Need for a Church Institution on the apostolate of the laity

Cardijn - Castelli 25 03 1959

On 25 March 1959, Cardijn wrote to Mgr Alberto Castelli, the vice-president of the Ecclesiastical Commission of the Permanent Committee for International Lay Apostolate Congresses (COPECIAL), to propose that the committee should look at expanding and upgrading its aims and resources at its forthcoming conference in Montallegro.

“Looking at the program, I regret that only relatively secondary problems, e.g. initiatives to be taken, etc., will be discussed at the planned meeting,” Cardijn wrote.

“Has not the time come to reflect together on the essential goals of the Permanent Committee, its ongoing role, and consequently to present to the Holy See, respectfully and in an attitude of very filial submission, suggestions regarding its structure and its activity. I know very well that this question was already briefly raised at a meeting by Miss Fiévez, but I personally wish to return to this question and emphasise its whole importance, because I believe that it is the key of the future of the Committee itself. I spoke to Mr Veronese about this several times and provided him with written notes on the subject.

“When we look the new structures of the world of today and tomorrow, the primordial importance of the formation of the laity in view of their irreplaceable apostolate in this new world, the need to form priests who are educators and animators lay apostles; the urgency of coordinating the apostolate of the laity and organising it in line with today’s world; the need for an insertion of this lay apostolate into the overall apostolate of the Church and its unbreakable link with the Hierarchy… when one penetrates the concrete and living content of these problems which require a positive and dynamic solution, one cannot avoid the conclusion that there is a need for a Church Institution – Dicastery, Commission, Congregation, whatever name is given to it – which can inform, inform, propose, suggest and study overall or partial solutions based on enquiries, studies and experiences that are properly evaluated and tested.

“And since all these problems are inseparable – problems of young people and adults; problems of formation, action and organisation; specialisation and coordination issues; problems of exchanges, achievements and representation; financial problems and management training problems – this Institution must have the resources to provide both documentation and expertise and above all, it needs to have sufficient authority, both in terms of the value and experience of its leaders as well as enjoying the confidence both of Hierarchical Authorities and lay organisations or institutions.

“When I think of the resources available certain world secular institutions, I can only regret the insufficiency and powerlessness of a Permanent Committee that needs to become the engine and the inspiration for so many people, acting individually or collectively, who have only one desire with respect to the problems in all continents and in every, namely to serve the Church and spread the Reign of Christ in a world that needs and aspires to it more than at any other time in history,” Cardijn concluded.

It was a theme that he would return to many times in the future.


Original French

Cardijn – Castelli 25 03 1959 (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

English translation

Cardijn – Castelli 25 03 1959 (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)