ACI Newsletter June 21

Winter Edition

Dear Friends,

Welcome to our Winter Edition! This month we report on speeches by the International YCW and Pope Francis to the ILO conference in Geneva. Plus a challenging message for this year's World Day of the Poor, also from Pope Francis.

Closer to home, the Australian YCS has published its Covid enquiry, "Shaping our post-pandemic world," which can also be readily adapted for use by other groups. And the Australian Plenary Council has published a wide-ranging agenda that calls for further response.

From across the ditch, we present a review of Don Brebner's book "Adventures of a Pilgrim" in which he highlights the importance of his Cardijn-based formation with New Zealand's Catholic Youth Movement. Similarly, across the world in Europe, new Irish bishop, Ger Nash, also credits the influence of his YCS and YCW formation.

We also have a video interview with the late Belgian sociologist, François Houtart, who recalls Cardijn's anger at the ostentatious wealth of the pre-Revolutionary Cuban Church. And recent publications by Polish historians have unveiled the role played by the famous Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski, who founded the YCW in his home diocese in 1932.

Finally, we bid farewell to a great French trade union leader and former IYCW secretary-general, René Salanne.

Stefan Gigacz
Contract workers rights must be protected, IYCW tells ILO
Ana Cecilia Salazar, a leader of the YCW Americas Team, took the floor at the International Labor Organisation conference in Geneva this month, sharing her experience as a contract worker in Peru, who lost her job due to the pandemic.

"I had a temporary contract. When the lockdown was decreed, the company suspended the work. The contract will end and there will be 50 of us young people jobless," Ana told the conference by video link

Contract workers are the most vulnerable workers and the first to be fired when the company has to terminate the employment relationship, Ana told the ILO conference. She noted that the phenomenon of easy layoffs for contract workers has affected millions of contract workers worldwide, and even more so in the aftermath of the pandemic.

“Strong and global social protection must cover everyone, including migrants and informal workers," Ana argued. "Social protection implies decent working conditions for those who work in services, as well as ensuring a safety net for all."

Pope Francis also delivered a video message to the conference in which he insisted on protection for marginalised workers and defended the role of trade unions.


The IYCW Echoes the Workers’ Voice in ILO Conference: Act for Social Justice and Respect Everyone’s Dignity (IYCW)

Message of His Holiness for the Fifth World Day of the Poor 2021 (Vatican)
Pope Francis Message for World Day of the Poor 2021
Pope Francis has published his message for this year's World Day of the Poor, which will take place on 14 November 2021. Like Cardijn, he sees the poor as actors for their own liberation rather than objects of our concern.

"The poor, always and everywhere, evangelise us, because they enable us to discover in new ways the true face of the Father," Pope Francis writes. “They have much to teach us," he continues, quoting from his own encyclical, Evangelii Gaudium. "Besides participating in the sensus fidei, they know the suffering Christ through their own sufferings. It is necessary that we all let ourselves be evangelized by them.

"The new evangelisation is an invitation to recognize the salvific power of their lives and to place them at the centre of the Church’s journey. We are called to discover Christ in them, to lend them our voice in their causes, but also to be their friends, to listen to them, to understand them and to welcome the mysterious wisdom that God wants to communicate to us through them."


Message of His Holiness for the Fifth World Day of the Poor 2021 (Vatican)
Shaping our post-pandemic world
On 1 June 2021, the Australian Young Christian Students (AYCS) launched its Pandemic Enquiry for secondary students in schools and parish youth groups throughout Australia.

Shaping our Post-Pandemic World is a five-session enquiry for students in secondary schools and parish youth groups. It has been designed to engage as many students as possible, whether they are in the YCS or not.

The Pandemic Enquiry comprises five sessions which explore “How the Covid-19 Pandemic has affected me, my country and our world; why it should concern me; and what I might be able to do about its consequences”.

The Enquiry was written because the Pandemic has had such a momentous impact on the lives of many, especially students, whose goals and aspirations have been threatened and challenged. It is through a better understanding of how the Pandemic has affected our own lives that we may be able to understand how we, our nation, and the world, might respond to this new reality.

In addition to the five sessions, the Enquiry includes explanatory material on the Enquiry Methodology and the YCS. For YCS groups, the Enquiry can be included in their meeting plans. Overall, the document runs to 16 pages.


YCS Response to Pandemic


Innovative Genomics
Plenary Council agenda published
After a long preparatory period, the Australian bishops have published the agenda for the first session of the Australian Plenary Council due in October this year. The wide-ranging agenda tackles five areas: Conversion, Prayer, Formation, Structures, Governance and Institutions. Also worth reflecting on is the Plenary working document, the Instrumentum Laboris, which is available for study on the Council website.

ACI's submission to the Plenary focused on Cardijn's conception of the lay apostolate. As it stands, the Instrumentum Laboris contains one important paragraph (§126) that reflects a Cardijn perspective:

"As a chosen race and a royal priesthood, the whole People of God is called to place itself at the service of the life of the world, just as Christ the priest offered himself for the life of the world. For the vast majority of Christians, this vocation will be lived out primarily in the context of their family life, their workplace and their engagement with their culture and society. In this way Christians respond to the Lord’s call to be 'the salt of the earth' and the 'light of the world' (Matt 5:13-16)."

