A statement by the JOC Internationale

Concile Oecuménique

At the end of its November 1960 Executive Committee in Amsterdam, Netherlands, the JOC Internationale issued a statement summarising its views and desires for the coming Council.

The announcement and preparation of the Council had kindled “hopes” among JOC leaders and chaplains working for the evangelisation of the masses of young workers around the world, the statement entitled “Concile Oecuménique,” (The Ecumenical Council), opened.

In line with the movement’s method, it began by outlining the conditions and milieux experienced by more than 300 million young workers and “the ever growing importance of the problem of young workers. “

“Not only is the number of workers and young salaried workers increasing dramatically, but the progress of technology, advertising, international solidarity, the expansion of ideologies and materialistic conceptions of life, the insufficiency and the monstrous inequality of the living standards of the innumerable masses of working-class families has temporal, moral and spiritual consequences that are difficult to ignore,” the statement continued.

Anguish

“The anguish felt as a result of these consequences, which may be disastrous for millions of human persons and for the future of human society, despite the hopes that humanity should reasonably be able to place in technical progress, strongly motivates the leaders mandated by the Church for the apostolate among young workers, to appeal, humbly but earnestly, to all those responsible for the preparation of the Council and to the Council itself, in order that doctrinal teaching may be provided and a pastoral orientation set out that enlightens and guides the action of Catholics throughout the world in union with all people of good will, in the field of building a modern human society that corresponds to God’s plan in all its technical, social and economic aspects, etc..,” the statement continued.

The launching of a special preparatory commission on the apostolate of the laity had “delighted lay people all over the world, who, by collaborating with priests and in humble submission to the Hierarchy, work for the Kingdom of God in the world and for the extension of the Church.”

The proper role of the laity

The statement called on the Commission and the Council to “clearly define the proper role of the laity in the Church and in the world, the need for their apostolic formation and the mission of the apostolic movements of the laity.”

There was a “unanimous desire of all movement leaders” for the Council’s decisions to “give a definitive impetus to the apostolate of young workers among their brothers and sisters as well as in their communities, to the concerns of the Hierarchy and the priests to form and animate these young worker apostles.”

In what appears to be a subtle reference to opposition to or lack of support for the movement, it also called for an impetus “to the development of apostolic workers movements and to the integration of the efforts of the organised laity into the Church’s overall pastoral care.”

Mobilising the national movements

The statement also called on JOC national movements to promote “an understanding of the importance of the coming Council for the future of the Church and a desire to actively contribute to its success through prayer and sacrifice.”

And it called on JOC national movements to mobilise in order to “explain the situation of young workers in their country, the efforts they are making to find a solution, the problems they meet in their activity and the desires they would formulate for the progress of their apostolate to the Hierarchy and to the Preparatory Commission on the Apostolate of the Laity.”

“The current enthusiastic action of the YCW to spread the doctrine and the life of the Church among the masses of young workers is a sure pledge of the efforts that they will make in the future, after the Council, to put its decisions into practice in order to build together a more united, happier humanity, more in love with justice and charity, more based on human dignity and on the recognition of the Father of all men, of the One he has sent, Jesus Christ, the Universal Saviour and of the Church and Its Fullness throughout the ages,” the statement concluded.

No doubt Cardijn packed many copies of the statement as he prepared to leave for Rome for the first plenary meeting of the Preparatory Commission.

SOURCE

JOC Internationale, Concile Oecuménique, (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

English translation

JOC Internationale, The Ecumenical Council (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Starting from the problems of life and workers

JOCI Meeting Report

Cardijn introduced the discussion at the special meeting of several members of the JOCI Executive Committee on 28 October 1960.

Unsurprisingly, he began by insisting on the “necessity of the worker apostolate” and recalling Pius XI’s statement that the first apostles of workers needed to be “the workers themselves.”

Workers thus needed to act themselves to solve “the problem of the worker world,” he said.

Begin with our experience as clergy and laity

JOCI vice-president, Maria Meersman, added that it was necessary to “begin with our experience” as “clergy and laity.”

Evidently referring to certain documents, JOCI secretary-general René Salanne noted that “we find ourselves before an amalgam of definitions.” The JOC, however, “began from problems,” he added. And there was a problem of “young people caught up in industrial evolution” who needed to be able to “accomplish their complete destiny,” he explained.

