “jocist popular service” until January 1968. He went through a difficult period of disconnection: “Asia cut my ties with French society,” he said.

With the assistance of his friend Alfred Martinache, another former YCW fulltimer worker, he found a fulltime job with links to the Third World as the person responsible for training sessions for international volunteers at the Institut de recherche et de formation éducation et développement (Institute for research and training in education and development) (IRFED), which was founded by Father Louis Joseph Lebret.

In 1968, René Delécluse moved to Villiers-sur-Marne. As a member of the local PSU Socialist Party), he became close to its leader André Jondeau and was an admirer of Pierre Mendès France and Michel Rocard. He became involved in the PSU’s Third World Commission following the Épinay Congres and also became secretary of his local PSU branch. He was a candidate in the 1977 municipal elections of 1977 for the Union de la gauche (Left Union) led by the socialist Serge Delaporte, and was elected deputy mayor of his commune, in charge of finance, from 1977 to 1983.

A contributor to the magazine Faim et Développement (Hunger and Development) from 1968, René Delécluse joined the Catholic Committee against Hunger and for Development (CCFD) in 1971. He was responsible for the magazine until 1978 as well as for development projects in Bangladesh. Following this, he became commercial attaché, in charge of external relations, for Voyages vacances tourisme (VVT) for two years, and headed the National Federation of Family Aid at home (FNAFAD) from 1982 to his retirement in 1987.

Struck with Parkinson’s disease during the 1980s, he later developed Alzheimer’s and died in a residence for dependent persons in his home town.


Translator: Stefan Gigacz

Reaching the masses

Cardijn was always obsessed with reaching the “masses” of young workers, the working class masses. Indeed, this was one of the points that so impressed Pope Pius XI when Cardijn first visited him in March 1925.

“At last someone has come to speak about the masses,” the pope told him.

Today, 1 May, Feast of St Joseph the Worker, it seems appropriate to look back at how Cardijn himself explained this need to reach the masses, as he did in this article from September 1945.

Stefan Gigacz

A YCW of the masses to the scale of the world

There is a new YCW in existence today – the Y.C.W. of yesterday was but a preface – today, by the very force of circumstances, we have a real Y.C.W. of the masses, not only national but international. The Y.C.W. today exists not only in one or the other country and has not only to save the mass of working youth of one or the other nation; the Y.C.W. today must solve the world problem of working youth, not only in theory, but in practice as well. Before the International Labour Conference which opens in a few days, before the World Trade Union Council which is meeting at present in Paris, and which represents sixty million workers all over the world, We must realise the problem of the world-wide, international mission of the Y.C.W. for the conquest and the re-Christianising of the masses of working youth, and remember those words of the Holy Father spoken ten years ago: “This movement, on which Providence seems to have set its seal.”

Our task is to bring about the meeting of the Disciples of Christ with the masses, a meeting, which alone can solve the problem of the deproletarisation of the masses and the youth of the working classes. We must be haunted by this problem. In the soul of every priest must grow the certainty that the solution of this problem can be found, for it is going to decide the future, not only of the working class, but of the Church as well.

Our task is to put an end to the great scandal of the nineteenth century – the loss of the masses by the Church. I have often said this to my fellow priests, and we must give a great deal of thought to it. If the Church ever lost the mark that makes her to be the Church of the masses, she would cease to he the Church of Christ.

I have been asked to speak to you on this essential problem, and I am going to tell you very simply how I envisage the spiritual training of leaders with a view to the masses. This implies a spiritual training, which should bring about an integral spiritual life in the working masses.

I often say that there is nothing arbitrary, nothing a priori in the Y.C.W. We must always remember this when we are dealing with the problem of spiritual training, and base ourselves on fundamental truths.

Young workers must always be faced with the great truth of the eternal destiny of the mass of young workers. How often have I cried out at mass meetings: “You are not machines, beasts of burden, slaves; you are human beings, with an eternal destiny, a divine origin, a divine purpose, You are sons of God, partners with God, you are heirs of God; this is true, not only for a select few, but for the masses and the whole of the working class, without exception.” There is but one eternal destiny for the masses of the young workers, either to be saved or to be damned for all eternity. This truth must obsess the Y.C.W. leader; if he is not steeped in it, if he does not live it, then he is not a Y.C.W. leader. He must grasp it, believe in it, be overwhelmed by it ; the abandoned masses of the young workers have an eternal destiny.

The second truth on which the training of leaders should be based is that each young worker and each young working girl has here below, from the moment of his conception and birth, a personal divine vocation, all his own, an irreplaceable divine vocation, a magnificent divine vocation. In his life, his environment, his calling, each young worker is the necessary partner of our Creator and Redeemer.

The third truth is that this divine, supernatural destiny and vocation must put the young workers in continuous contact with God, so that their life becomes a divine life, in constant union with Christ, so that their own life becomes the life of Christ in them, within that divine community created by Christ, which is the Church. We must go far to show them that, uniting them to Christ, their consecration to God will be achieved by a community which is at once a sacramental and a liturgical community, and which, in the very life of the masses, will develop more and more a life of union, not only with Christ, not only with God, but also with the Mother of God, the Blessed Virgin Many, in such a way as to develop in the working masses that Eucharistic and Marian life which, in my belief, will be the characteristic of the spiritual and supernatural life of the working class of tomorrow.

So when we speak of spiritual training I always add, spiritual training “for the masses.” We must not be content with a sub-religion, a second-class religion, a religion for the proletariat, no more than we can be content with a second-class, submorality for a sub-proletariat. When we speak of the spiritual training and spiritual life, our ambition is to speak of a training, which gives to all the same divine life. the same holiness as to, the chosen few.

In the face of Communism and its ideals, the spiritual, intellectual, moral, internal deproletarisation of the individual and the family is the only means of achieving a real economic, social and political deproletarisation. There will never be true deproletarisation unless the masses feel, in their minds and hearts, a pride in their divine origin and destiny, and acquire a conception of life through which the working masses will become proud of’ its religion, and will learn to suffer, to struggle, and to die for it, more than the Communist masses suffer and struggle for the full deproletarisation of the working masses.

My friends, I have always told you that those ideas, those truths were at the basis of the Y.C.W. There can be no Y.C.W., no Y.C.W. methods, without the inspiration of those truths.

And that is precisely the nature of our spiritual training to renew the working masses from within, to make of them a, new working class, to make them discover, grasp and conquer the eternal worth of their own lives. I am convinced that the only possible answer to the horrors of Buchenwald and Dachau, to their shameful contempt and denial of human values, is the exaltation of the magnificent dignity of each working family, which must be brought out in all the aspects of the life of the masses. Not for a few, but for the masses of our youth and the working class of our country and all countries. I consider this. training, the revealing of this fundamental truth as essential to the Y.C.W because without it we cannot save working youth and the working classes. It is absolutely fundamental. Without it there is no YCW If we are ready to die to save our working youth and the working masses, it is because we know that they possess an eternal destiny.

I What must we do? Above all, we must understand that we need the whole Y.C.W. movement-not merely one or two of its aspects-to achieve this spiritual, religious and apostolic training of the masses. The Y.C.W. is first and foremost a school for the full training of working youth, it is a service which, even in its temporal achievements, pursues only one object.

I repeat that this spiritual training is indispensable, that it is the very basis of the Y.C.W. and the Catholic Action of the working classes; it is the basis and the end of all. The Y.C.W. believes in the eternal destiny of each young worker, in his divine, earthly, temporal vocation, first step towards his eternal destiny in the humblest details of his daily life, in which he will save himself with the masses or lose himself with them. This eternal dignity and personal calling is supernatural and divine, and makes each young worker share in the very life of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, finding more and more its expression in the working class of tomorrow in a eucharistic, liturgical, Marial life. No sub-religion, no second-class religion for the working classes. We will not have that kind of pharisaism. We should lose the working classes, and the masses could never be proud of their religion. We should be powerless in the face of the ideals of those who pretend to deliver them. Our ideal should be that of total truth, of total divine truth, for this total truth, this divine destiny of each young worker and each young working girl, this sharing in the divine life is simply a proof of Divine Love, and since Christ has died for the working class, we must be ready to die for this divine life, and the working class will believe in the truth of it all. Filled with this faith, we should be ready to become martyrs to save the working class in its everyday life, and take the consequences. We should not be afraid of Communism, afraid of error. As the Holy Father has said, “Error is not destroyed by refutation, but by the spreading of light.” Truth will cast out error, and darkness will disappear from the earth.

I was saying that, to achieve this result, we must not attempt the spiritual training of the masses apart from the Y.C.W or by one or the other aspects of the Y.C.W or by the chaplains or the leaders following some particular line. We must understand that it is the whole Y.C.W., and nothing but the whole Y.C.W., which will enable us, by the aid of Divine grace and under God’s providence, to achieve the only true purpose of the Y.C.W. school of spiritual life which gives us the means, the charity, the necessary training through which the young workers discover in their lives, little by little, what distinguishes them from their machines and beasts of burden.

The whole Y.C.W., in all its publications, all its congresses, must always seek to give this training and this fulfilment. The masses will achieve this spiritual, apostolic life, not through one or the other aspect, not on one or the other occasion, but through the whole movement, whose aim and purpose is essentially the giving of this spiritual life to the masses and to working youth, by constantly showing them the meaning of their life on earth, which is not the life of a beast of burden, not the life of a machine, but the life of a son of God, in courtship, engagement, home, conditions of work and salaries, environment, security, health which is the health of a son of God and not of a cow or a dog, the security of a son of God and not merely of a machine.

And so all the aspects of this life, work, wages, living space of which the Holy Father speaks, and which are indispensable to allow for this education in the light of divine life, must be asserted to the public authorities as well as to the masses and the elite.

I have held meetings among Communists, and they never mocked at this ideal, far from it. I felt that I gripped them when I told them that what made the greatness of a young worker was his dignity as a son of God, his divine origin.

I spoke before a crowd of miners, and there, in the front seats, were the manager, his wife and daughter, and behind them, some working girls and the mining lads. Before God, the poorest of these girls has the same worth as the daughter of the pit manager. And I said: “Woe, woe, woe to the miner who assaults one of these girls in the pit, it were better for him that a millstone be tied around his neck and that he should be thrown to the bottom of the sea.” What a vision for the masses ; there lies our dignity, our greatness ! Rights and duties, the ideal of the family, not for one or the other, but for all. “Whatsoever ye do to the least of these my brethren, ye do unto me.

An ideal of life and environment; the factory, not a brothel, but a temple. The workbench, the lathe become an altar on which this lay priesthood prolongs the sacrifice of the Mass.

In receiving the Host which we offer, we consecrate, we transform into the very Saviour of the working class, all the workers unite themselves to Him so as to create, in their environment of work, the mystic Christ who, by His labours and sacrifices, continues the work of redemption. Without work, there can be no host, no chalice, no altar stone, no priestly vestments; without work, there can be no churches, no religion, no worker’s family to give to the Church the priests, the missionaries, the apostles she needs, for those who tomorrow will exercise that irreplaceable complementary apostolate without which she cannot fulfil her mission. See the consequences for engagements, for courtship, for family life. When I am speaking to two or three hundred little servant girls from a big town, I say to them : ” My own mother, sixty years ago, my own mother was a servant girl like you ; servant girls must be respected so that they may become the mothers of priests, of apostles, and give the nation its finest citizens.

Can you see the great vision? An ideal of life which must reveal the inviolable dignity of each young worker and each young working girl. I can only see this solution, this answer to the horrors of Buchenwald and Dachau, to the horrors that await us tomorrow. The body of the young worker and of the young working girl is a living temple of God ; the home they will found is inseparably linked up with all these necessary convictions, it is a spiritual ideal incarnate in time, lived in time. This spiritual training, this spiritual conception of life imply a morality, which is not a burden, but a responsibility.

This training is continuously taking place through all the services and achievements of the Y.C.W., and it must always remain active, adapted, supple. Babes must be given milk, not meat. The working masses must be given a training adapted to their means which will enable them to rise gradually, an active training in which each one has something to discover.

Remember always that religious training is not a matter of teaching, but a question of personal discovery. I cannot say for someone: ” I believe in God.” He must say it for himself. if he simply repeats it in a prayer, he will never get the shock of revelation. Do you realise that our ideal of marriage and courtship is revolutionary to our young people ? I could prove it a thousand times over. When this ideal of marriage and courtship is given to the workers, one can see at once their pride and their emotion. Not organised prostitution, but the most sacred of ministries, the finest collaboration in the work of creation and redemption. Once the meaning of love and of courtship has been understood, a revolution takes place and the working class is deproletarised. Life is no longer the same. This internal deproletarisation demands an external, economic, social deproletarisation. A Son of God cannot be housed like a pig.

Our training will gradually bring out an elite from the working masses. The problem of the elite and the mass is simply that of the leaven and the paste. I always say that if it is not right within, even at a hair’s breadth of the paste, it is no longer leaven-the paste must be transformed from within * This phenomenon of spiritual fermentation, of transformation, of action of the leaven on the working masses, in this factory, this workshop, this train, this railway station, the influence of this radiating family, this fermentation is incredible when one thinks of it, Christ present every-here, acting everywhere, Christ more and more to the measure of the masses and today, not merely to the measure of the masses of a region, but to the mass of the whole world.

Our time is one of a world reorganisation of society. It is the age of the masses, of the education of the masses, and we must look for a solution in this direction, otherwise we shall fail to solve the problem. In London, the ministers of Education are meeting to work out new methods for the education of the masses. It is because of the huge scope of this problem, that I am convinced the movement, of which the Holy Father has said that it bore the seal of Providence, must seek the solution.

There can be no ready-made formula, no two workers are alike. But we must start from certain principles, live with and make them lived by others. The whole leaven in the paste and that by means of the whole YCW and all its achievements.

We have, for example, our camps of family preparation, which have already received several hundreds, several thousands from the pagan masses. They stay with us in the country; we have four houses in Flanders, and it is astonishing what changes can. i;~. in a fortnight in the lives of these unfortunate young working girls. An education is begun, but it should be continued, and here lies the great misfortune of the working class; a century ago, kids went to work, and received an anti-religious training instead of a religious one. Today, their religious training finishes at thirteen or fourteen.

We should not be content with preaching vaguely about heaven, we should see the divine affinities of the young worker at his very birth. Let us use the most impressive moments of life to bring out the meaning, the divine value of life; the moment of birth, the moment when a lad leaves his family to go to school, or leaves school for work, the choice of work, courtship, engagement, marriage, everything that concerns health, security, sickness, death. It is incredible to what extent the workers understand these eternal perspectives at moments of crisis. If the clergy will go to the people and show them the sacredness of these impressive moments, then we shall have renewed our contact with the masses.

I began my work thirty-three years ago. During my first year I visited all the working-class families of my parish. I went every-where, because I wanted all the workers in the parish to know me. But I never spoke about religious duties. I never said, you must come to Mass, to Communion. I took interest in their life, I tried to understand their needs. We became friends, and the following year I was accepted everywhere, I could start a Women’s League, I founded several Trade Unions. During that first year, my sole concern was to renew contact with the working mass, to gain its confidence, and then, gradually, to bring to it the revelation of sacramental, liturgical, Marial life in all its fullness. We must lift up the masses, and, through our leaders, place the leaven within it.

The problem we shall have to face more and more is to see that liturgical and devotional life should be ever increasingly in contact with real life, so that the working class understands the meaning of the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, which transforms life and gives it the friendship of God, a life so full of filial contact with the Mother of Our Saviour, our Mother too, and the protectress of the working masses. This training must above all be apostolic, understanding of real needs and therefore must never be an anti-Communist, anti-Socialist training, must never be what it is accused of being a religion that divides, that separates, that opposes, but a religion that unites, that is fraternal, that is the basis of unity of the working masses, that divine unity of origin, of destiny, of the worth of life, of personality. Religion must become the leaven of the working community; Christ revealed to the masses, Christ brought to the masses, Christ the great Redeemer, Christ the only Redeemer of the future.

We must underline for ourselves the lay nature of this spiritual training. We are training the laity for their own apostolate and their own lives. We are faced with two errors; laicity, which has taken from working life the ideal of its divine value, and has created a division between religion and life. On the other side, clericalism is an equally pernicious error ; it gives the working masses the impression that they have to be hangers-on of the clergy, whose only apostolate is that of an altar-boy or a sacristan. No sacristy Y.C.W., but a Y.C.W. of the masses. We must insist more and more, in our ,spiritual and apostolic training, on this definite, personal, irreplaceable vocation each young worker, each working family must fulfil for the establishment of the kingdom of God.

‘Neither laicism or clericalism, but what I call the laity, a workers’ community once again conscious of the irreplaceable task it has to fulfil in the Church, and which is proud of it. We could not save the working masses without the workers, the clergy cannot save the working masses on their own. The Holy Father has often said to me : ” I am at my desk, but I am not in the midst of the workers, and in order that my encyclicals may be lived, the clergy must understand that we have to create in the Church — and this is the task of Catholic Action –, a powerful laity to the measure of the problems of our times,: a laity for the age in which we are living. ” In the age of the atomic bomb, a radiating, influential, Christian laity must represent the Church in the world council, which will adopt the charter of working youth, which must be a Christian charter.

You can see how this laity will do away with the prejudices, the stupid objections, the enormous ignorance of the working masses, which are all based on a lack of understanding ; there is no light from within. The training of our leaders for the masses, which must be achieved by the whole Y.C.W., will no doubt demand personal and intimate contact with the chaplain,’ but the chaplain should not be thinking of the leader himself, but of the working masses. We are essentially a missionary movement, and we must create missionaries for working life, for the working life of the masses.

We have to fulfil to the utmost our priestly task, our task of apostolic and spiritual fatherhood. The masses need to live an absolutely total religious life, they need prayer, recollections, retreats.

I was moved to tears when our deported leaders came to tell me : ” The war has made us discover the meaning of eucharistic life. Monsieur Cardijn, you must go to Rome, you must see the Pope, all the religious authorities, we must be able to continue receiving Holy Communion every day. Over there, we could receive Our Lord every night. Give us once again the same chance.” And they also said to me: “Over there, we consecrated ourselves to Our Lady Co-redemptrix and Mediatrix, and we want the Y.C.W. and the working class to be consecrated to the Blessed Virgin.” Our leaders came to tell me this; they had realised over there, in the concentration camps, under bombardment, the worth of Our Lady’s protection, and they felt that the whole working class needed the same protection. All this must be brought out in the recollections, in the retreats, the theme of which must always be the supernaturalisation of all working life and all human life.

That is the history of the Y.C.W. I could tell you the story .of those six poor little workers who could neither read nor write, who suddenly discovered that tremendous thing, which they would never have thought of, the divine value of each young worker. They discovered this divine life, this vocation of the body, the feelings, all the aspects of life. And I could show you how, little by little, at the cost of every sacrifice, they brought this discovery to their comrades, gave their life for it, went to hospitals, the slums, the working-class streets, to give this truth which they felt was alone capable of saving the working masses. I ask of you but one thing ; simply to have faith in this fire, this light, this warmth, this dynamism of true Christianity, to have faith in the true value of the working masses.

If you have faith in it, it will kill you, but you must have faith. We speak of a lack of faith in the masses. Let us examine our conscience, and ask ourselves where this lack of faith comes from. Has our faith always been a living one ? Have we been witnesses to this truth in the working masses, for the working masses ? The Church must be that witness, and there lies the problem of Communism and the Y.C.W. I have no belief in anti-Communist refutations and organisations, no more than I have faith in the anti-Fascists slogans of Communism. I am convinced that we must go beyond that ; our ideals are infinitely finer, infinitely greater, infinitely more glorious for youth and the working masses. How does it happen that the working class is not dazzled by the beauty and the glory of truth ? There is a barrier between this working mass and the meeting with Christ, which will decide the future of the world. We must prepare the meeting of Christ and the masses.

When, tomorrow, the working masses will meet Christ, through the Church and above all through the lay apostolate, through an ever more apostolic laity, when this meeting takes place, Communism will be lost. The future is Christ’s, we are in Him, let us persevere. Let us learn to die, and -little by little, giving ourselves completely, we will give Christ to working youth and the working masses.

Joseph Cardijn

September 1945


Joseph Cardijn, A YCW of the masses to the scale of the world (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)


Stefan Gigacz / May Day Rally, Lille, 1 May 2023

Worker Universities

In this extract from a 1940 article, Cardijn proposes the development of “worker universities” to provide a philosophical, theological and cultural formation for former YCW leaders, going beyond the formation they had already received from the movement itself.

Soon after, Belgium was again invaded by Hitler’s troops, ending many of Cardijn’s dreams, including this one.

As far as I know, it was never revived, even after the war ended.

Is it time to think again of such a “worker university”?

Stefan Gigacz

Higher culture

In our country, as in neighboring countries, we have inaugurated “Universities of Work,” which are technical and utility formation centers for training machine operators, material processors, producers of material wealth.

The YCW has the ambition to open “universities for workers”. These will be centres of higher formation, where an increasingly large elite will receive a philosophical, theological and general culture, to which they aspire, thanks to the formation received in the Study Circles, Study Days, Study Weeks, thanks, above all, to this understanding contact with all the personal, family and social problems revealed by the Jocist apostolate.

These Jocist centers of superior culture will be for the best of our former leaders, providing the necessary preparation for their apostolate as heads of new working families and a new working class that the YCW has the ambition to give to the Church and the nation.

Already splendid examples have revealed the heights of persevering, enlightened and generous efforts. By multiplying and expanding them, the YCW will provide within the working class an aristocracy, not on the margins and above the masses, uprooted and exiled from within, but as a magnet that attracts and a lever that lifts the masses by its Beauty and Charity.


Joseph Cardijn, La JOC est une école (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

The holiness of Fernand Tonnet & Paul Garcet

Fernand Tonnet and Paul Garcet were two of the lay founders of the Belgian male JOC.

They both perished in a Nazi concentration camp in early 1945.

Twenty years later on the anniversary of their deaths in 1965, a journalist asked Cardijn what he thought about their potential canonisation.

As this extract from the interview, Cardijn was wholly in favour of such an initiative, which sadly does not seem to have ever been launched.

It will be the 80th anniversary of their deaths in 2025, which will also be the centenary of the “official” foundation of the Belgian YCW in 1925.

Perhaps it’s time to look into the possibilities of opening a process for their beatification again?

Stefan Gigacz

Four questions to Cardinal Cardijn regarding the holiness of F. Tonnet et P. Garcet

Friends of Fernand Tonnet and Paul Garcet believe that you may wish to see them both beatified?

I was asked what I thought of introducing a request to beatify the two founders of the JOC, Fernand Tonnet and Paul Garcet, both of whom died in the Dachau concentration camp.

They asked me this after I expressed this wish during my homily at the mass commemorating our friends’ 20th (death) anniversary at St Michael’s Cathedral in Brussels. On that occasion, I simply wanted to echo the ardent desire expressed by several of their closest collaborators.

At the time of the (Second Vatican) Council, which addressed the great issue of the apostolate of the laity, several Fathers, including several of the most eminent, emphasised that lay people in the Church should and could achieve the highest levels of holiness.

And a number of them did not hesitate to express their desire for heroic lay saints to be raised to the altars as magnificant exampes of holiness lived in the world.

Could Fernand and Paul be nominated for this honour? I firmly believe so. They were indissolubly united in life as in death. They were not just examples of holy and apostolic friendship. As a result of their fidelity to this friendship, not wanting one to be the cause of the other’s arrest, they became freely and voluntarily united in sacrifice at the concentration camp.

Friends of Fernand Tonnet and Paul Garcet believe that your intention was to see them beatified? Do you think that these two lay people could be beatified by the Church and offered as models?

It was not primarily their arrest, stay and martyrdom in the Dachau camp that set them apart for the heroism of holiness. Many others have displayed a similar sublime heroism.

No, their whole adolescence and youth was marked by the faith and an apostolic mission, by daily recourse to the most authentic sources of holiness and apostolate, by an unparallelled charity and renouncement, by goodness, gentleness and perseverance in the service of the humblest and most abandoned.

It is evidently not my role to decide on the issue of their beatification. We know what a long and demanding process it is. However, there is pressing reason for those, who, like Paul and Fernand, took part in apostolic action throughout the whole of their lives, to provide their testimony without delay. Those who knew and frequented them must not refrain from expressing themselves in soul and conscience.

The outcome of the cause will depend on all of these testimonies. We can and must pray for this with the sole intention of serving the glory of God, which manifests itself in his saints. And let us hope that it will be displayed more and more in the heroism of lay saints.

Cardinal Joseph CARDIJN, Founder – chaplain of the YCW.


Joseph Cardijn, The holiness of Tonnet et Garcet (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

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Fernand Tonnet (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Paul Garcet (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Early Christians of today

World War II and the invasion of Belgium by Hitler’s army caused immense problems and great suffering for the YCW and its leaders.

In these quotes from a 1942 speech, cited by English YCW chaplain, Fr Vince Rochford, Cardijn compares the role of YCW leaders to that of early Christians.

Stefan Gigacz

Fr Rochford writes: “Our second National Secretary, a Poplar lad, was on leave from Belgium lately, and brought me Jocist publications. It amazed me how they kept going. and kept up their flow of publications. May I quote from a speech of Cardijn’s in 1942?

“To exalt and save the dignity of the human person among the young workers it isn’t a matter of waiting for the war to end, or the occupation to finish, or for social or political changes. The Christians of the early Church, facing the paganism of their day, didn’t wait for the legal suppression of State-worship, worship of the Emperor, of slavery and barbarism.

“No, but forthwith, at Rome and to every Roman province, the early Christians bore witness in their own life and own environment, to the essential and eternal dignity of the human person, redeemed by their Leader, Christ.

“They grouped,themselves into small cells, united among themselves by a movement and under leaders appointed by Christ Himself ; and they spread among the army. in the world of, slaves and tradesmen, in the world of officialdom, among the nobility, at the imperial Court itself. For three centuries they offered’ up their lives to convert the world of their time, and bring about the triumph of Christianity.

“To-day, the misfortunes and trials of the war ought to offer God-sent opportunities of bearing unshakeable witness to our faith in the personal dignity and personal destiny of the young working lads and working girls.

“Early Christians of to-day, we must be in every spot where suffering and distress allow us to show our temporal and spiritual charity. our beneficent influence amid the physical and moral dangers threatening the youth of the working class.’

“What unconquerable courage and optimism! Thank God for Cardijn and the J.O.C.”


Joseph Cardijn, Early Christians of today in Catholic Herald, 20 April 1945, p. 4.

Joseph Cardijn, Early Christians of today (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Remembering Flo Triendl

Today marks the centenary of the birth of a great American YCW leader, Flo Triendl, on 27 April 1923.

I got to know her during the International YCW History project organised by the International Cardijn Foundation from 1997-2000.

A remarkable person, who devoted her whole life to others, beginning with her YCW experience in Toledo, Ohio, then in Europe, where she worked as a translator for the IYCW, and was also active in the Belgian JOCF movement.

Later, she moved to South Africa, working with black communities and workers at the height of the apartheid regime.

Her story needs to be told in full.

But for the moment, here’s a brief biography from the Joseph Cardijn Digital Library, together with a few video clips that I made from an interview with her in 2012.

Rest in peace, Flo!



Flo Triendl first heard of the YCW at a Chicago meeting organised by Catholic Relief Services in 1947.Soon after she founded or re-founded the YCW in her home town of Toledo, Ohio.

In 1948, she went to work in Europe as part of the post-war reconstruction effort. There she came in contact with the Austrian and German YCWs.

Two years later, she took part in the International YCW 25th anniversary celebrations at Braine l’Alleud, Belgium, following which she was recruited to work as a translator at the International Secretariat.

For six years, Flo translated at international YCW bureau meetings as well as at private meetings of Cardijn, Pat Keegan and Marguerite Fiévez.

Following the first International Council and pilgrimage to Rome in August 1957, Flo was asked to go to South Africa and work as an extension worker among the local black community, which she did.

From 1957 to 1961, she worked with Eric Tyacke, Jean Pew and others the YCW expanded from 20 to 100 groups, mostly among the black community and at the height of the apartheid regime.

Afterwards she worked as a community organiser in Durban until 1970.

She then returned to the US where worked as a social worker in Florida until her retirement.

She died on 2 September 2019.


Flo Triendl (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Social classes in Australia

Who do we need to evangelise to in Australia, and how would we do it – to shepherd a New Pentecost?

The Australian Plenary Council has been looking to address the challenges the Australian Catholic Church is currently facing.

Here, we take a different approach – a class perspective. To paraphrase and add to the words of Pope Pius XI, the Catholic Church in Australia has not only lost the working class, but perhaps it has lost all social classes in Australia.

Social Class: How We Describe Ourselves

An Australian Nationa University survey (ANUpoll, September 2015), “Social Class in Australia – Beyond the ‘Working’ and ‘Middle’ Classes“, identified the following:

  • Almost all Australians (94%) view themselves as belonging to a social class.
  • More than half (52%) say they belong to the middle class.
  • Two in five Australians describe themselves as working class (40%).
  • Only two per cent (2%) see themselves as upper class.
  • The tendency to view ourselves as middle class is longstanding but is likely to have become stronger as ‘white collar’ industries have expanded.

Jill Sheppard and Nicholas Biddle, the study’s authors, noted that the data – based on the respondents’ economic, social and cultural capital – identifies five observable (or ‘objective’) classes in Australian society.

They named these classes (1) an established affluent class, (2) an emergent affluent class, (3) a mobile middle class, (4) an established middle class, and (5) an established working class.

A snapshot of these five classes shows the difference in these classes’ economic, social and cultural capital.

Sheppard and Biddle would further analyse Australia’s social classes and identify six classes in their 2017 article, “Class, capital, and identity in Australian society.” These classes were (1) Precariat – 13%, (2) Ageing workers – 14%, (3) New workers – 24%, (4) Established middle – 24%, (5) Emerging affluent – 15%, (6) Established affluent – 11%.

Social classes among Australian Catholics

The Social Profile of the Catholic Community in Australia, 2021 provides one broad view of social classes in the Australian Catholic church. The members of the Australian Catholic Church comprise – in general – managers and professionals (37%) and blue-collar workers (28%).

The median annual family income of members in the Australian Catholic is $120,943


Looking at Australian society and the Australian Catholic society, what do we make of it?

How could we evangelise to both these societies?

What do they need?

What can we offer?


How can we use the jocist method to transform both these societies?

The jocist method provides us with the reason to transform society and the method to transform society – and in the process, transforming ourselves.


Can we start the New Pentecost today and every day?

By Greg Lopez

The jocist method: Enquiry for transformation

Today, we present a 1956 Cardijn article summarising his conception of the YCW’s enquiry method.

Note how he begins with reference to one of his earliest trilogies “formation, action and organisation” followed by his citation of the “YCW dialectic” also known as “The Three Truths.”

The objective of the enquiry, as he points out, is to transform ” individuals, families, environments (milieux) of life and of work, institutions and even society itself.”

A great summary of the Jocist method!

Stefan Gigacz

Reflections on the Enquiry

Mgr Cardijn

In the YCW, the method of formation, action and organisation is inseparable and universal. Inseparable because the three elements must find their place simultaneously as the movement is being built and not in successive steps: first study circles or discussions groups, several weeks later action within the surroundings of life and years afterward, the establishment of an organisation which stimulates and sustains the action and brings the results to the attention of outside institutions.

The method is universal because the fundamental principles of the YCW itself are universal. The first principle: the mission given by God to each person and the dignity of each one which is a consequence of this mission. The second: the young worker’s ignorance of this mission and the contradictions between his working life and his dignity. It is because of these truths that a movement is necessary which can help the young workers to discover and accomplish this personal and communal mission — but to do so as young workers on the basis of their lives, their surroundings, the problems and needs of each one in particular and of all, without exception. This is the “YCW dialectic” which is as true for the youth of countries which are in the spearhead of atomic progress as for those of areas on the road toward industrialisation.

The YCW trilogy.

The objective of the method of “by them, among them and for them” is to make young workers discover the significance and the purpose of their existence, their reason for living and for working, their individual personality and the mission which they have on earth — and all this within the perspective of their eternal destiny. This discovery and this awareness are the source and the basis of YCW formation as well as of its mystic and the personal and social transformation which it wishes to accomplish.

Seen in this context, the enquiry method IS the YCW method. Far from being separated from the training, the enquiry constitutes the basic means of formation. First of all, the YCW enquiry is a making of contact with and among young workers. It is the means of getting to know them, their lives and needs: “Where do you work? What do you do there? Where do you live?” and all the questions which come up in the ordinary conversation among young workers.

The enquiry is not scientific nor official; it is carried out in the same way that people get acquainted with one another. Getting acquainted or carrying out an enquiry, in the beginning it is the same thing. Making an enquiry is not gossiping or spying, but rather a sharing of responsibilities, a mutual help and support. It is the life of the YCW itself. The enquiry continues goes deeper and becomes more concrete through the many contacts and in the measure that young workers become better comrades, better friends, more confident in themselves and toward others.

The authentic YCW enquiry is not carried out on or with strangers. Young workers may not remain strangers to one another, but they must become friends who are known to each other, loved by one another and united.

Enquire in order to transform.

The spirit of the YCW enquiry almost becomes an obsession to get to know the young workers, there where one meets them in the districts, on the street, at the factory — everywhere : a desire to seek them out, in order to know them and to win them. This desire creates a spirit of enquiry which is the characteristic of a true leader and in turn it creates and develops the spirit of conquest, that is to say the desire to transform.

The YCW enquiry is the way to and the means of YCW transformation. The one is the purpose and the accomplishment of the other. In addition to this continual YCW transformation which springs from the basic enquiry and which becomes a spirit of enquiry — the movement must launch more official enquiries which are decided in connection with a particular campaign, a specific need of young workers which may be visibly manifest or hidden (unemployment, health, transport, preparation for marriage, spiritual life, etc.). These enquiries are directed toward a particular aspect of current importance, toward a progress to be accomplished and to be made known to great numbers of young workers, to the general public, to governmental authorities or social organisations — in order to gain their attention and obtain the reforms and the necessary cooperation.

These particular enquiries, decided by the national and regional organisers and carried out by the whole of the movement, may have overall results and permit the alerting of public authorities — but they must always be carried out in the spirit of the permanent and ordinary YCW enquiry. They pre-suppose this spirit and this activity in order to succeed and above all in order to have an educational and transformative value as well as a value for representative action. It is the educational nature of the enquiry which counts and not its immediate or scientific results.

Judgement born of conviction.

Any YCW enquiry, in order to lead to a true transformation signifies not only a changing of surroundings and of persons, but also a constant support in order to help the young workers to five the ideal they discover — and this support will be given by affiliation to the movement. This transformation does not stop at the “see” stage with an exterior or superficial knowledge. Necessarily it brings on a judgement. Are the facts, the situation, the behaviour, the conditions, of work in harmony with the dignity and the mission of the young workers? A YCW judgement cannot be imposed by authority from without; it must become personal, born of a conviction. It is the result of all the questions asked concerning the objective of the enquiry: “Why? because of what? with what purpose? what are the consequences? how?”… judgements which are exchanged, discussed, completed and transformed among fellow workers, friends, leaders and teammates. These exchanges of ideas must be natural, spontaneous, sincere as conversations among friends who confide in one another. In the YCW, they are the normal means of doctrinal formation, leading to a synthesis and a conception of life. They introduce the sort of talk which pulls together the conclusions of “see and judge”.

Here is an example given at a study week:

Jane is a YCW leader In a large factory. In her department a married woman often speaks of her conjugal life in a vulgar fashion, and tells jokes with a double meaning to the young girls of the department. One day Jane reproached her for this… a dispute followed and the woman tore Jane’s YCW badge from her overalls… the boss intervened. Result: the woman was transferred to another department.

The leaders meeting: Jane mentioned the fact — finally the atmosphere in the department will be better. All the leaders were relieved. The president asked: “…and this woman… what will become of her? what is her home life like? what will be the results in her salary and in her state of mind after the transfer? What does Christ think of her? Does He love her? What would He have done in Jane’s place? Shouldn’t Jane go to see the woman at her new machine?”… consternation…

Jane thought the matter over for a few days then went to see the woman. The latter, greatly astonished at this, was disheartened with her new work which was disagreeable. Her salary was less. She spoke of her family life: her husband is not well, family relations are bad and their income is quite insufficient.

At the leaders meeting everyone listened and then decided that Jane should propose to take the place of the woman and thus let her take up her former job. However she should do this on condition that the woman will agree to be responsible for the moral atmosphere of the whole department and that she herself consents to be an example for the younger girls.

Jane carried out the plan, the boss gave his consent, the woman accepted and from that moment on her whole attitude changed. If vulgar expressions sometimes slip out, she bites her lips when she realizes it!

This enquiry, which begins by observing and judging, necessarily leads to and ends in an action which pursues and achieves the true YCW transformation not only exterior and practical, but interior, deep-seated, which changes a person. It is not just propaganda; it is a witness, a formation and a real “conversion”. This kind of enquiry makes the leader into an apostle and a missionary. It makes an apostolic, missionary, social and revolutionary movement of the YCW… a movement which puts leaders and young workers into action, which transforms individuals, families, environments of life and of work, institutions and even society itself.

A striking example is given by the Japanese YCW. It was through concrete enquiries on working conditions that the leaders discovered salaries of 8,000 to 15,000 yen1 — and even less for the girls — which are far from being in harmony with the dignity of the young worker. From that moment on, the young workers become conscious of the social doctrine of the Church and began to wonder aloud:

– Why does work and the worker have dignity?

– Why do the YCWs make enormous sacrifices to improve the lot of their fellow workers?

– What is the source of their courage?

– What is the Church? Does she defend the workers?

… and in the period of one year, 500 young non-Christian workers asked admission to the YCW.

At once difficult and easy.Those who want formation and education to consist of instruction given through talks, conferences and exposés on subjects of study (God, Christ, the Church, justice, etc.) — the intellectual or the scholar who wishes to communicate his own knowledge through speeches which the others hear and retain — those who start from a doctrine not always applied to life — all those find it difficult to understand and use the method which starts from life itself, attaches one’s ideas to life, discovers its significance and transforms it.

This method is easy for ordinary people, for the uninstructed. It is the method of parents, of people who have no written language, and of workers among themselves. It presupposes and creates confidence, friendship, intimacy and sincerity. It arouses the mutual help and the apostolic and missionary contacts which really transform ideas, customs, persons and society. Sometimes one is astonished that after years of being instructed, how much this remains something exterior and how little the ideas are transformed from within. On the other hand, one is surprised to see what a deep and radical transformation can be accomplished by the method which starts with reality and remains in reality. Moreover this does not exclude talks and speeches, but it grafts them on to life, incarnates them in life.

The best way to learn the enquiry method is to use it, to persevere, just as one throws oneself into the water in order to learn to swim, or does a thing in order to learn how to do it. The more the chaplains, organisers and leaders approach the young workers and interest themselves in their lives, becoming a part of it and coming back to it — the more they will transform the young workers and win them.

There is only one condition: a real love. If we do not love the young workers, if we do not take them seriously, do not believe in their irreplaceable mission, we will not succeed with the YCW method — and we do not deserve to succeed.

Joseph Cardijn


Extract from YCW International Bulletin N° 49. March-April 1956 YCW International Secretariat. 78. Boulevard Poincaré. Brussels. Belgium

Joseph Cardijn, Reflections on the Enquiry (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)


Leeloo Thefirst / Pexels

Australia’s Catholic community

Yesterday’s reflection called for a new Pentecost in Australia.

This new Pentecost will certainly involve Australian Catholics, both as the vessel of the Holy Spirit and also be transformed by the Holy Spirit.

And who is this Australian Catholic community? The “Social Profile of the Catholic Community in Australia, 2021” (National Centre for Pastoral Research, 2023) [pdf]provides a glimpse.

A quick overview. We’re 20% of Australia’s population. Meaning one in every five Australian is a Catholic.

The percentage of Catholics born in non-English speaking countries is steadily increasing, as is Catholics with tertiary education.

The percentage of Catholics in the managerial and professional class is steadily increasing, while those in “blue collar” occupations are steadily decreasing.

Households are changing. Singles, divorced or separated households are in the majority.

The number of Catholics who provide unpaid assistance to a person with disability and Catholics who need help is significant.


Read the Social Profile of the Catholic Community in Australia, 2021.

Who in our Catholic community is in need?

How can we bring a new Pentecost to them?


Can we be like Cardinal Cardijn, who was willing to die for the working class?

Who are we prepared to die for?


What can we do today to be a vessel for the new Pentecost?

By Greg Lopez

A new Pentecost in Australia

Cardinal Joseph Cardijn

Pope Pius XI famously lamented to Cardijn about the loss of the working class in March 1925.

Pius XI said to me: “Sit down there”. And when I was seated, he asked me: “Well, what do you want?” I answered him exclaiming: “Holy Father, I want to kill myself to save young people and the working class.” And it was the turn of Pius to exclaim: “At last, someone who wants to kill himself to save the working class.”… And then, as he did so often subsequently as if he was before a crowd of a thousand people, he continued: “Yes, it is necessary to kill oneself to save the working world. Not just the elite but the mass. The elite is the leaven, and the elite are the multipliers. The Church needs the working class… Without the working class, the Church is not the Church of Christ… Every young worker has an infinite value… etc. Yes, kill yourself to bring them back to the Church. The greatest scandal of the nineteenth century is that the Church lost the working class. I bless you, I support you. Your movement is not your movement, it’s mine, it belongs to the Church. Whoever touches it touches the apple of my eye.”

Joseph Cardijn, 1962, Meeting with Pope Pius XI

What would Pope Pius XI’s lament be if he were to look at Australia today?  

He may be overjoyed that 1,755 Catholic schools in Australia educate more than 785,000 students or one in every five Australian students.

Yet, he may be sad to hear that only 12% of Australian Catholics attend mass.

He may be overjoyed that over 3,000 Catholic organisations employ more than 220,000 employees.

Yet, he may be sad to hear that most Australians no longer identify as Christians (Christianity: 44%, No religion: 39%, Islam: 3%, Hinduism: 3%, Buddhism: 2%).

Australia needs a new Pentecost.

A new evangelization is needed in Australia.

Perhaps Australia needs to be reintroduced to the jocist method.

Perhaps Australia needs to be reintroduced to the works of Cardinal Joseph Cardijn.

How can we, who have been trained in the jocist method, reintroduce the jocist method to Australia today?

By Greg Lopez

The ‘seamless garment’ woven by Merton, Cardijn and Day

A ‘seamless’ garment is woven between Thomas Merton, Joseph Cardijn, and Dorothy Day. Their lives n the 20th century have laid a foundation for us in the 21st century to bring the Kingdom of God here and now. For living and making real the Sermon on the Mount.

All three individuals were known for their spiritual insights and their commitment to social justice. Merton was particularly interested in the relationship between contemplation and action, and he believed that true spirituality should lead to engagement with the world and a commitment to social change. Day lived the practice daily as an American journalist, social activist, and campaigner in defense of the poor, forsaken, hungry, and homeless. Cardijn lived and taught his lifelong dedication to social activism and working toward improving the working class, students, and families.

The Christian Workers Movement was a Catholic organization that emerged in the early 20th century in Europe. The movement aimed to promote labor’s dignity and support workers in their struggles for better wages, working conditions, and social justice. The movement was influenced by Catholic social teaching, the Sermon on the Mount, and an understanding of the common good for the greater good of humanity, which is all about social justice.

