Thoughts of a group of YCW leaders and chaplains

With the next meeting of the Preparatory Commission on Lay Apostolate looming the JOC Internationale published an 8,000 word paper in July 1961 in three languages setting out its Vatican II proposals under the title “Thoughts of a group of YCW leaders and chaplains of North and South America, Asia, Africa and Europe submitted to the Preparatory Commission of the 2nd Vatican Council.”

Although many of Cardijn’s ideas are present, stylistically the document clearly reflects the input of those who participated in the reflection process.

In its introduction, the document highlights three critical aspects of concern:

a) The sphere of the lay apostolate

b) Long-term consequences of the Council’s decisions both for Christians and non-Christians

c) A desire for the Church to become “more effectively present in the working class world” in order to “reclaim the masses” who knowingly or unknowingly await “their salvation through its message.

It then sets outs its reflections and proposals in three chapters of the document that follow a see-judge-act format:

Chapter1: The process of industrialisation… The gap between young workers and the Church

“The YCW never works from a definition or a system,” Chapter 1 begins, “but always – and this can be seen from this report – from facts gathered from the ordinary life of hundreds of young working men and women.”

“The majority of young working people, through the conditions in which they live and work, drift further and further away from the Church,” it continues. “To all intents and purposes, they are beyond her reach.”

Thus, despite the fact that the industrial revolution has brought “positive and beneficial elements of great value,” it is also “causing wholesale destruction.” Not only is this impacting Christianity, but “in North Africa it is destroying Islam; in Central Africa, the animist religions; in Asia, Hinduism and Buddhism.”

It characterises the impact of working life as follows:

Working life today, with its modern processes demanding a progressively more advanced technique, its frantic desire for production, its small regard for morality in business, kills the human dignity of the worker – and ’a fortiori’ that of the young worker. But the greater part of his life is spent at work; this is the milieu which has the predominant influence on him.

Again modern life splits the person up into more and more watertight compartments; life at work is a completely self-contained unit: the time spent in travelling, is not in harmony with this time at work, it is spent in the company of another group of people, with different outlook: leisure time bears no relation to the first two activities, on the contrary it serves as a means of escape from the monotony of work; and so family and social life completely lose their link with work. This splitting up and dissection of life depersonalises the young worker: he is no longer able to form an integrated picture of life or to think out his philosophy of life as that of a being who has a dignity all his own; and that, in the final analysis, the true purpose of work, travel, leisure time and family atmosphere should be to serve the dignity of man.

The outcome of all this is “depersonalisation,” “dehumanisation” and ultimately “dechristianisation.” Moreover, such a civilisation “leads the worker to a materialism which in bringing comfort, becomes by that fact the true ‘opium of the people’.” Thus not only is the world confronted by “Marxist Communism” but also by “practical materialism.”

As a result, “more and more the worker is the victim of the powers which operate in industrial society; he goes further and further into a frightening emptiness where no interior motive whatsoever is present to make him think of higher realities.”

All this raises several questions for the Church, which the document outlines as follows:

In these circumstances, is it not up to the Church to go more deeply into certain aspects of her social teaching? Should she not find ways of helping young Christian leaders to work out coherent economic systems and to perfect effective methods? Above all, has not the Church the sacred obligation in every part of this new world to give substance to a deep, strong life and a. faith which can be the Christian driving force of the whole?

Chapter 2: The faith that claims all life… The apostolate and the realities of life… The organisation of the Church

The document begins to seek an answer to these questions in Chapter 2:

The evolution of the modern world, which has now passed into a scientific age, raises for most workers the problem of their allegiance to Christianity. By this very fact, the Church is faced with the problem of the method to be used in persuading young Christian workers to commit themselves to their faith. The way he is guided, instructed and involved in the Christian life must be revised, because as it stands, it is no longer adequate to the mentality and the spiritual needs of the young worker today.

Criticising traditional approaches, it notes that:

The catechism lays great stress on the bare facts of Theology and little indeed on the bearing which the mysteries of the Faith have on the everyday life of the Christian who must be transformed in his resolution to follow Christ by these mysteries. Instruction is given, but it does not easily produce this true faith; the deep commitment of the whole person and the witness of a good life.

And it outlines the Jocist response:

By using its teaching methods in both the secular and religious spheres, the YCW movement does adapt its catechesis to the mentality of the young worker; he is on the look-out for a dynamic ideal which he can live up to by commitment to a person and to solid truths. The YCW lays before him a choice and a loyalty involving his whole being and life. By starting from this commitment (which is both a conscious act of the will and a way of life) it instills a thirst for a doctrine which throws more and more light on perseverance and progress in the act of commitment. At the time when a young worker is about to be baptised or is about to make his First Communion, the YCW does not ask itself: “Has he understood? Is he quite clear about it?” Instead, it asks him: “What steps do you intend to take in order to be a true Christian? Have you decided to change your way of life?” The first stage is always the decision, an initial transformation of the individual’s way of life, attachment to Christ and service to others. Then gradually, further progress is achieved, further demands are made and more abstract truths taught.