French priest, Jean Noddings, who had many years of experience working with the JOC in West Africa, warned that young workers could not be reached through “general pastoral approach.” By the nature of their environment they were unable to be reached this way, he continued.

Another priest, Fr Martin, also probably a French priest working in North Africa, noted that industrialisation was also destroying the religious sense of young Muslims.

Canadian Holy Cross Father, Oscar Mélanson, who also had many years of experience with the JOC in Brazil, agreed, noting that young worker militants remained at the “margins of the Church.”

Church continued to make same mistakes

Also Canadian, JOCI president, Romeo Maione, warned that the Church in many countries was making the same mistakes that it had made during the industrial revolution in Europe. The Church’s mode of evangelisation was designed for a “static world” or a “village church” rather than in view of the “new civilisation” that was emerging.

Summarising, Cardijn noted that many countries were still at the beginning of the industrialisation process and young workers, even those who had been baptised, were not being reached by the Church, let alone those of other religions.

Young people were not being formed to recognise the “value of their work” or “their personal dignity” or to address their problems, he noted.

René Salanne added that these were not just problems of young workers but “life problems.” Hence, the need to give meaning to life as “the Creator desired.”

Romeo Maione noted that the Church and others continued to start from “ideas” and thus “intellectualised Christ’s message.”

Life learning needed not “catechetics”

People needed “to learn from life,” he stated, warning that the masses did not learn “from courses.”

Fr Noddings agreed, noting a growing popularisation of “catechetics” rather than beginning with life.

Citing Spanish JOC chaplain, Don Mauro Rubio Repulles, Maione added that people, including priests, needed to “learn to see.”

“The priest who enters the seminary at age eighteen has not observed life before entering,” Maione warned, “And afterwards he is outside of life.”

Meersman added that it was necessary to “make the act of faith beginning with the action of the Holy Spirit in the life of people and events.”

Assistant international chaplain, Marcel Uylenbroeck, noted the need to “list the various problems,” including starting work at an early age, which was a cause of “dehumanisation” and hence also “dechristianisation.” He also noted the need to deal with communism on a “positive” basis.

Anguish for workers

Fr Mélanson added that it was necessary for the Council to develop “an anguish about the workers” and to develop a “humanism” that would save the masses.

Betty Villa from the Philippines noted that a critique of the YCW in Hong Kong was that it did not “help the parish,” e.g. with catechetics. In other words, the work of the YCW was not understood. She added that there was no link between the Gospel preached on Sundays and daily life. Hence, young workers did not know how to act.

Fr Noddings added that if priests really understood Catholic Action (in the JOC sense), they would do catechetics quite differently.

Maione added that the Council needed to make an option in favour of a “specialised” apostolate, a specialisation based on “realities” rather than “class.”

Fr Mélanson pointed to the problems of developing countries and the associated “frightening” issue of “urbanisation.”

Cardijn added that work had been “robbed of its meaning” and the need to give it a new community-based meaning. He noted that young people had a strong “democratic” sense to the point of being ready to die.

René Salanne noted that Quadragesimo Anno was outdated and suggested that perhaps a new encyclical was needed every five years.

Cardijn suggested that the Council needed to create a new Secretariat for engaging with non-Christians and perhaps for a new Congregation to study the problems of lay people in the Church.

SOURCE

Compte rendu de la réunion de quelques membres de la Comité Exécutif (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

A special meeting to prepare for the Council

Tourneppe

On 28 October 1960, the JOC Internationale organised a special meeting to prepare for the Council. It was held at the JOC training centre (above) in Tourneppe, Belgium.

Invited to the meeting were members of the JOCI Executive Committee, the International Bureau, i.e. the elected staff of the International Secretariat. Also invited was Marguerite Fiévez, former international leader, member of the Permanent Committee for International Congresses on Lay Apostolate (COPECIAL), who was now working for Cardijn as his personal secretary.