All three individuals were promoters of the goals of the Christian Workers Movement and believed that the movement represented an important expression of Catholic social teaching. They saw the movement as a way for workers to organize and fight for their rights, and they believed that the movement could help to create a more just and equitable society.

Merton wrote about the Christian Workers Movement and saw the movement as an important example of how faith could inspire social action. Cardijn believed the movement represented a powerful expression of the social gospel, emphasizing social justice’s importance and the church’s role in promoting social change.

Overall, Day’s Living the Christian Workers Movement demonstrates a commitment to social justice and the belief that spirituality and social action are intimately connected.

They saw the movement as an important example of how faith could inspire social action. They believed the movement had much to teach us about the relationship between contemplation and action.

As we enter a new era of emerging technology, what is now called the autonomous revolution, once again, we will experience the effects on workers, not only blue-collar but white-collar and no-collar workers. Once again in history, the rise of emerging technology will challenge us to think about what it means to be a human and the difference it makes.

I have mentioned before in my classes that the ratio to use is 1/3 to 2/3, meaning humans will work in jobs, careers, etc., somewhat similar to today over the next twenty years but will work 2/3 less time in the role or job. And 1/3 of the job functions today for humans will not exist, but new ones will.

Now think about the societal phase change that brings to our understanding of the value of humans. The economic system will drastically change; why? Because it has to, just as it has over the last two revolutions, we as humans have endured. The concept of a single measurement of a company’s success will change. Begin to think about measurements such as people, property, planet, and purpose in life. And this is where the critical thinking of See-Judge-Act will be necessary, and we need to be ready to engage.

Begin to think of the implications of practicing religion within the context of emerging technology and the cause/effect of artificial intelligence. Think what a parish, a diocese, a learning community, and a faith community, our communities as members of the Jocist methods, will look like with this technology. How will it change, and how fast? What will the field of medicine become and law? Think of the implications not just on science, jobs, and careers but on literature, art, music, entertainment, movies, learning, and education. How will politics change? Will we govern in the same manner? Our understanding of the Jocist methods will reach new levels of involvement in helping the world endure societal phase change.

We will hear more and more about AI and autonomous technology in the news because emerging autonomous technology is becoming marketable. (That is a whole post by itself ) And all who work on this are aware of the societal phase change that occurs; the more people get educated, the less fear there might be in their hearts and minds.

The question is, will we as humans drive society to create the necessary guardrails? Keep in what it was like when automobiles first hit the road, and we had no driver’s ed, signs or directions, etc.; all that came about because of the societal phase change, and many paid the price. Can we do better this time around in an emerging revolution?

Richard Pûtz


Thomas Merton,/ Jim Forest / Flickr / CC BY NC ND 2.0

Dorothy Day / Wikipedia

Joseph Cardijn / Joseph Cardijn Digital Library

The Eucharist and a new humankind

Yesterday, we presented Cardijn’s sermon at the Eucharistic Congress of Lisieux in 1937. Today, we share his talk at the 1964 Eucharistic Congress of Bombay (now Mumbai), India, in 1964.

Once again, he emphasises the transformative nature of the Eucharist, which transforms the lives of workers. But he also insists on the transformative and collaborative role of those workers themselves.

The Mass could not exist without those workers and their work, he explains once again.

Hence, the Eucharist is not for a minority but for all, he notes, perhaps anticipating Pope Francis.

It was also during this trip to Bombay that Pope Paul VI, who had also travelled to India for the Eucharistic Congress, opened the Joseph Cardijn Technical School (see photo), which continues to flourish.

Stefan Gigacz


Effects of the Holy Eucharist in transforming the lives of workers!

1. We have the providential privilege of participating in this International Eucharistic Congress,

– not just by our prayers, hymns, assistance at the Eucharistic ceremonies, for a few hours and a few days,

– but we have come here from all countries of the world to engage ourselves,

– to transform our lives in the living Christ in us,

– to continue through the Eucharist living Christ in us,

– to the salvation and the redemption of all human beings on earth and in eternity.

The Eucharistic Congress must be the greatest grace for all of Asia, for all its peoples, especially for the multitudes of the poorest and the humblest workers – youth and adult – for all workers. God, speaking through his prophets, said: “the poor will eat, will satisfy their hunger and will glorify the Lord.” And the Church in hymns to the Blessed Eucharist sings: “the poor, the workers, those most humble, partake of the Lord.”

The Eucharist shows, in the most touching manner, God’s love for each human being and the divine dignity of each human being; the will of God and His sacrifice to render this divine dignity on earth as in eternity.

God created man in His own image – a human being – with his own special mission and destiny, not only as his new collaborator in transforming all creation and all His creatures in the service of all humanity; but when man did not accept this divine mission of God and fell into sin and degradation, God the Father sent His Divine Son on earth as man – as one of the poorest and humblest of workers – to help and save the poorest and the humblest of people, to preach the dignity of the poorest and bushiest and to suffer and to die on the cross and to rise from the grave for the salvation of all human beings.

And Christ remained on earth – not just for 30 years… He founded His Church to form a new humanity. He chose twelve humble men to be His apostles and gave them the power to transform bread and wine into His own body and blood, into His own glorious and eternal person, to give Him to each person who believes in His divine presence, so that they may live till the end of time, transforming men, helping them to make of all their lives – personal, family, professional and social – the continuation and realisation of the plan of God and of Christ… to save the whole of humanity.

3. If we are to understand the deep significance and total purpose of the Eucharist, we can make no distinction between the Eucharistic life and temporal life.

Without work there is no Eucharist. We have seen the workers building the altars; bringing what is needed to celebrate Mass, to consecrate bread and wine, and to give Christ to all people in Holy Communion. The Eucharist lives on… when Mass is over… It begins with Holy Communion – not to be kept for the communicant himself but to be shared with all, even with those who do not know Him. Receivers of Christ have to be transformed in Him. Christ will work in them, speak in them, love in them. He will help all people in their temporal and spiritual needs – socially as well as personally – to transform our world into a Eucharistic world, our society into a Eucharistic society. Christ is offered to Hie Father on the altar not only in the Church, but in all factories, all work places, all homes. All human institutions and environments become more and more influenced and transformed by the Eucharistic spirit, the Eucharistic doctrine and the Eucharistic life.

4. The Eucharistic doctrine may not be separated from the Church’s social doctrine. Nor can “Mater et Magistra” be separated from the Encyclical on the Incarnation and Redemption. Communicants must become apostles – spiritual apostles – the Communion table must lead to the family table and the community table. Communion mast become a community matter – not for only the communicants, but for all peoples. The communicants must spread the message of human fraternity, human solidarity, human justice and human peace.

The Eucharist is not for a minority – a privileged few – for the richest.

No, the Eucharist is for all – particularly for the poorest, just as Christ is for all and in a special way for the most impoverished: “My Father sent Me to announce the Good News to the poorest.”

6. And the Eucharist gives us not only a doctrine, but the faith – the power, the courage, the spirit of sacrifice of Christ! “He who eats of my flesh,” says Christ, “abides in Me and I in him, he who eats this Bread shall live forever.”

7. The Eucharistic doctrine and life is a spring of divine renovation, the unique divine revolution, which brings about unity, love and friendship between persons, families and peoples. It must inspire all social progress – nationally and internationally. It must bring the peoples together, inviting them to unite their personal and collective efforts for the relief and the happiness of all humanity.

Let us all take a big resolution during this Mass: to reflect on the total aim of the Eucharist, to pray and ask for the faith and the courage to cooperate with the Eucharist, transforming ourselves and all others, so that we all become new men… new men who must build the new world where all peoples will be respected and helped to respect one another – not for their own benefit, but for the happiness and the salvation of all.

We will not transform the world by hatred, war, killing, and destruction, but by love and fraternity.

Thus will all these men, and all peoples glorify God on earth and in eternity. Amen.

Joseph Cardijn

Discours Mgr Cardijn, Congrès Eucharistique, Bombay 1964


Archives JOCI, Ch.

Eucharistic transformation

Following Greg Lopez’s post yesterday about the decline in mass attendance in Australia, we turn today to reflection the way Cardijn understood and appreciated the Eucharist..

As we see below in this sermon delivered at the 1937 Eucharistic Congress in Lisieux, France, he saw the Mass and Eucharist has have transformative power, transforming people and enabling them to transform their own environments and milieux.

Stefan Gigacz


In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. So be it.

“According to his word, we look forward to a new heaven and a new earth where justice reigns.

“Words of the Second Letter of St. Peter, the first Pope.

(II Petri, 13)

Excellencies, Brothers,

The Eucharist makes man’s work the providential place that God has given him in the economy of the world in the economy of salvation.

The Eucharist first transforms the person and the work of man into the very work of Christ, so that each worker can repeat the word of Saint Paul: “It is not me who works, it is Christ who works in me.“

Next, the Eucharist helps workers to transform their workplaces into temples and sanctuaries, so that the work will not continue to be a cause of depravity among the working class, but will once again become an instrument of the sanctification and apostolate that Christ, through the apostles of the workplace, continues in the midst of the working class.

Finally, the Eucharist prepares and consecrates Christian work practices, whereby Eucharistic communion, by involving the working masses more fully within the spiritual community, facilitates the collaboration of the entire economic community in order to establish the kingship of Christ at work.

In this way, the Eucharist erases the imprint of the curse that sin, atheism and materialism have brought to the world of work and once again imprints on it the sacred character and the divine seal of a vocation that makes each worker the collaborator, the personal collaborator, the irreplaceable collaborator of God in the work of creation and in the work of Redemption.

May the little Saint of Lisieux, whom Pope Pius XI himself designated as a special protector of the apostles of Catholic Action in the workplace, may Saint Thérèse of Lisieux obtain that this National Congress, this Eucharistic Congress, facilitates a Eucharistic renewal among all workers in France and among all workers in the world for their own happiness and for universal peace; that the Eucharistic Congress of Lisieux will send to the working class of France and of the whole world, a message that will be the echo of the pontifical words and which will assist the working class to avoid the new paganism and the new slavery into which our century threatens to plunge it once again (Applause).


Secularism separates work from religion; secularism, under the sign of liberalism, wanted to remove work from law inspired by religion, and then it delivered it helplessly to the oppressive yoke of competition and passion. And it did not take long for materialism and selfishness to make the working class understand that labour had become a slave. And so, new prophets arose, and on the pretext of freeing up work, they wanted to turn labour into a god. A god which would have been an idol of stone, gold or silver, but an idol nonetheless, which, according to the new prophets, would act as the sovereign arbiter of the fate of the working class, the sovereign judge of good and evil, law and duty; and it did not take long either for this fake god to become a monster god who, after having seduced his worshipers for a certain period, is now in the process of dissipating and crushing the working class.

Only the plan of God himself will be able to restore the working class from this degradation to its dignity, greatness and freedom. (Applause).

This is God’s plan: From all eternity, God intended each worker for an eternity of happiness which he was to achieve by means of his personal temporal destiny. Created in the image and the likeness of the divine person, each worker has received from God inalienable rights that no master on earth and no earthly regime can ignore, and which every economic regime must respect and help flourish. God desired to make each worker his most intimate collaborator in order to to help him to extend over time the magnificent work of his creation as well as the even more magnificent work of his Redemption.

Man’s work should not only serve to accumulate material wealth; the work of the poorest worker is called by God to become a producer of spiritual and eternal wealth.

Each worker is the son of God, each worker is the collaborator of God, each worker is the heir of God.

And to restore this dignity of the working class and of each worker, Christ, the only begotten Son of the Eternal Father, during his earthly life desired simply to become a carpenter and to pass for the son of a carpenter. Even more, Christ desired to identify himself with the most humble and the poorest of workers to the end of time in order to be able to say to the government, to be able to say to the regime, to be able to say to the superior, to be able say to the rulers: “Whatever you do to the least of workers, you do to me.“ The salary that you pay him, the working conditions that you impose on him, the unemployment benefits that you grant him, the old age pension that you will one day provide for him, you do it to me; I am this worker, I am this unemployed person, I am this old man, I am this worker in whom I continue the work of the Redemption of men.

And, brothers, work thus became a collaboration with God in Christ; the work of a worker becomes the work of Our Lord Jesus Christ himself; work becomes a divine vocation; work becomes a divine apostolate; work becomes a sacrifice united with the prayer and sacrifice of Our Lord Jesus Christ himself. And when, next Saturday, in Paris, 80,000 young workers from all over France gather at the Parc des Princes, they will be able to tell their fellow workers and the whole of France, that, through their work , they are continuing the work of Our Lord Jesus Christ himself. My brothers, have we thought about this enough? Without work, there is no host, no bread, no sacrifice; no altar, no basilica, and even if a man’s mouth becomes powerless to sing praise to the glory of work, will not the stones of this basilica themselves sing praise to the glory of Christian work across the centuries? (Applause).

But it is not only outside help, it is not only material support that work gives to religion and the Eucharist. No, religion and the Eucharist transform the work of man himself into the work of Christ; the sacrifice of the Eucharist allows each worker to come and place the host of his work on the stage. The Eucharist-sacrifice transforms each worker into a lay priest who can make his workshop, his bench, his table or his lathe into an altar; united with the priests at the altars of their Church, united with the Eternal Priest, he can, with Christ, make his work the sacrifice of the mystical Christ for the Redemption of the human race, the Eucharist- sacrament will allow Christ, no longer only by faith, but to Christ in person to come and dwell in the heart of each worker, so that each worker can carry Christ to his fellow workers.

And once, my brothers, once young workers understand this, ah! what a revolution this will be in their lives. Ah! I know dozens today, thousands of them for whom their Sunday masses have become communion masses. I know thousands and thousands who would never fail to come to mass before going to work in the morning, who take Christ with them, into this temple and sanctuary into which they wish to transform their own factory

And if, six years ago already, in Quadragesimo Anno, the Pope was able “ “to greet, to the great joy of his soul these tight knuckles of young Christian workers who have answered the call of grace and nourish the noble ambition to reconquer the souls of their brothers in Christ,“ it is because the Jocist movement is above all a Eucharistic Crusade among young workers.


And thus, quite naturally, young workers who understood the Eucharist wished to transform their working environment in order that Christ could once again become their King there and ensure that justice and charity reign there.

Ah! the workplace! Do we remember enough the bitter complaint of Pope Pius XI in Quadragesimo Anno ? “Ah! Truly the mind shudders at the thought of the grave dangers to which the morals of workers (particularly younger workers) and the modesty of girls and women are exposed in modern factories.“ And the Pope ends this passage from his Encyclical with this cry of anguish: “Dead matter comes forth from the factory ennobled, while men there are corrupted and degraded.“

Today, the Eucharistic Crusade in the workplace is doing away with this stigma. Today, there are martyrs in the workplace, because there are communists in the workplace. These are young workers, who, despite suffering of which we have no idea, are changing this environment. Today, this pagan environment is being transformed into a sanctuary and a temple. And at the same time they are changing public opinion in their country. Here in my own little country, it is young workers who launched these impressive public opinion campaigns against immorality in the workplace, so that this obstacle no longer prevents the working class to come back to Our Lord Jesus Christ. They also carried out admirable campaigns that we call Easter campaigns. Ah! it is no longer from the pulpit that the working class is invited to come and have its Easter. No. The Church now sends her missionaries and apostles to each workplace. This year, three million Easter newspapers were distributed at the doors of factories, workshops and offices. It was by the tens of thousands that the workers were invited to return to the communion bench, and it was in their thousands that they answered the call of their working brothers and sisters. And to demonstrate the effectiveness of the Eucharist in the workplace, what can we say about this extraordinary ceremony of the minute of silence, Good Friday, at three o’clock? This year, in more than 3,000 workplaces in Belgium, on Good Friday at three in the afternoon, workers, sometimes alone, sometimes in groups, sometimes with all the staff of the workshop or factory, memorialised the death of Christ at Golgotha with a minute of silence and meditation; in workplaces and industrial centers, sirens whistled, machines stopped, all the personnel gathered in the hall of the factories as jocists sang: “Lord Jesus, you died in this moment on the Cross, we offer you our work. Let your Kingdom come in our factory.“ (Applause).


And this is how the Eucharist is preparing the advent of a working regime which is no longer based on antagonism of interests, class struggle, the imperialism of races or nations, but on the divine, universal and eternal law, of justice and charity. Do you not therefore feel that when all the working classes are united at the communion bench with all the leaders of industry and professions, do you not feel that, united on the Eucharistic level and associated with their brothers on the communion bench around the God’s family table, it is inevitable that on the economic level, that on the political level, this fraternity, this community also spring up there? And this is what the Pope pointed out: “The Christian order of work must imitate as much as possible, must achieve as much as possible the unity of the divine plan; yes, one in Christ, one therefore, with the same divine origin and the divine destined mother; for this, collaborating with each other in justice, in charity. Then the rich and the leaders will understand their duty of charity towards their collaborators, the workers; and they will have to give tangible proof of this by the just improvements demanded by the working class; but then also the working class will no longer know this feeling of hatred and this feeling of envy, because it will feel to what degree of divine greatness has elevated religion and the Eucharist.

“But for that, my brothers, I beg you, there must be no watertight bulkhead between religious life and working life. No watertight bulkhead between the worship environment and the workplace. It must disappear, this deplorable duplication of consciousness of which the Holy Father is a part. We must end this unfortunate contradiction between the man who practices religious practices and the man who must live these religious practices in his everyday life. Then the working class will have found the Father’s real house; then the working class will have found the true family table of its Father who is in heaven; and then yes, communion will multiply the apostles, the witnesses of Christ among the working class in the workplace.

This is the message that the Eucharistic Congress of Lisieux must send to the working class of France and the world; a message of life, message of peace, message of salvation. Ah! may little Sainte de Lisieux make this message heard by the mass of the working class of France.

Eight years ago, my dear brothers, receiving the first pilgrimage to Rome of 1,500 Jocistes, the Pope deigned to tell them: “Jocistes, you are missionaries from the inside. There are internal missions and there are external missions; I say that these are as important and sometimes more difficult than these. You Jocistes, you are the missionaries from the inside. Saint Theresa is the special protector of missionaries; I give her to you as special protector and I ask her to bless you in your mission and to give you a fruitful apostolate.

“My brothers Sunday tomorrow at eight, 100,000 young workers from France, Belgium, Switzerland and twenty countries of the world will come to the center of your country, the heart of Paris, giving the solemn response to the call of the Pope and the message of your Congress. In the afternoon, before the cardinals, before the archbishops, before the bishops, to conclude their Congress, they will make this promise: “Working class of France, working class of the world, regain courage and keep confidence; thanks to the YCW, your salvation is on the march, because driven by the Eucharistic Christ, no human power can stop us; for new times by a new working youth! Forward!

These new times announced by the YCW will be Eucharistic times! This new youth will be steeped in the cult of the Eucharist! And when Christ has become the King of the world of work, when he has brought justice and charity to reign; when he has united in his Eucharistic Heart individuals, families, peoples and nations, well, then peace will reign on earth; nations will once again embrace each other like sisters in Christ, the salvation of the masses will be effected by means of the Bread of Life, for the Glory of God.

Joseph Cardijn

Basilica of Lisieux

July 10, 1937


Joseph Cardijn, Sermon at the Lisieux Eucharistic Congress (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Must Catholics attend mass?

Would Catholicism fundamentally change if Catholics no longer feel that being a committed Catholic requires going to Mass every week?

Australian Catholic Youth Festival 2015.
Creator: Dig It Photography. 
Copyright: Daniel Hopper Photography.

Source: [Photo creator: Dig It Photography. Copyright: Daniel Hopper Photography]

In February 2007, the Pastoral Projects Office of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference published a report titled Catholics Who Have Stopped Attending Mass.” The report identified 10 reasons why Catholics stopped attending Mass.

Church-centred reasons.

  1. The irrelevance of the Church to life today.
  2. The misuse of power and authority in the Church.
  3. Problems with the priest in the parish.
  4. Lack of intellectual stimulation.
  5. Concerns related to the parish as a community.
  6. A sense of being excluded by Church rules.
  7. Structural factors.

Particpant-centred reasons.

  1. Family or household-related issues.
  2. Crisis of faith.
  3. Going to Mass simply not a priority.

Interestingly, the Report also noted that Australian Catholics no longer attended Mass because they “No longer feel that being a committed Catholic requires going to Mass every week” as the main reason.

Source: Catholics Who Have Stopped Attending Mass, 2007.

The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) responded to this report by developing pastoral strategies centred around Community Identity, Personal Identity, Leadership and Mission. [Catholics who have ceased attending Mass – Pastoral Strategies]

Almost a decade later, the Australian Catholic Mass Attendance Report 2016 [pdf], Mass attendance continues to fall. In 1996, about 18 per cent of the Australian Catholic population attended Mass. In 2016, it was down to about 12 per cent.

Interestingly or ironically, the Church Life Profile for The Catholic Church in Australia 2016 [pdf] report identified that Catholics most value ‘Celebrating the Eucharist/receiving Holy Communion and Traditional style of worship or music (Attending Mass) about Church.

Source: Church Life Profile for The Catholic Church in Australia, 2016

This report also identified the demographic profile of Catholic church-goers in 2016.

Source: Church Life Profile for The Catholic Church in Australia, 2016

Given the demographic profile of the Church, and the 2007 report on the main reason why Catholics do not attend Mass, i.e. “No longer feel that being a committed Catholic requires going to Mass every week”, is there a need to understand the role of the Mass and the parish?

Is there a need for new strategies from ACBC that engage committed Catholics who do not attend Mass?

Greg Lopez

Towards a Church of the poor in Australia

In today’s Cardijn Reflection, we take a speech delivered by Cardinal Achille Liénart of Lille, France, to a meeting of chaplains of the Christian Workers Movement in 1964, i.e. right in the middle of the Second Vatican Council.

As he notes, the Council Fathers had agreed that the Church should be a Church of the poor. The future Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the World of Today, Gaudium et Spes, then in preparation and known as Schema 17, was to take up this point.

It is a significant speech, signalling that the Church needed to make a priority of reaching out and evangelising the poor, not as objects of charity but also as subjects acting themselves for their own development.

In this text, Cardinal Liénart in fact anticipates much of the teaching of the Council, particularly as it would later be interpreted by the Latin American Church, which adopted the notion of a “preferential option for the poor.”

As the Australian Church moves towards the holding of a series of Diocesan Synods in fulfilment of the decisions of the recent Plenary Council, perhaps it may be useful to address these questions once again in the context of Australia today and with a view to how the Australian Church may better become a Church of the Poor?

Stefan Gigacz


During the meeting where the previous report was given, H.E. Cardinal Liénart gave a speech on the same subject, the text of which the editors of “Notes d’Information” are pleased to be able to transmit to their readers.

I thank R.B. for having placed us before a painful reality that we cannot ignore and that we must assume in order to fulfill our mission of’evangelisation. This problem of poor backgrounds which arises in the diocese of Lille falls squarely within the directives that come to us from the Church: the last Plenary Assembly of the French bishops gave this watchword: “the Evangelisation of those who are furthest away and the poorest”.

At the Council, as you have noticed, this question, among others, was deemed serious enough to be posed to the Fathers: “Shouldn’t the Church be the Church of the poor?” As a sign of her divine mission, should the Church show that she evangelises the poor? You know the answers that have been given, the concern that has been expressed to restore the Church to this attitude of respect and service to the poor.

Although this idea has been retained, it has not yet found its expression, but it will enter into Schema 17 (the future Gaudium et Spes) which is yet to be discussed and which will deal with the place and the role of the Church in the world. The work of the Council, which is slow but fruitful, places the whole Church face to face with its origins, face to face with Our Lord Jesus Christ who lived poor and gave the best of himself to the poor.

I wanted to tell you that the question posed at your session fits perfectly, and in the foreground, into the current research and orientations of the Church. This is not an accessory question, it is at the center and at the heart of the apostolate of the Church. I therefore recommend it to your zeal.

You are chaplains of the ACO (Christian Workers Movement) and the YCW, you are also pastors or vicars of parishes in which there are poor milieux and it is in both of these capacities that you need to study this problem.

As chaplains of the ACI and the YCW, I request you to attach the greatest importance to the work of the militants who, applying themselves to the evangelisation of the working world as a whole, are all concerned with the apostolate in the poor circles; but you will grant special concern to those of them who, supported by everything, the Movement, dedicate themselves in a special, sometimes heroic way, to action in poor areas.

They are entitled to friendly and encouraging attention from us because their task is difficult: they must help these poor communities to react against the dehumanisation that crushes them, to organise themselves despite the few human resources they offer, to defend themselves not by withdrawing in order to seek individual promotion but so that the whole milieu also rises.

I ask you to consider as one of your essential tasks to devote yourselves especially to the militants who act in these circles because they need it. We can’t just let them do it and say, “That’s fine”. They must feel that we are involved with them, that the Church is involved with them; since you are the representatives of the Church on the spot, I entrust them to you.

As you know very well, it is above all through your support and assistance as chaplains of the Christian Workers Movement, young or adult, in the review of life that you can assist them: you help them to deepen their reflection on the basis of the events that present themselves to bring out the Christian meaning and determine the spirit in which Christians must behave. I do not insist, it is part of your usual task.

On the other hand, since we have poor milieux in all our parishes, I would like to feel that the whole Church is interested in this. Although we have various activities to carry out, we should not be afraid to show them our predilection: it is a Catholic and evangelical attitude; by the very fact of their poverty and all the consequences that flow from it, the humiliation they feel, the exploitation to which they are subjected, the poor have the right to appear as those to whom the Church interest in a special way. No one should take umbrage at it, and if some do take umbrage, it is because they do not have the spirit of the Lord; we must tell them charitably but clearly.

In this way, our whole apostolate should contain this note of poverty and attachment to poverty. Cardinal Lercaro, in one of his interventions at the Council, said that the Church as a whole will rediscover its evangelical spirit insofar as it consents to enter fully into the spirit of poverty. The effort of the Church to enter into these paths of poverty thus appears as the means for her to regain a more exact awareness of her mission in the world and enlightens its whole apostolate.

In this research, let us try to avoid the faults which were pointed out earlier. For a long time, of course, the Church has taken care of the poor and we have above all practised this benevolence and there is no reason to be ashamed of this. But it also needs to be recognised that while beneficence on the part of those who give with sincerity and heart constitutes an act of virtue, it would be a mistake to consider that it is the only or even the principal form of charity.

It is necessary to note its disadvantages, if by our benevolence we maintain the poor in their state of poverty and if we exempt them from making an effort to come out of it together. Now, no one else will take them out unless they help themselves and organise themselves. Our charity may have certain merits, but it has a downside and we need to know how to see this. This will prevent us from being satisfied with it and having a good conscience or letting our Christians have a good conscience because they have given their money selflessly.

The Church has more to do to help the poor to keep their human dignity. A first point is that we must not allow poverty to dehumanise. The Church is always animated by the desire to have humankind respected and when society crushes and mutilates people, the Church reminds theme of the fundamental rights of the human person and asks society to correct itself for its abuses because that human dignity comes first.

At the same time, the church is preoccupied with the eternal destiny of men to whom she must transmit the Good News. I don’t think it can be said that our charity has greatly evangelised the poor. They accept our assistance because they need it, but they do not recognise it as a sign from the Lord; on the contrary, they conclude that the Church and Christians are rich because they give.

What is rather a sign from God for them is the charity with which the militants give themselves and sacrifice themselves to carry their problems with them and to help them organize themselves after having shared their anxieties; they then discover in these fraternally close militants Christ living in their midst. All this collective action, without yet leading them to religious practice, reopens their religious sense in their souls, makes the call of God heard and, with the help of Our Lord’s grace, evangelism advances.

The importance of this apostolate in poor milieux has not yet been sufficiently demonstrated to us: an immense field of action is offered there for our pastoral charity. The future of these circles which are entitled to our love, depends on this. It also concerns the future of the Church; this, then, is the sense in which, from the Pope down to the most humble among us, we are called to work.


Cardinal Achille Liénart, Allocution sur l’évangélisation des milieux pauvres, in Notes d’information, Association pour la Mission Ouvrière, N° 17, mars-avril, 1964, Nouvelle Série.

Cardinal Achille Liénart, Allocution sur l’évangélisation des milieux pauvres (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

The role of the jocist chaplain

In today’s Cardijn Reflection, we present Cardijn’s preface to the book L’aumônier jociste (The jocist chaplain) written in 1935 by Fr G. Fabre.

Here we see briefly but clearly spelt out Cardijn’s belief in the primordial importance of the chaplain in the YCW.

Stefan Gigacz

Father G. FABRE of the Diocese of Paris


Preface by Canon Jos. CARDIJN



The role of the jocist chaplain is as essential to Jocism as the role of the soul to the body. There can be no jocist militants, no genuine jocist action, no genuine jocist life without this soul of all apostolate which is the charity of Christ, the personal Christ and the total Christ. To enlighten the perspective of the militant, to orient his action of conquest, to penetrate with divine grace his or her jocist life with divine grace, in a word, to communicate to him or her this living and conquering charity, the priest is irreplaceable.

But the role of the Jocist Chaplain requires an appropriate psychology which makes him the inspirer, the animator, the driving force of the jocist apostolate. While the priest does not carry out Catholic action himself, the jocist chaplain will understand especially that it is not his role to live the YCW in the way of the jocist militant, but that he must make it live, and to achieve this he must help make it understood and loved. 

To achieve this, he will need to penetrate the YCW, understand it, love it; desire it in a priestly manner. As a multiplier of jocist militants, his role is above all that of a spiritual fatherhood. He will not fulfill this role if he does not understand and experience the problem of young workers and if he does not have in his heart this passion for the reconquest of all the souls of the huge mass of young workers.

Father Fabre has admirably understood and described the psychology of the jocist chaplain. Although he is not involved in any of the sectors of the jocist front, his psychological sense and his love of souls has led him, by a kind of intuition, to discover the genuine and authentic YCW.

The scientific aspect of his presentation, far from harming its practical value, gives it a new value. The YCW will have had the rare privilege of seducing superior minds like M. Bayart and inspiring captivating theses like this one. Father Fabre has allowed himself be captivated by the YCW. His book cannot fail to initiate a large number of seminarians to their future role as chaplain of Catholic Action. 

For many of our chaplains, he will bring light and comfort in their very difficult but necessary apostolate. He will enable them to discover the true nature of their priestly role and enable them to better understand the inevitable need for a complement to their own apostolate, which is the lay apostolate of young men and women workers through their daily lay life, in their working and working class milieu, among the mass of their working brothers and sisters.

Father Fabre’s ambition is to encourage each jocist chaplain to raise up these lay workers of the future. May his call be heard and answered! He will have rendered the greatest service that a priest-philosopher can render to the YCW.

Canon J. CARDYN.


Joseph Cardijn, Preface, p. 5-6, in G. Fabre, L‘aumônier jociste, Librairie de la Jeunesse Ouvrière, Paris, 1935, 175p.

Original French version

Joseph Cardijn, Préface, G. Fabre, L’aumônier jociste (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

At the end of a missionary trek

In 1953, Cardijn travelled toAsia for the first time, visiting India, Sri Lanka, then known as Ceylon, the Philippines and Japan.

These visits profoundly shocked him and gave him a new awareness of the challenges of world development.

In this article written on his return, he reflects on those problems and challenges.

Stefan Gigacz

At the end of a missionary trek

No trip has shocked me as much as my latest trip through India, Ceylon, the Philippines, Japan, Cuba and the United States.

The contrast between two worlds, one living in abundance and the other in misery;

The sight of these hundreds of millions of pagans abandoned in misery and destitution — without bread, without housing, without medical care against epidemics, without help for their intellectual and social development;

The encounter with hundreds of heroic missionaries, men and women, among whom Belgians form a legion of honor;

The threat of communism that hangs over the continent which contains more than half of the population of the world, which increases each year by twenty million inhabitants;

All these problems of evangelisation, assistance and culture which arise at the same time and which await an urgent solution provoke in the soul unspeakable anguish and anxiety.

The advances in technology and transport, the advance of industry, the birth of a worker proletariat, sprawling cities attracting millions of uprooted people are breeding grounds for the revolutions that are germinating in the Asian world.

This is the most decisive missionary hour in history for all Christians, priests, religious and laity. Are we sufficiently aware of this and are we sufficiently convinced of our duty to foster apostolic and missionary vocations commensurate with the needs of the world?

And wherever the YCW begins, wherever groups of young workers form and multiply; they are heroic in their faith and sublime in their hope, they are awaiting chaplains and teams of Jocist missionaries who will help them in their redemptive mission for the lifting up and salvation of their working brothers and sisters.

May our next International Week — a week of prayers, offerings of one hour of work, collections and meetings — be a first response from the Jocists of Belgium to their young brothers and young sisters in Asia! Whether it is the splendid start of a new stage of a more missionary YCW, that will be even more international in spirit, concerns as well as the responsibilities of our leaders and our members. This awakening of greater solidarity between races and between peoples is the only effective weapon against communism and the only guarantee of a world that will be more united in love and peace.

May Mary Most Holy, Patroness and Queen of missionaries, obtain for us from her divine Son that apostolic and missionary spirit which must be the soul of a. truly international and global YCW!

Joseph Cardijn


Joseph Cardijn, At the end of a missionary trek, in Notes de Pastorale Jociste, 1952, T. XVIII.4, p. 97.

Original French

Joseph Cardijn, Après une randonné missionnaire, in Notes de Pastorale Jociste, 1952, T. XVIII.4, p. 97.

The Miracle of YCW

The Jews of the Old Testament times believed in miracles. The sunrise each day was a miracle. And, of course, the Exodus was the greatest miracle of all. Every miracle recounted in the Old Testament was a sign of the presence and power of God in the world. My favourite miracle is the burning bush event that changed Moses’ life. Not all miracles are that dramatic. Nor do we have to be Jewish to experience God’s presence and the miracles he does for us and through us. 

Miracles happen in God’s good time and they are always intended for the salvation of the world. This was Cardijn’s experience, although he probably never thought of the trauma he experienced as a miracle. When he returned home from the minor seminary for holidays, his friends accused him of betraying them and they rejected him. He said of that time, “When I came back for my holidays they were coarse, corrupted and lapsed from the Church—whilst I was becoming a priest.” He never intended it to be that way, but that is the way it is with miracles. They happen as part of God’s plan of salvation. 

His concern for his friends developed into a plan for the formation of young workers who would be apostles to the workers of the world. Just as Moses had done, he committed himself to fulfilling his part in God’s plan.

In the Gospel reading for today, Jesus meets some of his disciples on the shore of Lake Galilee early one morning. What I like about the story is his concern for the simple things, like preparing breakfast for his friends. His presence in their lives is miraculous. They had gone to the lake to do some fishing. It is what they knew best, but even that failed them until Jesus entered the scene. In that third meeting after his resurrection, Jesus reassured them of God’s presence in their lives and God working through them to transform the world.

Things happen when people choose to let God into their lives. When they act in obedience to God’s Will, then they witness the presence and power of God at work in the world. Their actions are in response to God’s call to help transform the world.


Pat Branson

Read more 

Biography of Cardinal Joseph Cardijn, by Fr Langdale

Builders of the social order

For today’s Cardijn Reflection, we present one of the earliest histories of the YCW movement written in English and published in New York.

Only a dozen pages in length, it briefly tells the story of the origins of the movement as well as its expansion into North America in both Canada and New Hampshire in the USA.

It mentions countries such as Lithuania, where the movement apparently existed from the 1930s but whose story has now been forgotten.

A great little insight into the beginnings of the worldwide spread of Jocism.

Stefan Gigacz

Read the document

Joseph F. Thorning, Builders of the Social Order (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

John XXIII’s encyclical Pacem in Terris

This month marks the 60th anniversary of Pope John XXIII’s encyclical Pacem in Terris issued on 11 April 1963.

Published just three months before John’s death, it is in a sense his final testament to the world focusing as the title suggests on promoting peace in the world but also enumerating for the first time in Catholic Social Teaching a list of human rights.

Cardijn too was pleased with the encyclical, citing it in his own first speech to the Council on religious liberty in September 1965.

Here is the text of Cardijn’s intervention in which he also emphasises the importance of the see-judge-act as a pedagogical tool for education in religious freedom.

Stefan Gigacz

Intervention by Cardinal Joseph Cardijn, 20 September 1965

The schema on liberty pleases me greatly. Allow me to humbly share with you the experience of nearly 60 years of priestly apostolate exercised in every country at the service of young workers today.

It seems to me that a solemn and clear proclamation of the juridical religious freedom of all people in every country of the world is an urgent need.

First Reason: Peaceful unification of a pluralist world

The world today is tending increasingly towards unity and conflicts between nations and cultures must disappear progressively.

As John XXIII stated so admirably in Pacem in Terris, our great task is to unite ourselves with all men of good will to build a more human world together based on “truth, justice, liberty and love”. And the fundamental condition for people to live together peacefully and to collaborate fruitfully is sincere respect for religious freedom.

The fact of not respecting the philosophical and religious convictions of others is increasingly felt by them as a sign of mistrust in a matter considered as sacred and personal to the highest degree. Such an attitude makes mutual confidence impossible and without this there can be no true community life and no effective collaboration.

On the other hand, if mutual confidence reigns, it creates an opportunity for very joyful collaboration, not only on the scientific and technical planes but also on the social, cultural, pedagogical and moral levels.

If the Church can pronounce itself unambiguously in favour of religious freedom, people everywhere will gain confidence and recognise that the Church wishes to participate in building a more human and more united world. If on the other hand, this declaration should be rejected, great hopes will disappear, particularly among young people.

Second Reason: Efficacy of apostolic, missionary and ecumenical action

In a world heading towards unification, the presence of the Church among the people must necessarily take a new form, which could be compared to the dispersion of the people of Israel after the captivity of Babylon.

In the greater part of the world Christians are a small minority. In order to fulfil its mission, the Church cannot base itself on temporal, political, economic or cultural power as it did in the Middle Ages or under colonial regimes. It can only count on the power of the word of God, evangelical poverty, the purity of its witness, manifested in the authentically Christian life of lay people, and also on the esteem of the peoples among whom the Church wishes to live and witness to its faith. And this esteem of the people is nothing other than what we have described as religious liberty. But how can the Church hope to benefit from religious liberty in countries where it is a minority if the Church itself fails to loudly proclaim or to practise religious liberty in the countries where it is in the majority?

This proclamation of religious liberty is important not only for the efficacy of apostolic and missionary action in general but it is also the condition sine qua non of the ecumenical movement.

We know that all our non-Catholic brothers consider this declaration as a step which must be taken in order to arrive at a sincere and effective ecumenism.

Third Reason: The educational and pedagogic value of religious freedom

The schema speaks of the right of the person and of communities to religious freedom. This juridical freedom is not an end in itself. It is a necessary means for education in liberty in its fullest sense, which leads to interior liberty, or liberty of the soul by which a man becomes an autonomous being, responsible before society and God, ready if necessary to obey God rather than men.

This interior freedom, even if it exists in germ as a natural gift in every human creature, requires a long education which can be summarised in three words: see, judge and act.

If, thanks be to God, my sixty years of apostolate have not been in vain, it is because I have never wanted young people to live in shelter from dangers, cut off from the milieu of their life and work.

Rather I have shown confidence in their freedom in order to better educate that freedom. I helped them to see, judge and act by themselves, by undertaking social and cultural action themselves, freely obeying authorities in order to become adult witnesses of Christ and the Gospel, conscious of being responsible for their sisters and brothers in the whole world.

In our world moving towards unification, it is not possible to educate young people in glass houses, cutting them off from the real world. Many people lose the faith because they have been given a childish education.

It is only by means of a sound education in interior freedom that our young people will be able to become adult Christians.


Some will object that freedom involves a number of dangers: indifferentism, diffusion of errors, abuse of the ignorance of the masses and of the passions.

Here is my answer:

I am conscious of these dangers. Some certainly will abuse religious freedom; but these risks are less serious that those which arise from the suppression or the oppression of religious freedom. “Absolutist regimes” – even those which claim to serve the Church – where social pressure is substituted for personal formation, favour anti-clericalism and in fact incite the masses to revolt against the faith and the Church.

The dangers inherent in a regime of freedom must be faced in a positive manner, for example by a frank and sincere international agreement between civil and religious authorities; but above all by the formation and human, moral and religious education thanks to which young people and adults become conscious of their own responsibilities.


To conclude, I would like to propose the following:

This Vatican Council must conclude with a solemn and magnificent act by Pope Paul VI in union with all the Fathers.

This act should solemnly proclaim religious freedom. It should request all confessions, all ideologies, all authorities and institutions to unanimously maintain and protect religious freedom, defining the requirements of public order in a correct and honest manner as well as seeking to implement the means for effectively protecting religious freedom.

I have finished. Thank you.

Joseph Card. Cardijn


Joseph Cardijn, Religious liberty (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Read more

John XXIII, Pacem in Terris (Vatican)

Developing the YCW in Asia

For today’s Cardijn Reflection, we present the testimony of the late Belgian YCW leader, Maria Meersman, who was vice-president of the International YCW from 1957-61.

She shares her experience of visiting the Asian continent (and Australia) with Cardijn in 1958.

She also addresses the issue of how to develop the movement in non-Christian countries.

Other former YCW leaders and chaplains also share their experience and questions, many of which are still relevant today!

Stefan Gigacz


Study Session on YCW History in Asia Pacific, Notre Dame de Chant d’Oiseau Retreat House, Brussels, Belgium on Monday 6 April 1998.

Maria Meersman, IYCW Vice-President 1956-61, gave a presentation on her voyage to Asia in 1958 with Mgr Cardijn. In fact, Maria had been placed in charge of the region “Asia and the Far East”. Before the Rome World Council, she visited Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Israel.

We had divided the world into continents and I was in charge of the continent of Asia which we called the “Far East”. One priest in India asked me “Why do you call it the Far East? Where is it far from?”

In the 1950s we considered Egypt and the Middle East as part of the Asian region. Before the World Council I visited this region.

In Egypt, there was a YCW started by French priests with Catholics and also with members from Eastern churches, the Coptic Church and the Greek Catholic Church. In Jordan, there were also 2 local groups in Zakra started by Belgian YCW leader from Brussels who entered AFI (Auxiliaires Féminines Internationales). There were 2 girls sections. The men had left for Iraq to work in the oil industry.

In Syria, there was a YCW in Alep where the Catholics are concentrated. In Lebanon, the YCW was already established throughout the country. In Israel, there was no YCW but that was another problem. I visited these countries 2-3-4 times during my mandate, including the first time with Mgr Cardijn. These countries (except Israel) all sent delegations to Rome in 1957.

In 1958, I also visited Iraq, where contacts were made through the nuncio, etc.

I made my first trip to Asia in 1958 with Cardijn. I began by visiting India for 3 weeks, going to Bombay (Fr Cordeira), Calcutta and Madras (Fr Thomas). A visit was also made to the Jesuit seminary at Pune. Efforts were made to find a chaplain for Bombay (Fr Rupert D’Silva). Local sections spoke both English and Hindi.

In Sri Lanka, there was also a YCW under the chaplaincy of Fr Schram.

In Singapore, there was also an existing YCW. In Malaysia, there was a Chinese-English speaking YCW. René Délecluse later went as extension worker in both countries.

I then visited Australia with Cardijn, touring the whole country, including a number of rural centres. At that time, the YCW was only for the boys and the NCGM was for the girls. Girls president was Betty King, later an extension worker in India, where it was necessary to have a Commonwealth passport to enter. The aboriginal issue was an issue at that time and also the ‘White Australia’ policy. The YCW had organised meetings with government ministers on these issues. We then went to New Zealand. (Australia and NZ were the countries of the ‘rallies’.)