What it amounts to is a kind of apprenticeship system of the Christian life for the masses. It begins with a simple act of faith, but leads on to a total commitment.

The key point in this context is to begin with “everyday life and experience,” which is the starting point for kindling “the act of faith in the young worker’s soul.”

“Too often, as far as the priest is concerned,” the document warns, “the study of the life of the people is only an academic matter – like the research undertaken for a thesis – when it ought to be the manifestation of a lasting desire to prepare the way for God’s life which has to take root in soil that is ever changing and always new.”

Thus, “the young worker must, above all, acquire the basic insight into the connection that exists between the gospel – what he hears preached every Sunday from the pulpit – and his daily life.”

“For until he does, he does not know how to live the Christian life,” the document warns. Moreover, “this lack of relevance to everyday life can be seen in practice in many circumstances of the life of the Christian community,” it explains offering several examples:

– The clergy do not always see that the Apostolate is for the layman in day-to-day life; this is his essential mission: far greater importance is laid on what he does, or ought to do, in the service of the parish, helping out with Church services and activities, etc,

– On Sunday, the parish priest gets his parishioners to pray together and teaches them truths, only rarely does he ask them to do something which involves their whole lives. In some countries, the Catholic schools are more preoccupied with ensuring victory (over state schools) in sporting activities, than with training lay apostles who are to go out to lead Christian lives.

– In rural areas (in Asia, for example) many Catholic parents only allow their daughters-out in the evenings to work in the support of the Church, but not to act as lay apostles to some other girl, or in the midst of a family or some other meeting.

On the basis of this experience, “we feel justified in asking that the Council should insist on the importance of the problems of the incarnation which are the gateway to faith and the ground in which it develops,” the document continues.

These problems also raise further questions about the Church’s organisation:

Faced with the world of today, which is changing at a dizzy pace, should not the Church rethink her organisation? This should be done at any rate, in the areas where it is becoming obsolete, because it was devised to evangelise a static world. Even in the village, the parish church is no longer the focus of the activity of the inhabitants, not even of the Christians. A new civilisation has completely shifted the centres of influence and poles of attraction.

Chapter 2 thus suggests several responses including:

More and more the accent will have to be put on an effort to create Christian communities which are completely integrated into society. These should be firmly anchored in the mental background of their members and given their form within the daily round of profane life. This is necessary precisely because these communities must be able to Christianise all the potentialities of the varied environment of which they form part, by reason of the very presence of lay Christians there. If the parish does not change in the face of present-day phenomena of urbanisation and culture, etc., the inner dichotomy which the Christian experiences between his life and religion will be increasingly accentuated.

Chapter 3: Doctrine of work… The apostolate of the working world and young workers

In its response to the above issues, Chapter 3 proposes that the Council “must also, we feel, invite Christians to live and to be active in the world of labour.”

Moreover, “it should recommend them to instil a Christian soul into these organisations: the motive force which urges them to act effectively in this field, and thus give their apostolic witness its true dimension of justice, must be love.”

It continues:

Further, for our part, we must make every effort to see that working conditions themselves correspond to the human dignity of the worker, which we hope to see restored to its full value.

The value of work, the dignity of the worker, the effort in productivity, all ought to be put into a view of creation in which man and his work respond to the divine plan in a lasting collaboration. This presupposes an education for the workers which will embody the doctrine in concrete situations

Chapter 2 also emphasises the need for more and better cooperation between hierarchy and laity:

In all humility and loyal obedience, we wish to stress the importance we attach to frank relations being established between the Church’s Hierarchy and the laity responsible for the apostolate in the world of work

In this context, it offers the example of Bishop Chappoulie of Angers, France, who “each month receives the leaders of the YCW and discusses with them the problems they meet with in the diocese.”

It laments that “too often, the laity are still condemned, at different levels of Church life, to a state of inactivity.” Pointing to possible solutions, it highlights the need for more and better forms of specialisation:

Cannot the Council under new forms insist on what Pius XI has already recommended: “the immediate apostles of the workers will be the workers”? This specialisation of the apostolate is not only valid for the particular needs of industrial society, but for all the most fundamental problems of our time. It is a question of wanting an apostolate and apostolic organisations which specialise less on the foundation of fixed social classes, but rather on the basis and in the terms of the continually more specialised social milieux of the modern world.

Finally, it emphasises the need to stir up an increasing number of priestly vocations from the vocation as well as for a greater focus on Catholic social teaching.


