Webinar: Marc Sangnier, the Sillon and the YCW

ACI secretary, Stefan Gigacz, will present our April webinar marking the 150th anniversary of the birth on 3 April 1873 of Marc Sangnier, founder of the French democratic movement, Le Sillon, which had such a great influence on Cardijn and the YCW.

Deeply impressed by Sangnier’s movement, young Cardijn would later describe it as “the greatest surge of faith and apostolate that France has known since the Revolution.”

Welcoming Sangnier to Brussels in 1921, Cardijn lamented the closure of the movement in 1910 after Pope Pius X called on its leaders to resign and explicitly linked himself and his work to the Sillon’s heritage.

“The winds of the air and the birds of the sky carry off this seed and deposit it sometimes far away, in a field where God’s dew fertilises and multiplies it,” he told Sangnier.

The emerging YCW and other Specialised Catholic Action movements were the fruit of this inspiration with many early movement chaplains formed by the Sillon’s “method of democratic education,” which would provide the basis for Cardijn’s see-judge-act method of formation.

The Sangnier and Sillon influence also extended to the YCW’s sister movements, which would become known as the “Specialised Catholic Action” movements.

Across the Atlantic, Dorothy Day’s Catholic Worker also drew inspiration from the Sillon through her co-founder and mentor, Peter (Pierre) Maurin, who had also belonged to Marc Sangnier’s movement.

In 1950, Holy See nuncio, Angelo Roncalli, the future Pope John XXIII, would characterise Marc Sangnier as the greatest influence on his early priesthood.

Listen to the story of this remarkable man and his movement at our April webinar on Saturday 15 April.


Tuesday 11 April, 7.30pm (AEST)



See clearly, judge well and decide: Léon Ollé-Laprune

This month marks the 125th anniversary of the death of French philosopher, whose work inspired the French democratic movement, Le Sillon, founded by Marc Sangnier, as well as Cardijn himself.

“Each person must apply him or herself more than ever, better than ever, to courageously and faithfully looking at the principles and the facts in order to make him or herself more than ever, better than ever, capable of seeing clearly, judging and deciding,” Ollé-Laprune wrote in the Preface to the Third Edition of his classic work “Le prix de la vie,” which translates as “The price or prize of life.”

For Léon Ollé-Laprune, who lived at a time of significant social conflict and anti-clericalism, learning to see together, to judge together and to arrive at conclusions together was a way of overcoming division and building social peace.

What a great vision for the see-judge-act method that we can still apply fruitfully today for promoting unity among people of various faiths or none and even amid ideological conflict.

Read more

Léon Ollé-Laprune: Philosopher of the see-judge-act (Cardijn Reflections)

See clearly, judge and decide with Léon Ollé-Laprune (Cardijn Reflections)

Léon Ollé-Laprune website (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

A lay movement that transformed France

Canadian educator, Linda Arbour, has published Le Sillon, A Catholic lay movement that transformed France.

It is the first book in English that tells the story of Marc Sangnier’s pioneering democratic movement, which operated from 1894 until 1910 when Pope Pius X called on its lay leaders to resign and hand the movement over to the French bishops. In a remarkable act, that is precisely what Sangnier and his colleagues did.

Over the short course of its existence, Le Sillon, which began as a group of students at Stanislas College, Paris, did indeed transform the French landscape with its nationwide network of “study circles.”

Its “method of democratic education” founded on the sociological methods of Frédéric Le Play and the philosophy of Léon Ollé-Laprune in fact foreshadowed the see-judge-act of the Young Christian Workers (YCW-JOC) and the other Specialised Catholic Action movements.

Arbour compares the Sillon’s influence in France to that of Pierre Trudeau in Canada during the 1960s. Significantly, Trudeau was himself a product of the French YCS (JEC).

Australian educator and ACI board member, Pat Branson, describes the book as a “revelation” that offers “insights into the development of Rerum Novarum” that need to be shared with religious education teachers today.


Linda Arbour, Le Sillon, A Catholic lay movement that transformed France (iUniverse)


Le Sillon

Stefan Gigacz, Lamennais, Le Sillon and the JOC (The Leaven in the Council)