In Indonesia, there was still no YCW. During the visit, discussions could still be held in Dutch.

A visit of 3 weeks was made to the Philippines. The YCW girls was stronger than that of the boys.

Visits were also made to Taiwan, Vietnam (stopover), Japan (3 weeks), Korea. In Japan, the YCW was already structured but the country was still very poor and under American domination. In Korea, the first local girls YCW group was started by a young Belgian former YCW from AFI.

One of the important points to make is that it takes some time to inculturate the YCW in the local situation.

We also went to Hong Kong. They started using the novel, Fishers of Men by Maxence Van Der Meersch, which was also translated in Chinese. The YCW started with textile workers. The chaplain wanted to know if his YCW was a real YCW.

In Vietnam, there was a boys and girls YCW. But there were many problems with leaders. North-South Vietnam. It was the time of President Diem, who was a Catholic. He was also a dictator. When we arrived in Saigon there were all the school children with little flags and President Diem. I asked who is arriving? We were arriving! The president received us. One problem was that we were followed everywhere.

We went to Thailand but at that time there was nothing. We had contact with the Buddhists because we wanted to know how the culture has been built up and to see how we could collaborate. Everything we could we had contact with non-Catholic authorities. We also saw the Salesians and MEP.

Then we went to Burma. This was rather difficult. There was a guerilla movement. There was no YCW. We then went to Pakistan.

We then went to Iraq. We had contacts with priests but at time there was nothing there. We also went to Lebanon to see the local groups there.

In 1960, we went to Kuala Lumpur for the Asian meeting. This was already more Asian with translation into several Asian languages. We had nothing to say there. The Asians were also organising the meeting. René Délecluse had also helped organise the meeting.


Fr Mathias: How did the extension workers help the local movements to understand the YCW better?

Maria Meersman: To see if the YCW principles were implemented, e.g. the human and divine value of every young person. E.g. need to show that food sellers also had value. Enquiry: What’s the name of your cat? What’s the name of your food seller? People did not know, so the object was to help them become aware.

Frans Van Camp: It is necessary to distinguish a) international visitors and b) extension workers. Need for a certain kind of ‘control’ to make sure that the local movement was still based on YCW principles, e.g. visit by Betty Villa to Karachi emphasising need to start YCW Girls. Big advantage of visits over letters.

Maria Meerman: A big question was how to work with non-Catholics? We did not have the answer. We had to find out. This was the beginning in 1958. Perhaps today it is easier to discuss this kind of problem but at that time it was very difficult.

Local people also asked me my own personal experience.

In India, a local leader brought me to a luxury coffee house. I said why do you bring me here? I could not face taking a trip in a rickshaw being pulled around so we took a taxi, which cost about the same as a tram in Brussels. I offered to pay, but the local leader, Grace, refused. She said to me: ‘Listen to me. It is also good for you that you have to receive something and not always giving.’ She paid for my visit from her savings. I learnt a lot from this experience. You educate people in doing and not just in telling. We learnt from them and they learnt from us.

It was always difficult to get the young workers to take their own responsibility, in Belgium and elsewhere. Seeing, judging and acting according to local experiences.

Fr Mathias: What was the dominant thinking concerning working with people of other faiths? Was it seen as positive? Did bishops and priests feel free to reach out?

Maria Meersman: It varied from country to country but in general people were more or less afraid of that kind of work. We tried to explain that we began with Catholic young worker leaders but that you can see, judge and act together with others. At that time in the Church, you understand it was difficult… Not all bishops and priests were the same.

David Mahony: It seems some bishops, priests and YCWs wanted to and tried to involve non-Christians but in other places it was forbidden.

Maria Meersman: Yes, but in Bombay, for example, most young Catholics were educated in English and as Catholics, Western style, and therefore distant from their own people. It you cannot get people to understand all this in a 3 weeks visit or even in 4 years.

Joyce Fernandez: Normally the Catholics were educated in missionary schools and were not allowed by their parents to have contact with non-Christians. The extension workers and visitors challenged us to go out and integrate with the non-Christians. That’s how we came to begin to reach out.

Even the Catholic community was divided at that time between English speaking and Urdu speaking community. People started to accept the Urdu speaking.

Fr Seither: The first principle of Catholic social teaching is respect for the person. But in India, in my experience everything was done by the priest, a kind of clericalism? What was your experience of the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity?

Maria Meersman: One problem in India and Sri Lanka was the ethnic (caste?) structure. This was a difficulty. The priest in fact often dominated the YCW work. You have to show people that they can do something. It takes some time to get people to become aware of that. If you don’t respect others, you can’t respect yourself. So it is true that priests were sometimes dominating, but you have to start somewhere…

Maria Salen: I am concerned that you cannot do anything unless the YCW members are open. You have to see, judge, act with the whole group, not just the Christians.

Maria Meersman: You need some time to get into a new culture. You have to leave everything and start again.

What is praxis?

Reflection on Praxis: “Theology without action is the theology of demons.”

“What is praxis” is a question I often hear from students. During my career in technology, I taught a comparative religion class, usually at a community college, and I did this if I was based in Chicago, Silicon Valley, or Texas. I taught this class full-time before entering technology, and I found the community college environment much more engaging. Students were older, working during the day, and struggling to make ends meet.

Our discussions of Praxis in various religions came from the student’s hearts, guts, and daily lives. In many religions, Praxis involves taking action in life and is practiced especially concerning ascetics and liturgical life. Praxis is the basis of the understanding of faith and works in many religions of the East, including Eastern Christians. There is no separation. I often would mention in class the dictum of Maximus the Confessor: “Theology without action is the theology of demons.”

If we look at Eastern Christianity, we see more of the understanding that Jesus invites us to take action in his life. The Eastern lungs of Christianity require not just faith but the correct practice of faith understood by the followers of Jesus. We see less in the Western lung of Christianity for many decades, and my speculation is the West was more busy being an empire ruling the world rather than caring for the habitants of the world. Until the Industrial Revolution, Western Christianity started embracing Praxis’s importance.

In the context of Eastern Christianity, Praxis is not the opposite of theology in the sense of ‘theory and practice.’ Instead, it comprehends what all believers do is considered ‘living Orthodoxy.’

Praxis is strongly associated with worship and liturgy because what one does in one’s life, living the teachings of Jesus and the early followers of Jesus (Patristics), means giving “right glory” or “right worship,”

The two can’t be separated. We see this in the understanding of Richard Rohr and why he named his organization “Center for Action & Contemplation.” You can’t divorce the two.

In the West, with the Industrial Revolution, the writings of Kant, Marx, Leo XIII, and Joseph Cardijn, with the introduction of movements within the West to address the care of people, we see the introduction of “liberation theology” applying the Gospel to that Praxis understanding to guide and govern its daily lives.

Albert Nolan wrote a book called “Jesus Before Christianity” The updated version has a forward written by Helen Prejean. Albert writes in his book, “I did not write about Jesus’ prayer experience. I did write about Jesus, a unique experience of intimate closeness to God.” For Albert, the idea of what Praxis meant was living the intimate closeness to God. Albert was a colleague of Joseph Cardijn and others who sought and fought for justice in establishing the movements of Praxis. For Albert, his life work involved the role of Praxis and the struggle against apartheid in his home country.

More than ever, we need a strong sense of Praxis. If one has any doubts, watch the evening news.

I recommend reading two more books by Nolan, Jesus Today: A Spirituality of Radical Freedom in 2006 and Hope in an Age of Despair: And Other Talks and Writings in 2009.

And as you read these, reflect on the words of Maximus the Confessor: “Theology without action is the theology of demons.”

Richard Pütz

Remembering Fr Ted Mitchinson

Today is the 30th anniversary of the death of English priest, Fr Ted Mitchinson, YCW chaplain in England and South Africa, and translator of Cardijn’s writings.

Born in Brockley, South London, in 1913, Edward Mitchinson was educated at the junior seminary at Mark Cross, before studying for the priesthood at the Propaganda College in Rome. Ordained in 1938, for the Southwark archdiocese, he first served as assistant priest in Gravesend for four years.

In 1942, he was appointed as YCW chaplain, which he held for 16 years, encouraging the movement during a crucial part of its development. He then became parish priest at St Mary Magdalen’s, Wandsworth in 1958, although retained his YCW links as diocesan chaplain.

He was the national chaplain of the English YCW from 1941 to 1958.

During the 1960s and 1970s, he worked with the YCW South Africa. Following a visit to South Africa, he was granted leave to serve there from 1970, undertaking a series of posts in the Cape and Natal.

Returning to the United Kingdom in 1982, he retired as chaplain to St Anne’s Court in West Wickham, and then St Mary’s, Worthing, in 1988.

He translated Marguerite Fievez and Jacques Meert’s biography, Cardijn, Life and Times into English.

He died on 9 April 1993 aged 79 following a heart attack.

Below we present his preface to Cardijn’s Vatican II book, Laymen (Laypeople) into Action

Stefan Gigacz

Preface to Laymen into Action

A significant number of priests, and bishops too, in practically every country, would rate Mgr. Joseph Cardijn as the biggest single human influence on their pastoral ideas and attitudes.

Layfolk would go further. Like the multitudes in St. John’s vision, a number past all counting from every race and tongue would gratefully ascribe their Christian way of life, their very belonging to the Church, their life-long Christian commitment, to Cardijn and the movement he founded. Setting out to found one movement, he has inspired a hundred others in the Church and beyond it. The Young Christian Worker movement was the unswerving object of his zeal; the whole lay apostolate has benefited from his vision. If his approach and method were unique, their very terms have now become the accepted parlance of the modern apostolate. Today the laity are moving into their own in the Church. Cardijn has contributed perhaps more than any other priest to this.

Joseph Cardijn was born into a Flemish working family on 18 November, 1882. In 1912, when he was curate in a suburb of Brussels, he formed the first group of young workers in a movement which has since developed world-wide proportions: Cardijn’s answer to the problem of de-christianization is to insert the whole of Christianity into the whole of life. Fifty years of commitment to this end, through a practical programme of apostolate, have made Cardijn a precursor of Pope John’s aggiornamento. It is not difficult to see his influence on all the most profound stirrings in the Church of the last forty years, and in the changes which Vatican II is bringing about.

If I may quote from an article which puts this very neatly: ‘Mgr. Cardijn has never claimed to be a theologian. But it is difficult to exaggerate the extent to which he has stimulated theological reflection…

Since the war, the treatise on the Church has been enriched with a most important chapter, hitherto unsuspected, on the theology of the laity, and the whole world knows how much this owes to the Young Christian Worker movement… Cardijn’s repeated insistence on the special and irreplaceable role of the laity, on the need for an organized lay apostolate, may seem trite to many of today’s young theologians.

We must not forget that it is largely thanks to him that they have become truisms, for they express an intuition which he was one of the first to perceive with intensity…. Did people, before him, talk of the theology of work? … His is the credit for realizing, before it was generally accepted, and for repeating endlessly, that man is an incarnate being, that we are not here to save souls, but to lead men to God, body and soul, together with their whole environment…. It was another of his innovations to dare to think in terms of the mass, without ever forgetting that the mass is made up of persons, who must be treated as free individuals, with respect for their personalities…. The present thought and the present life of the Church would not be what they are and would not have the vitality that all agree that they do have, if we had not profited from his perception and prophetic dynamic energy.’1

A course of Cardijn’s dialectic would be the best remedy for the fears and hesitations with which some of the Council’s changes have been received. The Church is not frozen, fixed and paralytic; she is the living, growing, transforming body of Christ. The good and desirable change is the one that is the fruit of a dialectic between reality and faith, between how things really are and how God wants them to be. The Church’s life must be a continued incarnation, a Christian transformation of reality, a Christian revolution of hearts and lives. It is this dialectic method of Cardijn’s which Pope John, in Mater and Magistra, took up and proposed to all as the best method of socio-religious education and apostolate.

This is, and looks like remaining, the only book Cardijn has written. That he should have written it at all, and then at the age of eighty-two, is something of a surprise, for his characteristic means of communication has always been the personal interview, a spoken meditation from the altar, round the table at meetings and what he would term his ‘fire-works’ from the rally platform. A fine selection of his lectures and addresses has been published in English in Challenge to Action; the contents of that book were originally addressed to Young Christian Worker audiences. This present book is addressed to all interested in the lay and social apostolate.

If I may add a personal impression, I see Cardijn as a small, neat, cassocked figure, with a rather puckish face, drawn in alternate lines of thoughtful concentration, which tell of the obsession of his life, and of a smile that accompanies his message of Christ’s love for the poorest, the most lowly of the workers. The short crew cut of hair, now white, adds to the dynamic, rather electric quality of his appearance.

At a study week or international conference, when he turns round before Mass and gives a spoken meditation, eyes closed as he slowly suggests thoughts for reflection, you know that he has been up at least an hour beforehand in prayer. He will pour out his heart for an hour at a time with fervent oratory on the human and divine dignity of young workers, and the glory of their mission, but in private life and conversation he will waste no single or idle word. At lunch-time during conferences, while the sweet is being served, he will slip quietly away, and by the time we are getting up from coffee, Cardijn has had his rest and is back at work at his desk. Whatever the occasion, he retires at night as soon as : politeness permits, for prayer and rest in preparation for the Lord’s work on the morrow. Such personal discipline is part of the secret of his unflagging zeal and generous readiness to undertake and carry through one vast missionary journey after another.

When this journeying is at an end, those who cannot hear him will be grateful for this book, through which this sound will go forth into all the earth and his words unto the ends of the whole world’.

Edward Mitchinson

24 March, 1964.


1Roger Aubert, in Hommage a Cardijn, Brussels, 1963.


Joseph Cardijn, Laymen into Action, YCW Melbourne, 1964, 175p. at pages xi – xiv.

Ted Mitchinson, Preface, Laymen into Action (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Ted Mitchinson (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

A Jocist Easter

Yesterday, we saw how Cardijn and the early YCW leaders worked to commemorate Christ’s death on Good Friday in factories, offices and workplaces across Belgium

Today, we recall Cardijn’s vision of Easter communion, not individually but collectively with a young workers’ breakfast to honour the Resurrection of Jesus and pray for the “Resurrection” of young workers and the whole working class.

Stefan Gigacz

Easter Jocistes

Today the whole Catholic Church will meet in the greatest cathedrals, as well as in the humblest chapels. To the powerful chords of triumphal organs, to the vibrant accents of hossanahs and hallelujahs, hundreds of millions of people will acclaim the divine Risen One!

Three days ago, he was arrested and sentenced to death. They spat in his face; they slapped him, they tore off his clothes, beat him with rods, crowned him with thorns, dragged him in the mud, then, after a shameful cavalcade through the mocking city, on a desert hill they had him nailed to a cross, hoisted between two assassins; and there, hanging between heaven and earth, after three hours of dreadful agony, he died before the eyes of all the populace who had come there.

And here today, angels had removed the heavy stone from his tomb. His radiant body had shaken death. He appeared alive to his mother, his apostles and his disciples…

So he really is God! He, the humble carpenter of Nazareth, the crucified one of Golgotha, the founder of the doctrine and of the Catholic Church, our Lord Jesus Christ!

And around the large family table which is the communion bench, today all the true children of the Church will celebrate Easter, feed on his divine person, under the guise of a consecrated host, in remembrance of his resurrection!


* *

But it is not only the risen Christ nineteen hundred years ago whom the whole Church acclaims at Easter, it is also and above all the risen Christ, living within us, enabling us to participate in the glory of his resurrection, and it is the certain, glorious and eternal resurrection of all those who believe in Christ and who live by Christ, which the Church proclaims on the feast of Easter.

If He has overcome death, all of His true followers will overcome death. Living in us, now hidden and painful, because of temptations, failures and sufferings, Christ will reveal himself there one day, radiant and triumphant, and will enable us to share eternally in the glorious and blessed life of his risen person.

And it is this certainty, which responds so well to the most irresistible aspirations and the dearest hopes of human nature, that the Church, today, proclaims before all the peoples of the earth: We will rise with the Risen Christ I


* *

And the Catholic Church itself, radiant and conquering, of which we are militant members, must also shine more and more with the victorious Beauty of the risen Christ.

She who meets today in so many churches and in so many countries, must spread ever more widely to all the peoples and all the nations of the world; it must gather in its bosom all those for whom Christ died and rose again; it must, by the beneficent action of its doctrine and its works, shine more and more with the Holiness of its Divine Founder, until it is, in the face of heaven and earth, like an immense Christ who completes in the world the work of the redemption of men!


* *

And we, Jocists. we are also celebrating, today, the Easter of working-class youth; we acclaim his resurrection, ever more radiant and more glorious, by their return en masse to Christ and to the Church.

We acclaim the victory of a working class youth, more beautiful and bigger, which carries within it promises of eternity;

Young workers more sheltered from the dangers of the body and the dangers of the soul;

Young workers more resplendent in physical health, as in spiritual health;

Young workers more radiant with true pride in their human labour and divine mission.

And we believe in the resurrection of young workers, because we believe in the resurrection of Christ, whose seed we wish to sow in the souls of all young workers.


* *

This is why all our Jocists will celebrate Easter, not by an individual communion, each one for himself, lost in the crowd, ignoring one other;

But all members of the same section will unite in a general and solemn communion, with their chaplain celebrating the holy sacrifice of the mass; meeting, if possible, after Mass for a fraternal lunch to wish each other a holy and happy Easter.

And all the sections of each Federation will unite in a holy emulation to make the Easter Bells resound throughout their region and launch a victorious offensive so that soon the young workers of every municipality and parish, gathered in the J.O.C.F. and the J.O.C., will together celebrate the Easter of Christian workers.

And the whole national J.O.C celebrating Easter with the victorious Christ, will soon ensure that in honour of the resurrection of Christ the worker all the bells of the nation will announce the joyful and triumphal Resurrection of young people and the working class by restoring the Kingship of Christ over the whole of society.



La Jeunesse Ouvrière, N° 13, 30 March 1929

Joseph Cardijn, Pâques Jocistes (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)


Dall E

Good Friday in the factory

Today is Good Friday. And so it seems appropriate to reflect on the way that the early Belgian YCW leaders commemorated Christ’s death in their workplaces, factories and offices.

In this extract from a homily delivered at St Therese’s Basilica at Lisieux in France in July 1937, Cardijn tells the story of how those young workers worked to transform their workplaces in order that God’s kingdom might come to those workplaces.

Stefan Gigacz

The Eucharist in the Factory

And so, quite naturally, the young workers who understood the Eucharist wanted to transform their working environment, so that Christ could again become their King there and ensure that justice and charity would reign there.

Ah! the workplace! Do we think often enough of Pope Pius XI’s bitter complaint in Quadragesimo Anno? “Truly the mind shudders at the thought of the grave dangers to which the morals of workers (particularly younger workers) and the modesty of girls and women are exposed in modern factories.”

And the Pope concludes this passage of his Encyclical with this cry of anguish: “Dead matter comes forth from the factory ennobled, while men there are corrupted and degraded. »

Today, the Eucharistic Crusade in the workplace is in the process of removing this stigma. Today there are martyrs in the workplace, because there are Communists in the workplace. Here are young workers, who, despite the suffering of which we have no idea, are transforming this milieu. Today, this pagan environment is being transformed into a sanctuary and a temple. And at the same time they are transforming public opinion in their country.

Back home, in my little country, it is young workers and young workers who have launched these impressive public opinion campaigns against immorality in the workplace, so that this obstacle no longer prevents the working class from returning to Our Lord Jesus Christ.

They have also carried out admirable campaigns which we call Easter campaigns. Ah! it is no longer from the top of the pulpit that the working class is invited to come and celebrate Easter. No. The Church now sends her missionaries and apostles to every workplace.

This year, three million Easter newspapers were distributed at the gates of factories, workshops and offices. Tens of thousands of workers have been invited to return to the communion bench, and thousands of them have answered the call of their brothers and sisters at work.

And to illustrate the effectiveness of the Eucharist in the workplace, what can be said of this extraordinary ceremony of the minute of silence, on Good Friday, at three o’clock?

This year, in more than 3,000 workplaces in Belgium, on Good Friday at three o’clock in the afternoon, the workers, sometimes alone, sometimes in groups, sometimes with all the staff of the workshop or factory, commemorated the death of Christ at Golgotha with a minute of silence and meditation; machines stopped in workplaces, sirens sounded in industrial centres, the machines stopped, all the personnel took their hats off while in the halls of the factories, Jocists sang: “Lord Jesus, you died on the Cross at this moment and so we offer you our work. May your kingdom also come in our factories.”

Joseph Cardijn


Joseph Cardijn, Sermon à la Basilique de Lisieux (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)


Dall E / Stefan Gigacz

Cardijn on the Lay Apostolate: 1935

Published in April 1935 in the Belgian JOC’s chaplains’ magazine, Notes de Pastorale Jociste, this is Cardijn’s first published outline of his conception of a lay apostolate proper to lay people themselves.

As he explains, this specifically lay apostolate differs from that of the priest “as different as the layman is from the priest.”

Moreover, for Cardijn, the role of Catholic Action is precisely to promote this lay apostolate of lay people.

In effect, this is Cardijn’s theological explanation of the basis of the YCW movement and its work.

It is a conception that he will refine and develop for the next 30 years right up to and including particularly at the Second Vatican Council.

This is a seminal article.

Stefan Gigacz

The Lay Apostolate

The better we get to know the living reality of Catholic Action, the more we discover the great resources which the lay apostolate brings to the Church, the better we understand why Pope Pius XI insisted so much on Catholic Action becoming everywhere “the participation of the laity in the apostolate of the hierarchy.”

If we do no more than examine the legal status of Catholic Action, if we are content with an external analysis of a theory, we shall not even suspect the unbelievable renewal that Catholic Action brings to the Church. We shall miss its vast conquests and victories, we shall remain indifferent strangers, if not suspicious critics, in face of the great spiritual and apostolic renaissance which has become especially evident in youth, and which should open up vast prospects to every priest.

Have we given sufficient thought to the apostolate of the laity, have we understood its place in the Church?

There exists in the Church an apostolate which is proper to the laity, which transforms lay life into an apostolic life.

An apostolate proper to the laity. We shall understand what a wealth of new life has been acquired by the Church when we get down to concrete applications, when we see what has actually been done, when we learn astonishment of those humble, hidden, often heroic achievements of those lads and girls who are changing their daily lives into an apostolate of extraordinary faithfulness. Their work becomes a missionary life, their courtships a grand novitiate and a sublime vocation.

When we say: “Without work there can be no host, no wine, no paten, no chalice, no altar, no church, no religion,” we do not merely state a material fact, but also proclaim a great spiritual truth. When we add: “Without Christian homes, there will be no priests, no religious, no missionaries, no apostles,” we do not merely show the apostolic importance of Christian love in marriage, we also reveal to those who are preparing for marriage the apostolic significance of the need for affection and love which is awakening in their young hearts.

The apostolic vision of lay life has provoked a wealth of practical applications. It has given birth to a tremendous spirit of conquest; above all it has proved itself a source of inexhaustible energy in the life of the Church.

Let us never forget that lay life, the reality of lay life in all its aspects, is the fundamental basis, the raw material which first and foremost must be transferred into apostolic material.

The first and immediate apostolate of the layman to the layman is the fundamental basis of Catholic Action.

When we forget this truth we lose our sense of proportion, we pin our faith to arbitrary and artificial forms of training and action which will never have any grip on real, ordinary, daily life, which can never effect the Christian transformation of the real, ordinary, daily environment, or conquer the real mass which lives this ordinary life in this everyday environment.

This lay apostolate, proper to the laity, is different from that of the priestly apostolate; as different as the layman is from the priest.

Let us not look at this difference superficially, otherwise we shall underestimate it, and we shall never understand the enormous enrichment the lay apostolate brings to the Church on account of this very difference.

The priest cannot fulfil this apostolate. It is not fitting to his state or to his life.

The priest’s task is to ensure to the laity the graces necessary for the fulfilment of this lay apostolate. Therein lies his priestly ministry. He gives Christ to the laity, the Person of Christ, the grace of Christ, the doctrine of Christ; he enables the layman to incorporate Christ in his lay life, “mihi vivere Christus est,” so that he may radiate Him in his environment and his state of life. Thus the Mystic Christ becomes a wondrous reality. Christ is truly everywhere, in all His members, in every environment, among every sort and condition of people. The Church is truly present everywhere, its members are thus living the life of Christ, the life of the Mystical Body of Christ. Herein lies her power of the Mystical Body of Christ. Herein lies her power of conquest and penetration.

The lay apostolate is thus complementary to the priestly apostolate. It is complementary because it is different, because it is dependent, because it is auxiliary in the true meaning of the word. It is not auxiliary in the sense of helping the priest, in the sense of helping the priest in his priestly apostolate, as would an altar server or a sacristan, but as a necessary complement of the priestly apostolate, which can only reach its full and final results when the layman has fulfilled his own specific apostolate. Then will the Mass offered up on the altar be prolonged upon all the altars of the world; then will the Gloria and the Sanctus be sung not only by the congregation in Church, but by the whole Christian people—semper et ubique—in the reality of life itself, which will become a prayer, an act of reparation, a thanksgiving; then will all the surroundings of life become temples in which the whole of lay life gives thanks to God.

When we thus consider the lay apostolate in its first and fundamental object, the life proper to the layman, we understand more clearly how this apostolate must be adapted in order to become really gripping and effective. It must be adapted to the life and environment of the layman, to his profession, to the influence he has to exercise, the task he has to fulfil, in order that all these may become truly apostolic.

The need for adaptation may appear less obvious for a more external and secondary type of action. But let us make no mistake; that action will only give real and lasting results if it is engrafted on a vital apostolate, which demands real life. How many apostolates, with noisy and up-to-date methods, have appeared for a time to produce externally dazzling results and have led to bitter disillusionment, because they did not grasp and transform the reality of lay life.

Then we shall be able to see that the lay apostolate and Catholic Action are irreplaceable in the Church. Woe to him who would despise or mock them; he does not understand the mystery of the Church; he does not understand the mystery of the Redemption. The priest cannot and should not replace the layfolk in their apostolic mission; his task is to make them realise it and ensure to them the graces necessary for their state.

When we put together those five primary characteristics of Catholic Action:—

1. An apostolate proper to the laity;

2. An apostolate different from the priestly apostolate;

3. An apostolate complementary to the priestly apostolate;

4. An adapted apostolate;

5. An irreplaceable apostolate;

we can see to what extent this apostolate is necessary to the Church.

This need does not arise from lack of priests in the world, but from the limitations of the priestly apostolate, which itself is not the whole of the Catholic apostolate. It does not only arise from the danger of modern laicism, though the growth of secularism accentuates the need for it. Catholic Action has always been, and always will be, necessary to the Church, on account of her very constitution and divine mission. Its necessity is of divine origin, it is willed by the Divine Founder of the Church.

Thus we can say that the lay apostolate is essential to the Church, and belongs to the very essence of the Church. Layfolk only belong to the Church in so far as they partake in her apostolate. There can be no flock without shepherd, no shepherd without flock. The one is not to be separated from the other, for the whole Mystical Body must be apostolic. The very nature of the Church demands the lay apostolate. Every Concordat signed under Pius XI mentions the liberty of Catholic Action as an essential part of the liberty of the Church.

The very importance of the lay apostolate explains the urgency of its organisation at a time when the whole Church must make a stand against the menace of materialism. Catholic Action is the lay apostolate organised. Organised under the direction of religious authority, which assumes responsibility, so that Catholic Action may be as powerful as possible and may achieve its purpose. Its organisation must be disciplined, living, and adapted under the unifying authority of the hierarchy. And now that life and living conditions are influenced by currents and movements which have more than a mere local appeal, Catholic Action must increasingly be organised on the national plane if it is to get hold of public opinion and establish strong means of training and action.

This organisation of Catholic Action must needs be hierarchic from a twofold point of view. Externally, so to speak, it is entirely dependent on the Pope and the Bishops. Internally, it needs a lay hierarchy to ensure its unity and to organise the activities which give confidence and enthusiasm for all its campaigns and work. In this fashion the sharing of the laity in the apostolate of the hierarchy will grow and become strong in the Church. A disciplined laity—acies ordinata—conscious of its responsibilities, freely, proudly, totally submissive to the Hierarchy, happy to share each according to his work, place and capacities, in the hierarchy’s apostolate, which is that of the Church herself.

So, finally, Catholic Action is the lay apostolate mandated by the hierarchy, in that it derives its power officially and publicly from ecclesiastical authority. Not that every layman in Catholic Action possesses an official mandate; this mandate is given to the organisation, and all the members share in it to some degree. It is above all the task of the leaders and militants to fulfil this mandate, and to enable the ordinary members to understand the mission the Church has given them within their organisation. When a militant has understood this, great results may be expected. One can demand from layfolk living in the world a degree of sanctity and perfection of virtue which is normally found only among religious.

As trainers of the ordinary member, as propagandists and recruiters for their organisation, they are the leaders, the true representatives of Catholic Action. Real lay missionaries, Catholic Action opens out to them a great field of apostolate; without quitting their lay life, or changing their environment, they become the true spokesmen of the Catholic Church. The fruitfulness of their apostolate so far gives promise of still greater progress.

These considerations are bound to arouse enthusiasm for Catholic Action, as much among priests as among laymen. They stress the greatness and the fruitfulness of the priestly apostolate; the priest is truly the father, the inspiration, the mainstay of all apostolates. His priesthood gives to the Church all these apostles who transform it. By means of the whole Church, he transmits grace and the Gospel to the world.

They also show the layfolk their essential place, their magnificent role in the Church. St. Peter calls them a chosen generation, a holy nation, a kingly priesthood. Far from being passive, they have an active part to play in the Church, in the whole world. Hence the immense hopes the Pope has placed in the extension of Catholic Action: and all the chaplains of Catholic Action should be inspired to seek all the strength and light they need to fulfil their educative and supernatural task.

Joseph Cardijn


Joseph Cardijn, The Church and the young worker, Speeches and writings of Canon Joseph Cardijn, Collection Young Worker Library No. 1, Young Christian Workers, London, 1948, 74p. at p. 13-18.

Joseph Cardijn, The lay apostolate (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Paul McGuire, Australian lay apostle

Yesterday being the sesquicentenary (!) of the birth of Marc Sangnier, I’ve had to postpone this Cardijn Reflection on Australian lay apostle, Paul McGuire, who was a Catholic writer and diplomated, who promoted the YCW and Catholic Action through his writings and speeches, particularly in Australia and the USA.

Today is in fact the 120th anniversary of McGuire’s birth in 1903.

Below is a short biography borrowed from the Joseph Cardijn Digital Library. And I’ve also included a direct link to Restoring All Things – A Guide to Catholic Action, the book he co-edited with a founding English YCW chaplain, John Fitzsimons.


Dominic Mary Paul McGuire was born in Peterborough, South Australia on 3 April, 1903, the ninth son of James McGuire, superintendent of local railway traffic, and his wife Mary, née O’Sullivan, a former schoolteacher.

When James was promoted Commissioner of Railways in 1917, the family moved to Adelaide, where Paul attended Christian Brothers’ College, Wakefield Street, from 1914.

He earned pocket money by writing paragraphs for the Bulletin, ‘anything up to five bob or ten bob a week when I was eleven years old’. Aged about 12, he began to have verse accepted and to think of himself as a writer.

His adolescence was marked by recurrent mourning-three brothers in the Australian Imperial Force were killed, a fourth died of wounds, another of consumption; and his only sister Mary Genevieve died shortly after childbirth, with her infant.

At the University of Adelaide from 1923, he read history under Professor George Henderson, whom he admired and credited with confirming that ‘history was not looking back; history was essentially deciding where we are’.

He became Foundation President (1924-25) of the Adelaide University Dramatic Society, Editor (1925) of the university magazine and a debater in the team that met visitors from Oxford.

He left university to work as a journalist. At St Laurence’s Catholic Church, North Adelaide,

On 18 November 1927 he married Frances Margaret Cheadle, whom he had met her at the university while she was launching a research career in biochemistry.

Margaret, a Congregationalist, converted to Catholicism.

They wrote for the Bulletin and ran a literary page for the Catholic weekly, Southern Cross, while Paul taught history and English as a casual lecturer for the Workers’ Educational Association of South Australia.

Next year they left for London, where he became involved with the Catholic Evidence Guild equipped him for ‘Speakers’ Corner’ at Hyde Park.

It is likely that while in Europe that he first came across the emerging JOC or YCW and learned of its founder, Joseph Cardijn, whom he eventually met in 1937 along with Cardijn’s assistant, Fr Robert Kothen.

He came to regard the two of them as “the two sides of the same coin.”

Paul and Margaret returned to Australia in 1933, continuing their social engagement with the formation of the Catholic Guild for Social Studies.

In 1938, along with the English priest and YCW, John Fitzsimons, he published the book “Restoring All Things – A Guide to Catholic Action” (Sheed and Ward, publishers), which also presented an outline of the YCW and Catholic Action. It included articles by noted jocist theologians, the Dominican MD Chenu, Mgr Palémon Glorieux, later the rector of the Catholic University of Lille, France and the Benedictine liturgical reformer, Dom G. Lefebvre OSB, the author of an influential Roman Daily Missal (Missel vespéral romain).

Paul McGuire also helped promote the YCW in the USA, where he published a number of journal articles, and was also a founder of the Christian Life Movement in Chicago.

During the Second World War he served with the Royal Australian Navy and the Allied Intelligence Bureau.

Later he became advisor to the Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conference – London, and Australian Ambassador to Italy, as well as a noted naval historian.

He died in 1978. McGuire’s collection of books relating to maritime topics was given to the State Library by his widow as the nucleus of the Paul McGuire Maritime Collection.


Paul McGuire (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

John Fitzsimons and Paul McGuire, Restoring All Things A Guide to Catholic Action (

Marc Sangnier, founder of the Sillon: 150 years (1873-1950)

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the birth on 3 April 1873 of Marc Sangnier, founder of the French movement of democratic education, Le Sillon (The Furrow).

Almost forgotten now, he was one of the greatest Catholic lay leaders of the 19th and 20th centuries.

His movement’s method of democratic education foreshadowed the see-judge-act of Cardijn and the YCW. Indeed, it’s no exaggeration to characterise the Sillon as the prototype of the YCW and its Specialised Catholic Action counterparts that went viral and global during the first half of the 20th century.

Cardijn himself explicitly recognised his indebtedness to Sangnier and the Sillon, describing the movement in 1921 as “the greatest flourishing of faith and apostolate that France has known since the (French) Revolution.”

“The winds of the air and the birds of the sky carry off this seed and deposit it sometimes far away, in a field where God’s dew fertilises and multiplies it,” he continued, linking the embryonic YCW to the Sillon.

The future Cardinal Gerlier of Lyon also recognised this, telling Sangnier on the occasion of a huge 80,000-person 10th anniversary rally of the French YCW at the Parc des Princes in Paris in 1937:

“Rejoice tonight, Marc, because you are one of the architects of this great marvel that we have just witnessed.”

Upon Sangnier’s death in 1950, the nuncio to France, Archbishop Angelo Roncalli, the future Pope John XXIII, wrote to his widow in a similar vein:

” I heard Marc Sangnier speak for the first time in Rome around 1903 or 1904 at a meeting of Catholic youth. The powerful charisma of his words and his spirit enthralled me. The most vivid memory of my whole youth is of his personality and his political and social activity.”

Today, we too remember the life, work and heritage of Marc Sangnier with this early article describing the beginnings of the movement in the subterranean crypt at Stanislas College, Paris, in the early 1890s.

And if you can, please join me on Tuesday 11 April for an ACI webinar to commemorate this anniversary of a truly “good and faithful worker for Jesus Christ.” (Details below)

Stefan Gigacz

The Crypt at Stanislas College

I. Five years already

It’s been five years already (written on 10 December 1897). We were still kids really. 

The original founders of Le Sillon (The Furrow) magazine were anxiously looking for a manager as none of them had reached the age of majority. We were still in college, all hemmed in by arid exam preparations. The Ecole Polytechnique (Polytechnic School) loomed ahead, a seductive mirage that seemed to flee at our approach. Alas, it was much less entrancing when it finally opened up to our desires and what had once seemed like an oasis metamorphosed into a prison. 

The nagging emptiness of college life soon dawned on us, with nothing to inspire us or to change our lives, nothing but the inanities of a correct, highly regimented life cloistered inside the cold pigeon holes of a conventional good education. From that perspective, it was easy to persuade ourselves of the irremediable folly of human life but with our youthful passion we knew we could not just leave it at that.

A dream of democratic and social Christianity

In any event, the things that we wanted to destroy with one hand, we planned to rebuild with the other. It is true that we wanted to pull up the boring and unhealthy weeds that lay around us, but this was only so we could put down the roots of a genuine “democratic and social Christianity,” the only idea that we regarded as completely genuine and fruitful. 

Thus, we felt an overwhelming need to discuss the dreams that burned inside us. We wanted to get to know each other, to develop a kind of “common soul” that would unify us and tear us away from the vulgarities of a totally bleak material existence without a future. We wanted to prepare ourselves in a kind of fraternal vigil of arms for the great battles that we knew lay ahead. 

We were looking for a sublime and meaningful goal for which we could offer up our boring daily grind that would thus be transfigured and lovingly accepted by us.

The Crypt

Each week we were allowed to meet together in an underground room that we soon re-baptised “The Crypt.” There we talked about everything or even nothing at all, with all our inexperience and perhaps with a certain audacity, but also with the great conviction that we had to do something. But we were not looking for success or glory. We simply wanted to become good and faithful workers for Jesus Christ. That is how the conferences of the Crypt first began. 

Evidently it was all a bit vague and uncertain. But we were almost proud of the fact that we did not have a pre-determined program. We wanted to sincerely look for answers. We also had a firm belief that the manifestations of Christ’s life in the world would evolve just as the world itself was evolving. So it was necessary to not become attached to old-fashioned or worn-out clothes.

Apostolic fever

We were ardent democrats. And when one day we invited a Christian worker from Lille to come and speak to us on the social question we just about carried him aloft in triumph, proud of our audacity, full of faith in a future that, in a moment of youthful enthusiasm, we felt was almost within reach …. 

And so we organised our great events. From time to time we invited a speaker to address us and we certainly learnt from these experiences but we were not ready to accept ready made doctrines from any speaker. We refused to recognise any infallible authority, bar the Church. 

Oh! What apostolic fever! Conversations without end, trying to win disciples to our cause, visiting other classes to launch various initiatives, battling the general attitude of indifference. The dedication of a good number of our friends who made a point of visiting youth clubs in working classes areas each day after their classes. This was in response to an appeal by Father Soulange who had awakened us poor recluses one day to the fact that the “people” were right there beside us and that there was indeed a way to make contact with them.

Our birthplace

For a long time, all this pent-up enthusiasm, energy for the future and dreams of action remained locked up in our small underground Crypt, our much loved birthplace. And I think that for the rest of my life whenever I feel the surge of great ideas within me I will always remember that small room with its long graded benches illuminated by a few electric lights, hidden mysteriously underground. 

This was where we all crowded and jostled together with a feeling that we had a great task to accomplish for which we were preparing amid the shadows… 

I can still hear the far off echo of those young firebrand voices, full of passion and faith. I can still see the much loved figure of the priest who knew how to preserve our freedom and who worked with a totally disinterested ardour to remove any barriers that might have destroyed our initiative. He never sought to impose his own personal views but he did so much to assist our efforts, always with that intelligent delicacy that persuaded us that we alone had done it all ourselves.

Leaving the cradle

All these memories are holding me back and I now need to turn quickly to the beginnings of “The Crypt.”

So many former students returned at each meeting to join their comrades. They brought with them a broad range of new friends from the Ecole Normale, the Ecole Polytechnique and from the Faculties of Letters and Law. The younger collegians welcomed their elders as we met together in that far too narrow hall. At first the newcomers were a little unnerved to enter a college that most had never seen and then descend to the basement. But quickly they felt quite at home once they understood that it was simply a gathering of friends with nothing formal or official about it. 

Alas, it soon became necessary to leave the cradle. It was quite a difficult separation with a genuine sadness at leaving our family “home”. But yet, isn’t it when the fruit is ripe that it falls from the tree so that it can germinate for the future? And so we left our old “Crypt” to the young Stanislas students. Now for the past year we have welcomed our growing number of friends at a room kindly made available by the Cercle de Luxembourg, where despite our wide range of backgrounds we have found ourselves united by a single spirit. We promised those whom we had left that we would never forget them, and that we would return often to visit but with no desire to interfere with their own personal growth by a return to our past. We also invited them to our new meetings. Then, with a little apprehension perhaps but with confidence in spite of everything, we turned to the future.

Paris and the provinces

And the “Crypt” continued to grow. New friends continued to arrive from all corners of Paris and even the provinces. The Crypt made contact with many already existing and similarly oriented groups. Somewhat regretfully, we even found it necessary to create a Committee in order to provide the necessary minimum “body” to go with the “soul” of our group, as we used to say. 

The “Crypt” had at last outgrown its baby clothes. It now had its own newsletter. Our founding members, who no longer required the care of a governess, felt that we did not need to hide ourselves from view any more. We were ready to read and write in broad daylight. 

And now in our meetings there are only two things left from our old “Crypt” – our spirit which had become clearer but which had not changed, and our name, which was such a cherished memory that we wanted to keep it both as a token of our fidelity and a portent for the future. 

II. Impressions

When I think that the fifth year of the Crypt has just ended, I can’t help myself from marvelling at how it kept going when – let’s face it – it had no clear and determined goal, when it never had even the bare bones of an organisation, when no-one worked to found it and that it developed almost through its own efforts… 

These are some of the impressions that come back to me… the intellectual and moral imprisonment, the special study program focused on exam success, being cut off from everything that was alive, the feeling of a painful exile among a group of companions who were too resigned and somewhat unused to freedom… 

Moreover, there was also my own weakness in the midst of such a depressing environment, which hurt even more since I found it impossible to submit myself to the school regime and to suffer in silence… And yet there was a nagging feeling that others also felt like me, were suffering and searching like me. Although we lived side by side, we were like total strangers united only by the useless and sometimes unhealthy bonds of a conventional and totally superficial comradeship. 

From that pell-mell first meeting in the Crypt of our college, however, I remember the students who came from many different classes, not knowing exactly why they had been invited. And we also had the school “censor” in our midst. He did not know exactly what we were going to do, but he stayed confident all the same… 

A common soul

And so quite simply I shared with them all the feelings that I had stored up inside me and they understood. I proposed that we get to know each other, that we love one other, that we create a “common soul” among ourselves and prepare ourselves in a kind of “vigil of arms” to life for the people, for Christ… So it was that we developed the bonds of a friendship of which undoubtedly only new souls like ours could experience the generous embrace. 

Thus the “Crypt” dates from that first meeting. In fact, it could not have had a humbler beginning and it is perhaps worthwhile to recall this when we often tend to think of it as some kind of ambitious foundation. It is also not unimportant to inform our new friends of the humbleness of our original task, limited as it was inside the walls of the college, and to help them appreciate its almost rash audacity since it aimed ultimately to attain, to transfer, to unite all that which was most intimate in the human soul. We demanded the total gift of self to the cause – with no second thoughts – to the cause for which we earnestly desired to be the apostles. 