Two issues: Young workers and lay apostolate

Although the proposal for the meeting is not signed by Cardijn, it certainly bears the imprint of his thought:

“The problem to be studied could be posed as follows: if we send a preparatory note to the Fathers of the Council and to the various preparatory commissions, it seems that the suggestions that we could make would revolve around two problems that characterise our competence and our originality:

a} the mass of young workers to be saved

b) the role of the laity in the Church as we understand it.”

In other words, it is necessary to approach the issue beginning with the life of young workers and to evaluate the role of lay people in response:

“Given these conditions, should we not first simply think about these two questions:

– what do we have to contribute, to emphasise and to suggest with respect to the problem of young workers?

– and with respect to the apostolate of the laity?”

Specific issues

The document goes on to specify these concerns in greater details. It says:

“These two questions can be approached via a series of problems:

– seminary formation

– liturgy, preaching, catechism

– our attitude, the attitude to be adopted towards non-Christians

– attitude to be adopted with respect to “technical civilisation”

– attitude with respect to communism

– how to shed light on some major problems of educating young people

– the sexuality problem

– the problem of juvenile delinquency

– the problem of preparation for family life

– what are the obstacles that we encounter in our apostolate?

– how should we conceive of the collaboration between priests – laity and laity – hierarchy?”

SOURCE

JOC Internationale, Préparation du Concile Oecuménique (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

English translation

International YCW, Preparation for the Ecumenical Council (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Belgian Christian Worker movements send questionnaire to members

LOFC-MOC

On 7 October 1960, Emilie Arnould, a former JOCF leader, wrote to members of the Ligues des Ouvrières Féminines Chrétiennes (Christian Women Workers League) and of the Mouvement des Ouvriers Chrétiens (Christian Workers Movement) to invite them to respond to a questionnaire in preparation for Vatican II.

“The JOC Internationale and the FIMOC (Fédération Internationale des Ouvriers Chrétiens) are interested in this preparation,” she wrote.

The questions were:

1. – Quels sont les principaux obstacles à la pratique de la Foi dans le monde ouvrier ?

2. – Que souhaiteriez-vous voir s’améliorer dans la collaboration “prêtres-laics” pour ce qui concerne l’apostolat des militants ouvriers dans le monde des adultes ?

3. – Quels sont, en général, les autres voeux que vous voudriez exprimer pour le monde des travailleurs, compte tenu des différentes Commissions du Concile :

– liturgie,

– sacrements,

– enseignement de la religion ( enfants

( adultes

– accueil des convertis dans les paroisses,

– formation dans les séminaires, etc…etc…

4. – Autres réflexions.

English translation

“1. What are the principal obstacles to the practice of the faith?

2. What would you like to se improved in the collaboration between “priests and lay people” with respect to the apostolate of worker militants in the adult world?

3. In general, what are the other wishes that you would like to express regarding the world of workers, taking into consideration the various Conciliar Commissions:

  • Liturgy
  • Sacraments
  • Teaching of religion (children, adults)
  • Welcoming converts in parishes
  • Seminary formation, etc.

4. Any other reflections.

SOURCE

Archives Himmer (Diocèse de Tournai)

International YCW president meets the new pope

Cardijn had not yet returned from Asia and the Pacific, when International YCW president, Romeo Maione, had his first encounter with the incoming pope.

He later recalled that meeting as follows:

“I remember well my first meeting with Pope John a week after he was elected. A new Pope as part of traditional protocol meets with various government delegations which attended the enthronement ceremonies.

“Pope John insisted that he also meet with a delegation of lay leaders in the church as part of this protocol. As the international president of the Young Christian Workers, I was asked to be part of this small delegation.

“At that time, I was suffering from a serious attack of sciatica, literally, I was leaning like the Tower of Pisa. As was the custom of the day, one was called to genuflect when introduced to the pope. (This tradition was later abolished).

“Because of my back, I told the papal secretary that I could not kneel. When the pope entered, he gave his usual commentary on a gospel passage and then met and had a personal word with each person.

H”e came to me and moved back looking at my 250 lbs and said: “I suppose that you are the man that can not kneel down, you better not who would be able to pick you up.”

“Suddenly, the laughter brought the great virtue of humour into the Vatican,” Maione wrote.

But in addition to his humour, Pope John was already foreshadowing the importance that he would place on lay leadership and the lay apostolate.