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

Read more


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

Read more

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)