Certainly, for those of us who experienced the early days of the “Crypt”, there is a kind of charm and comfort in reliving those old memories. Once again we feel those enthusiasms of long ago re-awakening inside us. All these tedious and painful daily obstacles, which separated our ideas from our action, suddenly evaporate under a new light. It seems as it once did that our goal is again within reach. Forgetting for a moment the cruel bitterness of the route and the slow detours on the way, we raise our eyes and perceive the high white peaks that beckon us and whose grave and silent call warms our hearts and hastens our steps.

The real meaning of life

Indeed, how not to pause over such memories? Ultimately, the “Crypt” always remained true to its origins. It was simply a fraternal and spontaneous call to find the real meaning and objective of life, to raise ourselves above the obstacles accumulated from our education, the preconceptions of class and milieu, the multiple forms of vanity and egoism, with the ultimate objective of the liberation of souls?… 

However, this work, which is at once so fundamental and so simple that it causes some to scoff, is so necessary and so universal that our “Crypt” was able to relaunch in the most diverse forms simply because it truly was the “Crypt.” In those friendly recreation time meetings in the barracks of the Ecole Polytechnique we tried to raise ourselves a little bit above the narrow, egotistical and often puerile life that was ours in order to speak openly about the important issues that claimed our attention and our devotion.

They were strange meetings, open to each and everyone, where anyone, whatever their origins, their ideas, their religion, could speak freely simply on the condition of being sincere. And our meeting certainly did not fail to trouble those who were most hostile to novelty in any form, those who were in fact the most antipathetic to our action, and who were no doubt astonished and somewhat disarmed by so much simplicity and good faith.

A leaven within the mass

And it was really the “Crypt” again in those small assemblies reserved this time simply to the believers where, still at the School, a few of us gathered in silence, in the depths of some isolated barracks to pray, read our spiritual books and meditate aloud together in order to strengthen and encourage each other. In the midst of all the moral profanity and religious indifference that seemed to surround us on all sides, we were happy and proud to be able to make heard the divine words of the Master. And far from remaining turned in on itself, we wanted our small group to become like a generous leaven destined to transform the whole inert or hostile mass. 

When addressing their troops, our officer friends try to explain the greatness of a task freely accepted for love of the country. They make the effort to enliven and make each detail of military life come alive by highlighting its patriotic value and moral meaning. They endeavour to convince them of the fundamental equality and democratic brotherhood that in spite of appearances should unite us all in devotion to the same country. In the depths of the silent dormitories they work to vanquish the cold and defiant timidity of the soldiers and to help them to regain consciousness of their dignity as men and citizens. 

And the latter, astonished but confident, slowly begin to understand that their years of service need not be simply an odious drudgery. They slowly re-descend into their own depths where, beneath the artificial bark of preconceptions, grudges, desires and egotisms, they may perhaps discover the pure and good truth which still remains. 

When they work with such determination and love, isn’t this surely the real work of the “Crypt” continued a thousand times more faithfully than when, at our old subterranean Crypt we used to passionately debate the moral role of the officer?…

Study circles and worker groups

In those youth club study circle talks and in the worker groups there was all the more reason for the speaker to discuss than to talk. Yet despite the differences in milieu and occupation between us, we appreciated very quickly the strength of the bonds of brotherhood that united these sons of the same cause.

And we launched appeals to take initiative in the provincial colleges, where our friends battled to convince their young audiences that one cannot act in them without them, and that they must themselves become their own educators. They must not remain like soft wax in the hands of their masters but must become hotbeds of life and action. 

These appeals were not made to simply remain theoretical. In fact, the other day a meeting that we had started ended without us as the young students to whom we spoke took to heart immediately what we had said. As we ourselves had done at an earlier time, they took over with their own personal and spontaneous work, replacing our friends on the stand. And their masters were only too happy to come down and to leave them in all the enthusiasm of their freedom. They were just waiting for the signal to break out the narrow barriers of conventional shyness and to stride generously towards the future…

We made ourselves

And it was in these meetings in modest village halls where we battled to explain to the humblest farmers that the great national task was also their own, that it was necessary that they truly become citizens, that they pick up the courage to understand their rights in order to better appreciate their duties. They were genuinely brotherly meetings in which we felt that we had truly reached the people. We always left with hearts full of hope, feeling uplifted by the naive promises of effort that we saw in their eyes and on their faces. It felt like a kind of viaticum keeping us alive in the struggle. 

I don’t want to make excuses for haphazardly repeating so many personal memories because this is perhaps the best way of showing that we wanted to be something more than useless dreamers. I wanted to express how deeply our spirits were gripped by these ideas, which caused nearly everyone around us to scoff but which harsh realities that could break the wings of chimeras failed to destroy. 

How were we wrong then when we felt the birth and growth in us of the irresistible and evident insight into our future roles? Was it not at least a fact that our interior experience could recognise? 

“In the end, what did the Crypt achieve?” someone ironically asked one of our friends recently.

“What did it achieve?” he responded. “It made us who we are.”

Marc Sangnier, Le Sillon, 1897 

Also in Marc Sangnier, Autrefois, Bloud et Gay, undated (1936?), 298pp. at p. 2 – 29.


The Crypt at Stanislas College (

Read more

Joseph Cardijn, Welcome to Marc Sangnier (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Mgr Angelo Roncalli – Mme Sangnier (

Le Sillon


Marc Sangnier, the Sillon and the YCW, Tuesday 11 April, 2023, 7.30pm Australian Easter time) (11.30am Paris)

Marc Sangnier, the Sillon and the JOC

Gaston Pineau, a priest for workers

Gaston Pineau was born on 2 April, 1911 in Veigné, south of Tours. His father was a saddler. Turbulent and leader of a group of kids but also altar boy, the image of a rowdy youngster has remained with him. At 12, he entered the minor seminary, he wanted to be a priest to go preach in Africa, still agitated, he was once sent back for three weeks! However, at 18, he entered the major seminary.

In 1931-1932, he did his compulsory military service in Villacoublay (near Paris). On 29 June, 1936, at the age of 25, he was ordained a priest, in the midst of a period of labor unrest. He exercised his first ministry as vicar in the parish of the Sacred Heart, in the popular district of La Fuye in Tours, he was also interested in the JOC. Those who knew him at that time describe him as a relaxed priest, “not very ecclesiastical”, riding his bike with his stained cassock!

In 1939 he was mobilised after war broke out then taken prisoner in the Jura in the spring of 1940. He remained prisoner for five years during which he consistently refused to seek a more favorable status as a priest. He preferred to stay with his comrades and asked to be their chaplain.

In the camps, he participated in the resistance, encouraging and facilitating escapes, without escaping himself, aware that his presence was more important than his personal comfort. There too, his spirit of resistance and his indiscipline led to his being sanctioned and transferred ten times from one stalag to another.

He only returned to France at the end of 1945 on one of the last prisoner trains. These years had a profound impact on him and helped to orient his life and his apostolate: “It is there that I met, discovered the man in this that it has better and worse. It is also there that I became aware of the distance which separated the Church from the reality of human life. “

On his return he returned to his post and became chaplain of the JOC, the JOCF and also the Mouvement Populaire de Familles (Popular Families Movement). In 1949, he was the first diocesan chaplain of the ACO (Action Catholique Ouvrière). Very quickly, he moved away from the parish ministry. In 1947 he was appointed prison chaplain.

It was during the same period that he discovered the misery of the victims who had not found a home and who lived in the ruins; that also of ex-prisoners who did not find a home or a job after the war. This extreme misery cannot leave him indifferent.

To accommodate these homeless people he established a dormitory in the attic of the Foyer des Jeunes Travailleurs, rue Bernard Palissy. This was the beginning of what will become the Entr’Aide Ouvrière. At the beginning of the 1950s, it finally led to the Workers’ Mission with the installation of worker priests. Three poles guided his life: a triple loyalty, a triple requirement:

– Concern for the presence of Christian activists in the struggles of the working class, with the JOC-JOCF and the ACO,

– Concern for the poorest and most deprived, with the Entr’Aide Ouvrière (Workers Mutual Aid),

– Concern for a presence of the Church in the working class with the Workers’ Mission.

In addition, in 1958, he was appointed to the function of vicar general and director of works; in 1980, the title of episcopal vicar was given to him; in 1983, he was in charge of religious life in the diocese; and at Easter 1992, he was elevated by John Paul II to the rank of Honorary Prelate of His Holiness. In these different functions, he was able to relate to people from many different backgrounds.

He died on 28 February, 1998.

Dom José Tavora, bishop of the workers and the poor

Dom José Tavora was a Brazilian JOC chaplain, who became known as the “bishop of the workers.” At Vatican II, he worked closely with Cardijn.


Born in Orobó in the north-eastern Brazilian state of Pernambuco on 19 July 1910, Jose Vicente Távora was ordained to the priesthood on 8 May 1934.

“Dom Távora chose the working class from the beginning of his priestly life there in the diocese of Nazaré da Mata, in Pernambuco. For him, the JOC was ‘a sowing of leaders for the future’ within the workers’ movement,” writes Isaias Nascimento, author of a biography entitled “Dom Távora, O Bispo dos Operários” (São Paulo: Paulinas, 2008).

Inspired by the encyclical Rerum Novarum, young Jose Tavora began his involvement in the existing forms of Catholic Action while still a seminarian.

Unsurprisingly, Fr Tavora also became a JOC chaplain and eventually the first national chaplain.

In 1947, he took part in the JOC International Congress in Montreal, Canada as well as in the 1950 International Congress in Brussels and the International Pilgrimage to Rome in 1957.

On 23 June 1954, he was appointed as auxiliary bishop of Rio de Janeiro. In this capacity, he assisted in the establishment of the CNBB – the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops.

On 23 November 1957, he became bishop of Aracaju in the state of Sergipe and he was made archbishop of the same diocese on 30 April 1960.

“My firm position as guardian and preacher of the Gospel does not give me the right to remain silent in the face of social injustices, just as I do not admit the hatred between men and classes. I think that, among the greatest assets that we must defend, are freedom and the human person, and we must do it not by words, but by seeking conditions so that they can assert themselves in an organized and just society,” Dom Távora told the newspaper “A Cruzada”, in the January 2, 1960 edition.

Along with his close friend, Dom Helder Camara, Dom Tavora worked closely with Cardijn during the Second Vatican Council.

In November 1963, he delivered an intervention to the Second Session of the Council that appears to have largely been drafted by Cardijn.

He also coordinated the Pietralata Message from the mass with jocist bishops at St Michael Archangel Church, Cardijn’s cardinal parish, in Rome’s working class Pietralata district.

Dom Tavora was also the founder and first president of Brazil’s Movement of Basic Education (MEB).

He also spoke out against an attempted coup d’état in August 1961.

Following the successful 1964 coup d’état, he was branded as a subversive. His phone was tapped and he was pressured by the military and placed under house arrest.

He suffered a series of heart attacks, dying prematurely at the age of 59 on 3 April 1970.

Dom Tavora was known as the “bishop of the poor and the workers.”


Stefan Gigacz


José Vicente Tavora (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Archbishop José Vicente Távora

Patricia Fachin, Padre dos pobres e bispo dos operários. A história de Dom José Vicente Távora (Revista do Instituto Humanitas Unisinos)

Dom José Vicente Távora: um exemplo de trabalho social no Brasil (Asociaçao Rumos)

Dom Távora: Cem Anos do Bispo dos Operários (Grupo “Minha Terra é SERGIPE”)

Cinquenta anos sem Dom Távora (Blog da Açao Cultura)

Stefan Gigacz, Dom Tavora, a Brazilian ‘bishop of the workers’ (Cardijn Research)

John Paul II on Cardijn

On this day, 31 March, 1979, Pope John Paul II visited the Belgian College in Rome, where he had once been a student. There he met Joseph Cardijn on several occasions as mentioned in the above video.

And in 1985, while on a pastoral visit to Belgium, he also visited Cardijn’s tomb in the Basilica of Our Lady at Laeken.

Here is the speech he delivered on that occasion.

Stefan Gigacz




Laeken (Belgium)

Sunday, May 19, 1985

Dear brothers and sisters.

I am very happy to meet you here, near the tomb of Cardinal Joseph Cardijn. The Church has not ceased to venerate this extraordinary priest, with a rich and ardent personality, this illustrious apostle of modern times, whom Paul VI appointed a member of the College of Cardinals. He was animated by a deep sense of the Church and a great love for the workers, who wanted to see the Church enter, dwell and act fully. It was based on the Gospel and on the social doctrine of the Church. In his missionary zeal, he had profound insights into the role of the laity and a remarkable pedagogy. I myself was happy to meet him and to benefit from his testimony, from his advice. Christian associations and workers’ movements throughout the world can consider him their father; but you have an even greater claim to this.

Not being able to deal here with all the aspects of this apostolate, and not even with the social question – other meetings are planned for this in Belgium – I would like to return to some intuitions of the Father Cardijn, to outline the method and the spirit that must guide your movement today Catholic worker.

1. What most impressed in Cardijn’s personality was his great love for the workers and their families. He himself was born of very modest parents and, while still very young, he had been struck by the spectacle of his companions who entered en masse without any preparation in the yards and factories, with working conditions often exhausting on the human level and harmful to their religious life. As vicar, here in Laeken, he sought, encouraged and brought together these young men and women workers, often illiterate and powerless to get out of their situation. He immediately gave them his trust; he considered them capable, with an adequate formation, of being the apostles of their brothers and the willing leaders of the groups that were being formed.

2. I refer to the importance that Cardijn has recognized in the apostolate of the laity, young and old: he wanted to make them more aware of their dignity as children of God, of their specific vocation as baptized, of their responsibilities in the Church and in the world. In this sense, he was a forerunner of Vatican II which spoke so well of the common priesthood of the faithful. His original and courageous intuition consisted in wanting the evangelization of the working-class youth to be the work of young workers in total solidarity with their fellow workers.

He also hoped that the workers would have their own workers’ organizations, autonomous and free, in order to make their voices heard and exercise their constructive influence on the whole of society. It is a point on which I insisted in the Laborem exercens (John Paul II, Laborem exercens , 8). It is necessary to note here that Father Cardijn did it in the best way, since he remained authentically a priest, an uncompromising witness of Christ and his Gospel among the laity.

3. The whole world can be grateful to Cardijn for the pedagogy he has put in place, in the form of the famous trilogy: “Seeing, judging, acting” which has become familiar to many militants. In fact, it presupposed listening to the words of the Lord, attention to the gestures of Jesus, an assimilation of the message of the Gospel and of the Church.

Subsequently, it involved a concrete and methodical look, one could say, on the unraveling of life, on the experience of the workers, with its aspects of shadow and light, a judgment on the obstacles to the realization of the plan of God, who wants everyone to dignity as children of God. Finally, he sought to implement a joint action capable of remedying it in concrete situations.

This method – which combines in a mutual interaction the deepening of faith and generous commitment – retains its value in the current Christian workers’ movement.

4. Cardijn saw workers facing very difficult social problems within their nation. He stressed the collective and cultural aspect of these problems. But he soon understood the international dimension of the social question, which is more easily seen today (cf. Ibid. , 2). He anticipated the labor problems posed by advanced industrialization, the imbalances caused by underdevelopment and world hunger, threats of war, international cooperation and peace building. He worked for solidarity, universal brotherhood.

But in all this he maintained the conviction that only the Gospel can be, in the world of workers who welcome it, the foundation of the true ethics of their dignity. He drew from the main social documents of the papal magisterium the lines of thought and action capable of guiding him with certainty: he authentically updated the social doctrine of the Church. If necessary, he warned his followers against the materialistic and atheistic ideologies that have illegally monopolized the struggle for social justice by impoverishing it of the essential values ​​for man and society.

In Laborem exercens (John Paul II, Laborem exercens , 13) I also denounced the serious errors of practical materialism, of “economism” and of theoretical materialism, which subordinate what is spiritual and personal, what is human, to material reality. And to the workers of France, in Saint-Denis, I asked the question: “In what way was the struggle for justice in the world linked to the program of radical denial of God?” (John Paul II, Allocutio ad opifices Galliae , May 31, 1980 : Teachings of John Paul II , III / 1 [1980] 1562s.).

We therefore thank the Lord for having given us in Cardijn an apostle who has done so much to give a Christian presence in the world of work, capable of awakening or reviving the Christian faith in the heart of the working masses, and of giving birth to a solidarity of evangelical inspiration , who has been so concerned about helping them to live the values ​​of the family. You have inherited it, in a way, and I am delighted with the willing commitment of several tens of thousands of local members and leaders within your movement.

5. I have listened with the utmost attention to the presentation of your reports. With regard to the former, I am very sensitive to the miseries that are found today in the workers’ world of Belgium, and which, moreover, join those of many other countries. They affect unemployed young people and all the unemployed, immigrants, families, the marginalized, the new poor. You also note the risks of a “dual” society, such as you call it, half of whose members would be assisted; feel the threat of a national or international economy that would only aim at profit; that of a technology incapable of truly freeing man; the lack of global solidarity in the face of the aggravation of misery and hunger; of a mad and suicidal arms race.

Yes, I encourage you to look at the world around you with the gaze of Heavenly Father. You share God’s mercy when you think of the word of the scriptures: “I have observed the misery of my people in Egypt and I have heard his cry. . . in fact I know his sufferings. I went down to free him from the hand of Egypt and to get him out of this country to a beautiful and spacious country, to a country where milk and honey flows “( Ex 3, 7-8).

We find an echo of this solidarity with the weakest in the vigorous words of your president, who express your opposition to injustice and who are equivalent to saying: No to the unemployment scandal that deprives the workers of their main right: the right for everyone to earn daily bread through work. This situation affects them in their income and above all in their human dignity. No to all totalitarianisms, be they those of states, money powers or ideologies. No to racism and xenophobia, including their insidious forms which prevent recognition of the cultural and religious specificities of immigrant workers and political refugees. No to those solutions to the crisis that would increase inequalities in Belgium and among peoples.

6. In the same way, it is from the book of the word of God that you want to draw from the spirit that allows you to arouse a community life, a truly supportive world, respectful of the dignity of all men, concerned about better achieving the universal destination of earthly goods. You are trying to renew the mentalities and structures of your society in this direction. You make God’s plan for the world your own when you remember the words of the Acts of the apostles: “The multitude of those who had come to the faith had one heart and one soul. . . No one among them was in need “( Acts 4:32 . 34). “They were assiduous in listening to the teaching of the apostles and in fraternal union, in the fraction of bread and in prayer” ( Ac2, 42). We feel an echo of this ideal in the strong words of your president. He summarized your project of society as follows, based on the three fundamental values ​​of solidarity, justice and participation.

Solidarity, the key word of workers’ history, is also, in modern language, an “evangelical” word. It is together that we must build the world: together, between the workers and the unemployed, immigrants and Belgians, men and women, young people and adults, together up to the international dimension (John Paul II, Allocutio ad eos qui LXVIII conventui Conferentiae ab omnibus nationibus de humano labore interfuere habita , 5, 15 June 1982 : Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II , V / 2 [1982] 2255).

This solidarity which accepts the priority of the most needy and the law of sharing as a need for love, must extend from neighbor to neighbor, so that the mechanisms of domination that crush men are fought. Needless to say, this solidarity must never be a closure to dialogue or collaboration with others, with other social groups not included in your movements (cf. Laborem exercens , 8).

I have just talked about the international dimension of solidarity. In the Third World, what is at stake is no longer the imbalances of our consumer society, but the fact of living, of surviving. It is therefore necessary to have a very broad view of all the problems. Too closed solidarity models are not enough.

Justice: the prophets and Jesus himself proclaimed it: hitting man in his rights means hitting God. In this perspective, you ensure that participation in the growth of the social good is safeguarded for the workers, the right to fair wages, to the safety of people and their families. It is also right to review the distribution of income, to check speculative rents that do not come from work. But the distribution of material goods is not the only one involved. There are other human rights that suffer violence. And not only human rights, but the rights of the family, the rights of nations. Man does not live by bread alone; he is hungry, sometimes even more, for education, truth, freedom, including religious freedom.

Participation: the dignity of man passes, of course, through having, but goes far beyond. Being men in the eyes of God means being able to create and create with others. Contemporary society must give space to a new type of economy and to a transformation of the enterprise so that the worker “at the same time knows how to work ” on his own ” “, both in a system of private ownership of the means of production and in a property collective (cf. John Paul II, Laborem exercens, 14-15). You therefore seek to prepare a new society, not only through the defense and application of these three principles in the workers’ world, but also by operating in a broader sense for peace, for the restoration and conservation of the natural environment, for a judicious use of leisure time made possible by technological innovations for the establishment of autonomous workers’ movements in Third World countries.

7. Thanks be to God, the terms solidarity, justice, participation are dear to all our contemporaries, and many of your brothers and sisters in the working world, even without sharing the Christian faith, also try to work in this sense, both in a personal capacity, both within other workers’ organizations. For you, it is important that your movement always draw inspiration from a Christian conception of things, from an ecclesial sense. Here is your originality. It must remain manifest: it is a testimony in favor of faith and it also allows us to render the best service to the working world and to society as a whole.

Of course, as your president pointed out, faith does not give you precise technical solutions, strategies of action. However Christian inspiration is not a vain word, a vague ideal. Based on the attitude of Christ, on the social doctrine of the Church, it takes into account a certain number of principles concerning the dignity of the person, the sense of work, which I need not remind you of; it gives a more demanding, broad and profound content to solidarity, justice, participation, the human and fraternal character of the society to be built, and it is here that the Church comes to your aid with her indications. This already has influence on the level of the analysis of social relationships, of the way of looking at others: a scruple of lucidity, of truth, must always prevail

It also influences the choice of the means adopted to change society. There is a noble struggle to be waged for social justice. It is not possible to separate the reality of human work from this justice and this struggle, which always take on new faces according to social situations and systems. But the world of human work must be based above all on moral strength: it must be the world of love and edification, not the world of hatred and destruction. Christ does not cease to bless those who hunger and thirst for justice (cf. Mt 5: 6); but this hunger for justice, this drive to fight are not and cannot be hatred nor a source of hatred in the world.

To maintain our Christian inspiration, we re-read the Gospel incessantly, like Cardijn, to lead an ever new struggle against what enslaves man. We study the teaching of the Church, like Cardijn, who cared about this fidelity to the magisterium. Let us also entrust ourselves to the grace of Christ, to free man from all evil, let us support ourselves with prayer that purifies, gives breath to our intentions. It is in this sense, I think, that you spoke of “struggle” and “contemplation”.

8. The purpose of your movement is to make the world more conform to God’s plan for man, in his realities and in his structures. Furthermore, you cannot neglect to favor an explicit encounter of your brothers with Jesus Christ, a recognition of his message, of his person, of the full salvation that he brings us, and therefore an adherence to the Church, sign and instrument of salvation. Never detach yourselves from the Church, of which you are a member, and in which your friends must have all their places, with their concerns as workers. It is too little to say that the Church is at your side to defend your dignity: it grows and takes root thanks to you, in you. Through you, the one that in the Laborem exercens (John Paul II, Laborem exercens, 24-27) I called “spirituality of work”, it must take shape in the world of workers. Let us not forget the message of Father Cardijn: “Our religious responsibilities are our highest, most decisive responsibilities. They give our person, our life, our work their highest and most sacred meaning and meaning. They make us participate down here in the life, dignity, work of God. Far from being in contrast with our human, worker, family, social, economic and cultural responsibilities, they strengthen and consecrate them by giving them a source, a perspective of universality and eternity “(April 2, 1952).

9. This attitude is eloquently expressed in the structure of our Father which is the theme of our pastoral visit. After the solemn invocation to our Father, we express with the Lord Jesus three wishes to testify that we wholeheartedly desire the coming of the kingdom of God. Above all we ask that men open themselves to the will of God and submit to the his designs. It is precisely the kingdom of God which is the object of our Christian prayer and action.

Subsequently, four questions follow: we think of our human needs – of bread, of forgiveness, of liberation from temptation and evil – and we pray to the Heavenly Father for help and support from him.

Even when we ask for bread for all men, we remain aware that God himself remains at the center of our prayer, since it is ultimately he who gives all that is good. Bread in the hands of men is a given bread. God created the earth and entrusted it to man. Through work, man must “dominate” the earth (cf. John Paul II, Laborem exercens, 4. 6). He must make the gift of the earth available to all. It must ensure that the gift of creation can bear fruit “thirty, sixty and a hundred times as much”, for all without distinction. He must “break and distribute” what has been given to him and thus respect the universal destination of all goods. God is and remains the owner of the bread. And the men he created must be in the most honest way those who multiply and distribute good bread.

When we pray for our daily bread, we ask God to help us in carrying out our mission, together with this bread. Bread is here the term that summarizes all that is necessary for the existence of the adult man and all that man needs to increase his humanity in the context of a rapidly evolving society.

When we pray for the bread of all without distinction, we pray for a growing awareness of responsibility and for greater creativity: creativity, so that through the work of all, bread for all is multiplied; creativity also for the purpose of distribution and fair redistribution of the fruits of labor.

10. Dear representatives of the Christian workers’ movement, in this solemn moment full of joy we can give thanks. Thanks to this movement that has grown through the commitment of many known and unknown pioneers of the past; thanks to everyone, members, militants and leaders, who are at the service of the workers today. The Church thanks you. As Pastor of the universal Church, I thank you, and, according to the wishes and guidelines that I have just recalled before you, I wholeheartedly bless your people, your families, your movement.

(Google Translation from Italian)


John Paul II, Address at the tomb of Cardijn (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Read more

Memories from Belgian College, first residence of Karol Wojtyla in Rome (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library/Rome Reports/YouTube)

Homily of His Holiness Pope John Paul II at the Pontifical Belgian College (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)


Government of Poland / Wikipedia /  Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Poland

Finest example of the Church’s apostolate

Today I’d like to share a 1943, speech on behalf of the Australian bishops by Melbourne Co-adjutor Archbishop Justin D. Simonds.

As Archbishop Simonds notes, he had first encountered the early YCW movement while studying at Louvain (Leuven) during the late 1920s. He had thus witnessed the astronomical rise of the movement and the development of its Specialised Catholic Action counterparts, including the YCS, following the YCW’s official endorsement by Pope Pius XI in March 1925.

Given his evident enthusiasm for Cardijn’s movement, I’ve often wondered what the young Fr Simonds did once he returned to Australia, where he became a lecturer at the Springwood seminary before being appointed as archbishop of Hobart in 1937.

No doubt he promoted the movement among the seminarians of NSW as did Jesuit Fr Charlie Mayne at the Corpus Christi seminary in Victoria.

And what did he do in Tasmania once he arrived there?

One indication perhaps is the endorsement of Catholic Action by the Australian Plenary Council of 1937:

89. They are also to make every effort according to the norms established by the Holy See itself, to promote the Catholic Action recommended by the Supreme Pontiffs as the primary means for establishing and defending the Catholic religion in society.

643. It is absolutely desirable that young people in colleges or middle schools be diligently informed by the principles of Catholic action. Accordingly, we want to ensure that during the year special instructions are given, in which, in a clear sense of the Catholic action being proposed, students are taught the necessity of such an action and practical means to cooperate with the clergy for the salvation of souls.

Other indications appear in the Catholic paper of the Hobart Archdiocese, which records that Simonds had introduced a policy of promoting Catholic Action in the diocese on 8 September 1938, the birthday of Our Lady.

In any event, Simonds personal commitment to the Cardijn vision is clear from the beginning and even more so in this speech making the YCW the Church’s official movement for young workers in Australia. Which also raises another question: Has the Australian Church ever withdrawn that status?

Stefan Gigacz

Young Christian Workers



Episcopal Chairman, Most Rev. J. Simonds, D.D.


Y.C.W. Chaplains

on the Policy of the Movement in Australia

His Grace Archbishop Simonds, who was lately appointed episcopal chairman of the Young Christian Workers’ Movement, made an address recently to nearly fifty YC.W. chaplains and other clergy interested in this branch of Catholic Action. He spoke of the movement and its problems, and the Papal desires in its regard, from an intimate knowledge, since he had had an opportunity of observing the beginning of the J.O.C. in Belgium under the auspices of the famous Canon Cardijn.

After thanking Fr. Lombard for organising such an impressive gathering of priests interested in the Apostolate of Youth, Archbishop Simonds said that it was not his original intention to make a formal address. However, the presence of so many enthusiastic young priests gave him an opportunity, as the newly-appointed Episcopal Chairman, to outline some points of policy which he wished the movement to follow.


“The guiding principle of the Y.C.W.,” said his Grace, “must be an unswerving determination to follow loyally and enthusiastically the directions and advice on Catholic Action that have been given by the Holy See. In the particular form of Catholic Action in which we are engaged, it is fortunate that we have the Belgian and French J.O.C. as a guide, for it is admittedly the finest example of the Church’s apostolate amongst the workers that has yet been evolved. It was pronounced by the late Holy Father a ‘model of Catholic Action.’

In reality, it is more than that; it embodies an ideal which stamps it as the most essentially Christian movement amongst the social organisations of the Church. In Belgium and France, where it readied its highest degree of success with 400,000 members, it has, unhappily, been emasculated or driven underground by Nazi tyranny. But we feel sure that its eclipse is only temporary, and it is gratifying to know that a very vigorous branch of the parent tree flourishes in Canada with a membership already amounting to 40,000 active Young Christian Workers.

It is my sincere hope, and it shall be my ideal, to produce in Australia a movement of Young Christian Workers, organised on similar lines and inspired by the same ideals.


“I happened to be in Belgium during some of the period when the J.O.C. was being organised by its founder, Canon Cardijn, and know something of the problem it was created to solve and the methods it employed with such success. It has been stated on reliable authority that nine-tenths of the Belgian boys and girls, who began their industrial life at the age of fourteen in factories and workshops, abandoned all religious practice, and were lost to the Church within a few months.

The figures seem incredible, but it is admitted by those in close touch with the industrial youth of Belgium that they are not exaggerated. Since most of these children spent from six to eight years in the Catholic schools, the strength of materialistic socialism in Belgian industrial life was recognised as the greatest challenge to the Catholic life of Belgium.

Though the problem in Australia may not be so appalling, yet everyone in touch with youth knows very well that the defections of our Catholic youth in the post-school age reach depressing proportions. The number of boys who have never been to the Sacraments since they left school is far too large, and it is our special apostolate to spiritualise the lives of these spiritual defectives as well as the great mass of unbelieving youth.


“The founder of the J.O.C. was determined that its work should be thorough; that it should cover the whole person of the adolescent with an entire formation— religious, intellectual, social, vocational and moral. The organisation is based on local groups, united into regional federations, which are, in turn, grouped into national federations.

Since the Bishops have appointed me National Chairman of the movement, I propose to carry out their wishes by following the successful plan of Canon Cardijn, aiming at the organisation of parochial, diocesan, regional and national federations of the Australian Y.C.W. The movement must embrace young boys and men from school-leaving age to about twenty-five, for it would be impossible to get the best leaders if the movement were confined to those between fourteen and eighteen years of age.

It will be organised on a parish basis, with small cells for training under a ‘militant’ lay leader or chaplain. For some time in Australia the chief burden of the formation of leaders will be the responsibility of the chaplains, but in due time we shall have an army of militant lay leaders who will be the dynamic force of the movement.


“You have already been given a technique for training the leaders, and have been working on it with a great measure of success hitherto. Some of the chaplains are inclined to question the value of the ‘Gospel Enquiry,’ and think that the leaders could be more effectively trained if the work of their formation were entrusted to the Legion of Mary. I feel bound to make it clear that the Y.C.W. of Australia must follow loyally and with enthusiasm the directions that have been given by the Holy See in the matter of Catholic Action at work. The constitution of Catholic Action has been given to the Church by the Holy Father, and in following out that constitution loyally we may be sure of doing the work of God.

It is fundamental to Catholic Action that it must be controlled by the Bishop, for Catholic Action is a share which the laity receives in the Apostolate of the Bishops. It is the Bishop who is charged with the responsibility of giving an apostolic mandate to a particular lay movement, and of directing the formation of its leaders and its activities. The technique by which the J.O.C. militants have been formed has been so eminently successful, and has been so enthusiastically commended by the Holy Father, that I should be afraid of frustrating the will of the Holy See by allowing any Auxiliary Body, however estimable, to divert its spirit and inspiration into other channels.

In his Encyclical Letters, and also in his private letters to Bishops, Pius XI laid down the constitution and the spirit of Catholic Action; but he gave what was perhaps his most compelling teaching on the matter when he instituted the Liturgical Feast of Christ the King. By the institution of this great Festival he wished to impress on all Catholics their mysterious incorporation into the Mystical Body of Christ, and to recall them to a new loyalty and enthusiasm for Christ their Leader and King. This is precisely the driving force and inspiration of the Y.C.W. movement —an intense loyalty for Christ, their Leader in a pagan world.


“In the spiritual formation of the Y.C.W. leaders we shall not confine ourselves to the ‘Gospel Enquiry,’ which is only a first step towards enthusing the leaders with loyalty to Christ It is a disappointing fact that so few of the Y.CW. members are to be found at Holy Mass during the week days. Perhaps the present disorganisation of family life may largely account for their absence, but our Catholic youth must be deeply impressed with their membership in the Mystical Body of Christ and be taught to realise their active participation in the sacramental life of the Church and its worship.

Pope Pius X once said that the source of a truly Christian spirit is to be found in active participation in the Holy Mysteries and the Church’s prayers.’ Pope Pius XI repeated his predecessor’s words with even greater insistence. In obedience to these directions from the Popes, the J.O.C. devoted several years to an attempt to bring the workers into ultimate contact with the great mysteries of Christ as they are lived each year in the cycle of the Church’s feasts.

Beginning with Baptism, the militants set out with the determination of impressing on etch member, and prospective member, the great truth that by baptism man is born to a life that is divine, and incorporated into membership of the Mystical Body of Christ and the communion of saints. Mass renewal of baptismal vows, sometimes made in the presence of socialist workers, created a deep impression of their solidarity in Christ.

It was no uncommon sight to see a group of socialist workers standing round a baptismal font, whilst a J.O.C. enthusiaist explained to them the significance of the incomparable rite which was being enacted there, and the nature of the citizenship conferred. A whole year was devoted to an intensive campaign on behalf of the sacramental life conferred by each sacrament, and the year devoted to Christian marriage made a most profound impression upon the members.


“Side by side with the spiritual formation, proceeds the technique of enquiry and contact. The method used is the old scholastic one of ‘observation, judgment, and action,’ and hence it would be rash to desire to substitute any other. The leader questions the young workers to draw out their observations on the moral and material conditions in their homes, places of work, and general environment. With the help of the chaplain all then try to reach a sound, conclusive judgment on these conditions, and, whenever it is found necessary, a constructive course of action is decided upon and carried out.

“I hope that in the near future we shall have a National Conference of priests interested in the Y.C.W., and that we shall be able to organise in Australia a National Movement of Young Christian Workers with a spirit and a technique similar to the parent body. I appeal to you for loyal co-operation in carrying out this plan, no matter what may be your predilection for a particular ideal of training. With the enthusiastic and loyal co-operation of the priests there is no reason why the grace of the Holy Spirit should not succeed in developing in Australia a Y.C.W. like the parent body, which merited from Pope Pius XI these stirring words:—

“’You are the glory of Jesus Christ! Your action is the highest form of Catholic Action in the Church!’”

National Headquarters, Y.CW.: 379 Collins St., Melbourne.

The Advocate Press, 143-151 a’Beckett St., Melb.


Justin Simonds, To Y.C.W. Chaplains on the Policy of the Movement in Australia (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Justin Simonds (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Cardijn, promoter of democracy

One aspect of Cardijn’s personality that is often overlooked is his commitment to the promotion of democracy based on what he called “democratic virtue.”

How to achieve this? Through education and organisation.

In this he mirrored the work of Marc Sangnier’s French movement, Le Sillon (The Furrow), which had so inspired Cardijn as a seminarian.

Indeed, the Sillon had developed its own definition of democracy as the social system that “maximised the conscience/consciousness and responsibility” of each citizen.

In this article written in June 1919 — just months after the end of World War I – for the launch issue of a new Belgian magazine called “Le démocrat” (The Democrat), a title clearly inspired by the Sillon’s own daily newspaper, La démocratie (Democracy), Cardijn explains his conception of democracy based on education for democratic virtue.

For Christian workers – Le Démocrate

We have just finished reading the first edition of Le Démocrate (The Democrat). Every friend of Christian democracy will rejoice that we have our own newspaper at last. In it, we loyally and passionately defend our doctrine, our organisation and our program.

OUR DOCTRINE is based on the notion that democracy is fundamentally a question of education and organisation. As long as the great principles of justice, fraternity, responsibility, competence, discipline and authority fail to penetrate our customs and morals, and fail to inspire our institutions and the exercise of power, democracy will exist only in name.

Auction-style acrobatics will lead to a battle of wills. General well-being needs to take priority over individual interest. Free and cordial cooperation must become the basis of all activity.

Only in this way will we manage to avoid demagogic decline and succeed in promoting “social uplifting.”

For us as Christians, truth is found in the Gospel and the doctrine of the Church. This means making it known and adapting it in increasingly concrete terms to the current economic and social conditions that we aim to achieve.

Our trade union, economic, social and educational ORGANISATIONS are like the apple of our eye.

The Right of Association is the best antidote to statism, bureaucracy, incompetency and political exclusivity. Any kind of attack on the right of association, whether practised by violence or through legal means, amounts to a betrayal of democracy.

Trade union freedom, freedom of opinion, conscience and teaching are the only guarantees of a healthy and life-giving public atmosphere. Without this, we will languish in oppression and slavery.

OUR PROGRAM. In our ruined country, the first thing we are aiming for is “reconstruction.” In line with this, we are prepared to make every possible concession to promote collaboration and unity among all patriots.

Tolerance and confidence are democratic virtues. To intensify reconstruction, it will be necessary for the working masses to become more directly involved in production.

While working for the transformation of our economic and political regime, we urgently desire to correct employee abuse by gaining recognition for the vital rights of employees, including minimum salary, maximum working hours and freedom of association.

The housing issue is as urgent as the need for a labour contract.”


Joseph Cardijn, For Christian Workers – Le démocrat (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Stefan Gigacz

Victor Salandini, the “tortilla priest”

Fr Victor P. Salandini was best known as a friend and collaborator of Cesar Chavez and an advocate of the California farm laborers’ cause but he was also a YCW chaplain in the San Diego diocese. He became known as the ‘tortilla priest’ because he used Mexican style cornbread to celebrate the Eucharist leading to his suspension by his bishop.

The only son of a farmer, Victor Paul Salandini was born August 12, 1927 in Escondido, California. From age twelve until his 1952 ordination as a Catholic priest, Salandini spent every summer working as a laborer in the fields. His first appointment as curate (1952-1954) to the Rev. Leo L. Davis of the Immaculate Conception Church, a Mexican American parish in San Diego, allowed him the opportunity to bring his personal experience as a field worker into the forefront of his ministry’s concern. In 1953 Fr Davis founded the United States’ first Cardijn Center, a predominantly lay organization dedicated to the social doctrine of the Church. Fr Salandini headed a Cardijn Center sub-group, the Young Christian Workers, whose aim was “to restore Christian dignity to the world of work.” He later wrote that “the Cardijn Center has given my priesthood meaning.”

In 1957 he was chosen to attend the International YCW Pilgrimage and International Council in Rome.

The Diocese of San Diego, as well as his parishioners, praised Salandini’s efforts. As an assistant pastor (1954-1957) to two San Diego Mexican American parishes and as Pastor (1957-1962) of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, El Centro, California, Fr Salandini worked to develop Christian leadership in young men. In a rural Mexican American parish this concern soon fed into a ministry supporting the migrant laborer. From 1957 to 1962 Fr Salandini was chaplain to 6,000 braceros (migrant workers) in the Imperial Valley.

In addition to his religious duties, he tried to improve conditions in the migrant camps by showing weekly films and introducing other social activities; he also devised an effective system to safeguard the money which hundreds of workers sent their families in Mexico.

Church officials, however, were not pleased with his involvement and, according to Salandini, he was “silenced by the Diocese which felt that Church intervention at that time was not prudent.” Fr Salandini was transferred to high-school teaching duties within San Diego.

While in San Diego, he completed his B.A. degree at San Diego City College (1962). He went on to receive an M.A. degree from St. Louis University (1965), writing a thesis entitled: “An Objective Evaluation of the Labor Disputes in the Lettuce Industry in Imperial Valley, California, during January-March 1961.”

In 1964 the Diocese allowed Fr Salandini to resume work as an assistant parish priest at Our Lady of Mount Carmel, a Mexican American parish in the rural border community of San Ysidro, California.

Later he completed his Ph.D. program in labor economics at Catholic University, Washington, D.C..

Upon his return to the San Diego area, Fr Salandini, along with Cesar Chavez, the Rev. Wayne C. Hartmire (Director of the California Council of Churches Migrant Ministry) and eight striking grape-workers, was chained, jailed and tried for trespassing on DiGiorgio Corporation property after attempting to claim the strikers’ confiscated goods.

After receiving his Ph.D. in 1969, Fr Salandini was increasingly recognized as an authority on the California farm labor question. From 1969 to 1971, as the Research Director of the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee, he travelled across the United States and Canada to lecture and inform the public.

Fr Salandini continued to pursue his more controversial labor activities as well, stating he was “merely following papal social doctrine that a priest be concerned with the needs of the poor.”

In 1965 be began serving as a part-time chaplain for Chavez and union farm workers. Salandini’s ministry reached its climax in 1971 when San Diego Bishop Leo T. Maher suspended him for refusing to wear vestments other than a burlap serape emblazoned with Chavez’s stylized eagle and for distributing corn tortillas as communion bread

Diocesan officials accused “the tortilla priest,” as Salandini came to be known, of “scandalous disobedience” for using his religious status as a political weapon. They also charged that he harassed the owners of picketed farm operations by holding daily masses in defiance of a court injunction. Bishop Maher later reinstated Salandini, and he returned to his academic career as associate professor of labor economics at Fresno State College.

(Adapted by Stefan Gigacz from Online Archives of California)


Victor Salandini (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)


Victor P. Salandini (Online Archives of California)

The Reverend Victor P, Salandini Collection, Papers, 1954 – 1973 (Wayne State University)

Victor Salandini, The confessions of a tortilla priest

Victor Paul Salandini (Ancestry)

Australian Catholics in 2016

This is the profile of Australian Catholics in 2016.

Source: Church Life Profile for The Catholic Church in Australia, 2016

This is what Australian Catholics who participate in the life of the Church value now.

Source: Church Life Profile for The Catholic Church in Australia, 2016

This is what is valued in the future.

Source: Church Life Profile for The Catholic Church in Australia, 2016

How can members of the Church balance the need between serving the needs of the members of the Church and those outside of the Church?

How can the Church achieve its purpose as a community and mission?

Greg Lopez

Mary and Joseph

Today is the Feast of the Annunciation and the Church sort of takes a break from celebrating Lent to rejoice in the simple, yet profound faith of Mary. She was about twelve years old and promised in marriage to Joseph, who was probably about sixteen at the time. An angel visited her and asked her to be the mother of the Messiah. We celebrate her simple act of faith in the First Joyful Mystery of the Rosary and in the Angelus, a prayer based on the account of this momentous event in the history of salvation. 

