The apostolic nature of the YCW

The Rio de Janeiro YCW International Council concluded on 11 November 1961.

Replacing outgoing international president, Romeo Maione, was Brazilian, Bartolo Perez.

Other key decisions of the Council included the adoption of an orientation document, “The Apostolic Nature of the YCW.”

Structured as a Three Truths dialectic, the document’s aim was to “try to take the basic fundamentals as outlined by Monsignor Cardijn, and apply them to our advancing YCW.”

“The YCW started, starts and restarts,” the document continued, “with the exercise of the YCW dialectic.

“It started with Monsignor Cardijn when he discovered that the reality of working life clashed viciously with the ideal of working life as taught by the Church. It starts in the heart of a young worker when he discovers through his YCW enquiries that the truth of reality often clashes with the truth of faith. It is from this clash that the YCW was born, and continues to be born, in our world of today. The YCW – wherever it starts, is faithful to its dialectic – a dialectic which takes the form of regular see-judge-act enquiries in life. Because of this, the YCW can be an international movement whilst still retaining its Asian, African, or American characteristics each YCW remaining faithful to the fundamentals, yet distinct in its handling of the problems which arise due to the clash between the reality and the ideal in every country.”

Truth of Faith

“The basic truth of faith is that which is contained in the revealed truth of the Church,” the document says. “By Baptism, we are admitted into the family of God, creator of the world, maker of all – of atomic energy, of modern science and technology and of the delicate beauty of a rose in bloom; we become a brother of Christ, the God-man, who came into the world to live with us and finally delivered himself on a Cross out of His infinite love for us. Why? In order to give us another chance to do the will of His Father – to go out and complete the creation started by God.”

“In short, our faith gives us a whole new insight into the condition of man, his wonderful calling to be a Son of God, his mission, his work, his talents. The YCW teaches us to “stand in awe of our fellow-man,” so important and irreplaceable in the Plan of God.”

Truth of Reality

“Although the YCW starts with the truth of faith, it is the ‘see’ part of the enquiries that gives us the anvil, so that the iron of life can be shaped by the blacksmiths hammer. Because of the act of faith inherent in the YCW, our eyes begin to see the reality. Through our local and national enquiries, we begin to see and to note this truth of reality. We become conscious of what is really happening around-us. In and through our daily lives – through a spirit of enquiry — we probe even deeper into reality.

“Before going on to the main part of this report, we must pause for a moment to put the truth of reality – as discovered by the young worker – within the context of a larger truth of reality – the speeding development of our modern world. The YCW whose basic mission is to young workers, must be awake to the large-scale problems that have such repercussions on the lives of young workers. We must be prepared to understand the larger forces at work in our world so as to better serve the young workers.

The problems of working youth – the mission of the YCW – must be discovered and solved in a world, in deep social crisis, in a world that is moving from the simple to the complex, from the small village to the big city, from the artisan to the large factory, in a world which is dominated by the twin forces of science and technology.”

Major issues identified included: demographic forces, colonialist structures, migration and atomic power.

“Add all these forces together and the result is the demolishing of the old traditional order concurrent with the construction of a social order based on new international political and economic realities.”

It identifies the problem of exploitation as “a major factor of the modern world.”

“The worker is something akin to a machine – to be used for production and then thrown aside. This fact is very evident in the areas which are just coming in contact with the modern world. The person is alone, unprotected, and at the tender mercy of those who put production before the person.”

The result is that people ask themselves many questions: “Who am I? What am I? Where am I going? What is life all about? And finally, is life worth living?”

“These are the tearing, searching and penetrating questions asked by modern youth. These are the questions that the YCW must answer.”

The apostolic nature of the YCW

The document warns that “the tendency to consider the YCW only as a social action movement persists.”

“This confusion should not surprise us too much – after all the YCW does not limit itself to speaking about Christ, but lives Christ – in our factories, offices, mines, plantations, etc. How can Christ, living in the militant Christian, stand aloof from his fellow man busily and urgently building a family, a neighbourhood, and a more just world. Charity demands that the YCW leader do something about the real problems of young workers and at the same time bring the young workers to Christ.”

“It would be, of course, much simpler to say that the YCW should just spread the good news of the gospels and leave material problems to others,” the document continues. “If so, what must the YCW leader do in face of the glaring problems of social injustice which he discovers in his enquiries? When he finds, for example, that the regulations covering a certain apprenticeship program are not being respected – is it enough for him just, to pray, and ask God to change things? Or must he feel responsible for bringing about the necessary changes?”


The apostolic nature of the YCW (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)


Joseph Cardijn, The Three Truths (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)