Street Level Disciple

Recent release “Street-Level Disciple” from Covenant Books author Frank R. Ardito Jr. is an eye-opening account of the author’s public life in civil service, his attempt to spread discipleship in his workplace, and his struggles in fighting racism, violence, and hatred in the city of Chicago.

Frank R. Ardito Jr., a former visitor, vice-president, and president of a national support group for heart disease patients; has completed his new book, “Street-Level Disciple”: a ruminating journey of a man who lives his spirituality. The author invites his readers to join him as he performs his duty as a public servant in the Englewood and West Town Communities and the Upper North region of Chicago. Found within the pages are the people, events, and problems he met along the way while fulfilling his calling.

Frank writes, “One part of my book is about some of the turbulence and unrest in our country in the 60,’s, and 70’s, and my humble attempts to respond to such issues as street gang violence, race discrimination and conflict, poverty, riots and near riots. The issues dominating the news today were also present in that earlier period of unrest in our country. Did black and brown lives matter in the turbulent ’60s and ’70s? How about white lives, did they matter?

“A second part of my book is a challenge to those of us who are people of faith. The world is overflowing with problems, needs, violence, poverty, and more. I see all of this as opportunities, profound opportunities for us to bring our faith beliefs to all the situations we encounter in our daily life. No one of us alone can resolve all these problems, but by trying to bring Christ’s love and presence to our brothers and sisters in our communities and world, we can make a difference. We can help build the kingdom of God on Earth.”

Published by Covenant Books of Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, Frank R. Ardito Jr.’s new book is a purposeful read about a man whose goal is to bring God closer to the people he has encountered as a public servant. The author also uses street-level language to make it more appealing to the masses.

Readers can purchase “Street-Level Disciple” at bookstores everywhere, or online at the Apple iTunes Store, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble.


Covenant Books Media Release

Blessed Stefan Wyszynski, YCW founder in Poland

A founder of the YCW in Poland, the late Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski, was beatified during a ceremony at Warsaw’s Church of Divine Providence on 12 September 2021.

Born in Zuzela, Poland, in 1901, Stefan Wyszynski became a priest for the Diocese of Wlocawek in 1924.

After his ordination he studied canon law and social sciences at the Catholic University of Lublin.

He 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 Wlocawek, in 1932 he founded the Katolickie Stowarzyszenie Mlodziezy Robotniczej – the Young Catholic Workers Association, which followed the principles and methods of Cardijn’s JOC.

The JOC barely existed outside of Belgium, France and one or two other francophone countries by 1930, which makes the Polish JOC one of the earliest in the world to go beyond this zone.

During World War II, he became a chaplain to the Polish resistance fighters against Nazism, risking his life on many occasions.

Pope Pius XII made him bishop of Lublin in 1946 and two years later transferred him to Warsaw.

When Poland became communist in 1948, he sought to reach an accommodation with the government. But the government failed to live up to its promises.

Wyszynski also wrote a well known book on the spirituality of work entitled “Work and the sanctification of daily life,” a title which indicates how close his thought was to that of Cardijn.

St John Paul II regarded Cardinal Wyszynski as a mentor.


Jonathan Luxmoore, Polish Cardinal, Blind Franciscan who Knew Each Other Beatified Together (The Tablet)

Stefan Wyszynski (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Stefan Gigacz, Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski – A founding JOC chaplain (Cardijn Research)


EpiskopatNews / Flickr / CC BY NC SA 2.0

John Curnow, priest and prophet

John Curnow

A key moment in John Curnow’s interpretation of Cardinal Joseph Cardijn’s method was his organisation’s donation in 1981 of $1000 to the anti-Springbok tour movement Halt All Racist Tours (HART).

The South African Springboks rugby team were set to tour the country in the second part of 1981 and the country was riven with rugby supporters excited at the prospect of seeing their beloved national team, the All Blacks, defeating that other great team, and equally passionate protesters against South Africa’s racist Apartheid system of government which privileged the white minority population over the country’s majority black and coloured population.

Curnow’s donation caused an explosion of condemnation from many traditional Catholics throughout New Zealand, led by John Kennedy, the conservative editor of the national weekly the Tablet.

The Catholic Commission for Evangelisation, Justice and Development was established in the 1970s with Curnow as its driving force in a bid to address the causes of poverty. The Church had grappled with the problem of poverty overseas since the 1950s. Eventually it became clear that sending money overseas was doing nothing about poverty in other countries. In fact after a decade of overseas aid, the problem was worse. People needed to be educated about the causes of poverty and the link between rich and poor as a way of better addressing the problem.

