Faith in our struggle: South African YCS leaders against apartheid

Former South African YCS leader, Peter Sadie, is publishing his autobiography entitled “Faith in our struggle: A memoir of hope.”

He recounts his personal story as well as that of the South African YCS in this interview with Polity magazine:

“His story vividly illustrates how he grew up from a naïve, yet loving childhood, through the fires of divorce, deaths and broken political promises fracturing trust,” write Aluta Continua in Polity.

“Can lives inspired by faith restore compassion with the poor and act again to respond to their suffering?  Could this be a time of Kairos in our country’s growth to a more ‘critical loyalty’: from the innocence of our freedom in 1994, through the wasted years of state-capture, to the resurrection of a more mature political reorder?”

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Faith in our Struggle: A Memoir of Hope – Peter Sadie (Polity)

Bob Wilkinson’s ‘New visions of priesting’

Driven by his conviction that the Catholic Church needs a new social movement led by young people and centred on “humanity and its common home, earth”, Adelaide priest Fr Bob Wilkinson has documented his involvement in the Young Christian Workers (YCW) movement founded by Belgian priest Joseph Cardijn.

New Visions of Priesting, an interview with Bob Wilkinson, published by ATF Press, looks at the different ministries Fr Bob has had in his almost 70 years of being a priest, the common element of which has been working with lay people as they participate in the life of the Church.

The book was launched in September after editor Hilary Regan conducted a series of interviews with Fr Bob as part of the Cardijn Studies journal.

Some of the 89-year-old priest’s reflections, influenced by his background in sociology, reflect on what could be called the glory days of the 50s and 60s, a time when “being Catholic was like being Australian, for better or for worse”.

“You lived in that Catholic world, it was so strong,” he said in an interview with The Southern Cross.

“We weren’t a persecuted minority but we were still energised by overtones that we had been (persecuted) and that we were coming to the top.

“There was a great sense of solidarity, we’d reached the middle class through the Catholic schooling system and we were taking our place socially.”

But the former editor of The Southern Cross insists the book wasn’t motivated by nostalgia for the past, rather by the “precious lessons” to be learnt from the YCW, Young Catholic Students and other lay movements to which he was chaplain over many years.

In fact, he is all too aware of the realities of today, claiming the drop in church attendances dates back to the 70s but is only being faced up to by clergy and leaders now as the churchgoers on Sunday become the “departing end of the Church as we know it”.

Most importantly, he is concerned about the absence of young people.

“Denying the fact of youth abandoning Mass would seem wilfully negligent. ‘Absent from Mass’ is not everything in a person’s spirituality. Most young people still consider themselves spiritual, rather than religious. But having less than five per cent Catholic young at Mass calls for thinking beyond individuals. A social perspective is essential.”

Fr Bob acknowledges the temptation to despair but his mantra of “it’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness” helps him to see it as another “revival” moment in the life of the Church.

“My main point of the book, what encourages and preoccupies me, is the urgency of a global youth movement around ecology, the whole Catholic contribution to ecology and ecology’s contribution to the Church,” he said.

“I really think it’s on the scale of Catholic education, what Catholic schools were at the time of Mary MacKillop.

“A global youth movement to help save the planet is the crucial thing facing everybody.”

Fr Wilkinson at home in North Plympton.

He stresses that it’s more than being ‘green’.

“At the centre of every green issue is the human issue and I think that’s where the Church is vital,” he explained.

“I think the great model for this is the Good Samaritan…the priests and the Levite on the way to the temple missed a half-dead man…I think we’ve got a half-dead planet and we are called to be the Good Samaritan.

While the global YCW movement had its roots in the neglected working class of Europe, Fr Bob said this became more of a symbol than a key element of the “vigorous youth movement” in Australia.

“What YCW communicated most was Cardijn’s truth of faith that every person is special to God, with a contribution to give,” he said.

“Shining the light on people’s lives was the key thing – work, home and leisure. The young factory workers were a precious resource, a treasure of society and Church, not a problem. Like the 19 out of 20 young people not going to church in Australia.

“The Church has been presented to young people as an inward-looking organisation that does some outside good.

“The fact is that our destiny is inseparable to the destiny of those around us. This hasn’t been stressed enough. Once you see that the struggle is for humanity and our common home, questions of the Church will sort themselves out.”

This inextricable connection with the world mirrors his own “progress in the priesthood”.

“I used to see the work of the priest as helping Catholics to live their lives to get to heaven, to put it crudely,” he said.

“The rest of the world was thought of as a quarry to make Catholics out of. I very much now see the Church as standing with the world and having a vital contribution to make.

“The role of the priest is to animate people to take their part in that struggle.

“Cardijn didn’t start from massive action, he always started with ‘who are you and how are you’ at the factory gate, that interest in the life of people.”

Other topics covered in the book include the fallout from the Church’s position on birth control, the impact of Vatican II on the laity, the Vietnam War and Basic Ecclesial Communities.

While it is not a biography, there are fascinating insights into Fr Bob’s early life growing up in foster care after his parents broke up, meeting his father for the first time just hours before his death.

New Visions of Priesting, an interview with Bob Wilkinson is available from ATF Press (www.atfpress.com) for $24.95.