In a concluding section, the YCW leaders and chaplains formulates a series of concrete proposals for the Council:

1. The apostolic role of the laity in the mission of the Church, its own irreplaceable task of witness and leaven at the heart of profane realities and the positive role which it has in the construction of the Church itself, should be affirmed and specified.

2. The imperative and urgent necessity of the apostolate of the workers in the world today should be underlined, as much in the countries in the process of development as in countries technically highly developed; and most particularly the apostolate of the young workers, which stands at the heart of the Christian transformation of the working world.

3. The solemn affirmation of Pope Pius XI in the encyclical “Quadragesimo Anno” should be recalled, declaring that ’”the first and immediate apostles of the workers will be the workers”: the responsibilities of those to whom the Church confides this mission should be specified at the same time as its basic requirements.

4. An appeal should be made to priests in all countries to offer their help as priests to the laity who engage in the apostolate of the worker. They should be ready to support them and help to form their personalities in the way which such important apostolic responsibilities require.

5. Finally, an institution should be created within the government of of the Church to study and take charge of the question of the lay apostolate in the world; this should not only function from the juridical point of view, but from the vital and dynamic aspect of the promotion of a true laity, which can make the message of the Gospel incarnate among the realities of the life in the world today.


JOC Internationale, Thoughts of a group of YCW leaders and chaplains of North and South America, Asia, Africa and Europe submitted to the Preparatory Commission of the 2nd Vatican Council, July 1961 (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Preparing for another trip to Rome

Cardijn - Dell'Acqua 1961 06 20

On 20 June 1961, Cardijn wrote to Pope John XXIII’s Substitute, Archbishop Angelo Dell’Acqua, to inform him that he would soon be in Rome again and to seek another meeting with him. As always he was concerned with the future of the International YCW.

“I am sorry for disturbing Your Excellency,” Cardijn began. “I am coming to Rome from 3rd to 13th July. I need to attend the meetings of the Pontifical Commission for the Lay Apostolate until Saturday evening 8 July. The following three days I will be free to make a few visits.

“I would be very grateful if Your Excellency could receive me for a few moments, so that I could tell Him about our very important World Council in Rio de Janeiro in November, which will certainly decide the future of the international YCW.”

Never one to miss an opportunity, he also wrote similar letters to Archbishop Pietro Sigismondi, who had been secretary of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith since 1954, and Archbishop Antonio Samorè, who was secretary of the Congregation for Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs, which was in effect the Vatican Foreign Affairs ministry.


French original

Joseph Cardijn – Mgr Angelo Dell’Acqua 20 06 1961 (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

English translation

Joseph Cardijn – Mgr Angelo Dell’Acqua 20 06 1961 (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Angelo Cardinal Dell’Acqua (Catholic Hierarchy)

Antonio Cardinal Samorè (Catholic Hierarchy)

Archbishop Pietro Sigismondi (Catholic Hierarchy)

The International YCW

La JOC Internationale

At the request of the Prep Com on Lay Apostolate, Cardijn compiled a document – Note 5 – presenting the International YCW and its work which he sent to the Commission on 17 March 1961.

In Chapter I entitled, The Fundamental Content of the YCW, he presents its work under five headings:

  • a problem of pastoral work and lay apostolate;
  • an apostolic solution to this problem by lay people interested, formed and supported by the Hierarchy and mandated chaplains;
  • a method of formation, action, organisation and representation;
  • participation in a whole apostolate;
  • official relations with the Hierarchy.

In each instance, he backs up his presentation with citations from the speeches and writings of Popes Pius XI and Pius XII, often specifically addressed to the JOC and/or Cardijn himself. It is a perfect illustration of the success of Cardijn’s 35 years of advocacy with the Holy See.

The pastoral problem

“In each parish, in each diocese, in the whole Church, in the whole world, hundreds, thousands of young people each year enter into the life and milieu of work,” Cardijn begins. “They find themselves faced with the problems, dangers, influences, institutions to which it is impossible to face up to with a Christian and apostolic attitude if they are abandoned to themselves. This de facto abandonment is a disaster for themselves and the Church.

“They must be strongly united, to seek and find together a personal and collective solution to this grave problem: to be able to help and save the millions of their brothers and sisters at work. Thus, they bring a decisive cooperation for the future of the world of work.”

The solution

“All these young people who work are at the most decisive moment of their lives,” Cardijn continues. “They have an average age between 14 and 25 years, between school and marriage. This is why:

1. They must be formed themselves to discover the problems of their life, their human, religious and apostolic value; to themselves seek the solutions to all these problems.

2. They must learn to act as Christians and as apostles; to transform their specific life and that of their comrades, milieux and institutions of life; to create and develop an apostolic movement born from their life and their needs, thanks to which they acquire a sense of their responsibility both human and apostolic; to uphold on one hand solidarity with all young workers and on the other hand the indispensable collaboration with all institutions and organisations that must help them to resolve their problem.