In the first lecture of the 1950 Godinne lecture series, titled Person, family and education, Fr Joseph Cardijn reflected on the place of Mary as a lay woman in the world in the life of the Church: 

“Why did not God choose an empress, an educated woman, a woman of commanding presence? He took the humble, poor, and simple working girl and she remained all her life in the working world; she did not go into a palace and live there with Our Lord; she lived only with the simple, she the highest, the most perfect, and the great collaborator with God. Without her there would have been no Christ, no Church, no Pope, no Bishops, no Sacraments, no salvation for the entire earth. And Our Lady remained a poor working woman.”

Cardijn was about the same age as Mary when he asked his parents to allow him to go to the minor seminary, eventually to become a priest. And just as Mary made a commitment to the will of God, so, too, did the young Joseph Cardijn. He was just twenty years old when his father died. Cardijn rushed home from the seminary to visit his father for the last time and in his father’s presence, he committed himself to God and to the formation of young missionaries to carry the faith to the world’s workers. 

How might we engage in actions that can contribute to the transformation of workers and the world? Like all saints, we can learn from Mary, who said to the archangel Gabriel: “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). If you live in Australia, have you reviewed the findings of the Plenary Council? Perhaps there is a need to read the action document from the Council? Or to work with others in your parish to form groups who would give advice on the implementation of the findings of the Plenary Council in your parish? . 

Whichever actions are chosen, Mary shows us how to engage in them. She was a prayerful woman. She never put on airs. She remained a poor lay woman who never sought honours or an easier life. (St) Joseph Cardijn tried to be the same and so should we. 


Pat Branson 


Person, family and education – Lecture 1: The human person: The 1950 Godinne series of lectures by Fr Joseph Cardijn

Is it about spiritual anthropology?

(St) Joseph Cardijn spent his working life teaching by word and example about the eternal and temporal destiny of each person and of the moral responsibility that each worker has to lead the workers of the world to achieve their divine destiny. In one of his writings from 1945, he said, “The body of the young worker and of the young working girl is a living temple of God; the home they will found is inseparably linked up with all these necessary convictions, it is a spiritual ideal incarnate in time, lived in time. This spiritual training, this spiritual conception of life imply a morality, which is not a burden, but a responsibility.” In saying this, Cardijn attempts to describe a spiritual anthropology. 

The Australian Cistercian monk, Michael Casey offers a reflection on spiritual anthropology in his book Grace: on the journey to God (2018). He proposes as a starting point the belief that all people are created in the image and likeness of God. In Genesis 1, it is revealed that we are created in the image of God: “Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness… (1:26). I have always regarded “image and likeness” as a “double-barrel” expression, done to emphasise the first word, in this case, “image.” Casey has a different view: the word “image” refers to God’s act of creating us. We have no say in the matter. It is God’s grace at work. It is God’s intention that we be seen as images of God. But the moment we say, “Well, this is what God is like”, pointing to another individual or to ourselves, then we are working with the word “likeness.” We have the potential to be like God. It is up to us to desire to be like God and to seek to be like God.

The desire and the action are acknowledgements of the eternal destiny of each person. And at the same time, they are the temporal destiny of each person. In the Gospel reading for Mass for Friday of the Fourth Week of Lent (John 7:1-2, 10, 25-30), the evangelist recounts a story from the life and ministry of Jesus. He contrasts Jesus’ faithfulness to the Father with the lack of faith of those who were quick to judge him as being unworthy of God’s grace, or who were uncertain about God’s presence in their lives. Ever aware of his eternal destiny, which is for all people, to give glory to God for all eternity, and which is fitting for all created in the image of God, Jesus called out those who chose to be not like God. 

In every situation in his life, Cardijn tried to ask himself what Jesus would do if he was in that situation. He taught his young leaders to do the same. Reflecting on the source of their faith, that is, the Tradition of the Church, involved participation in the life of the Church. He encouraged them to immerse themselves in the Church and in the world. Is there an action within this framework that is possible to carry out and to invite others to be involved also? It seems to me that self-transformation and the transformation of the world need a spiritual anthropology like that described by Cardijn in 1945. The challenge for us in the twenty-first century is to work out what it will look like now, almost eighty years after Cardijn wrote his reflection. 


Pat Branson 


A YCW of the masses to the scale of the world – a reflection written by Fr Joseph Cardijn

Casey, Michael (2018). Grace: On the Journey to God. Brewster, Massachusetts: Paraclete Press, Inc., Chapter 3: The Grace of Humanity.

Readings for Friday of the Fourth Week of Lent 

Not just in word, but also in deed …

In his reflection, posted on 18 March, Stefan Gigacz shared with us the story of Blessed Marcel Callo (1921-1945), a leader in the YCW. What impressed me about Blessed Marcel was how he treasured his relationship with Christ, which he shared with others, an intentional faith shared courageously. He came to realise that it was his mission to bring out the best in those who suffered with him in the concentration camp in Mauthausen.

Fr Joseph Cardijn spent his adult life training young workers to be leaders who would seek to transform their fellow workers and their families. In his Keynote Address to the World Congress for the Lay Apostolate, held in Rome, 1951, which he titled “The world today and the apostolate of the laity,” Cardijn spoke about “the consciousness of, and will for, solidarity and interdependence in the world of workers themselves who become more numerous every day.” 

Repressive regimes, such as that established by the Nazis, set out to destroy the creative energy and spirit of those who seek to unite and celebrate all that is good in life and in the world. Ultimately, the oppressors fail because of the solidarity of those who live to give glory to the Creator. The life of Blessed Marcel gives testimony to the truth of this view. The oppressors failed to crush his spirit. 

I was taught at an early age that faith without actions is useless (James 2:20). Being arrested for being “too Catholic” did not deter Blessed Marcel from continuing to give witness to his faith through how he lived his life, especially in captivity. The Gospel reading for Thursday of the Fourth Week of Lent presents Jesus’ teaching about faith in action promises eternal life (John 5:31-47). By his word and his example, Blessed Marcel demonstrated his commitment to the transformation of those he worked with in the concentration camp. And that transformation was accomplished through simple activities that united people in faith and in comradeship. None was more precious to him and his comrades than the celebration of the Eucharist. 

The transformation sought by Cardijn and the young leaders in the YCW, was made possible through faith. In that concentration camp and wherever leaders committed themselves to following Christ, the actions built on faith brought together the temporal and the eternal: it was a foretaste of their destiny. How can this be achieved in our present age? Which actions bring heaven to earth? Which actions “reach out ahead” and pull the future into the present so that both are experienced simultaneously? 

Like every saint before him, Blessed Marcel Callo drew on his faith in Christ for the strength he needed to draw people together and in the midst of the suffering that they shared, he involved them in creating pockets of happiness that enfolded them like shields of love. Small actions carried out in response to the signs of the times come from recognising and rejoicing in the presence of God in what is celebrated, or what is endured. Such actions may seem trivial, but they carry within their execution the seeds of transformation. They are the work of God carried out by those who seek to be God’s instruments of salvation. 


Pat Branson


Biography of Blessed Marcel Callo (1921-1945)

Readings for Thursday of the Fourth Week of Lent 

José Comblin 1923-2023

Today is the centenary of the birth of French liberation theologian, missionary and JOC chaplain in Brazil, José Comblin.


Born in Belgium in 1923, Joseph Comblin was ordained to the priesthood in 1947.

In 1961, he published a famous book “Echec de l’Action catholique?” ( Failure of Catholic Action?), which was widely interpreted as a critique of the Cardijn movements.

Nevertheless, Comblin went to work first in Chile from 1962-65 and then to Brazil at the invitation of Dom Helder Camara.

He organised several campaigns of popular evangelisation in rural areas (which he described as “theology of the spade”) and participated in the creation of the first “base communities”. 

He also became a YCW chaplain in Campinas, Brazil.

His political activism and his publications provoked the irritation of the Brazilian and Chilean military regimes, which expelled him in 1972 and 1980 respectively.

Authorised to return to Brazil in 1980, he continued his mission of evangelization among the poor, while publishing numerous works, including Teologia da libertaç ão, teologia neoconservadora e teologia liberal (“Theology of liberation, neo- conservative and liberal theology”) in 1985.

José Comblin died on March 27, 2011 in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil.


Jose Comblin (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Jose Combin (Encyclopedié Universalis)

Let’s be apostles to our neighbours 

Have you read Challenge to Action: Forming Leaders for Transformation? It is a collection of talks or lectures by Fr Joseph Cardijn, the founder of the Young Christian Workers. The original English edition was edited by Fr Eugene Langdale who was a pioneer of Catholic social work in England and a close friend of Cardijn.. Ordained in 1934, Fr Langdale was instrumental with others in bringing the YCW Movement to England. You can obtain a copy of the ebook from the Joseph Cardijn Digital Library

The focus of Cardijn’s work was young workers, specifically the formation of leaders, who would be apostles to the masses of young workers in the world. The genesis of his mission was his experience of the negative impact of factory work on his peers. When he entered the junior seminary, they went out to work. He reported much later: “They were intelligent, decent, God-fearing. When I came back for my holidays they were coarse, corrupted and lapsed from the Church—whilst I was becoming a priest. I started to make enquiries, it became the obsession of my life. How did it come about that young lads brought up by Christian parents in Christian schools should be lost in a few months?”

The young priest Joseph Cardijn worked to empower young Christian leaders to transform the world of all workers. His mission is every Christian’s mission. It is the mission Jesus gave to his followers after his Resurrection and before he ascended to heaven. As with all good that is done in the world, evil is always present and more often than not, in the form of the status quo, the patterns of our lives that we protect from disruptive influences … and Cardijn was certainly a disruptive element in the Church and in the world. 

We hear this story being told in the Gospel for Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Lent (John 5:1-16). In the Jewish society of the time of Jesus and the birth of the Church, work on the sabbath was forbidden. A man, who had been ill for 38 years, was lying on his mat in one of the five entrances to the pool of Siloam in the Temple precincts. It was the sabbath and the man was too slow to reach the pool when one of God’s angels stirred the water so that he could be cured. Jesus listened to the man’s story and healed him. When he picked up his mat, he was stopped by people who were scandalised by his sinful action – Jews are forbidden from working on the sabbath and carrying one’s mat constituted work, just as Jesus broke the law because he healed the man on the sabbath. Blind obedience to the letter of the law constituted the evil present in the Temple. 

Our world is full of “good news” stories, which are told to teach people about the good in our society and to encourage them to be doers of good also. Rarely are stories told about “loving God.” It is as though faith is a very private thing and we should never give voice to the part that God plays in our good works. It would be politically incorrect to do so in our society. 

Surely, therefore, there is a strong need, indeed, a demand for disruptive behaviour in the form of public proclamation of the good news of God’s presence and power at work in people’s lives. Let’s acknowledge in simple ways, the presence of God and openly praise and thank God. Let’s share our God-stories with our families and friends. Let’s be apostles to our neighbours. 


Pat Branson


Challenge to Action: Forming Leaders for Transformation, by Joseph Cardijn

Short Biography of Cardijn, by Father Eugene Langdale

Readings for Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Lent

Act to end the great scandal

Concerning the role of the YCW in the world, Fr Joseph Cardijn stated in 1945: “Our task is to put an end to the great scandal of the nineteenth century – the loss of the masses by the Church.” Why did the Church lose  “the masses”? The Industrial Revolution brought with it the introduction of the factory system. The guild system collapsed and people moved from the countryside to the cities. All the masses had to sell was their labour; they became easy victims of exploitation, which Pope Leo XIII described as “a yoke little better than that of slavery itself.” in his encyclical Rerum Novarum (1891, n.3).

The Industrial Revolution was accompanied by developments in philosophy and science, most with little acknowledgement of debt to religion, particularly Catholicism. In 1950, Fr Joseph Cardijn made the following observations in his explanation of the truth of experience:

– the powerlessness of the young worker in the face of the system which rules the economic life and even the thought of the modem world: capitalism, “liberal economics”.

– the irresistible influence of the great ideological talents which are at present moving the masses; materialism, naturalism, existentialism, nationalism, communism, etc.

Standing against the truth of experience is the truth of faith, which Cardijn had described in 1945 in the following way: “Young workers must always be faced with the great truth of the eternal destiny of the mass of young workers.” He presented the YCW with a vision of its members as apostles and missionaries who modelled their lives on Jesus. In his talk in 1950, he stated: “It gives to each young worker a vocation, a personal mission, which transforms his life into a collaboration with God, with all men, for the achievement of the divine plan in the work of creation and redemption.”

Cardijn’s theology finds a reference in the Gospel reading for today’s Mass,  Monday of the Fourth Week of Lent (John 4:43-54). The Gospel story presents a man (a royal official) who is powerless to prevent his son from dying. He appeals to Jesus to come and save him. Jesus tells him his son will live and the man believes him. In teaching the leaders in the YCW about the truth of faith, Cardijn was urging them to have faith in Christ, just as the royal official in the Gospel story. Their faith in Jesus will contribute to the transformation

Mahatma Gandhi has been credited with saying that if we want to change the world, we first must change ourselves. So acknowledging the Word of God in the way St John does in the beginning of his Gospel, must start with ourselves. What are some ways of doing this, of being a disciple of Jesus who promotes the place of the Master in people’s daily lives? 

The starting point has to be with ourselves. A simple action would be reading from the Gospels each day. To read the scriptures prayerfully is an act of worship. Pope Francis has stated that worship of God is the first action of every apostle and we are called to be apostles. The action that follows from this is an act of love for those who form the community to which we belong. How might social media be used to share the fruits of our worship of God? How might we place ourselves in the service of others because of our love for God?


Pat Branson


Pope Leo XIII (1891), Rerum Novarum.

A YCW of the masses to the scale of the world September, 1945 

The YCW: its doctrinal foundation and essential characteristics – a talk given by Fr Joseph Cardijn at the JOC International Congress in 1950

Readings for Monday of the Fourth Week of Lent 

What does it mean to be an apostle? Pope Francis: General Audience, St Peter’s Square, Wednesday, 15 March, 2023: 

Blessed Marcel Callo

Tomorrow is the feast of St Joseph the Worker, we remember French YCW leader, Blessed Marcel Callo, who died in a Nazi concentration camp on 19 March 1945.

Marcel had been sent to Germany under the forced labour regime during World War II. He was arrested for his role in organising workers and died in Mauthausen Concentration Camp.

Born on 6 December 1921 in Rennes, France, Marcel Callo became an apprentice printer at the age of 13.

Soon after he became a member of the Young Christian Workers movement after an inner struggle, because this meant he had to resign his position as scout troop leader, a role he had grown to love.

But he knew that he was being called to be an apostle in his workplace, and for this he needed a more solid Christian formation. And so, he spent his evenings studying Catholic social teaching and organizing meetings of the YCW, where he soon became a highly regarded leader

At the age of 20, he fell in love with Marguerite Derniaux.

“I am not one to amuse myself with the heart of a lady, since my love is pure and noble,” he said.

“If I have waited until 20 years old to go out with a young lady, it is because I knew that I wanted to find real love. One must master his heart before he can give it to the one that is chosen for him by Christ.”

It took him about one year to declare his love to Marguerite and an additional four months before they first kissed. After being engaged, they imposed a strict spiritual rule of life which included praying the same prayers and going to Mass and receiving the Eucharist as often as they could.

In 1943 his sister Madeleine was killed by a bomb falling on their house.

When the Germans occupied France, Marcel was ordered and deported to Zella-Mehlis, Germany to the S.T.O.,Service du Travail Obligatoire (Service of Obligatory Work).

“I am going there not as a worker but as a missionary,” he told his loved ones.

Despite the great pain that the prospect of parting with his dear Marguerite caused him, he found the courage to make the decision, for he knew that the forced labor centers in the Third Reich also needed his apostolic work. On bidding his fiancée good-bye at the Rennes railway station, he heard from her lips that he would die a martyr’s death.

“I could never deserve such an honor,” he replied in disbelief. But both felt they would never see each other again. Marguerite remained faithful to her fiancé. She continued to be active in the YCW. Later she would become a post office clerk. She died in 1997.

There he worked in a factory that produced bombs that would be used against his own countrymen. After three months or so of missing his family and missing Mass (there was no Catholic church in that town), Marcel became seriously depressed. He later found a room where Mass was offered on Sunday.

Marcel wrote to Marguerite: “One day Christ answered me. He told me I was not to give in to despair; that I should take care of my fellow workers—and I found joy again.” The barrack inmates soon became a closely-knit community. They ate their meager meals around a common table, prayed together, and participated in the Holy Mass every month. Once again Marcel became the leader, just as he had been at the YCW meetings in Rennes.

Cardinal Suhard, Archbishop of Paris even sent him a letter. “Thank you—he wrote—for the good that you are doing among your fellow workers. I bless your labors and pray for you.” The young men tried to conduct themselves prudently, so as not to draw attention to themselves. But you cannot hide your light under a bushel. On March 19, 1944, they arrested Marcel Callo for activities against the Third Reich. The Catholic witness of this frail young boy represented a danger to the powerful totalitarian regime.

With his morale and hope restored, he cared for his deported friends. He organized a group of Christian workers who did activities together like play sports or cards. He also organized a theatrical group. He galvanized his friends despite him suffering from painful boils, headaches and infected teeth. For his French friends, he arranged a Mass to be celebrated in their native tongue. Eventually, his religious activities attracted unwanted attention from the German officials. The Germans arrested Marcel on April 19, 1944 saying that, “Monsieur is too much of a Catholic.”

The Germans interrogated Marcel. He admitted his Catholic activities and was imprisoned in Gotha. He secretly received the Eucharist while in prison and continued to pray and help his companions. He was considered dangerous to the Germans and was moved to a different prison at Mathausen. He suffered from various ailments such as bronchitis, malnutrition, dysentery, fever, swelling, and generalized weakness. He never complained. Despite his suffering, he encouraged his companions by saying, “It is in prayer that we find our strength.”

He died on the feast of St. Joseph, March 19, 1945, exactly two years from the day he left home.

Pope John Paul II beautified Marcel Callo on October 4, 1987.


Stefan Gigacz


Marcel Callo (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Transforming the Australian milieu

The Holy Spirit over Australia.

Yesterday, we looked at what would the Australian milieu look like.

Fr. Cardijn also noted that the real young Christian worker, and the real Young Christian Workers movement, can be recognised by three inseparable characteristics.

  1. The YCW aims to transform the mass of working youth.
  2. The YCW aims to re-Christianise the real life of working-class youth.
  3. The YCW aims to reclaim the milieu or environment in which the mass of young workers work and live.

What would transform, re-Christianise, and reclaim mean?

Paul McGuire and John Fitzsimons offer this view.

The immediate task of Catholic Action is not to transform society, but to form consciences. The transformation of society can only appear as an effect of transformed consciences. If consciences are rightly ordered, there will be right order in society. If our institutions are disordered and perverted, it is because our moral values are perverse and disordered. Society is composed of men and women. Its moral health depends upon their moral health. Catholic Action is a mission to men and women. It seeks to extend to them the meaning, the peace, the order of Christ our Lord, so that all things may be restored in Him…

…In this new world, all old things were threatened. The ancient order of Christendom had been shattered, and the soul of Christendom, its belief in Christ, seemed doomed to die. The traditional organisation of the Church, which had been shaped to the needs of the apostolate in the old societies, no longer sufficed for the new. New instruments, new methods had to be found to reach the proietarianised masses. If the Faith was to survive amongst those masses, it must be preached to them anew. And preached in places and amongst men to whom the priests of the Church no longer found access. The priest cannot go into the mine, the factory, the office, the store, to work and live amongst the people as he had been able to work and live amongst them in the communities of a simpler world. So the apostolic task has come, with new emphasis, to the laity who are already living and working amongst the peoples of the mines, the factories, the offices, the exchanges and marts, and all the provinces of a secularised society…

Catholic Action is an apostolate. Its end is to win men to Christ as men were won to Christ by Peter and Paul. It is a social apostolate. It seeks to restore right order in society, to recreate society. But its action is not political. The breaking societies of the West cannot be renewed by political or economic panaceas. It is a moral sickness from which the body of society suffers, and it will not be cured by local plasters upon local symptoms. Politics, economics, are phases of human behaviour, but human behaviour is inevitably determined by the values which men hold, by their sense of right and wrong. The social crisis and its economic and political manifestations are effects of wrong values, of the long confusion of right and wrong. It is the task of Catholic Action to restore in men the values of Christ, the meanings of Christ: to set society right by setting right the men who compose society. As Catholic Action grows, as it restores the Christian community, the bond of charity finds active expression in the institutions and organisations which proceed from Catholic Action…

Paul McGuire and John Fitzsimons, The world scene of Catholic Action.


How do I see this?

The priest cannot go into the mine, the factory, the office, the store, to work and live amongst the people as he had been able to work and live amongst them in the communities of a simpler world. So the apostolic task has come, with new emphasis, to the laity who are already living and working amongst the peoples of the mines, the factories, the offices, the exchanges and marts, and all the provinces of a secularised society

Paul McGuire and John Fitzsimons, The world scene of Catholic Action.


Do I believe this?

Catholic Action is a mission to men and women. It seeks to extend to them the meaning, the peace, the order of Christ our Lord, so that all things may be restored in Him

Paul McGuire and John Fitzsimons, The world scene of Catholic Action.


What can I do today to transform the Australian milieu?

Transforming the Australian milieu – a culturally diverse and ageing population

In the “Three touchstones of the genuine YCW,” Fr. Joseph Cardijn stated that:

The real YCW (Young Christian Workers) can be recognised by three inseparable objectives or three touchstones, which allow it to be distinguished from any fake or caricature.

  1. 1. The YCW aims to transform the mass of working youth.
  2. 2. The YCW aims to re-Christianise the real life of working-class youth.
  3. 3. The YCW aims to reclaim the milieu or environment in which the mass of young workers work and live.


What does the Australian milieu look like today?

How do we engage it? Is it in need of transformation?

If it is, how would we do it?

  • Australia and Australian Christians are ageing.  
  • Australia is undergoing a significant generational shift.

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics
  • 1 in 6 Australians are aged 65 and over (16%)
  • Around half (53%) of Australians over 65 are women
Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
  • Australia continues to be culturally and linguistically diverse
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics

NOTE: The image includes a map of the world with the top five countries of birth with the growth of >20,000 persons and growth of >16 per cent between 2016 and 2021. Nepal 124 per cent, India 48 per cent, Pakistan 45 per cent, Iraq 38 per cent, Philippines 26 per cent.  


Applying the three touchstones of the YCW, what should I (or together with my friends) do today to engage and, if needed, transform the milieu?


What must my friends and I do to engage older Australians, both Christians and non-Christians? 

A spirituality of the lay apostolate

Today, we continue our reflection with another passage from French Archbishop Emile Guerry’s 1946 article “Spirituality of Catholic Action.”

Archbishop Guerry speaks of “Catholic Action,” by which he clearly means “Specialised Catholic Action,” i.e. Catholic Action based on the jocist method. Although he does not say it explicitly, Guerry clearly envisages the role of Catholic Action leaders as being the promotion of what Cardijn came to call the “lay apostolate,” I.e. the specific apostolate of lay people lived out in the world, in the ordinary circumstances of work, family and community.

Let’s read Archbishop Guerry’s reflections with this in mind.

A sound spirituality is not only the first aim and prerequisite of Catholic Action, it must also be so thoroughly Christian as to further the aims of the apostolate.

We are endebted to Bro. Joseph Stefanelli, S.M., Catholic High School, Hamilton, Ohio, for this translation from the French.

Three general principles, it seems to us, should receive special emphasis in a spirituality of Catholic Action. Apostles of Catholic Action must tend toward perfection:

1. in and through their life in the midst of the world;

2. in and through their duties of state;

3. in and through their apostolic life.

FIRST PRINCIPLE: in and through their life in the midst of the world.

What, basically, is a layman?

We might answer: one who is neither a cleric nor a religious. And that answer, though apparently facetious, is nonetheless canonically exact. But it is purely negative. More positively, we can say: a layman is one who must live in the midst of the world.

A spirituality of Catholic Action should therefore draw its inspiration from Our Lord’s prayer to His Father: “I do not ask you to take them from the world, but to guard them from evil…, sanctify them in truth.” (John, 17:17)

Such a spirituality should form souls which are strong, virile, joyously militant, desirous to gain their environment for Christ, souls able to understand and to love their milieu (as opposed to the spirit of seeking to avoid contact with it), combatting that pessimistic tendency which leads one to shirk human tasks and the obligation of a life in one’s milieu, and to withdraw into an ivory tower or isolate oneself on a mountain, meanwhile casting anathemas of contempt upon a wicked world or, like the sons of Zebedee, asking God to cause fire from Heaven to fall upon the accursed city.

Of course, it is clear that such a spirituality demands a solid asceticism, but it places it where it should be and not in means of perfection which are foreign to the state of life. This spirituality will not conceal the difficulties, the temptations, the obstacles which the soul will find facing it and surrounding it in its attempt to reach perfection. It is indeed important that there be no illusions in this regard and that all things be seen “in truth”; dangers do exist in the midst of the world. There is, moreover, the question of loyalty to souls which are seeking their vocation; it is well understood, too, that we preserve in its fullness the doctrinal tenet of the superiority in itself of a state of life entirely consecrated to God, and not give way at all to the present tendency which minimizes religious life to glorify the lay life. But this spirituality of Catholic Action would teach the laymen who wish to be faithful to their vocation in the world, how to make use of difficulties, how to use temptations as occasions of merit by transforming these obstacles into means of sanctification.

Also, one of the characteristics of this spirituality should be the emphasis on the sanctifying realism of life such as it is in the midst of a materialistic world which wants no more of Christ and in which one must live by the spirit of Christ.1

SECOND PRINCIPLE: In and through their duties of state

The spirituality of Catholic Action puts into the limelight and focuses our attention upon the sanctification of the duties of state considered as the surest manifestation of the will of God.

Once a soul has freely made its decision concerning a state of life, after it has prayed, sought advice, and made use of reason, faith and the virtue of prudence to know the will of God in its regard, all the duties which its state requires are the certain expression of the Divine will: family duties, professional duties and those relating to daily work, and civic duties.

THIRD PRINCIPLE: Sanctification of laymen in and through their apostolic life

Some years ago we had the great pleasure of thanking Dom Chautard, at the Trappist monastery of Sept-Fonds, for the good his little book, SOUL OF THE APOSTOLATE, had done for us, as for so many other young men of our generation.

“Very reverend Father,” we said to him, “you have shown that the interior life is the life of all apostolic work, that without it the apostolate is vain and even runs the risk of being dangerous. We respectfully express the desire that you now write another book recalling the great duty of the apostolate and the development of Catholic Action. “How to reach the perfect life in and through the apostolate.” And the great contemplative answered: “Yes, I believe that today there are in the world mystics of action.”

The spirituality of Catholic Action must in fact define the sanctifying value of this apostolic life. There, too, it is no longer simply a matter of showing how it is possible for souls to perfect themselves by means of the apostolate in the sense that apostolic action implies the exercise of numerous moral virtues which purify self and prepare it for union with God: abnegation, patience, obedience to the Church: nor even in the sense that the apostolic life, causing the apostle to realise his powerlessness when confronted with souls, obliges him to cast himself upon God, placing his trust only in the grace of Christ.

It is there, it seems to us, that the spirituality, distinguishing clearly from the exterior means of the apostolate the very essence of Catholic Action as defined by the Pope (participation of the laity in the apostolate of the hierarchy) will seek to produce in souls a fundamental disposition of the virtue of charity: turning souls from all that is dependence on self and egoism – though it be covered by pretexts of spiritual advancement – it will lead them to the most generous gift of themselves to Christ and to the Church by the love of God and of souls; it will urge them to maintain themselves constantly in an interior state of oblation for the extension of the reign of God, the growth of the Mystical Body, the conquest of souls.

Thus the spirituality of Catholic Action should develop in souls the mind of Christ and of the Church through a joyful and constant submission – springing from the spirit and the heart – to the hierarchy of that Church of which Bossuet says that she was “the permanent incarnation of the Son of God.” Not a servile submission, but one of loving children who, conscious of their heavy responsibility to be in virtue of an authentic mandate the witnesses of Christ, the messengers of the Church in their providential milieu of life, are entitled to count on very special graces, in the development in themselves of the divine life which will intensify their intimate union with the Church, their participation in its own apostolic life, to the degree to which they are effectively faithful to their interior oblation each time that service of others presents itself to then and that Christ calls them to give themselves to Him in souls. Will not Christ intensify His life in the souls which thus give themselves to Him? Will not God give Himself to those who give themselves to Him in others? A most sure sanctification is this charity which associates them in the “activity of the hierarchic apostolate,” as Pius XI says, In this service of devotedness to souls to which the Bishop has vowed himself till death and which is the precise element which makes him the “perfector,” i.e., the one who has the mission and the power to lead souls to perfection.

In summary:

It is among human beings, human things, human institutions, acts of human life, that the apostle of Catholic Action seeks the kingdom of God and labors for its extension. Moreover, he seeks it in giving himself to his brothers, in cooperating for the common good of the entire Body, in giving to others what he receives, enriching himself with divine life, filling Himself with Christ and giving glory to the Holy Trinity.

In his article, Archbishop Guerry goes on to specify further those various “duties of state” to which he refers in this extract.

Despite the differences in language from Cardijn, his thinking is clearly very close.

And it also anticipates the teaching of the Second Vatican Council document, Lumen Gentium in Chapter IV on The laity.


Stefan Gigacz

Read more

Emile Guerry, Spirituality of Catholic Action (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Lumen Gentium (

May our faith not be mere ideology 

Greg Lopez posted a reflection titled Declining members in Christian organisations in Australia on 10 March. He stated that there are 11,400 Catholic parishes in our fair land. Between 1991 and 2016, the number of Catholics going to Church regularly decreased by about 40% and in 2016, only about 11% of Catholics attended Mass in their parishes each weekend. However, this is not the case with Catholic schools. Catholic education has continued to grow nationally. Clearly, the mantra of “family, parish, school” no longer has meaning for most Catholics in Australia. The Australian culture was at one time Christian, but that is no longer so. Have most Catholics come to view the faith as an ideology? Have they forgotten the faith stories given to them through the Mass? It would appear that certain human values have gained the ascendency over Christian values related to forming their relationship with God and with Christ.

Pope Francis has warned against viewing Christianity as an ideology: “Be careful, for the Gospel is not an idea; the Gospel is not an ideology. The Gospel is a proclamation that touches the heart and makes you change your heart.” When people choose to ignore the stories conveyed through liturgy, then eventually, the values that are conveyed through the Gospel are soon replaced by values that are characterised by convenience and immediacy. The message of the Gospel has been drowned out by the cares of the world. 

Fr Joseph Cardijn described this phenomenon as a “worker problem, world problem, human problem, apostolic and missionary problem!” When and where “apostles” and “missionaries” accompanied Christians in the manner of Christ accompanying them, then faith in Christ shaped their lives. That this accompaniment has declined significantly in Australia was inevitable, given the increasingly materialistic and consumerist character of our culture. The call of the Gospel is to live with a generous and forgiving heart and to be attentive to the struggles of those around us. 

In the Gospel for Tuesday of the Third week of Lent (Matthew 18:21-35), Jesus responds to Peter’s question about forgiveness with a parable that contrasts God’s compassion and forgiveness with the actions of the unjust servant. Our relationship with our neighbour (Love your neighbour.) must be a reflection of our relationship with God (Love God.). When the commitment to religious observance declines, then peoples’ relationship with God suffers and there will be significant changes in the values that people uphold. 

Reversing the trend does not mean returning to the past because often what existed in the past was merely religion on show, that is, people practised their “faith” without understanding or appreciating the relationship with God on which the practice is founded. We would do well to learn from others about living our faith through walking with those in need and strengthening our commitment through being in the presence of God. I listened to Amar Singh, an Australian Sikh, as he told the ABC presenter Richard Fidler about the importance of his faith and his religious practices to his compassionate responses to the needs of people he met in his work as a truck driver. He reflected on his experience of being in the presence of God and how in a sense it completed his life. May we, too, find fulfilment in being in God’s presence as we go about our work each day.  


Pat Branson

Read more …

Catholic school enrolments trending down – A Victoria University report, 26 September, 2019 presenting evidence of changing values in Australian culture

Church Attendance in Australia – a National Church Life Survey (NCLS) report. The McCrindle infographic on Church attendance in Australia will provide more insights into the ways Australians think about life and faith  

Pope Francis’ messages against ideologies in the Church Rome Reports, 1 March, 2023  

The world today and the apostolate of the laity: Keynote Address by Fr Joseph Cardijn to the World Congress for the Lay Apostolate, Rome, October 1951

Readings for the Mass celebrated on Tuesday of the Third Week of Lent.

Amar Singh’s love for faith, family and country: ABC Conversations with Richard Fidler, Monday, 13 March, 2023

Who guards the threshold I cross over? 

Just the other day, I went in search of a prayer for a meeting I would attend later in the day and by chance I opened Joyce Rupp’s The Open Door: A Journey to the True Self (2008) at a section titled “Guardians of the Threshold.” She referred to the writings of Joseph Campbell and identified the Holy Spirit, Mary, the saints and guardian angels as the Guardians of the Threshold in the Christian tradition. These “guardians” (guards, wardens, guerrillas “guarding against,” “warding off”) are placed at the “threshold” of our interior life to guard and protect us as well as guide us as we seek God in the ordinary and extraordinary events of our lives. 

Rupp writes that the guardians we meet “will demand our full cooperation in accepting the requirements for spiritual growth” (p. 104). And what are these “requirements”? In his book Grace: on the journey to God, Benedictine monk, Michael Casey, OSCO identifies “making time” for prayer and reflection as a requirement for the interior journey. And we will only make time if we are prepared to attend to the feelings of dissatisfaction with the way in which we live in the world. 

(St) Joseph Cardijn guards the threshold that thousands, possibly millions of people have crossed over. He was barely a teenager when he was confronted with the choices some of his peers had made when they entered the workforce. He was protected from making the same choices by his decision to become a priest. And such a choice would not have been made had it not been for the influence of his parents and the priests and religious who also acted as his guardians.

The Christian tradition confirms the presence of guardians of the threshold. When people of faith choose to cross the threshold they have the opportunity to do so in the company of saints, who have crossed it before them. Jesus warns his followers that what lies beyond the threshold is challenging. It will require letting go of what provides  them with a comfortable existence. 

The Gospel reading for Mass today, Monday of the Third Week of Lent, is Luke’s account of Jesus’ return to his hometown of Nazareth. After reading from the prophet Isaiah about his mission, which is to announce the coming of God’s kingdom, he tells those who have gathered that “a prophet is never welcomed in his hometown” (Luke 4:24). He then gives them examples from their tradition of guardians passing over the Chosen People to announce God’s salvation to Gentiles. When people turn tradition into a fossil, they will be barred from crossing the threshold. 

The change that is sought here is one that allows for transformation, which can only happen when people seek God, not themselves. The response for the Responsorial Psalm for today’s Mass is a powerful reminder of the mindset needed to step across the threshold and to move deeper into one’s spiritual life and being: “My soul is thirsting for the living God; when shall I see him face to face” (Ps 41:3). 

The action that we can take is one that lends itself to being imitated by others and a powerful way of building the Kingdom of God on earth. It is illustrated well by what a friend shared with me recently. He related how his life is governed by his prayer, which goes something like, “Okay, God, if this is not meant to be a part of your plan, then it won’t happen. And you know I’m fine with that, Lord.” He was referring to choices he made to better his life in material and spiritual ways. His actions were taken in a spirit of prayer and with considerable discomfort and unease. But that is what happens when we pursue the interior life of a disciple of Jesus. 


Pat Branson


Rupp, Joyce (2008). The open door: a journey to the true self. Notre Dame, Indiana: Sorin Books. 

Casey, Michael (2018). Grace: on the journey to God. Brewster, Massachusetts: Paraclete Press, Inc.

Joseph Cardijn: a short biography of Cardijn by English YCW chaplain, Eugene Langdale – in the Joseph Cardijn Digital Library 

Emile Guerry: Prudence and the see-judge-act

Today, we remember Archbishop Emile Guerry, a French bishop who was a very early YCW chaplain in his home diocese of Grenoble, and who as a bishop became one of greatest promoters of Specialised Catholic Action right up to Vatican II. He died on 11 March 1969.

Born in Grenoble in 1891, Emile Guerry initially studied law becoming president of the diocesan Catholic youth movement in 1911.

The following year he entered the seminary on the advice of the former Sillon chaplain, Jean Desgranges. I suspect that young Emile Guerry may even have been a member of the Sillon, a fellow traveller at least.

During World War I, he became a military nurse before resuming his studies.

After the war, he completed a doctorate in law with a thesis on the Free Feminine Trade Unions of Isere (Les syndicats libres féminins de l’Isère).

Finally he was ordained for the Diocese of Grenoble in 1923.

In 1932, he founded the JOC (YCW) and the JAC (Rural YCW) in the diocese and remained a great supporter of the Specialised Catholic Action movements for the rest of his life.

He also founded the Soeurs de la Maternité catholique.

In 1940, he was named co-adjutor archbishop of Cambrai and became archbishop of that diocese in 1952.


Emile Guerry was one of the earliest to make explicit the connection between the see, judge, act and the teaching of St Thomas (and Aristotle) on prudence.

In 1946, he wrote:

All chaplains and leaders of Catholic Action should make a profound study of the marvelous tract of St. Thomas on Prudence. Prudence is essentially the virtue of action. With his keen psychology, St. Thomas analyzes the three acts which make up the exercise of prudence: to deliberate (the small inquiry, the interior counsel which one holds within himself); to judge; to act. Here we easily recognize practically the same three acts of the method of specialized Catholic Action: observe, judge, act.

To this day, we can read the echoes of that statement in the Compendium of Catholic Social Teaching at §547-548.

Acting with prudence

547. The lay faithful should act according to the dictates of prudence, the virtue that makes it possible to discern the true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means for achieving it. Thanks to this virtue, moral principles are applied correctly to particular cases. We can identify three distinct moments as prudence is exercised to clarify and evaluate situations, to inspire decisions and to prompt action. The first moment is seen in the reflection and consultation by which the question is studied and the necessary opinions sought. The second moment is that of evaluation, as the reality is analyzed and judged in the light of God’s plan. The third  moment, that of decision, is based on the preceding steps and makes it possible to choose between the different actions that may be taken.

548. Prudence makes it possible to make decisions that are consistent, and to make them with realism and a sense of responsibility for the consequences of one’s action. The rather widespread opinion that equates prudence with shrewdness, with utilitarian calculations, with diffidence or with timidity or indecision, is far from the correct understanding of this virtue. It is a characteristic of practical reason and offers assistance in deciding with wisdom and courage the course of action that should be followed, becoming the measure of the other virtues. Prudence affirms the good as a duty and shows in what manner the person should accomplish it[1146]. In the final analysis, it is a virtue that requires the mature exercise of thought and responsibility in an objective understanding of a specific situation and in making decisions according to a correct will.

All this is particularly important because people often mistaken the see-judge-act for a formula to implement Catholic Social Teaching, a reductive notion.

Rather, as Léon Ollé-Laprune had foreshadowed, it is fundamentally a method that needs to be practised to develop the habit of seeing, judging and acting well, hence the virtue of prudence.

Author: Stefan Gigacz


Emile Guerry (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Emile Guerry, Spirituality of Catholic Action (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Emile Guerry, Prudence – see, judge act (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Declining members in Christian organisations in Australia

If Christianity was a football club (say the Australian Christian Football Club – ACFC), and membership was the most critical indicator of the club’s viability, how would the ACFC fare?

Who is responsible for ensuring that the club continues to attract members?

Religious Affiliation in Australia, 1971 – 2021

Waves of migration have shaped Australia’s religious profile. Over the years, the growth of Christianity in Australia was a function of migration. One can conclude that domestic evangelisation in Australia was never a strong suit. The ability of the ACFC to retain existing members, and attract new ones domestically, has never been strong.

Christian affiliation by generation, 2021

As the number of Christians declined in the newer waves of migration, the inability to retain existing Christians, and attract new ones in Australia, has resulted in millennials having the highest proportion of No religion (46.5%) and Other religions (14.9 %).

Decline in Christian affiliation

The number of people affiliated with Christianity in Australia decreased from 12.2 million (52.1%) in 2016 to 11.1 million (43.9%) in 2021. This decrease occurred across most ages, with the most significant reduction for young adults (18 -25 years).


We ask ourselves, as Catholics in Australia, how is it that:

  • A club with over 3,000 organisations employing more than 220 000 people (in 2016) throughout Australia?
  • A club with over 1,759 Catholic schools reaching 793,897 young people throughout Australia?
  • A club with over 11,400 branches (local parishes) throughout Australia?
  • A club with an estimated national wealth of $30 billion (in 2018)?

is struggling to retain existing members, let alone find new ones?


Why is this club struggling?

  • Is it the brand?
  • Is it the strategy?
  • Is it the leaders?
  • Is it the existing members themselves?
  • Is it something else?


What can we, the members, do to stop and reverse this decline?

Author: Greg Lopez

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics

The spirit of God himself

This year is the 150th anniversary of the birth of Marc Sangnier, founder of the French democratic movement, Le Sillon (The Furrow), which so inspired Cardijn and the early YCW.

Today, we have a remarkable testimony to that influence of “Marc” as he was universally known and the wonderful movement he created.

It was written by Georges Montaron, a French YCW leader, who published the Catholic resistance newspaper “Témoignage chrétien” or Christian Witness during World War II.

I didn’t meet Marc SANGNIER until after the war when he was campaigning in Paris’s 3rd District. That was in October 1945. He was seeking election to the National Assembly under the banner of the M.R.P.. But many years before, I had heard of Sangnier of the Sillon (Furrow Movement), of the Auberges (Youth hostels) and the Jeune République (Young Republic). At that time, I was a national YCW leaders and our chaplain, Father Guérin, loved to recall certain episodes which had had a strong impact on his life.

Georges Guérin was still a young worker – around 1907-08, before the First World War – who was involved with an association linked to the Brothers of the Christian Schools when he met several leaders of the Sillon. They included Marcel Poimbœuf, Paul Pariant and Eugène Bernou. By their presence, more than by what they said, those young men were a revelation for Georges Guérin.

“Their faces,” he said, “shone with the presence of He who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.”

The Christianity that he had learned in catechism was thus not simply an abstract idea but a life capable of transforming other lives. The “formal” Christianity of Georges Guérin was completely overturned. And in 1913 he decided to become a priest.

Concern for the poorest

But the Sillon had conveyed another message to him. Religion and everyday life were not two different worlds. Religion could only be lived in the midst of life. And it was the life of each person, in every aspect, that needed to make known the testimony of the Gospel. Just as he had witnessed Christ in the eyes and in the manner of Marcel Poimboeuf and his friends.

What’s more Marc spoke of the people, the masses, the workers. Whereas the Church seemed primarily concerned with the elites. It preferred to maintain good relations with prominent people. Marc on the other hand cared about the poorest. And he reminded those who came to listen to him that “the emancipation of the proletariat must be the work of the proletariat itself.”