Amid the uproar of the church’s donation to an organisation many regarded as Marxist or, worse, Communist, Curnow told journalist Helen Paske in a 1981 article for the New Zealand Listener that personnel in the commission to run education programs were thin on the ground and HART was doing a good job of educating New Zealanders about the problem of apartheid.

“We have so few people to do programs of our own that we have to look for partners.”

A few years later, he would say in an interview that the HART grant and a similar one to the Waitangi Action Committee to raise awareness of indigenous land issues, showed up the ideological “rich and poor” division in the Church. Some would say the lively debate these created showed their effectiveness as an education project.

“But it has left a lot of scars and a lot of divisions and perhaps it does show the depth of division that exists.”

As a champion of the Cardijn method – see, judge, act – Curnow worked tirelessly in his own, Christchurch diocese and later in the national CYM and YCW movements to build groups of young Catholics versed in the method of reflecting on the Gospel and bringing this reflection to what was happening in society, devising an appropriate action and then reflecting on that action in light of the Gospel.

Later he started the Christian Family Movement comprising couples who wanted to build the movement through their parishes. Curnow became chaplain for the Christchurch diocese, the national and finally the international movements. As one couple said in their tribute, his message and challenge was constant, “Successful family life was about living out the highest values and Christian couples were blessed with a capacity to love beyond themselves… He called on couples to accept responsibility for their communities and to carry out their love on behalf of those in need, particularly the poor and the marginalised.” Social action was key and action for human development was crucial to God’s plan for the redemption of the world.

With his talent for using words to great effect, he was able to convince people of the veracity of this new message and for those who struggled, he showed endless care and patience. Those who rejected these truths were challenged ruthlessly to choose between being part of the solution or the problem.

The Cardijn method was at the heart of everything Curnow did whether it be driving the change in philosophy from overseas aid to development to partnership with the poor and marginalised to what he would have considered his greatest work: social structural analysis.

In the last decade of his life (had he lived another 29 years, he would have celebrated his 100th birthday on July 5, 2020) he ran structural analysis workshops for groups of people working with the poor and marginalised throughout New Zealand, the Pacific and Asia. Indeed, less than a week before his death on July 25, 1991, he was leading a workshop in Fiji. Through the workshops, he helped people to understand that, rather than poverty being a personal punishment for not working hard enough, the structures of society – political, economic, social/cultural – were set up to privilege the wealthy few over the many “havenots”. Here he used the Cardijn method to encourage groups of people to see how society’s structures worked to their detriment, to discuss possible group actions, to implement them, then to reflect on the results in light of the Gospel.

The directors of the highly successful Kaikoura tourism concern “Whale watchers” and the Maori (political) Party were involved in John Curnow’s workshops.

Though he was fiercely loyal to the Catholic Church, he used to say that the Gospel had little to do with the Church but a great deal to do with the world.

He is remembered by many in Australasia, Asia and the Pacific as a prophet who showed much love and generosity as well as huge insight into the relationship between the Gospel and humanity’s social, economic and political circumstances. As with all prophets, he could encourage and disturb in equal measure and woe betide anyone who was not on the same page – his wrath could be devastating.

The author

Cecily McNeill has been a journalist for nearly 40 years – nine as editor of the Wellington archdiocesan newspaper, Wel-Com. She also worked as a volunteer for the secular aid agency, Corso, and for the Catholic Church’s Commission for Evangelisation, Justice and Development and is passionate about social justice. A tentative publication date is July 2021, marking the 30th anniversary of John Curnow’s death. Read more John Curnow (Cardijn Priests) Fr John Curnow and Cardijn

Labour’s battlefield

Murderous work

“May the soul of every worker who died on labour’s battlefield rest in peace!” reads the YCW Prayer.

Nor was it an exaggeration to speak of “labour’s battlefield” as a September 1926 article in  the YCW newspaper, La Jeunesse Ouvrière makes clear.

