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.
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!
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.
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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.
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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!
* * *
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.
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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.