It also contains one reference to Cardijn's "lay apostolate" (§96).

Let us hope that the Plenary will make this a central focus of its future planning.


Plenary Council Agenda

Instrumentum Laboris

ACI Submission

Stefan Gigacz, The Australian Plenary Council: A Cardijn Perspective (Cardijn Research)
Book: Don Brebner's Adventures of a Pilgrim
Don Brebner
Don Brebner, who first joined the YCS at Sacred Heart College, Auckland, in 1950, has published his memoirs under the title "Adventures of a Pilgrim."

Later he worked fulltime for the Catholic Youth Movement in the diocese (at 10 pounds a week) at a time when it had "more than 2000 members, male and female, applying the See-Judge-Act process to workplace problems, boy-girl relationships and a range of social issues."

Most of the book is devoted to Brebner’s working life – much of it in marketing for a house-construction company – but he has also put his leadership skills and faith commitment into a surprising variety of church, inter-church, community and social service causes in the Rotorua and Tauranga areas, usually serving in the chair, writes Pat McCarthy in NZ Catholic.


A life of faith commitment covered (NZ Catholic)

Don Brebner, Adventures of a Pilgrim (289pp, 2020; available from the author at 12 Vantage Place, Omokoroa, 3114, New Zealand, price $NZ30)
New Irish bishop credits YCS and YCW formation
Bishop-elect Ger Nash
Irish priest, Fr Ger Nash, the newly appointed bishop of the Diocese of Ferns, has praised his YCS and YCW formation for inspiring his priestly vocation.

"My vocation story began with my involvement in two organisations, Muintearas Íosa, a youth movement begun in the 1970s by an tAth. Michéal Liostún in Limerick, founded on the three principles of Fáilte, Foghlaim agus Guí. Welcome, Learning and Prayer," Fr Nash writes.

"The other formative organisation was the Young Christian Students/Workers – YCS and YCW. This European movement founded by Joseph Cardijn, a Belgian priest who later became a Cardinal, developed a methodology for young people to integrate their faith and with the reality of their lives either as students or workers," he explained. "The method Cardijn developed – See, Judge, Act – is the exact outline used by Pope Francis in his latest book Let us Dream."


New Bishop is appointed to Ferns Diocese (Independent Ireland)

Address by Bishop-elect Ger Nash on his appointment as Bishop of Ferns (Irish Catholic Bishops Conference)
Cardijn and the princes of the Church
François Houtart
During the early 1950s, Cardijn visited Cuba with Cardijn and Marguerite Fiévez. There he stayed at the episcopal palace with Cardinal Arteaga y Betancourt.

The palace was so vast that when François went to meet Cardijn he became lost in the maze of rooms. As he moved through the luxurious corridors, he was shocked to stumble across a hairdressing salon with all the latest equipment, specifically for the use of residents.

Finally, Houtart found Cardijn, who could barely contain his anger at the contrast between the poverty of the Cuban workers, including the JOC members and leaders, and the luxury enjoyed by the Church elite. "These people don't know what's coming," Cardijn lamented.


Stefan Gigacz, Cardijn, François Houtart and the princes of the Church (Cardijn Research)

François Houtart - Cardijn et les princes de l'Eglise à Cuba (YouTube) (French)
Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski - A founding JOC chaplain
Until recently, most of us have known little about the development of the YCW in the former Communist nations of Central and Eastern Europe. So it's great to find that Polish researchers are uncovering this early history.

And it turns out that, as a young priest, Poland's famous Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski actually founded the JOC in his home diocese of Wloclawek in 1932, making it one of the earliest - indeed possibly the earliest - JOC movement outside of French-speaking world.

Young Fr Wyszynski first encountered the JOC and Cardijn while studying in Rome in 1929-30, which coincided with the first jocist pilgrimage to Rome in September 1929.
After he returned to Poland, he founded the Katolickie Stowarzyszenie Mlodziezy Robotniczej - the Young Catholic Workers Association, which followed the principles and methods of Cardijn's JOC!


Stefan Gigacz, Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski - A founding JOC chaplain (Cardijn Research)
René Salanne, trade unionist and first secretary-general of the IYCW
We are sad to announce the death of René Salanne, the first secretary-general of the IYCW, who died of Covid on 16 April at the age of 94.

Originally a woodworking apprentice, he became leader of his YCW federation at the age of sixteen. Soon after he joined the CGT union, a Communist trade union, believing it was the best to represent workers. However, he quickly became disillusioned when CGT leaders sought to give orders to their members. As a result, he and his jocist friends moved across to join the Christian trade union, the CFTC, where they joined in strike action in 1947.

In 1957, René was elected the first secretary-general of the IYCW. Later he returned to his trade union roots. On a trip to Poland in 1965, he met Lech Walesa, the future leader of the Polish trade union Solidarnosc, beginning a long collaboration. He also worked to develop a European trade union confederation.

René and his wife, Maria, also a YCW fulltimer, had four children together. We send them our condolences.


Au revoir, René Salanne (
An early postcard of the Belgian JOCF
Early YCW postcard
Editorial Note: The purpose of the ACI Newsletter is to share information and promote discussion. Citing or linking to articles does not imply any endorsement by ACI of the authors' views.
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