“One of the great architects of this marvel”

Thus, as a seminarian, Georges Guérin, who had been a young worker in a precious metals foundry near Parmentier Square, Paris, declared that he would live out his priesthood at the service of the working class. Inspired by Cardijn, in 1927 he launched the YCW at St Vincent de Paul parish in Clichy where he had been appointed as a curate. This did not please everyone. The parish priest of the neighbouring parish, Notre Dame Auxliatrice, did not want the YCW to spread to his parish

“It’s the Sillon all over again,” he lamented. But the YCW took off nevertheless. Many chaplains had been leaders of the Sillon assisted the new jocist leaders. The triumphal congress of the YCW at the Parc des Princes gathered 70,000 young workers, who were genuine sons and daughters of the proletariat as well as authentic sons and daughters of the Gospel. In their midst, a young jocist who had become a priest celebrated his first mass. Marc Sangnier was there. At his side, Cardinal Gerlier, archbishop of Lyon, leaned towards him and said “Marc, rejoice this evening because you are one of the great architects of this marvel that we have just witnessed.”

It was the YCW that transformed the young worker that I was in a rough area of Paris and who grew up among the workers of Porte de Vanves into the person that I have become.

“I owe him everything”

Fr Guérin believed in the eminent dignity of ordinary workers. He adopted Marc Sangnier’s formula that “there’s something greater in a man than the man himself.” So we sang about our pride in being workers. We dreamed of freeing our brothers from the oppression they suffered. We discovered that the Gospel was primarily Good News for the poor. And without false modesty, we presented the face of Christ to our comrades.

We had to look for Marc Sangnier during the war. I was one of those national YCW leaders forced to go into hiding. I took part in the Young Christian Combatants of the Resistance. I was publishing the clandestine newspaper, Témoignage chrétien (Christian Witness).” When it reached to Paris, it was only natural that Marc made the printing press of the Démocratie in Boulevard Raspail available to us.

Alas! Charles Geeraert and his friends were soon arrested by the Gestapo. They were to meet death in a concentration camp, as did our first printer from Lyon, Eugène Pons, who had also been a Sillonist.

Once Témoignage chrétien was finally able to be published openly, many former leaders of the Sillon, the Young Republic and Friends of the Youth Hostel Movement subscribed to our journal. Témoignage chrétien regards itself as in the direct line of the Sillon.

Faithful to the Gospel and to the Church

We have always sought to be fully faithful to the Gospel and to the Church. We have always believed in the merits of democracy. We understand that labour, victim of capital, must become the master of capital. We constantly say that there can be no real and profound social and economic liberation without a growing participation of everyone in the management of public affairs. We fight, with the weapons of the spirit, because we first appeal to the conscience of men and what we want with them is to go beyond ourselves together.

On 11 November 1930, Maurice Schumann, who then belonged to the Socialist Party, made a speech to the members of La Jeune République gathered in congress to explain the similarities between Sangnier and Léon Blum.

We are continuing this research. There are countless Christians formed in the spirit of the Sillon, which has not ceased to bear fruit since that evening of 25 August 1910 when some people believed that it had closed its doors forever, who are present in the vast popular current of 10 May that is profoundly renewing France.

The struggles and hopes of the poor

I couldn’t be anywhere but on the left. My working-class past, my action in the YCW, my culture, family and roots mean that I can only flourish on the left. But the Sillon previously, the YCW and the Church of Vatican II have all showed us that we can continue to be Christian while belonging to the left.

And I even think that we are better Christians on the left, with the fights and the hopes of the poor, than in the ranks of the conservatives. Those conservatives on the right, who never ceased to attack Marc Sangnier each time he stood for election. Those conservatives of the right, who have tried to monopolise the Church by hiding the message of the Gospel under a bushel.

The spirit that makes apostles

Not everyone who lives by the spirit of the “Sillon” has the same beliefs. It has even happened that these beliefs are contradictory. Thus, Emilien Amaury had very different political ideas from mine. I was active in La Jeune République. But in 1956, at the time of the Republican Front, the issue of Algeria separated us. And yet, I bear witness to it, our friendship remained strong and deep. And it wasn’t just a romantic friendship. More than once it was very concrete. Thus Emilien Amaury, who was one of our supporters during the war, always found a way to help Témoignage Chrétien when the existence of our newspaper was threatened.

For him as for me, our strength is our friendship and the spirit that brings us together and makes us brothers, largely transcends our temporal options.

And yet this spirit must be embodied since it is what animates each moment of our lives.

For me, the Sillon is first of all a spirit. And what a spirit. The spirit of God himself. The spirit that makes the apostles. This is perhaps why Marc Sangnier died on Pentecost Sunday. So that no one would forget his message. A spirit that needs to be transmitted to all people, whatever their race, nationality or social condition. A spirit that helps them to go beyond themselves.                                                                                      

Georges Montaron

A remarkable article on a remarkable man and movement.

Stefan Gigacz

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See-Judge-Act: Following the Call

Today’s Cardijn Reflection is by American cultural historian, Richard C. Putz, who introduces the work of his uncle, the late Holy Cross Father Louis J. Putz CSC, a key figure in the development of the Cardijn movements in the USA.

The lesson learned from Louis J Putz CSC is to think about the method of See-Judge-Act as a methodology. Let the technique and experience of following the Call, living the Sermon on the Mount in our lives and society, enter into our movements, daily lives, and organizations that we create to help bring about the reign of God here and now. Hans Kung was “the apostle on the front line” and the brains behind Vatican II, as many had thought. The spirit of Vatican II needs to be revived.

Louis Putz often said, “YOU, the people, are the Church, not the hierarchy.” Louis believed the role of the clergy was to assist the people in leading the Church. 

Let’s look at the foundation of Vatican II. We see the methodology integrated into the documents, especially in the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, Gaudium et Spes, and Mater et Magistra.

God is using us; God needs us to accomplish the work; this is a great joy. Without our help, God cannot bring about the miracle that God intends to affect in each of us: through us but not without us.” ~ Louis Putz

We learn from Joseph Cardinal Cardijn that the ‘See-Judge-Act.‘ methodology of the Young Christian Workers (YCW), often called JOC (Jeunesse Ouvrière Chrétienne), becomes the necessary steps to the foundation of implementing the Sermon on the Mount. In the US, the methodology is essential for bringing about social justice, restorative justice, and the meaning for Christians to live the teachings of Jesus. It is why Louis worked so hard at developing organizations such as the CFM movement, the YCW, and educational programs in the United States. 

The key being the methodology should be our focus. Think in terms of “Necessary and sufficient.”

The methodology is necessary to create the change(sufficiency) to implement, and we eventually develop organizations to grow the difference in our society. Those organizations have traditionally been the CFM, YCS, YCW, etc. Still, if the Spirit is working, we should see the “change” evolve in a re-birth of those movements and the creation of new directions within our changing cultures.

Think of movements such as.”Cathonomics” (I suggest you might want to read the book Cathonomics by Anthony M Annett) and discover how the methodology is used to change how we as a society think and behave about economics.

It is time for us to take the Call to follow seriously and bring about the reign of God here and now. But first, we must share the methodology of See-Judge-Act with those unfamiliar with the method. Then, let the Spirit work through us all in creating the change and see what evolves to experience the cause/effect in organizations and movements. 

“The apostolate must not be thought of as “religion”; but a life of charity in all phases of daily behavior is the objective to be achieved.” ~ Louis J Putz CSC


Richard C. Putz

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Louis Putz CSC (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Innovate Educate Collaborate (Richard Putz)

Our human and divine destinies

Reverse ageism is an issue affecting young workers in Australia. Reverse ageism is “discriminating against someone because they are younger, as opposed to older.” The discrimination occurs because work conditions tend to be age-based rather than on the level of skill. The Young Workers Centre, based in Melbourne, helps young workers in Victoria to develop “the knowledge and skills needed to end workplace exploitation and insecurity.” YWC exists to help young workers to challenge ageism without devaluing human dignity. 

When Fr Joseph Cardijn helped to found the young workers movement, which we know as the Young Christian Workers (YCW), almost a century ago, he was intent on forming people in faith. His goal was, 

“the resurrection of the working class, which will emerge, from the tomb of error, exploitation, and slavery in which liberalism buried it for centuries.”

He spoke about this goal of the YCW in a series of lectures titled, The young worker faces life, which he delivered in Godinne, Belgium, in 1948. Cardijn expressed confidence in achieving the goal; he viewed the leaders in the YCW as,

“apostles who, with and by Christ, by their sufferings and prayers, and even by their death on the Cross, merit with Christ this resurrection of working-class youth and of the working class of the world.”

The source of Cardijn’s confidence was his faith in Christ. I am sure that those who know his life and writings well will be able to attest to the consolation he drew from the story of the transfiguration of Jesus, which is recounted in the synoptic gospels. Matthew’s account of the event (17:1-13) is the Gospel reading for today, the Second Sunday of Lent, Year A. Cardijn’s faith in Jesus led him to speak of the human and divine destinies of each person: the human destiny of the worker is the transformation of the worker, the workplace and the world; the divine destiny is union with Christ now and in the life to come. When Peter, James and John witnessed the transfiguration of their leader, they were shown the presence of the divine in the human, the promise of faith fulfilled in the present, and to be the destiny of the faithful beyond this world. 

Clearly, for people of faith, the mission of the YCW is much more than the stated mission of the YWC. Acceptance of the divine destiny of all people informs and transforms the human destiny and opens all believers to the experience of the divine in the human. And where this is the spirit in the workplace, the work and the workers are transformed, and glory is given to God. How can this be achieved? What action can we take? 

Sadly, the YCW in Australia today is a poor reflection of its former self, the YCW of the fifties and sixties. Yet, it continues to provide opportunities for young workers to gather and do good in our society. For those of us, who are no longer young workers, we can support and encourage the YCW and promote the movement where it does not yet exist or where it once worked for good. Simple actions, like subscribing to the YCW newsletter and advertising the movement’s work in parish bulletins, are worth undertaking as responses to our call to be missionaries. 

And going further: by adding our voices to the call for the recognition of the dignity of all workers, irrespective of the work that they do, or their age, we can add to the work of transforming our world, which is the work of all who are co-creators with God. 


“Does ‘reverse ageism’ exist in the workplace? Here’s what you need to know” by Mariah Flores. In Keeping the Balance, January 4, 2023.

The young worker faces life – the Godinne lectures, delivered by Fr Joseph Cardijn in 1948.

About fruit that will last …

Today is the feast of St Casimir (1461-1484), the patron saint of Poland and Lithuania. When he was a teenager, St Casimir chose to disobey his father’s command that he lead an army into Hungary to depose the King. At fifteen years of age, Casimir made a commitment to peace over war. He chose to live a prayerful life dedicated to peace and care for the poor. A young leader, Casimir remained firm in faith through prayer, fasting and good works, until his death. He was just 23 when he died. 

Fr Joseph Cardijn formed the young leaders of the YCW as people of faith who would give witness to their relationship with Christ in the workplace. In his second lecture of the series, which we know as The Hour of the Working Class, Cardijn states: “Every one of these millions of workers has a divine mission to fulfil, a practical divine vocation on earth, which no one else can fulfil in his or her stead, because they are all human beings, enjoying God’s friendship on earth.” This has always been true from the time when Adam was a boy. Everyone works. Work is part of being human. 

When St Casimir walked away from being the leader of an army, he did so with the realisation that the work of war is not what God intends. His life is a good example of what Cardijn communicated to the leaders of the movement he helped to form, namely, that the practical divine vocation of earthly work is to help God complete creation. 

The Gospel reading for the Mass celebrated in memory of St Casimir is from John’s Gospel (15:9-17). Jesus gives his followers very clear instructions: “If you keep my commandments you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.” If I was going to use this as a scene in a play for young students to perform, I would have the youngest actor say, “Remind us again, Jesus. What are your commandments?” And perhaps that is what did happen in the time of the oral tradition, before the Gospel was written and shared with the known world. For Jesus does tell us what he commands us to do: “This is my commandment: love one another, as I have loved you. A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends.” 

I am certain that the “practical divine vocation on earth” is built on genuine friendship, which are those relationships that are inclusive, not exclusive. Such relationships are generative. They are “the fruit that will last.” This, then, is the change we should be seeking in our world and our actions should contribute to the fulfilment of God’s plan. 

And what might those actions look like, sound like, feel like? What can be done to improve the lives of others, both those whom we know and the millions of others who we do not know? Jesus tells us, as do also his followers, including St Casimir and (St) Joseph Cardijn, to pray and to fast (meaning, “forget self”) and do good works. And those good works include all those simple and not-so-simple things that bring people together in friendship. Not just old friends, but also new friends. Actions that welcome strangers so that the circle of friends grows and grows with lots of fruit for people to enjoy. 


A brief biography of St Casimir – Catholic Online: Saints and Angels

The Church and the worker – the second lecture in the 1948 Godinne lecture series, known as The Hour of the Working Class, delivered by Fr Joseph Cardijn. 


Pat Branson

Women and development

In today’s Cardijn Reflection, we recall the life and work of American YCW leader, Caroline Pezzullo, who represented the movement at the United Nations in New York and later became a noted expert in the field of women and development.

Caroline’s biography on the Joseph Cardijn Digital Library tells her story as follows:

Caroline was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. Her interest in social justice led her to join the Young Christian Workers in her youth. Her experience working in development transformed into a commitment to empowering grassroots women globally.

In the mid-1980s she became leader and board member of the National Congress of Neighborhood Women (NCNW), where she co-designed the Annual Institute on Women and Community Development. Caroline’s vision of a network of grassroots women’s organizations that would act and speak on their own behalf in global development arenas became Grassroots Organizations Operating Together in Sisterhood (GROOTS).

Her experience allowed her to effectively support GROOTS member’s efforts to gain access and recognition in important venues, culminating in the first grassroots Women’s Tent at the 1996 NGO Forum in Huairou, China, where more than 1000 grassroots women socialized, led workshops on their development approaches, and met key decision-makers. Caroline was a founding member of Women’s World Banking and chaired for several years the NGO committee on Human Settlements at the UN.

She pressed for and won the creation of a Women and Habitat Program within UNHABITAT, and helped found the Huairou Commission. In 2000 UNHABITAT honored these efforts by awarding her with the Habitat Scroll of Honor.

This kitchen at the Neighborhood Women House, Living and Learning Center, is named after Caroline Pezzullo for her lifetime commitment to helping poor and working class women gain political, social and economic equality.

She also wrote a set of guidelines on project planning and development entitled simply “Women and Development” for the UN.

Caroline writes:

Women at all levels of responsibility have always been involved in activities for the improvement of the quality of life of their families and communities. Women have not, however, been integrally involved in the national development processes of most countries.

There is increasing recognition that “any measures for women isolated from the major priorities, strategies and sectors of development cannot result in any substantial progress towards the goals of the Decade” i.e, Equality, Development and Peace, with particular emphasis on employment, health and education.

At the same time, it should be stressed, that “because of women’s long historical disadvantaged position in society, there is need for specific transitional strategies, policies, measures and actions, if they are to actively participate in the execution of the objectives set forth by the countries of the region… The specificity of women’s situation and the need for special programmes by and for them should not isolate them from the national process of social/economic and political development… It is not only urgent for them to acquire the skills and tools for designing and implementing women’s programmes/projects; it is also a necessary condition for their further development, to know how those programmes/projects must become a part of the national development plan of each country.”

The purpose of these GUIDELINES is to assist women in planning programmes and projects that advance the status of women and at the same time, provide the links necessary to ensure their participation in the development process at the community, national, regional and international levels.

An essential part of this strategy is to involve rural and urban women, particularly from low-income areas, in the decision-making process which affects their opportunities and the quality of their lives.

Professional women with organizational responsibilities have valuable information which must be shared with community women. At the same time planning and decision-making must include the much-needed practical information which community women have to contribute. The institutional framework should be created or improved to permit this kind of participation on a broad basis. In the process, appropriate links must be made between the community and national policy and programme levels.

See judge act for development

But how does she propose to achieve this? By following the see-judge-act process, which she explains as follows:

Underscored in the GUIDELINES as essential elements for women to become involved in the development process as free and equal partners are three interrelated steps:

a) awareness of the facts of a ‘situation’;

b) assessment of their causes and desired changes;

c) action (individual and group) to close the gap between the two.

We remember Caroline for her dedication to the cause of women, particularly from the poorest countries of the world.


Stefan Gigacz


Caroline Pezzullo (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Caroline Pezzullo, Women and Development, Guidelines for project planning and development (United Nations)

The family: A divine institution

For today’s reflection, I propose to look at the second part of Cardijn’s talk on “The workman and his family” delivered at the Catholic Social Week in Ballarat, Victoria, Australia, in February 1966.

Headed “The family – A divine institution,”Cardijn’s talk outlines his vision of the importance of families and family life as the foundation of society, civilisation and even the Church:

We come now to the second theme which is really the first — The Family — the family of the worker and all the families. It is not a human institution. It is a divine institution. We cannot change the foundations of the family. God founded the family. And without the family there can be no society and no civilisation. It is the same as with work. Without work, no family. Without the family, no development of work, and no civilisation. The two are so united that we cannot separate them.

And we must respect all families — all, rich and poor, because all are founded by God. Christ made marriage a sacrament so that all married people would have the divine power, divine courage, divine perseverance to love each other, to respect each other, to remain united with each other. But, once you do not accept the divine character and the divine essence of the family, the family is broken. How many divorces! How many so unhappy families! The victims are always the children, orphans with no parents. Yes, we must have pity and we must he preoccupied also with those who have father and mother separated from each other. They are worse than orphans and are the most miserable on earth. We must see the dignity of the family, the divinity of the family, and we must he brought up with the Christian conception of family and family life.

We must also respect the human and social aspect of the family. The public authority in all the countries of the world must be preoccupied with the welfare of families. We must know about the families and how they exist, and we must come to the government and to the authority and say: “We want a good deal for the family.”

Without the family, there is no social order. There cannot be any progress if the father is a drunkard, and every night lie comes into the family and there is trouble and there is dispute. The boys and girls go away from the family. They arc ashamed of their family. The family should help them. In time we can save them. In time we can reconstitute the family. But first, we must have the right conception of the family.


When the boys and girls have sexual relations, today with one, tomorrow with another, no society it possible. And therefore it is the same as for work. Greater importance must be given to preparation. Bad preparation, bad family. I have had contact with thousands and thousands of families. It is always the same. Bad preparation, bad family, unhappy family, unhappy children, ashamed about their parents. And therefore let us see the importance of preparation.

Boys and girls, 14, 15, 16, 20 years must discover for themselves the importance of the family, the importance of the preparation for marriage and the family life. If the engaged do not respect themselves when they are engaged, they cannot respect themselves when they are married. It is impossible. Boys are often corrupted before marriage because they have no respect for the girl, no respect for conjugal life, no respect for the love between married people. It is not something accessory. It is essential for society and for the Church.

Without Christian families, there is no Church. The priest must come from Christian families — even poor families. My father was poor and he worked so hard that he died aged 53 years. And when l saw the body of my dead father, I said: “Father, you died so that I could become a priest. I will become a priest, and I will give all my life for the voting working people.”

When we understand the dignity of the human person, we will give ourselves not for one year, not for two or three years, but for our whole life. Yes, during our youth we will be in an apostolic movement to prepare ourselves and spread our conception of life in the factories. We are not animals. As we become more and more friendly and gain confidence in each other, there are more and more possibilities in the factories, in the workshops and during leisure.


What are the problems of family life that Cardijn identified? Do families now face the same problems or issues?

Are there new issues that people face today?


Why does Cardijn place so much importance on family and family life?

How does he relate this to Jesus’ teaching?


Is there a small practical action that you could take this week or month to improve life for your family or that of others?


Stefan Gigacz


Joseph Cardijn, The workman and his family (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)


Cardinal Joseph Cardijn speaks at Catholic Social Week in Ballarat in 1966 in the John Molony collection



“Let us do ever so little for God”

It was a scene in the Bear Grylls interview with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that popped into my mind as I listened to a recording of Cardinal Joseph Cardijn’s talk on “The workman and his family,” given in Ballarat during his visit to Australia in 1966: “We do not reflect enough on the dignity, on the value, on the honour of work and of the worker. The cleaner of the street must be respected because without cleaners there will be accidents. There will be more and more disorder. The cleaner of the street helps society and so does each worker.” As I watched Bear Grylls walking with the President, I noticed someone clearing snow from the path. A simple job, but so important because it helped to create a sense of normality in the war zone. The street cleaner’s simple task contributed to the hope for peace in Ukraine. 

When the interdependence of people in society is valued, then the dignity of each person is affirmed and celebrated. Speaking about the ordinary acts of every day in his 1949 Godinne lecture series The young worker faces life, Cardijn said: “Each one must play their part, and each one must do so as a person by knowing its value and by understanding its importance. No one can do it instead of them, just as no one can eat in his place. Each one is indispensable.” As I watched the street cleaner in Kyiv carefully scoop up a small mound of snow and deposit it in the garden beside the path, I realised how important small actions are in keeping hope alive. A small piece in a large puzzle, yet without it, the picture will be incomplete. 

I believe that the human and the divine meet in small actions carried out for the glory of God. Fr Joseph Cardijn put it better in the first of his 1949 Godinne lectures when he said: “… the young worker’s role is not only human it is also divine. Each one takes the place of God; he is the image of God; he is like an agent or representative of God.” Approached with this view in mind and heart, every person’s action is a piece in a puzzle depicting the Kingdom of God. And I am taken back to 1952, when I learned through memorising the catechism questions and answers given to me by my teacher: God made me to know him, love him and serve him here on earth, and to be happy with him forever in heaven.  

Jesus’ parable about the last judgment (Matthew 25:31-46) is the Gospel reading for Monday of the First Week of Lent. Its theme is found in Jesus’ declaration: “… in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me” (vs 40). Blessed Edmund Rice, founder of the Christian Brothers, must have modelled his life on this saying of Jesus. He wrote in a letter to one of his friends: “Let us do ever so little for God….” It is in the little things that we can do for others that we will experience the eternal in the temporal. Whatever it is that we do today, let it be done for the glory of God because when we act in this way, we are God’s co-workers and it is for this that he created us. 


War Zone: Bear Grylls meets President Zelensky

The workman and his family – Cardinal Joseph Cardijn’s speech given to a gathering during the Christian Social Week in Ballarat, Australia in 1966.

The young worker faces life – Fr Joseph Cardijn’s Godinne lectures, 1949

The life of Blessed Edmund Ignatius Rice (1762-1844)

We do not live on bread alone but … 

The work of transforming the world begins at home. Recent research conducted into Catholic school staff members’ perceptions of the mission of their school showed that the sense of mission began long before those interviewed began their work in the school. Their sense of mission was nurtured in their homes. Their wanting the best for their students reflected their parents wanting the best for them. For all of them, “the best” was connected in some way with God.

Elise Kinsella, an ABC journalist living in Melbourne, posted an article on air pollution, a silent killer in Australia. She chose as her starting point in the article the experience of one man living below the West Gate Freeway. Drawing on the findings of research in Australia and overseas, she paints a picture of a society in danger and provides some solutions that have been proposed by scientists and people engaged in industry and commerce.  

Kinsella’s article can be seen as an example of the need to engage the truth of experience. In a talk he gave in 1935, Fr Joseph Cardijn defined the truth of experience as “The terrible contradiction which exists between the real state of the young workers and this eternal and temporal destiny.” I would like to broaden the perspective to include the whole of society and every person’s terrible contradiction which exists between what they experience and their eternal and temporal destiny. Kinsella describes some insights into aspects of people’s temporal destiny and the reality of air pollution impacting ordinary people’s lives. Sadly, I could not detect an awareness of our eternal destiny. 

Cardijn reminded his listeners of the experience of life in Europe, which he described as “a wave of neo-paganism unexampled in history.” The danger of pursuing one’s temporal destiny is to lose sight of one’s eternal destiny. Cardijn’s perspective is incarnational: just as people’s temporal destiny is rooted in their immersion totally in life, so, too, is their eternal destiny. The transformation of people’s temporal existence will only be achieved when they come to accept and seek their eternal destiny in their everyday lives. As Cardijn said in his talk, “We must remain with our eyes fixed to heaven and our feet on the earth….” 

The mission Jesus accepted from his Father was to announce the presence of God in the world. To prepare himself for his mission, Jesus spent forty days fasting and praying. In the Gospel reading for the First Sunday of Lent, Year A, we learn from Matthew (4:1-11) that Jesus was tempted by the devil to accept the temporal destiny described by the devil and to reject his eternal destiny. Jesus knew that his life received its meaning from the presence of God in his life. “Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God,” he said to the devil. 

The temporal destiny of every person, which I have interpreted to be the very best for each and every person, will come about when we attend to “every word that comes from the mouth of God.” But how can we do this? Perhaps Lent is timely, with its emphasis on fasting, prayer and almsgiving. One possible source for action might well be a personal examination of the habits that prevent us from listening to God. The truth that familiarity breeds contempt can apply equally to the eternal and the temporal dimensions of our lives. Starting at home, meaning beginning the process with what happens in our daily lives has proven to be helpful to so many saints. Why not us also? 


Pat Branson


Air pollution causes thousands of deaths in Australia each year. Residents and scientists are fighting back, by Elise Kinsella. ABC News, 25 February, 2023. 

The Three Truths – Joseph Cardijn. In the Joseph Cardijn Digital Library.

The dignity of work and the worker

Cardijn made his second visit to Australia in February 1966. In a speech for the Catholic Social Week event in Ballarat, Victoria, he addressed the theme “The workman and his family.”

The recording is available on the website of Australia’s National Library. Listen to it here in, his inimitable Flemish-accented English beginning from the 12 minute mark.

I believe the introduction is by the late Professor John Molony, at that time a priest of the Diocese of Ballarat.

In his talk Cardijn presents both a philosophy and theology of work epitomises in his famous epigram “Without work, no mass.”

Here is the full text of the first part of his talk:

We do not reflect enough on the dignity, on the value, on the honour of work and of the worker. The cleaner of the street must be respected because without cleaners there will he accidents. There will be more and more disorder. The cleaner of the street helps society and so does each worker.

Each man must be a worker. The holy Apostle St. Paul says: “Who does not work must not eat”. Work is of the essence of humanity. We live by work. People must work.

We must not separate scientific work, professional work, office work, and manual work. There is no scientific work without manual work. When we look at the history of mankind from the beginning, we see all man’s work and the development of work, and more and more we see the development of mankind. We can only know the dignity and development of man if we know of the development of work. That is the difference between an animal and a human being. By his work a human being discovers more and more the means of progress in all aspects of life. First, we have manual work for thousands and thousands of years. Only manual work — some done with wood, some with fire, some also with water. Then the tools of mankind are discovered by men to develop themselves and to do more and more creative work. Men think. They discover more human knowledge for the development of mankind and humanity.

Today, there are three thousand million people on earth. Without work, they have no possibilities. No food without work! No housing without work! No Church without work! No Mass without work! Yesterday the Melbourne YCW organised an open-air rally. The Auxiliary Bishop was there to celebrate Mass. But there was no table. And then, before thousands and thousands of young people and adult people, two carpenters came with wood and made the table; and then two girls came with the linen and covered the table with linen; and then other workers with candles; and then the printers with the Mass book; and then some farm-workers came with the wine and bread; and then some workers with ornaments for the Bishop. All workers! And without that work, no Mass!

And then the Bishop put on his vestments, and Mass began. And then during the offertory, with all the you no workers, he offered, with the bread and with the wine, the work of humanity. And that work of humanity was consecrated by Christ to become more and more the food of humanity, the spiritual food, the intellectual food, the material food. Without work, no food, no intellectual food, no university.

Today as we are flying around the world in planes, we feel there is no more distance. It is by work we hear the radio and see the television. We see the Pope speaking in the United Nations about peace. None of these things could happen without work. And therefore I say, and I repeat everywhere, in the schools, in the colleges, that the students should become more and more aware of the value of work, the dignity of work, and even of manual work, the poorest of work here on earth.


Today all workers are associated. Nobody works for himself. He works for others. Work binds together all the peoples of the world. The work done by the workers of Australia is going to help those of Asia, those of Africa, those of other continents. The work of Australia and the fruits of Australia and all the different problems of Australia are seen in all the continents of the world. It is the same everywhere. Solidarity by work. We are one by work. We are united with each other by work.

Today, the economy and the organisation of work and the techniques of today are more and more international. That is the great problem of the poor people, the two thirds of humanity who have no work, who are unemployed, who have no techniques, who have no possibility to give help to their people. They need food. they need housing. They need schools. They need hospitals. They have needs in all aspects of life in order to live as human beings. We call them underdeveloped people. But they must be respected, they must be honoured, they must he helped. Otherwise humanity will be destroyed.

God needs the work of human beings. God will not replace one worker. Pope Pius XI said to me when I came to him for the first time in 1925: “I, the Pope, come into the Church, but I do not replace one worker in his factory, in his office, in his workshop. He is needed in the Church to spread the redemption of Christ who was a worker, who became a worker to show the divinity and the value of work. He was a carpenter until he was 30 years old. The Son of God, himself, worked to show to all humanity the value, the dignity, and the divinity of work.”


We must reflect on our lives. Without work there can be no religion. Without work our religion becomes separated from our life and we live by the work of others. We are sometimes proud we need not work. We should be ashamed! We must work! Every human being must work, not as an animal, but as a human being. And therefore we have the social doctrine of the Church. We may not separate the social doctrine of the Church from the spiritual doctrine of the Church. We must not say: “Ah, if I go to Mass, if I go to Communion, all is right.” No! Nothing is right! Christ gave himself to you. Therefore you must he another Christ and give yourself to others by your apostolic work, by your missionary work.

And even in the factory, you must be the missionary of Christ by your work, because you know the divine dignity and the divine value of work. Many think that work is a punishment. No! Punishment is the bad result of the selfishness, of the impatience and of the ignorance of men. It is the result of sin. But, the Creator, who makes all, needs all our work to achieve the fulfilment and completion of creation, to put all created things into the service of his people.


Tomorrow we will be six thousand million. You can understand how today workers must be more and more associated. We can no longer work alone. There are some who work for themselves, but not many. But most of humanity today and tomorrow will become an associated people, associated with all the workers, the totality of mankind. We must study this. Without that association, without that solidarity, we cannot solve the problems of today and tomorrow. That is so for all the peoples of the world.

I was in Bangkok four months ago. My trip will he finished next week. But I was in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Ceylon. I was in many countries of Asia, always to see the problems of work. And I had more than an hour of conversation with the Patriarch of the Buddhists of Thailand who is the head of 35 million Buddhists and 250 thousand monks. He said: “We must collaborate together more and more. We must help each other more and more. I admire your international movement (YCW) which proclaims that as people we must he united.” Even if we are not Catholics, even if we are not Christians, we all must help each other because we all have a divine origin. We all have a divine destiny. We all have here on earth, a divine mission. And so we will know each other better. We will become more and more friendly with each other. We will more and more have confidence in each other. And then, and then alone, we can have peace, not by violence, not by killing each other, not by destroying the houses of each other, but by loving each other, and serving each other, by helping each other by work.


We should speak and think for hours and hours about the value and importance of work and the importance of education for work. Today young workers must he educated not from six till fourteen years, but from fourteen till twenty-five years when they are becoming more mature workers. They must learn more and more to do better work everywhere because work is more and more becoming work for society.

I was nominated Assistant Priest in a parish of Brussels with 25,000 baptised. I came on to the street the first day I was there. I did not know anybody. I met a young boy and I said: You are a young worker?” “Yes, Father, I am a young worker, he said. “Ah, I see, you have a problem about your work. Where are you working?” “In a factory,” he said. “Where is your factory. Are you there alone?” He laughed and said: “Ah, Father, in my factory there are more than 200 boys and 200 girls.” “Not boys and girls of the parish?” I said. “No!

They come from the villages, and from the other parishes every morning — 500 boys and girls.” “Are you satisfied with things? Are there good boys and girls and others? Listen! Will you come to my parish house? I live there, near the Church. Have you a friend?” I asked. “Yes, I have a good friend.” “Then come with him. We will smoke cigarettes and then we will speak about your work and what you can do.” And so I began the International YCW which today is in more than 100 countries of the world, with this one boy that I met in the street.

We must educate them. We must speak with them. We must know and discover their problems in their daily life, in their work and environment, in the factory, in the workshop, in the office — everywhere! Millions and millions! Can we help them? Can we educate them? Yes, we can today.


How has the situation of work and workers changed over the sixty years since Cardijn presented h is talk?

What aspects have remained the same? What aspects have changed?


Are these changes for the better or worse?

Why is work so important to Cardijn?

What is the Christian significance of work?


How can we continue Cardijn’s work today?

Try to identify a specific action that you could take this week or month.


Stefan Gigacz


Joseph Cardijn, The workman and his family (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)


Cardinal Joseph Cardijn speaks at Catholic Social Week in Ballarat in 1966 in the John Molony collection

Read more

John Molony (Wikipedia)

The sort of fast that pleases me

Feed the poor. Image created by DALL.E

Today’s First Reading (Isaiah 58:1-9) calls for true repentance. It talks about the uselessness of repentance while maintaining social injustice and oppression.

This is harsh. I believe our Heavenly Father will accept all our efforts to do penance.

Nevertheless, I agree with the First Reading for today that if I contribute to social injustice and oppression through commission or omission, my penance is perhaps ultimately meaningless.

My penance must go beyond the personal to the external, beyond the family and kin, to the stranger.


Yesterday we reflected on the decline of volunteerism in Australia over the past decade.

Volunteering is time willingly given for the common good and without financial gain.

[Volunteering Australia Project: The Review of the Definition of Volunteering]

There are also Carers. Carers are people who provide unpaid care and support to family members and friends who have a disability, mental illness, chronic condition, terminal illness, and alcohol or other drug issues or who are frail aged.

There is an increasing number of people in Australia who need care. They could be family members, kin or strangers. They all need our care.

Volunteers and carers are people who give selflessly. Carers give to family, kin and friends, and volunteers give to strangers.

Both are equally important.  


Today’s First Reading lists activities we can volunteer and care for:

  • Stop oppressing my fellow workers.
  • Break unjust fetters.
  • Undo the thongs of the yoke.
  • Break every yoke.
  • Share my bread with the hungry.
  • Shelter the homeless and poor.
  • Cloth the man I see naked.
  • Not turn from my kin.


What can I volunteer or care for today?

Image source: Created by DALL.E

Whoever loses his life for my sake will save it!

Christ is washing the feet of a migrant. Image generated by DALL.E

Today’s Gospel is a big ask, especially if one does not have community spirit and/or a preferential option for the poor.  

Then to all he said:

If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, that man will save it. What gain, then, is it for a man to have won the whole world and to have lost or ruined his very self?

(Luke 9:22-25)

Cardijn said the same.

Religion should not be outside of ordinary, daily life, but rather it should animate and transform it into a truly divine life.

(Joseph Cardijn, – La Croix, 13/06/1938)

It is important to note that Cardijn meant that a ‘truly divine life‘ integrates the interior and exterior.

This Lent, an important area where we can “lose our life for Jesus’ sake” and where religion can “animate and transform our daily life into a truly divine life” is in the area of volunteerism, if this is something we are not doing or not doing enough.


Volunteering contributes fundamentally to the functioning of society. Families, communities, and not-for-profit organisations rely on unpaid labour for essential and productive resources. However, volunteers are declining. A research paper by Rong Zhu (2022), “The Decline of Formal Volunteering in Australia (2001 – 2020): Insights from HILDA Survey“, highlights the following:

  • Volunteering participation in Australia generally declined from 2001 to 2020, corroborating analysis of data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics General Social Survey by Volunteering Australia.
  • These declines in participation were most noticeable among Australians aged 45–60, women, and those without a university degree.
  • However, volunteer hours of unpaid work per week were either stable or increasing, with some fluctuations across the sample or sub-samples.
  • Quantitative evidence also suggests that the COVID-19 pandemic negatively affected the provision of volunteer work in Australia.

Are the highlights above similar to my/our experience?

Do I/we volunteer?

Can I/we volunteer?

How can I/we volunteer?

Where can I/we volunteer?


Based on Jesus call today “to lose our lives for His sake” and Cardijn’s call that our faith “should not be outside our lives, but rather that it should animate and transform it“, what can I/we do about volunteerism in my/our life/lives?


Will I/we do something concrete about volunteering today?

NOTE: DALL.E is a new AI system than can create realistic images and art from a description in natural language.

Greg Lopez

Cardinal – not for yourself but for the YCW

Today is the anniversary of Cardijn receiving his red cardinal’s hat from Pope Paul VI on 22 February 1965.

In their biography of Cardijn, Marguerite Fiévez and Jacques Meert recorded his doubts and anguish over the appointment:

Two weeks after Mgr Cardijn wrote, asking to be allowed to resign as international chaplain of the YCW. Paul VI made him a Cardinal. His first reaction: “This is impossible. I can’t go against my vow to give my whole life to the working class!” And to some of his close friends: “The scarlet soutane and all those other Cardinal’s things go with a certain mentality and are tied up with the honours people are expected to give you. You are the one who is always right. In the end you think you are God because you are dressed in red! ..”

In personal notes he tries to bring his faith and charity to bear on his hesitations:

“Is it the devil who torments me or the Holy Spirit rousing me? The further I go, the more I believe that grace and personal promotion are incompatible. I am in a queer state of mind, not of self doubt, but doubt about the state or function to which I am being called. Me, Archbishop and Cardinal? And this quite suddenly and against all probability? May the Holy Spirit enlighten and strengthen me! I am just Cardijn in my own inner being, ideas, feelings, words and actions. I can’t be otherwise. That would by my destruction… and at the same time Archbishop and Cardinal? Other people’s astonishment will be nothing compared with my own. Is it possible to go beyond all this and say: It is God’s will? .. .”1 

And just as at times of tension with authority in the old days, he would say: “I am going to Malines” so now it was: “I must go and talk to the Holy Father about it!”

So he put his worry to Paul VI: he wanted to remain Cardijn and could he please not be obliged to go and live in Rome; how could he survive in all these offices and in an atmosphere to which he was not accustomed?

He would like to die at home, in his room in the Rue de Palais, where he could meanwhile take his meals with the YCW leaders who lived in the house, and from where he could easily do some world travelling!

“You are not going to be a Cardinal to die, but to live,” the Pope replied with a smile. “You will continue talking on the YCW all over the world and with a great deal more weight. ..”

This anguish lasted till the very morning of the red hat ceremony as John Maguire, an Australian priest who was then studying in Rome, recorded in this video:

With the support and encouragement of his friends and collaborators, Cardijn overcame those fears and he was ordained as titular bishop of Tusuros on 15 February 1965. And a week later he received his red hat.

At the reception that followed, Pope Paul explained his reasons for making Cardijn a cardinal to the YCW leaders and chaplains who had accompanied Cardijn to Rome:

Your presence here today is extremely significant for us, evoking moving memories and joyful hopes.

It is not just the family of the new Cardinal or a group of his friends: it all his spiritual descendance, the Young Christian Workers, who come in your persons to thank us for having raised him to the Sacred College, who have surrounded him with your affection and testify to your esteem and joy at this solemn moment.

We not only understand these feelings but we make them our own and we want to be the first, if you will allow us, to express them here in your name.

Yes, it was a great joy, a very great joy for Us, to be in a position to recompense as he deserves one of the men in this century who has worked the most for the Church and for souls.

It is a long time that we have known, admired and loved him, and we have followed him with emotion over the course of the years the magnificent rise of this great movement which has emerged, if one could use those words, from his heart of a priest and apostle and that God has so visibly blessed.

We should not forget the welcome given by our predecessor Pius XI to the first openings of he was then the young Fr Cardijn; and you know as we do the immediate encouragement that this great Pontiff granted to the formula of the apostolate of like to like: a formula which served as the basis for all the forms of specialised Catholic Action, with the success that you all know.

The honour that is given today to Cardinal Cardinal thus also reflects in a certain way on the whole of Catholic Action. It also reflects more particularly on the YCW, and on you above all, dear Belgian jocists, and we also greet you in Flemish.

Wij groeten met blijdschap de Kajotters en Kajotsters, de Leiders en Leidsters van de verschillende Takken van het A. C. W.

We greet with joy the YCW members, Chiefs and Leaders of the various branches of the ACW (Christian Workers Movement)

All of you, you will appreciate in our gesture a testimony of the Pope’s love for young workers. We love to think that you will draw from it an ever increasing love for the Church, which has just honoured your founder and father in such a striking way. We also would like that his elevation to the cardinal’s red marks fro all the young Christian workers of the world a sort of new beginning for an even more generous apostolic action than in the past; that it be a stimulus for them also to give witness to Christ among their brothers and to make the Church present and active in all the milieux of work.

It is our dearest wish to leave you with our paternal Apostolic Blessing, a sign of our affection for your new cardinal and of our goodwill towards all of you, to your families and to all the Young Christian Workers of the whole world.

It’s clear from Paul VI’s words and from his action in making Cardijn an archbishop that this was not simply a personal honour. Rather it heralded a new mission for Cardijn with the YCW and among the Specialised Catholic Action movements.

Stefan Gigacz

Read more

Paul VI, Reception for Cardijn and the YCW (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Marguerite Fiévez and Jacques Meert, Cardijn, Chapter 14, The workers’ cardinal (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

John Maguire – Cardijn becomes a cardinal (Stefan Gigacz/YouTube)

“Bear much fruit and … be my disciples.”

I was sitting on the train, waiting to leave the station on the journey home. I noticed an advertising panel on the other side of the carriage. The poster highlighted the service to people with disabilities who travelled on the trains. The image spoke to me of kindness, generosity and encouragement. And I remembered an incident on the train in the recent past, when a passenger alerted the train guards of a medical incident in the carriage. We hadn’t yet left the station. Three guards came and cleaned up the mess. They spent time with the man who had been sick. They accompanied him for the next two stations and were replaced by other guards. And the man who reported his medical incident stayed with him, too, until he had to leave the train. 

There are so many stories about Good Samaritans in our society and of groups and organisations committed to help the needy, so why do our governments pass laws to allow for abortion and euthanasia? Which narratives do they use and which values do they promote to shape our culture? What sort of mind does it take to seek to help the needy and then support people to deny the unborn the right to live and the terminally ill to end their lives at a time of their choosing?

The Christian ethic is pro-life and is founded on the belief that all people are created in God’s image. Fr Joseph Cardijn delivered the 1949 Godinne lecture series. In his third lecture, titled “The Mystery of Vocation,” he said: “We must bear witness to Christ, not by words only, not by some deeds only, but by the whole of our life. by our generosity and charity in all the acts of our life. As was said above, all the acts of our daily life are completely changed once they have become apostolic acts. We bear witness to Christ in all the actions of the day, witness to His charity and generosity, to His desire to save people.” Cardijn emphasises the totality of the Christian’s commitment to Christ. 

Today is the feast of St Peter Damian, Bishop and Doctor of the Church, who lived in the eleventh century. A humble man, he shared what he had with the poor. He lived a life of penance and prayer. Like Cardijn, he believed that God gifts people with their vocation to live apostolic lives, bearing witness to the love of Christ for all people. In the Gospel reading for Mass in St Peter Damian’s memory, Jesus tells us, “I am the vine, you are the branches” (John 15:1-8). Those who seek to be in union with him will bear fruit. 

If Jesus’ image of the vine and branches was the dominant narrative of our culture, then our focus as a nation would be the good of all not only now but also in the future. Cardijn emphasises actions that are generous and charitable, that is, actions that reflect the love of God for all of creation. These are actions that unite rather than divide, such as the actions of that Good Samaritan on the train, who, like his model in Jesus’ parable, stayed with the sick man until it was time to move on. And St Peter Damian reminds us that such charitable deeds need to come from a life lived in God’s presence, that is, a life of prayer. As Jesus tells us, “It is to the glory of my Father that you should bear much fruit, and then you will be my disciples” (John 15:8).  