3. They must learn to discover the supernatural, sacramental and liturgical sources which nourish the life of the apostolate, to discover the sense of the Church and the Hierarchy; to appreciate their terrestrial and eternal vocation in God’s plan of love, in Creation and Redemption.

This formation, a fundamental solution to the problem of working youth, it is the YCW which gives it to them.”

The method

He continues to outline the jocist method, beginning with the see-judge-act:

“The YCW teaches young workers to SEE the problems of their daily life and that of their comrades; it teaches them to JUDGE humanly and Christianly, and finally to ACT to provide a solution themselves — and first of all in their own life — to train their comrades in this transformation and to draw out the collaborations necessary for this.”

A life based method

“The jocist method of formation always starts from life, from its problems, needs and meaning; and it always come back (to life) in order to find and give a Christian response in all dimensions: personal, local, regional, national and international,” Cardijn emphasises.

“This formation is both active and doctrinal: it takes place through action in life, through responsibilities, based on enquiries, review of life, Gospel commentaries, talks which summarise, coordinate and enlighten these discoveries and realisations in life.

“The YCW does this formation first in the core groups of militants who are the leaven and the yeast among young workers and in the whole of working life; it also does this among and with the mass itself in order to drive it and change it. The YCW pursues this formation in view of a transformation, outside its daily action through multiple means:

  • meetings of militants; study circles, committees, recollections, retreats, etc;
  • mass meetings: assemblies and forums, team meetingsand events, evenings of life preparation, camps and workshops, clubs for games, etc;
  • Intensive formation sessions, study weeks, publications and campaigns;
  • educational services for the preparation of work, professional orientation, support during military service, preparation for marriage, holidays, leisure activities, etc;
  • collaboration with and activities with all interested institutions: public authorities, employers, trades unions, teaching bodies, etc.

Thus, the YCW is both and inseparably:

  • a SCHOOL OF FORMATION for working, Christian, apostolic and missionary life; 
  • a SERVICE or an ensemble of services to help young people in their daily problems, in their formation and their action:
  • an ORGANISATION or a stable and institutional union, open to all young people who work, and which coordinates all the activities and services mentioned above;

The YCW maintains its specific characters at the various levels of its development; on the local and parish level, on the regional or diocesan level, at the country level and at world level. All levels are united by a living and permanent link and make the International YCW  an organism, an institution of the Church, with the dimensions of the problem of working youth in the world.”

Catholic Action

After a section presenting the history of the movement and its achievements, Cardijn concludes by seeking to outline the more general application of the jocist methods:

1. It is an organisation (a movement) of lay apostolate, with a missionary character, directed and spread by lay people themselves, for the Christian solution of the problems of ordinary life. This organisation is ordinarily a school, a service, a representative body of the lay apostolate in life, in the milieux of life, in the institutions of lay life, and it transforms both this life, these milieux and these institutions of life. It takes root on the parish level and develops progressively to other levels, to the point where it becomes an international organism.

2. It is a lay organisation officially recognised by the Hierarchy, which gives it an official mission for the solution of a determined problem of the lay apostolate. The Hierarchy unndertakes with it (and vice versa) official relations which must aid it and support it in the accomplishment of the apostolic mission which is confided to it (statutes, nomination of chaplains, reports and consulations, etc.)

3.  Catholic Action is both specialised and coordinated. Specialised for the solution of problems that affect the person, belonging to a determined milieu, as a whole, with its whole life, its problems of life and their Christian solution. Coordinated for the collaboration between specialised organisations, and this, in view of the solution of the problems of the ensemble of the lay world, at every level: local or parish, diocesan, regional, national and international.


And finally he sets out a series of desires that he would like the Council to take up:

  • May all priests, secular and religious, be better formed on all issues relating to the necessity and the importance of the apostolate of the lay person in the world today and in the collaboration to bring to the lay apostolage, at every level and at the dimension of the problems of the present world: The Church, light of the world!
  • May devoted and competent chaplains be liberated in each diocese and in each country for the organisations of the lay apostolate and more particularly in the most urgent and most strategic sectors of the present world.
  • May the official recognition of the apostolate of lay people (Catholic Action) and the mandate that is confided to it be more explicit and more formal and may one thus avoid incertainties, misunderstandings and competitive discussions.
  • May lay people be increasingly consulted by religious authorities and may their apostolate be more appreciated, in our concrete circumstances by the whole Church.
  • May a dicastery in Rome be charged with the study and assistance to bring to the apostolate of international organisations — both in the ICO and outside of it — and that international lay leaders take an effective part in this new institution.



Joseph Cardijn, Note 5 – La JOC Internationale (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)


Joseph Cardijn, Note 5 – The International YCW (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

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.


“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.


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.


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

A special meeting to prepare for the Council


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?”


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


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.


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.