Entitled “Le Travail Meurtrier” or “Murderous Work,” the article, probably written by Fernand Tonnet, cites a recent edition of a Belgian newspaper in which he noted eight work accidents:

• in Brussels, a painter fell twenty meters resulting in two broken legs;

• at Marpent, a young worker stumbled and slipped under a locomotive and was beheaded;

• at Frameries, a miner was killed in a landslide;

• at Frameries, another miner suffered a broken leg from falling equipment;

• at Luingne, an agricultural worker, working on a thresher, had his head caught leaving him in a very serious condition;

• at Selzaete, a kid became caught in a strap and was killed;

• at Marcinelle, a worker fell into a cooling tank causing instantanous death;

• at Tournai, a brewery worker was seriously burned by boiling beer.

In the face of such problems, it is no surprise that Tonnet went on to recommend that “at each YCW meeting, we need to spend a few minutes talking about industrial accidents.”

“YCW leaders reading their daily newspaper should take an interest in the stories of accidents that have occurred to their working brothers and sisters,” he wrote

“It will only be by repeated and sustained effort that we will manage to improve security, care attention and protection in work practices and the working environment.

“Each YCW leader needs to draw the attention of other leaders to the frightening scourge of the workplace accident. Each one must feel moved by the stories in the weekly press release of the losses suffered on the labour field of honour of by the army of workers, including scientists, technicians and blue collar workers,” he concluded.

Lest we think that such problems are from the past or still only exist in developing countries, e.g. the Rana Plaza disaster, Safe Work Australia reminds us that 63 workers have already died in industrial accidents in Australia so far this year (as of 23 April).

Moreover, the total for 2019 was 168, up from 144 in 2018.

Clearly, labour remains a battlefield for many.

Stefan Gigacz

JOC 1929

Finding archival treasure with Trove

Trove website

If you haven’t done so, I recommend that you visit the National Library’s Trove website at

Its principal interest for me is its digitised newspapers stretching back to the earliest newspapers across Australia, but there are many other kinds of documents, printed, sound and film.   It is a great resource for family history, but that is only a small part of its value.

The digitisation of newspapers has opened a new world for those who are interested political, social and economic aspects of Australian history.  However, there is, at this point in time, little use of the data.

The data on Trove present a new world for the teaching of Australian history.  Gone are the days when you had to turn pages of bound copies of newspapers in some hard to access place to find what you have been looking for; and then having little or no chance to make a copy.  Perhaps more will discover Trove while in lockdown.

The role of Cardinal Moran

I also have an interest in the history of the Irish and, it follows, Catholics in Australia.  And, again it follows, anything to do with both in politics and the labour movement.  I grew up in Melbourne where Archbishop Mannix had been the stand-out Irish Catholic leader since the First World War and unaware of the impact that Cardinal Moran had in Sydney and beyond in the decades before Mannix.

I discovered the full text of Cardinal Moran’s address on the Rights and Duties of Labour given in August 1891, three months after Rerum Novarum, and delivered in the New Masonic Hall in Sydney (yes, the location is correct).  The vote of thanks was moved by Edmund Barton and seconded by Richard O’Connor, both very significant players in the march to federation, with the former becoming Australia’s first Prime Minister and then a judge of the High Court and the latter becoming a senator in the first Australian Parliament and then a judge of the High Court.  You can access the 7,000 word report of Cardinal Moran’s address and the vote of thanks at

Another interesting and intriguing address by Cardinal Moran was given at the Communion Breakfast of the Irish National Foresters in 1904 where he paints a very glowing picture of life in Ireland at the end of the nineteenth century, a century that started when “the great majority of the people of Ireland were serfs in their own land” and “treated as slaves”;

Cardinal Moran saw the Australian experience of Catholics and Protestants, of Irish and English, working together for common causes as a model for a future united Ireland, capable, like Australia, of remaining within the British Empire.  Whether or not it was realistic at that time, it proved to untenable after the brutal British response to the Easter Rising in 1916.

Brian Lawrence

Cardinal Patrick Moran

The jocist bishops and the Church of the Poor bishops

Bob Pennington with Stefan Gigacz

ACI secretary, Stefan Gigacz, presented a paper entitled “The jocist bishops and the Vatican II Church of the Poor group” at the Option for the Poor: Engaging the Social Tradition conference organised by the Center for Social Concerns at the University of Notre Dame, USA, on 23 March 2019.

Also presenting was Bob Pennington from Mount St Joseph University, Cincinnati, Ohio, who presented a paper entitled ““The Methodological Turn toward a Preferential Option for the Poor: The Cardinal Cardijn Canon from Rome to Latin America and Back Again?”

Keynote speakers at the conference included Gustavo Gutierrez, pioneer of liberation theology.




Stefan Gigacz’s presentation