Pat Branson


The young person faces life – the 1949 Godinne lecture series delivered by Fr Joseph Cardijn 

Integral Human Development, Lenten Penance and the Synodal Journey

Ash Wednesday is two days away.

The SEE–JUDGE–ACT reflection and decision-making process is ideal for Lenten reflection.

It is ideal for daily living as it integrates Christian values—Moral Virtues, Theological Virtues, Gifts of the Holy Spirit, and Fruits of the Holy Spirit with the Gospel and Catholic Social Teachings as the basis of our daily actions. It enables integral or holistic development of the person. It connects the interior and the exterior. It can be done individually or in a group.

This Lent, in particular, Pope Francis reminds us that our journey of change, while challenging, is not alone. We do it and achieve it collectively—with our brothers, sisters, and God.

In his message for Lent this year, the Holy Father chooses the Gospel of the Transfiguration, inviting us to an experience of Lenten penance in which we are called to “ascend ‘a high mountain’ in the company of Jesus”. Like the disciples who were led by the Master to Mount Tabor, we will not be alone on this uphill journey, but in the company of our brothers and sisters. This is the reason why, Pope Francis reminds us, our Lenten path is a synodal journey. At the end of a pathway that “requires effort, sacrifice and concentration”, we will arrive to the summit, where “the panorama that opens up at the end amazes us and rewards us by its grandeur”.

The Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development wishes to relaunch, week after week, the contents of this message, in order to offer the Churches around the world an aid to live their Transfiguration in a practical way. Following the allegorical inspiration of the Lenten ascesis as a mountain trek, given by the Holy Father, it is proposed to make a path of Lenten reflection that might, step by step, accompany us to the summit of the mountain and “help us to understand better God’s will and our mission in the service of his kingdom.”

Message of the Holy Father for Lent 2023. Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

Being Christian in our time

One more reflection with Léon Ollé-Laprune, this one from a series of personal notes that he wrote for himself, some of which were published after his death by his disciple and friend, Georges Goyau.

The French title of this reflection is “Le Chrétien vis-à-vis de son temps,” which translates as “The Christian vis-à-vis his or her time.”

Here Ollé-Laprune reflects on the problem of opposition or perhaps apparent opposition between Christian teaching and the ideas of a particular era.

What attitude should one take?

In a note dated 7 November, 1890, Ollé-Laprune offered his response:

I am a Christian, and I am of my time.

Being Christian, and fully Christian, by which I mean Catholic, – living in the nineteenth century, I can see or feel that there is an opposition between Christian doctrine, to which I adhere with my whole being, and many ideas or trends of my time, from which I do not want to remain estranged and of which I am not the enemy.

I would like to examine in what this opposition consists. By studying it closely, I will better understand what Christian doctrine is and what my era is.

I shall have a more exact and profound notion of the Christian idea and of the Christian life.

I will unravel what our time has that is new, and among these novelties discern the genuine spirit of this century.

Comparing it with the true spirit of Christianity, I will seek to identify that which is in radical and definitive opposition to this spirit and that which, deviating from it only in appearance, will allow itself to be brought closer and which may even secretly aspire to be brought closer. “

In other words, the role of the Christian and Christianity is not an attitude of radical opposition to current trends.

Rather our role is to enter into dialogue with, to work with and identify the truth within those trends, while seeking to reorient them in line with Christian teaching.

This was the method that Cardijn himself would adopt. As he insisted so often, being anti-communist was “not enough to save the working class.” Rather, it was necessary to understand “the element of truth in Communism,” he wrote, because that is where “it draws its strength.”

We still have much to learn from Léon Ollé-Laprune and Joseph Cardijn!


Stefan Gigacz


Young Léon Ollé-Laprune (top left) as a student at the Ecole Normale Supérieure


Léon Ollé-Laprune, The Christian vis-à-vis his time (Léon Ollé-Laprune/Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Joseph Cardijn, The hour of the working class, Lecture 2 (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

The price of democracy

“You can stay, but you will have to sit in the corner and not say anything, or record anything that goes on. Understood?” I nodded and sat on the chair in the corner of the room, like a naughty child. It was an interview room in the Department of Immigration and I was there to support two asylum seekers who had been ordered to attend a meeting. What followed was harrowing. I felt powerless in the presence of two cold, efficient officials who accused the asylum seekers of attempting to conceal their true identities. 

It was true that they had fled Iran, where they had been involved in anti-government protests. As it turned out, they had concealed their identities to protect family members back in Iran. The investigation had been thorough and without any compassion. They had been spied upon and had been betrayed. Officially, my friends were just numbers in a government database, and eventually, after failed attempts to be recognised as refugees,  non-citizens in the “lucky country.” 

For the past ten years, asylum seekers who have come by boat have been treated unjustly. Referred to as “illegal maritime arrivals,” they have been subjected to mandatory offshore detention and most have been denied refugee status. And during the same period, the number of asylum seeker and refugee advocacy groups has increased significantly, signalling a call for compassion for people seeking asylum in Australia. The lacklustre approach of government agencies in response to this call is unjust. It is un-Australian.

In his first lecture in the 1950 Godinne Lectures, Fr Joseph Cardijn urges us to “… believe in the personal value of every human being, in the personal dignity, the personal mission, the personal vocation and the eternal vocation of every human being.” The principle espoused by Cardijn is the dignity and equality of every human being as children of God, the very principle under attack in our culture on so many fronts, including the unjust treatment of asylum seekers and refugees.  

The Gospel reading for today, Saturday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time (Year 1) is the story of the transfiguration (Mark 9:2-13). Peter, James and John have a foretaste of heaven as Jesus is transfigured before them. The story is part of the journey they make to Jerusalem and represents Jesus’ triumph over the evil of his crucifixion. Mark recounted his Gospel to the Gentile Christians in Rome to urge them to place their hope in Christ in the face of persecution by Roman authorities. Just as they were denied the freedom to live and worship God in peace, so, too, are many who seek asylum in Australia denied the right to live in peace in the community and to call Australia their new home. 

So, how do we bring about change in our society, so that asylum seekers and refugees can be members of our society? There are attempts made in federal parliament to have the government change its policies and to act with compassion. There are also attempts made by community groups and organisations to convince the government of the need to clean up the bureaucratic mess enshrined in laws passed by successive governments to control who can be members of our society. If we accept Cardijn’s view of the human person, and if the transfiguration of Christ is to have any meaning for us, then we have to find a voice to speak on behalf of those who are powerless to speak. 


Pat Branson

Read more: 

Fr Joseph Cardijn: The Person, Family and Education – the 1950 Godinne series of lectures: Lecture 1: The Human Person

See clearly, judge and decide with Léon Ollé-Laprune

In today’s Cardijn Reflection, we continue to read from Léon Ollé-Laprune, this time from the Preface to the Third Edition of his classic work, Le Prix de la Vie (The Prize/Price of Life).

In this extract, we see how importantly Ollé-Laprune views the method of seeing, judging and deciding as a way to rebuild social unity and peace in the face of division and conflict.

When, almost two years ago, I published these studies on what I would call the philosophy of life, or to borrow a fine phrase from Aristotle, the philosophy of human matters, I wrote: “I am convinced, and I would like to convince others, that life is singularly precious if we understand how to see the purpose for which it is given to us and what we can and must do with it.”

That is the central idea of this book, and that is why it is entitled The Prize or Price of Life. I have nothing to add to this statement, except, perhaps, that of the double concern present throughout these pages, first of not distorting man and secondly that of proclaiming the duty to act, the urgency of which, if I may say so, is increasingly visible and growing.

It is true that in the intellectual and philosophical order we can observe a certain aspiration for an increasingly comprehensive synthesis, a more serious attention being given to facts of various kinds that have long been neglected, as well as a certain broadening of the frameworks of thought and even of thought itself.

However, it is also true that the too general persistence of old prejudices hinders this return to best practices and these welcome new approaches, and it also dooms these desires, efforts and attempts to remain too often sterile.

Moreover, is also true that with regard to the sciences there persists in many places a regrettable misunderstanding of their true spirit, their just scope and, consequently, an ill-advised use of their method and results. Finally, it is also true that great mistrust exists in many regions of the world with regard to what is Christian, including among those who think, or who claim to think, and there is also great intolerance among others that is very blind, hateful and active.

Thus humanity divides itself from itself, and rejects or neglects something of itself and the resources placed at its disposal. 

On the other hand, “intellectual anarchy,” which as Jouffroy already noted  in 1834, leads to  “the most exaggerated and complete individualism,” is invading all areas of thought, including moral matters where it has become extreme.

Thus, we find various powerful tendencies competing for people’s minds, while no school prevails, no influence is decidedly dominant, and amid this  universal disarray it is left to  individual efforts to undertake the restoration of that authority of the truth which commands and rallies people’s minds.

Thus each person must apply him or herself more than ever, better than ever, to courageously and faithfully looking at the principles and the facts in order to make him or herself more than ever, better than ever, capable of seeing clearly, judging and deciding, precisely because it is hardly fashionable to do so any longer

By a sustained application of this process, people will be able to protect themselves from falling into prejudice and error. By means of this process, they will also be able to regain consistency and find ways to become closer and unite

In the social and political order there are likewise many noble and generous aspirations, but the old spirit of division, rancour, mistrust and hatred still remains

Despite many fine words and dreams, a frighttful egoism continues to divide people and prepares to arm them against one other.

In the face of these perils which threaten society, individual initiative and individual energy is even more necessary than ever to defend genuine social interests, to foster new groups and thereby gradually to restore social peace and political consistency.

For Léon Ollé-Laprune, who lived at a time of significant social conflict and anti-clericalism, learning to see together, to judge together and to arrive at conclusions together was a way of overcoming division and building social peace.

What a great vision for the see-judge-act method that we can still apply fruitfully today for promoting unity among people of various faiths or none and even amid ideological conflict,

Stefan Gigacz


Léon Ollé-Laprune, Preface, Le Prix de la Vie (3rd edition)

How do we seek the truth with our whole soul? (Part 2)

In the first part, I noted that while the See – Judge – Act is a systematic approach to decision-making, absent the correct virtues and principles, the outcomes can be devastating.

Stefan Gigacz’s two reflections (HERE and HERE) on Leon Olle-Laprune’s explanation on see-judge-act can be done “properly” and “correctly”.

Yet, 125 years after Olle-Laprune’s death, are Catholics better at making decisions?

Or, if we take a longer view, could the Theological Virtues, the Moral (Cardinal) Virtues, the Gifts of the Holy Spirit and the Fruits of the Holy Spirit, be the basis to help individuals develop the correct virtues and principles?

Perhaps the See-Judge-Act method for decision-making can also be used to transform the individual by asking them to reflect on their virtues and gifts of the Holy Spirit and integrate them into their daily lives?

Perhaps the Theological Virtues, the Moral Virtues, the Gifts of the Holy Spirit and the Fruits of the Holy Spirit can help us seek the truth with our whole soul.


Do I know what the Theological Virtues, the Moral Virtues, the Gifts of the Holy Spirit and the Fruits of the Holy Spirit are?


Do I attempt to practice these virtues and use these gifts?


Can the daily gospel readings or the writings of Cardijn and others be the basis of attempting to integrate these virtues and gifts into my daily life?


The Theological Virtues: Faith, Hope and Charity.

The Moral (Cardinal) Virtues: Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, and Temperance.  

The Gifts of the Holy Spirit: Wisdom, Understanding, Knowledge, Fortitude, Counsel, Piety, and Fear of the Lord.

The Fruits of the Holy Spirit: Charity, Generosity, Joy, Gentleness, Peace, Faithfulness, Patience, Modesty, Kindness, Self-Control, Goodness, and Chastity.

Image Source: Drawing created by DALL.E 2, The Holy Spirit with Plato, Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas.

How do we seek the truth with our whole soul? (Part 1)


Consider the following extreme premises (principles/virtues/worldviews/truths).  

  • Western civilisation is better than other civilisations.
  • Men are better than women. 
  • White people are better than people of colour.  
  • Educated people are better than those with no formal education. 
  • The clergy is better than the laity.  

Could someone holding these views undertake a See-Judge-Act (a decision-making method)? 

They could, and they could conclude with actions (Act) that could be devastating.   

It is important to remember that the See-Judge-Act is a systematic method for decision-making, but absent the correct values/principles/worldviews/truths, the outcomes could be devastating. 

The Judge aspect provides the principles or the virtues for the individual or group to decide (the Act). In the Christian context, the Gospel and Catholic Social Teachings provide the principles/values/ worldviews/truths. This, however, won’t be easy. We know how divided Catholics are on many issues, including understanding the Gospel values and teachings, let alone Catholic Social Teaching. Look no further than Vatican II.

The philosopher of the see-judge-act (as Stefan had christened  Léon Ollé-Laprune) said it himself.  

To see clearly is not easy; to judge, that is to say, as Bossuet said, “to pronounce within oneself with respect to what is true and what is false,” is perhaps even more difficult; to decide, it seems, is the most difficult thing in the world for some people: even when the premises are there, which call, which claim, which impose a conclusion, they cannot decide or conclude.

The key (to quote from yesterday’s reflection) is ‘to seek the truth with our whole soul.’ 

“…That motto, borrowed by Ollé-Laprune from Plato, was “il faut aller au vrai avec toute son âme” – “we have to seek the truth with our whole soul.””

This is where the challenge lies.

How do we develop within ourselves, our communities, our parishes, and our schools… individuals who are constantly seeking the truth with their whole soul

I do not have the answer, but I seek it with my whole soul.

Image source: Plato’s sculpture by Leonidas Drosis. Photo was taken by George E. Koronaios / Wikipedia / CCA BY SA 4.0

Léon Ollé-Laprune: Philosopher of the see-judge-act

In a note dated 1955, Cardijn made a list of the key reading he had done at various stages of his life.

Among the authors he read between 1902 and 1904 when he was aged 18-20 studying philosophy and theology at the Malines major seminary, he cites the French philosopher, Léon Ollé-Laprune (1839-1898), a promoter of the lay apostolate and disciple of Society of St Vincent de Paul founder, Frédéric Ozanam.

And today marks the 125th anniversary of Ollé-Laprune’s premature death at the age of 58 on 13 February 1898.

But why was Cardijn interested in his writings and what did he learn?

One answer, perhaps, lies in Ollé-Laprune’s deep influence on the development of Marc Sangnier’s democratic lay movement, Le Sillon (The Furrow), which also had such a great influence on Cardijn.

“He understood our plans almost as soon as we did, and approved them from the beginning,” wrote the Sillon leader and seminarian, Albert Lamy in an obituary for Ollé-Laprune. “One of his books provided us with our motto, his friendship stayed with us constantly.”

That motto, borrowed by Ollé-Laprune from Plato, was “il faut aller au vrai avec toute son âme” – “we have to seek the truth with our whole soul.”

Lamy explained this with a quote from Ollé-Laprune’s most famous book, Le Prix de la vie, which translates into English as either “The price or the prize of life,” a double meaning that expresses both the cost and value of a fully-lived life:

I will philosophise with my whole self, in an atmosphere completely impregnated with Christianity. I philosophise as a thinking man, a living man, a complete man, and a Christian.

In other words, no division between faith and life, a fully lived Christianity that closely resembles Cardijn’s understanding and even foreshadows Pope Francis’ key concept of “integral human development.” (Laudato Si’)

But how to achieve this integral human and Christian development?

Ollé-Laprune also provided an answer to this in a talk entitled La virilité intellectuelle that he presented to students in Lyon in 1896:

Gentlemen, it remains for us to consider what our era demands of us in particular, and what a young man who thinks like a man needs to do at the present time.

In order to think in a virile manner, I believe we need to possess three qualities: we must be able to see clearly, we must be able to judge, and we must be able to decide.

As Ollé-Laprune also recognised, this was a challenge:

To see clearly is not easy; to judge, that is to say, as Bossuet said, “to pronounce within oneself with respect to what is true and what is false,” is perhaps even more difficult; to decide, it seems, is the most difficult thing in the world for some people: even when the premises are there, which call, which claim, which impose a conclusion, they cannot decide or conclude.

But, Gentlemen, one must know how to dare what so many men do not have the courage to do: to see clearly, to judge and to conclude.

And by conclude or decide he meant taking action. To quote Albert Lamy again:

His latest books never end without immediately practical considerations and advice as well as encouragement to continual, daily action.

As we can see then, Ollé-Laprune was foreshadowing the see-judge-act that Cardijn himself would soon make famous and that Pope Francis would also adopt as a way of achieving integral human and Christian development.

It’s also why I believe that Léon Ollé-Laprune can also be justly called “the philosopher of the see-judge-act.”


Stefan Gigacz


Léon Ollé-Laprune ( /Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Stefan Gigacz, Léon Ollé-Laprune, Philosopher and Lay Apostle

Joseph Cardijn, My reading (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Le Sillon (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

A Christian Australia?

Yesterday, we read Stefan’s reflection celebrating the birth anniversary of the International Young Christian Workers’ (IYCW) first’s president, Patrick Keegan. 

Patrick Keagan, in a speech to Australia, concluded that, 

“A Christian Australia is a worthwhile target for all members of the YCW. A Christian Australia is vital for the whole Pacific world. Australia is vital for the whole Pacific world. One knows that millions of people in the Far East are hungrily looking for an ideal of life pressed down as they are by an economic and social misery unknown in such intensity in Europe. In this setting, Australia must take her responsibility as the torch bearer of Christian values – geographically set as she is the springboard for the Far East.”

Patrick Keegan, Australian Broadcast 26.6.51 (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library/Pat Keegan)

In 1951, when Keegan made this speech, Australia was a very different country. He would be surprised at what has happened since. According to the 1954 census, the total number of Christians was almost 90% of the total population.

Catholics were 23%, Anglicans were 38%, and other Christians were 29%. The Australian Young Christian Workers (ACYW) and the Australian Young Christian Students (AYCS) were vibrant youth movements spread throughout Australia. 

Today, Christians are 44% of the Australian population (a minority for the first time since the invasion, but still a majority within the plurality of those who do not associate with any faith and other faiths).

Catholics are 20% of the Australian population, and the AYCW and the AYCS are a shadow of their former selves, limited to a few locations. 

Far from being vital for the Pacific world, Australian Christians (Catholics) cannot keep Australia Christian (Catholic). 

The declining number of Christians (Catholics) in Australia is concerning, and the causes are complex. What can we do about it?  


Do I understand the causes of the declining number of Catholics in Australia? 

Which of these causes is within my spheres of influence? 

Would Cardijn and Vatican II’s teachings, particularly on the role of the lay apostolate, be a way to re-evangelise Australia again? 


If Australian Catholic laity would fulfil their baptismal role as priest, prophet and king – as captured in Stefan’s reflection: Lay People as Priest, Prophet and King – could that contribute to re-evangelising Australia, once again, and in an authentic way?


What can we do, as Australian Catholics, in the public sphere to fulfil our baptismal roles as priest, prophet and king? 

Greg Lopez

Australia: An unrivalled land of apostolic opportunity

Today is the birth anniversary of Patrick Keegan, the English YCW leader who became the first president of the International YCW.

Later he became Secretary General of World Movement of Christian Workers, a post he held during the period of the Second Vatican Council where he became a lay auditor and was the first lay person to address an Ecumenical Council.

For today’s reflection, I’ve chosen a radio message that he broadcast to Australia in June 1951 for the tenth anniversary of the movement.

He began by expressing his appreciation for the Australian YCW leaders and chaplains he had met, including Fr Frank Lombard, Terry Barber, Frank McCann and Ted Long.

“Our Headquarters without an Australian just doesn’t seem to be complete,” he commented. “All of us ever here remember with a deep and profound gratitude the comradeship of those Australians who shared with us the difficulties of war.”

He noted the spread of the YCW around the world, particularly the English-speaking world and he recalled the 1950 International Congress of the YCW in Brussels, which demonstrated the belief and conviction of YCW leaders “in that fundamental and universal truth, that lies at the very heart of our work and effort in the YCW – the dignity of the young worker.”

He continued:

We believe with our heart and soul that every working fellow and girl without a single exception, irrespective of their colour or country is called to an eternal destiny and vocation as a son or daughter of God – not an animal – not a machine, but a person possessing a magnificent vocation. We further believe that anything in his life of home, work or neighbourhood that hinders him from discovering or attaining this tremendous vocation constitutes the problem that he must solve.

This truth is a universal truth to which there cannot be the slightest exception. It is true for the Negro, the Chinese, the Hindu, the Japanese just as it is for the whites. It is the truth least understood or apparently only understood as a principle to be applied in a selective way. At this hour of history, it is the truth which if practically applied to men and institutions can change and transform the world.

He saw Australia as having a chance to avoid the mistakes of Europe and to build something genuinely new:

For those engaged in the apostolate in Europe, everything points to Australia, being an unrivalled land of apostolic opportunity. Australia is seen as a nation where men are still free to build institutions and public life on Christian principles, untrammelled by the relics or backwash of the barbarian that accompanied the rise of industrialism in the countries of Europe

Seeing the results of industrialism in Europe – the black spots of its inhuman production, unjust distribution and exhausting labour, one must believe that in a country like yours free to choose the pattern of future construction, that the mistakes of Europe can be avoided.

And he set out his vision of the role the YCW could play:

Our task in the YCW is to produce through home, neighbourhood, school and work, men and women capable of building a Christian society – men and women willing to accept as a great privilege all the personal sacrifice entailed by this most practical work.

We know this will only be possible by following working youth at this very moment into the heart of their real life – giving them the means to discover not only their own place and responsibility in Christ’s plan, hut the place of their factory, neighbourhood, mine and office.

Our movement is the university for working youth, where we can discover the meaning and purpose of our life – where we can discover more and more the Christian conception of work, leisure and community – a conception lived and made real and not remaining in the realm of theory. Through our work in the movement we must discover the Christian “ideal of life”. An ideal when grasped will never allow a flinching at difficulties.

In Europe the YCW has faced an industrial set up based on the conception of men as a commodity – a means of production. Far too much of our work has been spent in bringing remedies to the effects of a system basically wrong in conception.

Fortunately, in your country you now stand at the threshold of great industrial development. You can plan it in the way that you wish. It must be planned on the basis of the Christian (conception) of the human person. In order that this may be done, Australia needs at this very moment men and women with profound Christian convictions willing to give themselves to this task, willing to share in the making and execution of these plans on which so much will depend for the future.

A Christian Australia is a worthwhile target for all members of the YCW. A Christian Australia is vital for the whole Pacific world. One knows that millions of people in the Far East are hungrily looking for an ideal of life pressed down as they are by an economic and social misery unknown in such intensity in Europe, it is in this setting that Australia must take her responsibility as the torch bearer of Christian values – geographically set as she is the spring board for the Far East.

Strangely enough and sadly, Pat never visited Australia.

Nevertheless, on this anniversary of his birth, let us remember him and his challenge to become conscious of our responsibilities as Australians in the world.

Stefan Gigacz


Patrick Keegan, Australian Broadcast 26.6.51 (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library/Pat Keegan)


Patrick Keegan (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Family, Parish, School: When people don’t let God

What happens when we don’t let go and let God? I was listening to a group member express his concern that there are teachers of religious education in Catholic schools who do not believe what the Church teaches about some moral issues. He mentioned abortion in his contribution to the review that was being conducted. There are many involved in Catholic education who would agree with him, but for every teacher who would argue that they don’t have to believe what the Church teaches, they only have to teach it, there are many who live with God and share that life with their students. Yet, there still exists a problem in the Church of people who do not let God lead them. That is why we need apostles in our schools as much as we need them in other places of work. 

Cardijn reflected on the role of parents as the primary educators of their children and of the responsibility of teachers in schools to be places “where you learn to live and to love in line with the education that mothers and fathers are responsible for giving to their children.” He knew only too well that this was an expression of the ideal. Earlier in the talk on formation and education he gave as part of the 1950 Godinne lecture series on Person, Family and Education, he acknowledged that many parents had not been prepared well for their responsibilities as the first educators of their children. He also acknowledged the difficulties created by teachers who were not formed in the faith that parents sought to pass on to their children. Moreover, then as now, there are teachers in schools who reject the faith as being integral to a fully human life. 

Clearly, from a perspective of faith, those who work in Catholic schools are duty bound to support parents who want to bring up their children in the faith. And where that happens the trinity of family-parish-school is marked by peace and happiness. Children are able to mature in faith. St Luke provides us with an image of the childhood of Jesus, who grew up in the safety of this trinity of faith (Luke 2:40). 

Today, February 10, is the Feast of St Scholastica, the twin sister of St Benedict. The Gospel for today (Luke 10:38-42) is pertinent to this reflection. Luke takes us into the home of Martha and Mary. Martha is all action, the model for hospitality workers. Mary is criticised by her sister for not helping out with the meal preparation. Instead, she sits and listens to Jesus, who reminds Martha of the importance of prayerful reflection in a life dedicated to spreading the Good News. How does this apply to Catholic schools? In a research project I undertook in 2021, I learned from Catholic school staff I interviewed that they are “time poor,” meaning that some were too busy with their work to take time to reflect and pray. That might be true, but it is also true that they have lost focus. 

So, what has to change? How do we encourage those who work in our schools to focus on and share their faith so that more will come to experience and appreciate the presence of God in their lives and in their schools? A recent experience of a YCW meeting has shown me the importance of listening to people’s experiences of being taught in a Catholic school and of the need for teachers to listen to one another. Likewise, the stakeholders in Catholic education need to sit and listen with prayerful hearts and minds rather than simply sending out surveys to be completed and using the data to make decisions regarding the type of education to be delivered. 


Pat Branson


Person, Family and Education – the 1950 Godinne Lecture series given by Fr Joseph Cardijn: Lecture 3 – “Formation and education”

Let go and let God …

Yesterday’s reflection focused on the parish and the young worker, indeed a timely reflection for me. I have been reading some of the stories told through the government report on the underpayment of workers in Australia and it has left me distressed. The committee behind the report gathered evidence from around Australia, including evidence of the underpayment of young workers. One regional organisation reported that 65% of the young workers being assisted by them reported wage theft issues impacting their lives. 

A young worker’s life is about more than just the wage they are paid. In yesterday’s reflection, a quote from a talk given by Fr Joseph Cardijn highlighted “the dangers to which they [young workers] are exposed” and he named areas of their lives where they are tempted to be less than themselves. Cardijn said on another occasion, “Left to themselves, young workers cannot possibly recognise their own dignity and fulfil their mission. They are incapable of understanding it with no one to help them, form them and uphold them.”

When I think about the young workers I see at Mass every Sunday evening, I wonder, “What does my parish do to help them, form them and uphold them? Our parish priest has invited them to form a young adults group. Some have responded to the invitation. And some have undertaken to be leaders in the youth group that meets after the evening Mass every other Sunday. This is an action that has flowed from the group that has been formed by him.

Cardijn committed his life to accompanying young workers and training young leaders as apostles to the workers. His faith in Jesus motivated him and he sought to communicate with young people about the centrality of Jesus in their vocation as workers. He said of them in the first lecture of the 1949 Godinne series of lectures, that “they are not criminals sentenced to a life of servitude, but the sons and daughters of God who have a magnificent, sacred, divine mission in their life and work.” I hope this is the message the young in our parish hear from our priest. 

The Gospel reading for today’s Mass (Mark 7:24-30) presents us with a story about the power of faith in Jesus. A Syrophoenician woman appeals to Jesus to save her daughter. The story seems to focus on the verbal jousting that goes on between Jesus and the woman. I think Mark was inspired to write about “faith without borders.” God is passionate about everyone and he invites each into a relationship that is both human and divine. The distressed woman was responding to that invitation from the depths of her despair. She knew that she had to “let go and let God” be creator, redeemer and saviour. Jesus recognised this in the woman’s appeal and he told her to go home to her daughter who had been healed. 

God is present in our world and is engaged in the work of overcoming the power of evil. The temporal destiny of all workers is a life lived in the presence of God, a life marked by productivity and the joy of contributing to the wellbeing of others. This cannot be achieved without God. To act without God is to slow the progress of the triumph of good over evil. God intends us to act in ways that, upon reflection in the spirit of the Creator, we can say, “And it was good.” 

When I continue with my reading of the report into the underpayment of workers in Australia, I will look for signs of the presence of God and be thankful for the work being done to overcome evil. Being thankful in prayer; expressing appreciation for the work of those who participate in God’s work of completing creation through acts of restorative justice; and responding as God’s instruments of salvation to the needs of people around us: these are actions that we can all undertake each day as we work in God’s presence.


Pat Branson

Read more 

The Senate Economics References Committee – Unlawful underpayment of employees’ remuneration

The young worker faces life – The 1949 Godinne series of lectures

The parish and young workers

We saw in an earlier post the significance Cardijn placed to the parish as a platform for social action.

In today’s post, we see how importantly he regarded the role of the parish as a means of reaching out to young workers.

He wrote:

At the age of 14 – and before the war, at the age of 11 – 12, a large number of our young parishioners leave school to begin their life as paid workers. This new life, ordinarily takes place outside of and often far from the family and the parish. It has a decisive influence on the mentality, on the conduct, and on the spiritual and temporal future of the adolescent boy and girl. There are half a million such youngsters in Belgium, aged 14 to 21 – the entire working class of tomorrow.

Oh, who knows about their life, conversations, acts, habits; the dangers to which they are exposed; the abuses of which they are often the victims; the temptations, the scandals, the promiscuities which surround them in their work, in the transport they use to go to work; at the office, in the workshop, in the factories, the mines … during their rest periods, during the leisure and recreation?

The life of young parishioners

But what attitude should the parish adopt? Cardijn asked:

The parish – is it interested in the life of these young parishioners? How many are there in each parish? How are they prepared for this life at work? Has one brought them together on the eve of their entry into the factory or office – to show them the interest that we take in that new stage … so important in their life? Does one celebrate a mass for their intention? Does one try to interest other parishioners in such a ceremony? Does one give to these newcomers to the world of work – older companions – true guardian angels – who would watch over their first steps in the apprenticeship of this life of liberty? And then, who forms their professional conscience? Who assists them, counsels them … helps them in the numerous cases when it is impossible for them to manage alone … in teaching them about their professional tasks, in their apprenticeship, in their morality, in their safety and hygiene at work, in relation to all the accidents and conditions of their work which have a preponderant influence on their health, their future, their religious and parish life? … And when they return from work in the evening, or on Sunday, who offers them normal occasions to continue their education, their recreation? Who helps them save, have insurance, who helps them prepare for a healthy … integral … true family life?

Young workers abandoned

Cardijn was unsparing in his criticism of parishes and the Church in general for its failure to respond to these issues:

Let’s admit it humbly, for all those problems, particular to the working youth and which are essential for the development of their moral and religious life – that is to say their parish life – the majority of young workers are abandoned to themselves.

All this part of their life, by far the most important; takes place far from the influence of parish life and clergy. All these difficult and complicated problems are solved … without the knowledge and often without any contact with parish clergy and parish life. In the young worker’s life, how often are the parish, the clergy, the church, the ceremonies … criticised, and ridiculed? And little by little, often very quickly, the young worker is no longer interested in the parish life or clergy. He becomes indifferent; he distances himself … since all that has become foreign: absent from his daily life so humble, difficult … which he lives far from that one hour of time (if at all) he might spend on Sunday in the parish church.

The YCW response

Cardijn continued on to explain the YCW’s response to these problems:

Now there is the problem which is presented in urgent fashion: How to maintain… I would say, how to re-establish the contact between parish life and the habitual life of the young workers in the parish? How to achieve … that the parish, its life and organisation, its clergy have a preponderant and decisive influence on the life of the young workers – not only to assist them, to prepare and protect them from temptations … and the initiations and the scandals of abuse? Beyond that, and above all how to influence their life at work, en route to work, with their companions? Were the parish to show such interest, youngsters would be proud to be faithful parishioners, practising Christians and audacious … apostles of parish life. Then it would appear clearly to them as Christian life, lived socially and organically, in community, in strong union with other Christians. They would also be proud to imprint their daily life with the principles of the Divine Master, who continues to act and teach through the church, the parish and its clergy.

This is how we believe the problem can be faced efficaciously and practically … There is but one means: that of a specific group of young workers in a parish section of YCW as soon as they leave school. There, among themselves, by themselves and for themselves, with the assistance of the parish clergy – they face all the problems of their life as young workers; they form themselves to seek practical solutions; they learn to think, to speak, to discuss and to act as Christians; they organise all kinds of services; they offer mutual aid in a concrete and living manner in order to live a Christian life … linking their life at work with their parish life; inspiring their life at work with parish ideals. They learn to sanctify their life at work through a communion of thought; feelings, acts, prayers and sufferings … uniting their daily life to the sacrificial gesture of the parish clergy … at the altar where the Divine Victim who alone can give the strength and courage necessary to reach and save their fellow workers.

This parish union of the young workers puts Christian doctrine at the base of their life as young workers. It is as young Christians, young parishioners that they learn to practically and concretely solve the problems of their life as young workers. What is the significance of their work? What kind of conduct/attitude should one have at work? What are the legitimate and necessary demands necessary to their parish life? What are the institutions for saving, for insurance, for further education and recreation which are favourable for the development of their professional, physical, moral and religious life?

The parish doctrine, which is Christian doctrine applied to the organisation of Christian society – could furnish all the answers. When the young workers understand that; when they have sensed and touched that …because it was explained simply and concretely – oh how proud they are to be parishioners, to live as parishioners everywhere: at home as with their fellow workers! How proud they are to reply to insults against the clergy, the sacraments and the church and religion. The parish section of the YCW unites them freely, and voluntarily of their own choice … without violence … inculcates in them an esprit de corps, a spirit of association, of mutual aid, of mutual caring, of Christian loyalty which is the best cement for parish life.

Such was Cardijn’s vision for the Catholic parish!

Can we recreate it today?

Stefan Gigacz



The parish and young workers

We saw in an earlier post the significance Cardijn placed to the parish as a platform for social action.

In today’s post, we see how importantly he regarded the role of the parish as a means of reaching out to young workers.

He wrote:

At the age of 14 – and before the war, at the age of 11 – 12, a large number of our young parishioners leave school to begin their life as paid workers. This new life, ordinarily takes place outside of and often far from the family and the parish. It has a decisive influence on the mentality, on the conduct, and on the spiritual and temporal future of the adolescent boy and girl. There are half a million such youngsters in Belgium, aged 14 to 21 – the entire working class of tomorrow.

Oh, who knows about their life, conversations, acts, habits; the dangers to which they are exposed; the abuses of which they are often the victims; the temptations, the scandals, the promiscuities which surround them in their work, in the transport they use to go to work; at the office, in the workshop, in the factories, the mines … during their rest periods, during the leisure and recreation?

The life of young parishioners

But what attitude should the parish adopt? Cardijn asked:

The parish – is it interested in the life of these young parishioners? How many are there in each parish? How are they prepared for this life at work? Has one brought them together on the eve of their entry into the factory or office – to show them the interest that we take in that new stage … so important in their life? Does one celebrate a mass for their intention? Does one try to interest other parishioners in such a ceremony? Does one give to these newcomers to the world of work – older companions – true guardian angels – who would watch over their first steps in the apprenticeship of this life of liberty? And then, who forms their professional conscience? Who assists them, counsels them … helps them in the numerous cases when it is impossible for them to manage alone … in teaching them about their professional tasks, in their apprenticeship, in their morality, in their safety and hygiene at work, in relation to all the accidents and conditions of their work which have a preponderant influence on their health, their future, their religious and parish life? … And when they return from work in the evening, or on Sunday, who offers them normal occasions to continue their education, their recreation? Who helps them save, have insurance, who helps them prepare for a healthy … integral … true family life?

Young workers abandoned

Cardijn was unsparing in his criticism of parishes and the Church in general for its failure to respond to these issues:

Let’s admit it humbly, for all those problems, particular to the working youth and which are essential for the development of their moral and religious life – that is to say their parish life – the majority of young workers are abandoned to themselves.

All this part of their life, by far the most important; takes place far from the influence of parish life and clergy. All these difficult and complicated problems are solved … without the knowledge and often without any contact with parish clergy and parish life. In the young worker’s life, how often are the parish, the clergy, the church, the ceremonies … criticised, and ridiculed? And little by little, often very quickly, the young worker is no longer interested in the parish life or clergy. He becomes indifferent; he distances himself … since all that has become foreign: absent from his daily life so humble, difficult … which he lives far from that one hour of time (if at all) he might spend on Sunday in the parish church.

The YCW response

Cardijn continued on to explain the YCW’s response to these problems:

Now there is the problem which is presented in urgent fashion: How to maintain… I would say, how to re-establish the contact between parish life and the habitual life of the young workers in the parish? How to achieve … that the parish, its life and organisation, its clergy have a preponderant and decisive influence on the life of the young workers – not only to assist them, to prepare and protect them from temptations … and the initiations and the scandals of abuse? Beyond that, and above all how to influence their life at work, en route to work, with their companions? Were the parish to show such interest, youngsters would be proud to be faithful parishioners, practising Christians and audacious … apostles of parish life. Then it would appear clearly to them as Christian life, lived socially and organically, in community, in strong union with other Christians. They would also be proud to imprint their daily life with the principles of the Divine Master, who continues to act and teach through the church, the parish and its clergy.

This is how we believe the problem can be faced efficaciously and practically … There is but one means: that of a specific group of young workers in a parish section of YCW as soon as they leave school. There, among themselves, by themselves and for themselves, with the assistance of the parish clergy – they face all the problems of their life as young workers; they form themselves to seek practical solutions; they learn to think, to speak, to discuss and to act as Christians; they organise all kinds of services; they offer mutual aid in a concrete and living manner in order to live a Christian life … linking their life at work with their parish life; inspiring their life at work with parish ideals. They learn to sanctify their life at work through a communion of thought; feelings, acts, prayers and sufferings … uniting their daily life to the sacrificial gesture of the parish clergy … at the altar where the Divine Victim who alone can give the strength and courage necessary to reach and save their fellow workers.

This parish union of the young workers puts Christian doctrine at the base of their life as young workers. It is as young Christians, young parishioners that they learn to practically and concretely solve the problems of their life as young workers. What is the significance of their work? What kind of conduct/attitude should one have at work? What are the legitimate and necessary demands necessary to their parish life? What are the institutions for saving, for insurance, for further education and recreation which are favourable for the development of their professional, physical, moral and religious life? The parish doctrine, which is Christian doctrine applied to the organisation of Christian society – could furnish all the answers. When the young workers understand that; when they have sensed and touched that …because it was explained simply and concretely – oh how proud they are to be parishioners, to live as parishioners everywhere: at home as with their fellow workers! How proud they are to reply to insults against the clergy, the sacraments and the church and religion. The parish section of the YCW unites them freely, and voluntarily of their own choice … without violence … inculcates in them an esprit de corps, a spirit of association, of mutual aid, of mutual caring, of Christian loyalty which is the best cement for parish life.


Let us make man in our image

In today’s first reading (Genesis 1: 20 – 2:4), we find the passage: 

…God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in the likeness of ourselves, and let them be masters of the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven, the cattle, all the wild beasts and all the reptiles that crawl upon the earth.’ 

…God created man in the image of himself, in the image of God, he created him, male and female, he created them. 

Cardinal Cardijn made this clear to young workers.  

“Young workers must always be faced with the great truth of the eternal destiny of the mass of young workers. How often have I cried out at mass meetings: You are not machines, beasts of burden, slaves; you are human beings, with an eternal destiny, a divine origin, a divine purpose. You are sons of God, partners with God, you are heirs of God; this is true, not only for a select few but for the masses and the whole of the working class, without exception.” 

Cardijn (1945) A YCW of the masses to the scale of the world


The world today is better than it was in the past. Despite the systemic environmental degradation, the quality of life of billions is improving. Yet, billions are also suffering. 

The abundance of God’s creation is insufficient for the wants of many. This imbalance between the desires of a significant population against the needs of others desecrates and violates the truth that all humans are created in the image and likeness of God. 

Pat’s reflection on 4 February 2023 captures this imbalance in rich and abundant Australia.


Do I/we believe in today’s first reading — that we are all created in the image and likeness of God, and therefore we are all equal no matter what our station in life is? 

Do I/we believe in Cardijn’s exhortation that we are not machines, beasts of burden, slaves … to employers, to consumerism, to materialism, to an ideology…

Do I/we believe that i/we are children of God, partners with God, and heirs of God? 


If I/we believe in today’s first reading and in Cardijn’s exhortation:

  • What could I/we do not to become a slave to an employer, to an ideology, to consumerism, or to materialism? 
  • What could I/we do to help those suffering from injustices that deprive them of their humanity?


All that He created was good, and all those who touched Him were cured

In yesterday’s reflection, Stefan explained how Cardinal Cardijn saw the role of the Young Christian Workers (YCW) and the parish. The foundation of the YCW was the parish, and the social action that the YCW undertook was part of parish life. 

Pope Francis, in 2022, would develop further what Cardinal Cardijn said in 1925 when speaking to the French social organisation, “Village de Francois (Village of Francis).” 

“Jesus Christ alone fills our thirsty hearts,” Pope Francis stressed to members of the Village of Francis.

The Village of Francis develops and runs innovative shared living spaces, i.e. the Village. It brings together vulnerable people and those who care for them, focusing on three areas: living together, economic activity and integral ecology. 

The Village of Francis, the Pope said, “is an ecclesial place that goes out of the usual framework to propose something else.” 

“It is the Church as a ‘field hospital,’ concerned more with those who suffer than defending its interests, taking the risk of novelty to be more faithful to the Gospel.”

“I hope that the Village of Francis will contribute to rediscovering what a true village is: a fabric of concrete human relations, in mutual support, in attention to those in need, in the coexistence of generations and the concern to respect the Creation that surrounds us.”  

After reading Cardinal Cardijn’s and Pope Francis’s views on the role of the Church (parishes and parishioners), can we conceive parish life as reduced to only going to mass and receiving sacraments? 


Why do I go to Church? 

Why do the people I know go to Church? 

Is my parish actively involved in the life of the community where my parish is located? 

Is my parish “a fabric of concrete human relations, in mutual support, in attention to those in need – within and outside the parish?”


God saw that it was good. The first reading (Genesis 1:1-19) is the creation story. What God created was good, and more importantly, He created the universe, the world, and everything in it in abundance and for everyone. 

All those who touched Him were cured. Today’s Gospel (Mark 6:53-56) shows a broken world filled with suffering, and Jesus is the healer. Those who touched Him were cured. 


How can my parish – followers of Jesus Christ – help restore God’s creation? 

How can my parish – followers of Jesus Christ – be an instrument of His healing?


Greg Lopez


Social action as a means of reviving parish life

Although the YCW was not officially and formally founded until 1925, Cardijn always insisted that its real foundation was in the parish of Our Lady at Laeken, not far from the centre of Brussels, to which he was posted at Easter 1912.

Placed in charge of women’s projects in the parish, within a year, he had organised over 1000 women in various groups, including several embryonic study circles for teenage female workers.

It was an amazing demonstration of what a Catholic parish could be!

Nevertheless, he – and the emerging YCW – often faced criticism. And in a famous 1925 speech entitled “The YCW and the parish,” Cardijn sought to respond to these criticisms.

This talk, he said, “offers me a unique occasion to show by the concrete example of the YCW, how the social organisations in general must – and if they are well structured and well directed – can become one of the most appropriate means of our time to revive PARISH LIFE; to reconstitute the parish community in its integral nature of doing good.”

“Unfortunately, in many industrial regions, the parish is no longer significant except among the clergy,” Cardijn lamented in words that could easily apply today.

He continued:

Ask the people, and those who still understand the name will respond: “The parish, the parish priest… that’s where people go for baptisms, for children’s first conmunion, for marriage and funerals.”

“The bonds which exist among the parishioners, between them and the parish clergy… their rights and reciprocal duties… the family and the parish union… all that no longer lives for the masses. That kernel of the militant Church, united in the struggle for the Christian organisation of earthly society and the conquest of blessed eternity… scarcely appears any more to most people.

And yet, the esprit de corps, the conscious and strong union among all the parishioners which manifests itself to the public by a united front in the defense as in the attack – is more indispensable than ever in order to restore Christian life… to re-infuse the sense of catholic/universal … not only in the working class, but in all of society. And we think that the parish social works are an easy means to bring back the masses to that community of life, to that esprit de corps, to the understanding of the parish spirit.

We must truly dare to admit, among ourselves, that apropos of the social organisations, there are regrettable misunderstandings which prevent many generosities. “The social organisations, according to some people, exist and work at the margin of the parish”… “The social sphere, the social framework (cadre), according to certain people, is in opposition to the … parish framework”. To the directors of social works, some say “You come and divide the parishioners, with your organisations which take into account their interests, their conditions and their requirements-bringing sometimes hostile divisions”. Haven’t you already heard the remark: “pretty soon different parishes will need to be created for the workers, for the farmers and for the employers”.

These misunderstandings come from a superficial concept. In a society truly Christian, the social organisations would be indissolubly united to the parish, as the body of this earthly life is united to the soul … and as the members are united to the body. When, in view of eternal happiness, the parish interests itself in all the needs of the parishioner, when the parish finds a favorable solution, an assistance for all the problems which arise in concrete daily life, humble and often difficult; … when the Church and the parish clergy are no longer strangers to the vital questions posed by the conditions of modern life – which, moreover have a fatal repercussion on religious life.., then our modern society – in all its manifestations: social, economic, artistic and recreational – will again be as it was during the Middle Ages: guided, clarified and protected by the parish spirit which is the true Christian social spirit.

Here we find Cardijn’s integral conception of the role of Church of assisting parishioners to address the problems of daily life and of modern society. This, he argued, was the true Christian social spirit.

And in a later reflection, we will look at how the YCW became Cardijn’s model of this vision.


Stefan Gigacz


Joseph Cardijn, The YCW and the parish (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)


1500 Belgian jocists on pilgrimage to Rome where they were presented to the popê in the work clothes. The miners’ group. Photo: Keystone

Let us make man in our image

In today’s first reading (Genesis 1: 20 – 2:4), we find the passage: 

…God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in the likeness of ourselves, and let them be masters of the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven, the cattle, all the wild beasts and all the reptiles that crawl upon the earth.’ 

…God created man in the image of himself, in the image of God, he created him, male and female, he created them. 

Cardinal Cardijn made this clear to young workers.  

“Young workers must always be faced with the great truth of the eternal destiny of the mass of young workers. How often have I cried out at mass meetings: You are not machines, beasts of burden, slaves; you are human beings, with an eternal destiny, a divine origin, a divine purpose. You are sons of God, partners with God, you are heirs of God; this is true, not only for a select few but for the masses and the whole of the working class, without exception.” 

Cardijn (1945) A YCW of the masses to the scale of the world


The world today is better than it was in the past. Despite the systemic environmental degradation, the quality of life of billions is improving. Yet, billions are also suffering. 

The abundance of God’s creation is insufficient for the wants of many. This imbalance between the desires of a significant population against the needs of others desecrates and violates the truth that all humans are created in the image and likeness of God. 

Pat’s reflection on 4 February 2023 captures this imbalance in rich and abundant Australia.


Do I/we believe in today’s first reading — that we are all created in the image and likeness of God, and therefore we are all equal no matter what our station in life is? 

Do I/we believe in Cardijn’s exhortation that we are not machines, beasts of burden, slaves … to employers, to consumerism, to materialism, to an ideology…

Do I/we believe that i/we are children of God, partners with God, and heirs of God? 


If I/we believe in today’s first reading and in Cardijn’s exhortation:

  • What could I/we do not to become a slave to an employer, to an ideology, to consumerism, or to materialism? 
  • What could I/we do to help those suffering from injustices that deprive them of their humanity?

All that He created was good, and all those who touched Him were cured

In yesterday’s reflection, Stefan explained how Cardinal Cardijn saw the role of the Young Christian Workers (YCW) and the parish. The foundation of the YCW was the parish, and the social action that the YCW undertook was part of parish life. 

Pope Francis, in 2022, would develop further what Cardinal Cardijn said in 1925 when speaking to the French social organisation, “Village de Francois (Village of Francis).” 

“Jesus Christ alone fills our thirsty hearts,” Pope Francis stressed to members of the Village of Francis.

The Village of Francis develops and runs innovative shared living spaces, i.e. the Village. It brings together vulnerable people and those who care for them, focusing on three areas: living together, economic activity and integral ecology. 

The Village of Francis, the Pope said, “is an ecclesial place that goes out of the usual framework to propose something else.” 

“It is the Church as a ‘field hospital,’ concerned more with those who suffer than defending its interests, taking the risk of novelty to be more faithful to the Gospel.”

“I hope that the Village of Francis will contribute to rediscovering what a true village is: a fabric of concrete human relations, in mutual support, in attention to those in need, in the coexistence of generations and the concern to respect the Creation that surrounds us.”  

After reading Cardinal Cardijn’s and Pope Francis’s views on the role of the Church (parishes and parishioners), can we conceive parish life as reduced to only going to mass and receiving sacraments? 


Why do I go to Church? 

Why do the people I know go to Church? 

Is my parish actively involved in the life of the community where my parish is located? 

Is my parish “a fabric of concrete human relations, in mutual support, in attention to those in need – within and outside the parish?”


God saw that it was good. The first reading (Genesis 1:1-19) is the creation story. What God created was good, and more importantly, He created the universe, the world, and everything in it in abundance and for everyone. 

All those who touched Him were cured. Today’s Gospel (Mark 6:53-56) shows a broken world filled with suffering, and Jesus is the healer. Those who touched Him were cured. 


How can my parish – followers of Jesus Christ – help restore God’s creation? 

How can my parish – followers of Jesus Christ – be an instrument of His healing?


Greg Lopez

Social action as a means of reviving parish life

Although the YCW was not officially and formally founded until 1925, Cardijn always insisted that its real foundation was in the parish of Our Lady at Laeken, not far from the centre of Brussels, to which he was posted at Easter 1912.

Placed in charge of women’s projects in the parish, within a year, he had organised over 1000 women in various groups, including several embryonic study circles for teenage female workers.

It was an amazing demonstration of what a Catholic parish could be!

Nevertheless, he – and the emerging YCW – often faced criticism. And in a famous 1925 speech entitled “The YCW and the parish,” Cardijn sought to respond to these criticisms.

This talk, he said, “offers me a unique occasion to show by the concrete example of the YCW, how the social organisations in general must – and if they are well structured and well directed – can become one of the most appropriate means of our time to revive PARISH LIFE; to reconstitute the parish community in its integral nature of doing good.”

“Unfortunately, in many industrial regions, the parish is no longer significant except among the clergy,” Cardijn lamented in words that could easily apply today.

He continued:

Ask the people, and those who still understand the name will respond: “The parish, the parish priest… that’s where people go for baptisms, for children’s first conmunion, for marriage and funerals.”

“The bonds which exist among the parishioners, between them and the parish clergy… their rights and reciprocal duties… the family and the parish union… all that no longer lives for the masses. That kernel of the militant Church, united in the struggle for the Christian organisation of earthly society and the conquest of blessed eternity… scarcely appears any more to most people.

And yet, the esprit de corps, the conscious and strong union among all the parishioners which manifests itself to the public by a united front in the defense as in the attack – is more indispensable than ever in order to restore Christian life… to re-infuse the sense of catholic/universal … not only in the working class, but in all of society. And we think that the parish social works are an easy means to bring back the masses to that community of life, to that esprit de corps, to the understanding of the parish spirit.

We must truly dare to admit, among ourselves, that apropos of the social organisations, there are regrettable misunderstandings which prevent many generosities. “The social organisations, according to some people, exist and work at the margin of the parish”… “The social sphere, the social framework (cadre), according to certain people, is in opposition to the … parish framework”. To the directors of social works, some say “You come and divide the parishioners, with your organisations which take into account their interests, their conditions and their requirements-bringing sometimes hostile divisions”. Haven’t you already heard the remark: “pretty soon different parishes will need to be created for the workers, for the farmers and for the employers”.

These misunderstandings come from a superficial concept. In a society truly Christian, the social organisations would be indissolubly united to the parish, as the body of this earthly life is united to the soul … and as the members are united to the body. When, in view of eternal happiness, the parish interests itself in all the needs of the parishioner, when the parish finds a favorable solution, an assistance for all the problems which arise in concrete daily life, humble and often difficult; … when the Church and the parish clergy are no longer strangers to the vital questions posed by the conditions of modern life – which, moreover have a fatal repercussion on religious life.., then our modern society – in all its manifestations: social, economic, artistic and recreational – will again be as it was during the Middle Ages: guided, clarified and protected by the parish spirit which is the true Christian social spirit.

Here we find Cardijn’s integral conception of the role of Church of assisting parishioners to address the problems of daily life and of modern society. This, he argued, was the true Christian social spirit.

And in a later reflection, we will look at how the YCW became Cardijn’s model of this vision.


Stefan Gigacz


Joseph Cardijn, The YCW and the parish (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)


Laeken women’s groups 1920s

Systemic, sustained and shameful: the exploitation of workers

He sat across from me at a table in the cafe and as I I listened, I recognised his concern for his friends from overseas, who had come to Australia to study and had to work excessively long hours to pay for the privilege of studying here. He was looking for funding to provide food for his friends so that they would not have to work so long each week. 

Is it possible that these young workers are being exploited? In March, 2022, the Senate Economic References Committee examining unlawful underpayment of employees, tabled a report into the unlawful underpayment of migrant workers in Australia. They described the problem as “systemic, sustained and shameful”. The report highlights weaknesses in the laws intended to protect workers from exploitation by employers. While the government fails to act, migrants (including asylum seekers and refugees) can become enslaved in our country. 

The problem has existed for as long as society has existed. Cardijn identified it as a product of liberalism. In 1949, he presented the Godinne series of lectures titled The Young Worker Faces Life. In the third lecture on the “mystery of vocation,” he made reference to the working class being in “the tomb of error, exploitation, and slavery in which liberalism buried it for centuries.” The release from that tomb is a struggle. 

This is not what God intends for people. The Exodus story reveals God’s plan for people to live freely and to ensure that the goods of the world are there for all people to use and for all generations to come. The attitude that we must bring to ensuring that all people are treated with dignity is revealed to us in the Gospel reading for Saturday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time, Year 1 (Mark 6:30-34). Mark shows us the compassion of Jesus, who places the needs of others, in this instance, the needs of his apostles and the needs of those who wanted to learn from him, before his own needs. 

All this suggests that we need to have a radical change of mind and heart. We are not put on this earth to acquire as much as we possible can. We have a responsibility to ourselves, to others and to God, to use only what we need and always with an eye on the needs of others who will come after us and the intention to provide for the future. So what action can we take and encourage others to join in doing to ensure the end of exploitation and slavery of workers in our country and in the world? 

I suggest the following as a course of action: Read the report prepared by the Senate Economic References Committee and use social media to encourage others to read it also. Then choose one aspect of the report and the recommendation(s) flowing from it as tabled in the report. Write to your local member to urge them to argue on your behalf for action to happen now, not later. There are probably other and better actions to be carried out to bring about the change that is needed in peoples’ minds and hearts. If you are certain of this, then consider writing a reflection to be posted to this page on the Joseph Cardijn Digital Library website. 


Laurie Berg and Bassina Farenblum: Australia is bringing migrant workers back – but exploitation is still rampant 

The Senate Economics References Committee – Unlawful underpayment of employees’ remuneration

The Young Worker Faces Life – Joseph Cardijn Digital Library

A witness for justice

The twelve Apostles, St Paul, St John the Baptist (the Gospel today is of his beheading), and St Maximilian Kolbe are examples of individuals who gave up their lives to witness their faith. 

The Young Christian Worker (YCW) movement has also produced its fair share of martyrs. The brothers Andre and Roger Vallee and Daniel Antero are among them. The Joseph Cardijn Digital Library lists individuals from the YCW or related to YCW who have died in witnessing their faith. 

There are martyrs, and there are those who live faithful lives every day without the need to be a martyr. We are all called to be a witness. And courage and bravery – witnessing for justice – can occur in ordinary life.

We witness the faith when:

  • We stand up for a family member, friend, colleague or community member who is being bullied or hurt.
  • We call out inappropriate behaviour by family, friends, colleagues, or community members. 
  • We hold ourselves and our leaders accountable.  


Injustice is a feature of human nature, primarily due to power imbalance. Powerful people often disregard the rights of those weaker than themselves.  

How do we respond to injustice? How do we strive for justice? How do we witness our faith?


Today’s Gospel passage is about injustice. We read how St John the Baptist – who Jesus Himself said was a great man – was beheaded by King Herod because of an oath Herod had made to the daughter of Herodias, who hated John the Baptist because he was pointing out her and Herod’s wrongdoing.

This is St John the Baptist, who we read, baptising Jesus some days ago. St John the Baptist accepted this without a complaint. He had prepared himself for this time.  

The YCW members who were martyrs did not use violence. They were prepared.


Will I be prepared to peacefully stand up for what I believe in, like the Valle brothers? 

Will I be prepared to peacefully stand up for what I believe in, like Daniel Antero?

Workers called to be apostles

In a Christian context, an apostle is someone who is sent to deliver God’s good news to people so that they can find in God the source of light and life they need. I spent more than twenty years being educated in a school named after St Maximilian Kolbe (1894-1941) who was referred to as the “Apostle of Our Difficult Age” by one of his biographers. He dedicated his life to providing spiritual sustenance to people in Poland and Japan. Well, the difficult age is still with us and so are the apostles. 

Fr Joseph Cardijn (1882-1967), a contemporary of Fr Maximilian Kolbe, referred to young workers, whom he formed in faith, as apostles. They spread the good news by word and example and he considered them to be indispensable in the Church’s mission to evangelise the world. Cardijn gave a series of lectures in 1948, which he titled The Young Worker Faces Life. In the first lecture, he established the place of apostles in the life of the young worker and in the Church: 

“In everyday life and its environment, the Church and Our Lord need what the Pope calls the principal and immediate apostles of the workers. There is a chain of apostles: the immediate neighbour, close at hand; the foreman and adult workers; then parents, priests, bishops, and the Pope. The chain is the means by which the divine influence is exercised on each young worker. Break the chain, and almighty God becomes, as it were, powerless.”

Regrettably, the chain has been broken. Was it ever unbroken? Clearly, for Cardijn, there were experiences of the apostolic action of the young workers he formed in faith. The coming of the Holy Spirit empowers people to embrace an apostolic life. Witness the chain in its Gospel incarnation, celebrated in the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord (Luke 2:22-40). The prophet Simeon gives the response of one who has been visited by the apostles we know as Mary and Joseph. In their presence, he acknowledges gratefully the generosity of God made visible in the infant Jesus. “My eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared for all the nations to see.” They had come to the Temple to offer their son Jesus to God. Luke’s summary of the life of Jesus in Nazareth is the fruit of all apostolic activity: “… the child grew to maturity, and he was filled with wisdom, and God’s favour was with him”.

We are called to be apostles of our age, in quiet ways, giving silent witness to the presence of God in our world and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. And like the saints I have tried to honour here, our first and constant action that God encourages in us is prayer: God invites us into a prayerful relationship with the Holy Trinity, the model family. How, then, do we include others in actions flowing from prayer? And what actions can we undertake to draw people into considering a relationship with God? 


Pat Branson


The Young Worker Faces Life – the Godinne 1948 series of lectures by Fr Joseph Cardijn 

Daniel Esquivel Antero, a lay jocist martyr

Daniel Esquivel Antero was born on 3 January, 1945 in Quyquyó (Republic of Paraguay).

As a teenager, he became a member of the YCW. In February 1970 he emigrated to Buenos Aires in search of steady work, settling in the area of ​​Villa Fiorito, where he worked as a construction worker, a painter, and as an electrician.

Along with other young compatriots, he founded a YCW for Paraguayan Immigrants. Soon after at Easter 1970, he encouraged and promoted the foundation of the Paraguayan Ministry Team in Argentina (PPA).

A biographer wrote of him:

His humble and dignified poverty did not prevent him from sharing what he had and bringing a message of hope to those who needed it. Many times he experienced the pain and embarrassment of destitution or even being assaulted many times, sometimes violently. But nothing dented his daily dedication to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, in his devotion to the Virgin of Miracles Caacupé, patron saint of Paraguay, nor in serving the poor and needy.

Daniel lived the last years of his life in the diocese of Lomas de Zamora.

On 1 February, 1977 he was snatched from his home during the violence that engulfed Argentina during that period.

A few days later, the then Bishop, Monsignor Desiderio Collino Elso publicly denounced Daniel’s disappearance in his Lenten pastoral letter read in all parishes and churches in the Diocese of Lomas de Zamora,

We remember Daniel and his dedication to young workers.

Reflection author

Stefan Gigacz


Daniel Esquivel Antero (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Brothers André and Roger Vallée died in Nazi concentration camps

Today we remember the sacrifice of two French jocist leaders, who both died in Nazi concentrations during World War.

Here is their story:

André Vallée was a JOC leader from the Orne region in France, who volunteered to replace another man who was being sent to Germany for forced labour. Arrested for his working organising Catholic Action study circles, he was sent to Flossenburg Concentration Camp. He died while being transferred to another camp.

André Vallée was born at Mortagne au Perche in the Orne region on 9 November 1919. After completing his studies he became a machine operator at the Oeuvre de La Chapelle-Montligeon in 1934. Simultaneously, he joined the JOC, becoming a federal (regional) leader in the Orne region from 1941.

In June 1940 he was mobilised for military service then made a prisoner of war at Poitiers. Freed later, he was sent to a youth camp in Auvergne. In November 1942, he took the place of a family man who had been called for compulstory labour and was sent to Gotha in Thuringia.

Immediately after his arrival, he identified three other Catholic Action leaders with whom he launched an initial reflection group. The JOC groups that he launched with his brother, Roger, a seminarian, grew to 60 members. Group members shared out the solidarity work among them with André taking on the task of visiting the sick in hospital.

He also became particularly involved in the library that they founded despite the fact that the sending of books from France was prohibited. He also organised singing practice, masses of support for the French with contacts every two months among JOC leadersin other regions, all of which was done clandestinely since all religious groups were prohibited.

Roger Vallée, André’s brother, was born in Mortagne on 13 December 1920. Following his primary school studies, he joined the minor seminary in 1933 and entered the major seminary in 1940, taking minor orders in June 1943.

Called up for compulsory labour service in August 1943, he joined his brother at Gotha to assist him in his apostolate. He became involved in developing weekly study circles, local recollections to support jocist leaders and also took part in regional meetings.

On 22 December 1943, police ordered them to no longer celebrate mass for foreigners.

They were arrested at Gotha on 1 April 1944, interrogated by experts in religious matters before being imprisoned at Gotha along with ten other companions arrested for the same reason.

The reason for conviction was the same in each case: “A danger to the state and the German people by his Catholic Action among his French comrades during his Compulsory Labour Service.”

André arrived at the Flossenbürg concentration camp on 12 October 1944 where he was given the number 28910. He was transferred to the Leitmeritz commando, dying en route on 31 January 1945 according to eye witnesses. His death was registered at the Flossenburg camp on 15 February 1945.

Roger arrived at Flossenburg on 12 October 1945, was given the number 28909 then transferred to Mauthausen, given number 108,811 where he died on 29 October 1944.

We remember their sacrifice and that of so many more jocist martyrs, who died during World War II, including Fernand Tonnet and Paul Garcet, both members of the “founder trio” in Belgium.


André Vallée (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Reflection author

Stefan Gigacz

Read more

Fernand Tonnet (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Paul Garcet (Paul Garcet (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library

Brothers and Sisters All in Transforming the World

Emotions can be powerful forces of destruction. Our news media is filled with stories of people who wreak havoc on society when emotions are not directed appropriately. St Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), whose feast was celebrated on January 28, highlighted the impact of the emotion of desire when it dominates a person’s life. The saint identified wealth, power, pleasure and honour as categories of addictive desire. Those whose lives are ruled by their addiction to power, wealth, pleasure and honour, create injustice in our society. 

Fr Joseph Cardijn was well aware of the impact of addictive desires on society. He identified the development of technology as transformative, but drew attention to the negative effects of such development on society. In his keynote address to the delegates gathered in Rome for the World Congress for the Lay Apostolate, in October, 1951, Cardijn outlined the positive and negative effects of the transformation of society because of technology. The unequal distribution of technological advances globally “pose problems of responsibility, of equity, of social justice, and, above all, problems of education and formation.” 

The injustices that Cardijn identified in society in the first half of the twentieth century can be found in our world today, despite the further advances in technology. In his letter Fratelli Tutti (2020), Pope Francis tells us that the struggle for justice and peace has to be taken up by each generation and renewed each day. The proactive attitude of the apostles, of Joseph Cardijn, of Pope Francis and of all the saints is what Jesus expects of his disciples. 

The Gospel for the Mass of today recounts the story from Mark’s Gospel (5:1-20) about the man possessed by evil spirits and banished from his community. The evil spirits felt at home in the district in which the man lived. Jesus provides a creative solution. He drives the spirits out of the man and into a herd of pigs tended by Jews living in the area. The pigs drown in the lake and the townspeople ask Jesus to leave the territory. When Jesus’ disciples work together to restore justice, Jesus stands in solidarity with them, even when they experience failure. 

There is within each one of us the desire for peace and justice, the desire for unity, the desire to love one another and to be loved. Pope Francis calls us to action, but not to individualism. Cardijn worked with young lay people to found a movement to work for the coming of God’s kingdom. Who works today to counter the work of those who seek to consolidate their power and wealth at the expense of those who are powerless? What can we do to help them in their work? 


Pat Branson


Keynote Address, World Congress for the Lay Apostolate, 1951

Pope Francis (2020). Fratelli Tutti 

Readings for Mass for Monday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time, Year 1

Ben Tillett: Christian, socialist, unionist

This month marks the 80th anniversary of the death of the English Dockers Union leader, Ben Tillett (11 September 1860 – 27 January 1943), whose example inspired young Cardijn on his visit to London in the summer of 1911.

On of the points that most impressed him was Tillett’s emphasis on “self-help” and education for workers, point that would both become features of the formation offered by the future YCW.

On his return to Brussels, Cardijn wrote a long article for the Belgian magazine, La Revue Sociale Catholique, in which he extolled the work being done by Tillett and his comrades:

I must confess that it was with some emotion that I called at No.425, Mile End Road, the General Secretariat of the D.W.R. and G.W.U.. Mr. Appleton, the Secretary of the General Trades Union Federation, to whom I had spoken about this interview, feared that I might be shown the door: Ben Tillett was no friend of Roman collars. A young lady opened the door. ” Is Mr. Tillett in ?. “No, he’s away at the moment.” And as I stood hesitating at the half-open door a man came down the stairs to us, drawn by the foreign accent. “What can we do for you, sir?”. “Mr Appleton sent me here to speak to Mr. Tillett.” ” Come up, please” he said, leading the way.

Could this be him, a well-built man with a working-class accent and a rough small moustache? No, I found out later that it was Mr. Harry Orbell, Ben Tillett’s old and loyal companion. He showed me into a small room where a girl was leafing through a big ledger. In the next room, larger and more crowded, several men and women employees were busy with usual secretarial work. The telephone was in continual use bringing news of the world of workers, at that time in real uproar. Mr. Tillett was absent but I just had to return in two hours; this pleasant man would arrange a meeting for me.

I was on time; he had not yet returned but would not be long; he had promised to see me. I was given the “Morning Post” to pass the time. Suddenly the bell rang, quick steps made the stairs creak, and a shortish man came in and held out both hands. “Hello, sorry to have kept you waiting”. He made me resume my chair, exchanged his woollen coat for a light white jacket, sat in front of the typewriter and stared at me….

Was I having an illusion? No, no, it was indeed Napoleon’s face, oval, deep, full and severe, the face of a leader of soldiers, the face which at that moment was to be seen in every London street on great coloured placards advertising a popular play ” A Royal Divorce”. And the longer I watched, the more I observed his attitudes, his gestures, his look, the stronger grew the persistent and indelible comparison.

He asked me challengingly for my name, my profession, the reason for my stay in London, and ended the examination with the words, “The Catholic Church is a clever church. The Church of England would never send its priests to study worker organisations.”

The ice was broken, we had become friends. I put question after question, he gave me answer after answer; he looked out for me all the documentation about the movement to which he had dedicated his life and was leading with astonishing mastery.

Finally he sent me away ( he had so much work to get through, the story of the strike to finish ) setting another meeting for 11.0 on Friday, then :” You’re Belgian, aren’t you? I don’t like Belgium – I was put in the cells in Antwerp – no, I don’t like Belgium!” with a grimace, a gesture of spitting out something distasteful….. and again the picture came to mind of the capricious brutal tyrant. I looked at him…”

One last question, sir. “Are you English?” “I am Irish and I have French blood in my veins. But I have always lived in England. ” I understood then that extraordinary mix of the extravagant enthusiasm of the French with the jovial bonhomie of the Irish and the unconquerable tenacity of the English. I answered, “Just as I thought. You are not at all like an Englishman”

He smiled, and I thought I could guess the reason – “Would you allow me to say who I think you resemble ?” “Certainly.” “No flattery, but you have Napoleon’s face.” He smiled, charmed by this remark which must often have flattered him, and shook hands; ” Goodbye till Friday”.

I have just finished reading the short history of the Dockers’ Union, its style so breathless and agitated that Ben Tillett seems to have written it with his body rather than with his hand. The exuberant enthusiast, the impassioned lover who serenades his mistress, the sighted mystic who pushes at the door of his dreams and aspirations for the future, the revolutionary who with a bloody joy throws himself into agitation and, if necessary, into slaughter.

In it you hear bursts of joy and sobs of suffering. He speaks of the “Sweet Little Cherub”, who inspires him like a poet and delights him like a saint, opening in his heart inexhaustible springs of emotion, idealism and enthusiasm. Hardly has he glimpsed his vocation when it becomes a charm that fascinates, a force that transports him above himself, a sort of religion that sanctifies him.

When he appeals to the workers, he prays like the Poverello of Assisi, exhorts like a fiery Savanarola, or issues orders like an Italian condottiere. His enthusiastic words conjure up a delighted throng of speaking images, realistic like those of Meunier, far-seeing like those of Laermans.

He covers the entire gamut of popular tricks – picturesque comparisons, biting mockery, satirical absurdity. But first and foremost he wants to appear as an idealist and is proud to repeat “They call me a dreamer! But people are glad to be around such men to get their ideas; only men and women with imagination know how to live life to the full “.


Stefan Gigacz


Joseph Cardijn, Worker Organisation in England (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Reflection chosen by Stefan Gigacz


BBC Hulton Picture Library

Read more

Ben Tillett (Wikipedia)

Ben Tillett (Spartacus Education)

Benjamin Tillett, British Labour Leader (Britannica)

London Dock Strike 1889 (Wikipedia)

Stefan Gigacz, Was Cardijn a Christian Socialist? (Cardijn Research)

Information and interfaith relations

Today the Church celebrates St Thomas Aquinas, a priest and doctor of the Church. St. Thomas Aquinas lived at the time (1225 – 1274) when the writing of Aristotle (384 – 322 BCE, now considered one of the greatest philosophers) had been rediscovered and became available to people in Europe for the first time in a thousand years. This knowledge of Aristotle came back to Europe through the work of Muslim scholars, who translated Aristotle’s work. 

In engaging with the works of the atheist Aristotle and trusting the works of Muslim scholars (European Catholics were fighting the various Crusade wars between 1096 – 1270), St. Thomas Aquinas showed, in a most significant way, that the truth can come from the most surprising sources.   

Those who follow the See-Judge-Act method (this includes Pope Francis) must thank St. Thomas Aquinas, Aristotle and Muslim scholars (particularly Ibn Rushd or Averroes). Through them (and several others), we have this method of seeking the truth and making decisions.

In his article, “Cardijn’s trinomials: a vision and method of lay apostolate formation“, Stefan Gigacz draws the philosophical lineage of the See-Judge-Act method from Aristotle to Cardijn. 

French Archbishop Emile Guerry also acknowledged the link between the See-Judge-Act and the philosophy of St Thomas:

All chaplains and leaders of Catholic Action should make a profound study of the marvelous tract of St Thomas on Prudence. Prudence is essentially the virtue of action. With his keen psychology, St. Thomas analyses the three acts which make up the exercise of prudence: to deliberate (the small inquiry, the interior counsel which one holds within himself); to judge; to act. Here we easily recognize practically the same three acts of the method of specialized Catholic Action: observe, judge, act.


There is so much information available today that it becomes difficult to determine what is true and what is not. The facts (truth) are no longer clear. There appear to be multiple truths. Society and information are increasingly becoming polarised as they hold on to, defend and promote different truths.  


St. Thomas Aquinas lived in a time of chaos. He did not reject information and truth from sources that could be construed as adversaries to the Church. Instead, he investigated the information through a systematic process. His investigations led to much important work that he became a Doctor of the Church.  


Do we have a systematic approach to seeking the truth to make good decisions? One that allows investigating information without bias or prejudice? One that seeks the truth? 

Let us learn more about the See-Judge-Act method today and practice using it. 


Greg Lopez


Stefan Gigacz, ‘See, judge, act’ more than truth by consensus (Eureka Street)

Joseph Cardijn, The Study Circle and its methods, (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Emile Guerry, Spirituality of Catholic Action (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)


Design drawing for stained glass window with St Thomas Aquinas, heavy-set, with his Summa Theologica (Picryl)

A model jocist president

Today is the birth anniversary of the early Belgian and international jocist leader, Emilie Arnould, born on 27 January 1906.

Cardijn himself recognised her leadership capacities early on, recruiting her as a full-time worker for the Belgian JOCF. After World War II, Cardijn called on her again to assist in developing the YCW international secretariat in Brussels.

Later, she played a key role in establishing Pax Christi International as its secretary general before becoming deputy secretary of the International Federation of Christian Labour Movements.

Sadly, however, I cannot find a photo of her! The above photo is taken from the cover of Joie et Travail (Joy and Work), the magazine of the Belgian JOCF (Girls YCW).

In any event, it seems appropriate to take a text from Emilie herself for our reflection today.

This is a short obituary she wrote in 1932 to mourn the passing of another young worker leader, Marie-Thérèse Joos:


It seems like only yesterday that I met her for the first time. She had come to us, spontaneously, to offer herself completely to Workers’ Catholic Action… Very young,… was she 18, barely 19? She offered herself all vibrant and enthusiastic, desiring to devote all her youth to the raising up of young women workers.

And as she began to better understand our technique of modern apostolate among the working masses, our work literally transported her.

She was not one of those who fears the masses,… on the contrary,… the more a young worker was morally isolated, the further she came, the weaker she was and the more she loved her, understood her, supported her.. She didn’t just help her, she became a genuine friend.

And people say that the more she herself lived through the YCW, the more she formed herself and the more her heart and her aspirations led her entirely towards the understanding of the young workers of the great masses.

Remarkably intelligent, she was not satisfied with having a simple personal influence which she knew how to exert admirably,… but she also understood the great importance of our collective achievements in working-class neighbourhoods and workplaces.

She also had to organise her apostolate well, while giving herself to it without measure, in order to succeed in a few years in completely transforming a YCW section that previously comprises only a few members into an ardent and valiant section of 62 members and this in an extremely difficult environment.

Although she was still very young, she had a very strong character: she knew how to be young and lively, but lively as well as serious, and welcoming and understanding when necessary.

Her family background, which was a modest Christian background, where people were generally favourable to workers’ organisations, had indirectly prepared her to come to us.

How many times, in the evening, very late after the meetings, when I was still her “regional secretary” did we talk together of the most beautiful dreams and built the most beautiful projects that sooner or later would bring the working masses back to the Church in the very difficult Centre region.

And already now, I’m sure that up there, she’s in the process of realising these dreams. She prays for us asking Our Lord to give us that ardent faith which moves mountains.

Just a month before her death, I received a letter in which she told me of all her plans for the formation of six sisters. And she thanked God profusely for having allowed her to be born in the 20th century and for having chosen her to be a militant in the JOCF.

But even more than that, she was truly a model president while remaining 100% jocist even in following the most humble and most modest requests. During her last illness, she kept repeating: “I want to be 100% jocist in everything.”

She died abruptly just 2 1/2 months after her mother. For her too, her last gesture was a forgetfulness of herself.

It was Easter Sunday and just a few hours before she died, she did not want her daughter to stay with her, but sent her out to preside over the big Easter lunch at the JOCF.

Marie-Thérèse has gone: her life completely “offered” just as she had lived… In her delirium, she often repeated this sentence which sums it all up: “I am given, totally given.”

She had loved Our Lord so simply, so naively and so spontaneously that it seemed so natural.

Like a luminous ray of vibrant youth, she will long appear as a model to all our leaders.

There are leaders of our local sections who are a wonder to us, national leaders, who find in them a comfort, a stimulus and a consolation that surpasses all human rewards.

Emilie Arnould


Joie et Travail (Joy and Work), N° 8, August 1934

In this beautiful appreciation of the life of young Marie-Thérèse Joos, we can see the essentials of what makes a great YCW leader.

And we can perhaps also see a reflection of Emilie Arnould and what she taught Marie-Thérèse.


Stefan Gigacz

Read more

Emilie Arnould (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Emilie Arnould, Marie-Therese Joos (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library/Jocist Women’s Biographical Dictionary)

Australia’s young Catholics

Young Australians.

Today, the Church celebrates the Feast of Saints Timothy and Titus. Timothy and Titus were converted to Christianity by St. Paul and became his friend and helpers. Timothy took care of Christians in Ephesus and Titus of Christians in Crete. 

Yesterday, Pat reflected on the relationship between the mission of the Church and that of the young people in the Church. The day before, on making the love of God visible in Catholic schools.

How do we form Australia’s young Catholics? 

In general, we could say that they are formed through their family life, school life, Church life, and life in the broader community. 


How strong is the influence of Catholics and Catholic institutions on young Australian Catholics? 

Twenty per cent of Australians are Catholics. In other words, one in five Australians is Catholic. 

1,755 Catholic schools are educating more than 785,000 students in Australia. In other words, one in five Australian students go to a Catholic school. 

There are 1388 Catholic Churches in Australia, including 93 Eastern Catholic Churches. 


In the first reading today, Paul reminds Timothy to “fan into a flame, the gift that God gave you….”

Returning, to Cardijn’s keynote address to the World Congress for the Lay Apostolate, in 1951, he demanded that, 

“Each Christian, each Catholic, by his or her baptism, must be an apostle and a missionary – he has an apostolic and missionary vocation. Each one is called by God to Existence, to life, and to a collaboration in His creative and redemptive work. The earthly vocation is an apostolic and missionary vocation.”


As Catholic parents, are we forming our children to be apostles and missionaries as a way of living their lives? 

As Catholic educators, are we forming our students to be apostles and missionaries as a way of living their lives?

As Catholic adults, do we fulfil our apostolic and missionary duties in our daily lives? 

What could we, as lay apostles, do today to form our young to be apostles and missionaries as a way of living their lives?

The Church, the Young and Mission

Why is it that in my seventies I am still playing guitar and singing at Mass, whereas young people a fifth of my age give up, throw in the towel, and retreat from the commitment? Is this a feature of teenagers down under: afraid of commitment to something that most of their peers reject? If they stop singing, will they stop coming to Mass? There is every likelihood that they will. Our Catholic faith is lived partly through our participation in rituals that keep us connected with God. 

The situation I am experiencing is not new. When he was a young teenager, Cardinal Joseph Cardijn experienced the trauma of his peers’ rejection of the Church and of him because he was being faithful to the Church. Biographers Marguerite Fiévez and Jacques Meert described the experience in their account of Cardijn’s life and work: “He knew they had been good boys and keen pupils and see them now: rebellious, anti-clerical, morally vicious, sometimes they themselves corrupters of others. “It was like a knife in my heart,” he used to say later. Seventy years after those holidays, we can see in that experience the source of all Joseph Cardijn’s work.”

It is certainly my hope that all young people be actively involved in the Church. Cardijn’s vision of that involvement focuses on its apostolic character. In his keynote address to the World Congress for the Lay Apostolate, in Rome, 1951, he said, “Each Christian, each Catholic, by his or her Baptism, must be an apostle and a missionary – he has an apostolic and missionary vocation. Each one is called by God to Existence, to life, and to a collaboration in His creative and redemptive work. The earthly vocation is an apostolic and missionary vocation.”

Young people are called to be apostles, not in the way St Paul was called – today is the Feast of the Conversion of St Paul – but called like him to “go out to the whole world: proclaim the Good News to all creation” (Mark 16:15). When young people make use of the symbols the Church has used from the first Pentecost, their relationship with God will grow and develop. They will find themselves inspired to use their gifts and talents to fulfil their part in the mission given them in Baptism. 

The change was described by Cardijn in the following way: “an incarnate apostolate, adapted to the needs and the problems of this new world.” Even though Cardijn was referring to the world in the middle of the last century, our world today could be referred to as “new,” just as the Church refers today to evangelisation as “new”. What can be done to draw young people into the life of the Church? How can others be involved in carrying out the action? 


Pat Branson

Read more 

Marguerite Fiévez and Jacques Meert with the collaboration of Roger Aubert, (Preface Dom Helder Camara) (English Translation Edward Mitchinson), Cardijn. – JCDL Library 

The world today and the apostolate of the laity – JCDL Library 



Making the love of God visible in Catholic schools 

“Our school’s mission? Well, to turn out well-rounded responsible citizens who will help to make the world a better place for others.” He was a teacher in a Catholic secondary school. He was also a participant in a study of the perceptions of school staff of their school’s mission. His view of his school’s mission did not differ substantially from the views of others who were interviewed. Their perceptions of the mission of a Catholic school focused entirely on the temporal work of the school. If they had ever thought of the divine destiny of everyone associated with their school, they did not allude to it. Clearly, it was not a priority. Yet, their dedication to the well-being of the young people in their care, their acceptance of the importance of celebrating Mass with their students, and their commitment to developing their students’ abilities to think for themselves and to be generous with their time and talents was both humbling and inspiring. 

Cardijn was not satisfied with the good that people did. He dedicated his whole life to educating young workers as leaders in the workplace. He focused on helping them deepen their understanding of the purpose of life as both a temporal and eternal reality. He spells out the relationship between the temporal and eternal destiny of each person in his teaching about the three truths: “The eternal destiny of each human being is incarnate, develops, and is achieved in temporal life always and everywhere – on earth as it is in heaven.” Surely such teaching would distinguish Catholic schools from those established by the State … if it is an integral part of the stated mission of the Catholic school. 

When I was about six years old, I was given a small catechism. I still remember learning that “God made me to know him, love him and serve him here on earth and to be happy with him forever in heaven.” The belief that the eternal is incarnated in the temporal is not part of the perception of the mission of the Catholic school shared with the interviewer in the research project. Yet it was clear to the interviewer that understanding of the purpose of education the staff members shared was more than the secular mission of a school. Theirs was focused on relationships, on modelling loving service of those in need, like the Good Samaritan, without making much of the analysis of why they did things and gave so much of themselves. 

Today is the feast of St Francis de Sales, a French bishop and doctor of the Church, who focused on the spiritual needs of lay people. The Gospel reading chosen to celebrate his feast day, has been taken from John’s Gospel (15:9-17). Jesus tells his disciples: “This is my commandment: love one another, as I have loved you.” He commissioned his followers to “go out and bear fruit, fruit that will last.” The staff members who were interviewed placed great store on meeting up with ex-students who reported on the value they placed in the care taken of them while they were at school and their hope that what they had achieved would reflect their gratitude. Surely in this there are the seeds of the incarnation of the eternal destiny of all people. 

Cardijn’s belief that the eternal is incarnated in the temporal destiny of every person was shared with YCW leaders in a lecture he gave about eleven years before I was born. It is a blessing that I was given the opportunity to embrace this belief as a child with a child’s understanding of the temporal and the eternal. Surely, this should be the same for everyone. And to make it a reality, those who lead in Catholic schools need to recognise the belief in their own lives and articulate the mission of their school in ways that acknowledge the belief. Then they will know that they have acted on Jesus’ command “to love one another.”


Pat Branson




The Three Truths (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Lunar New Year in Vietnam

Vietnam is another country that celebrates the Lunar New Year. And this year also marks the 110th anniversary of the birth of the founder of the YCW in Vietnam, Nguyen Manh Ha, who was born in the town of Quy Suu in Hung Yen province in 1913.

His father was a doctor who took part in World War I and stayed on in France. As a result, Manh Ha also lived much of his life in France as well as in Switzerland.

After completing his baccalaureat, he studied law and politics at the University of Paris. He followed this by graduating from the Institute of Political Science (Sciences Po) and also obtained a doctorate in law.

In 1939-40, he founded the YCW in the Hai Phong region.

In 1943, he became economic director and labor inspector for Tonkin as the northern part of Vietnam was then known.

In this role, he helped resolve a 1945 famine in Hai Phong leading to his recognition as a “saviour” of the people.

As a result of this, in August 1945, he was called upon to collaborate with the first national government under Ho Chi Minh following Vietnam’s declaration of independence from France.

On 2 September 1945, he was appointed Minister of National Economy in the Viet Minh Provisional Government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.

In 1946, he was elected to the Vietnamese National Assembly to represent Hung Yen.

During this period, he was given the mission of conducting negotiations with France regarding Vietnamese independence.

On May 28, 1946, he joined a goodwill delegation of the Vietnamese National Assembly to visit France. And he took part in the Fontainebleau Conference in July 1946 as a member of the Vietnamese delegation.

He then returned to Hanoi where he joined the National Resistance. Because his wife was French, the colonial government did not dare to arrest him. But, in 1951, since he was regarded as siding with the Viet Minh, he was deported to France on the orders of General Jean de Lattre de Tassigny, the commander of French troops in Vietnam until 1951. He spent the rest of his life in Europe.

In 1947, he issued an Appeal to French Catholics published in the magazine, Témoignage Chrétien.

We hope that French Catholics, by common agreement, will raise their voices to defend justice, charity and peace. In the wake of shootings and killings, peace is necessary. Genuine peace based on the spirit of Christianity.

The essential condition is that Vietnam should be treated with the respect that the Gospel counsels in relation to nations as well as persons. It is France, which since it has the arms of war, also has the great responsibility of building peace. Peace with Vietnam and not peace based on the requirements of the French nation.

May French Catholics not back away from their responsibilities.

Once he returned to France, Manh Ha continued to work for the Vietnamese cause, championing the notion of a “Third Force” to bring peace to Vietnam.

He died in Switzerland in 1992 at the age of 79.


Stefan Gigacz

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Nguyen Manh Ha (Joseph Cardijn Digital Libra