SOURCE

Jenny Brinkworth, Time for another global youth movemehttps://thesoutherncross.org.au/news/2022/12/15/time-for-another-global-youth-movement/nt (Southern Cross)

BUY THE BOOK

Bob Wilkinson, New Visions of Priesting (ATF Press)

Jocist Women Leaders Seminar, Leuven

Featuring speakers from Belgium, France, the UK, Uruguay, Australia and the US and hosted by the Catholic Documentation Centre (KADOC) and the Catholic University of Leuven (KU Leuven), the Jocist Women Leaders Seminar took place at Leuven, Belgium on 27-28 October 2022.

Reflecting the range of papers presented, the theme of the workshop was “To make daily life vast and beautiful: Jocist Women Leaders.”

Women leaders highlighted included Marguerite Fiévez, a key figure in the development of the International YCW and a close collaborator of Cardijn, trade union pioneer, Victoire Cappe, and Malaysian YCW leader, Irene Fernandez.

The workshop understood the term “jocist” in its broad sense, including not just those from a JOC (YCW) background but from the various lay apostolate/Specialised Catholic Action movements, including the YCS (JEC), JIC (Young professionals), JAC (young farmers) and others.

It is planned to publish select papers in an academic journal.

In another major initiative, an online biographical dictionary of jocist women leaders will be developed.

Immense thanks to the various project sponsors: American Academy of Religion; University of Divinity, Melbourne; King’s College, London; KADOC – KU Leuven; Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies; Dondeynefonds, KU Leuven; LACIIR  (Latin American and the Caribbean  Interdisciplinary Initiative on  Religion),  Florida International University, Miami, Fl, USA; Australian Cardijn Institute, Australia.

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Seminar Papers (Jocist Women Leaders Project)

Albert Nolan: Priest, Activist, Author, and Renowned Theologian

By Terence Creamer with input from Fr Mike Deeb, Fr Mark James and Prof Philippe Denis

Well-known South African Catholic priest, anti-apartheid activist and internationally renowned theologian and author Fr. Albert Nolan has died at the age of 88.

He died peacefully in his sleep under the care of the Dominican Sisters at Marian House in Boksburg in the early hours of Monday October 17.

Born Denis James Harry Nolan in Cape Town on September 2, 1934, Nolan was born to a family of South Africans of Irish descent, who lived in Gardens. He went to school at St. Joseph’s Marist Brothers in Rondebosch and after a period working for a bank, entered the Dominican Order of the Catholic Church in 1954, taking the name Albert.

Awarded the ‘Order of Luthuli in Silver’ by then President Thabo Mbeki in 2003 for his “life-long dedication to the struggle for democracy, human rights and justice and for challenging the religious ‘dogma’ especially the theological justification for apartheid”, Nolan inspired a generation of Christian activists and theologians.

His dedication to the anti-apartheid struggle saw him decline the prestigious role of Master of the Dominican Order to which he was elected in 1983, as it would have meant him being transferred to the Order’s Rome headquarters. Instead, he convinced the Dominicans to allow him to remain in South Africa. At the height of the second State of Emergency in 1986, he was forced into hiding in order to escape from the notorious South African Security Police. Nolan was particularly vulnerable to arrest for steering the drafting process of the Kairos Document in mid-1985, which arose primarily from the work of grassroots theologians in Soweto and Johannesburg, but which he and Reverend Frank Chikane of the Institute for Contextual Theology (ICT) played a central role in editing.

Described as a ‘theology from below’, the document critiqued the role of the churches in apartheid South Africa, dismantled any theological justification for racism and totalitarianism and proposed instead a ‘prophetic theology’ akin to Liberation Theology.

From 1973-1980, he served as national chaplain for the National Catholic Federation of Students (NCFS) and also, until 1980, for the Catholic Students Association (CASA), which was formed in 1976 after black students began organising themselves into separate formations as Black Consciousness flourished.

Founding YCS in South Africa

In 1977, Nolan was instrumental in establishing Young Christian Students (YCS) in South Africa after he attended an International Movement of Catholic Students gathering in Lima, Peru, in 1975, where he was introduced to the See-Judge-Act method of social analysis and was inspired by Gustavo Gutiérrez, who later also became a Dominican and who is regarded as one of the pioneers of Liberation Theology.

From 1977-1984, Nolan served as national chaplain of YCS, which affiliated itself to the United Democratic Front, initially formed in 1983 to oppose the Tricameral Parliament but which also united more than 400 organisations across all sectors of society in the struggle for a ‘non-racial, non-sexist and united South Africa’.

Underground work

Nolan also played a brave role in the “underground work” of the liberation movements, notably the African National Congress, offering his support to activists, especially those who became victims of the apartheid regime’s violent and repressive security police. He was part of a secret underground network that managed logistics, including the transportation and movement of activists, providing safe houses and a means of communication while in South Africa.

The full extent of his role in these networks was revealed by Horst Kleinschmidt in a tribute to Nolan on October 20, 2022. Kleinschmidt, who was himself banned, detained, and exiled by the apartheid regime, disclosed that Nolan was part of a group of more than 20 operatives who smuggled communication out of South Africa to the then exiled African National Congress and returned with messages from Oliver Tambo and Thabo Mbeki to activists inside the country.

“I reveal today for the first time that Albert Nolan was known as operative A4 after Black Wednesday [October 19, 1977, when Black Consciousness organisations were banned, editors arrested and opposition newspapers banned] and from 1981 onwards he was operative 42. The numbers ‘4’ and ‘2’ were scrambled into texts and figures – and the Security Branch never found the key to this messaging.” Kleinschmidt also revealed that the long-running operation involved the smuggling of letters, none of which were ever intercepted, as well as call-box to call-box communications that changed location each week and the swapping of money that made any tracing of bank records impossible.

Dominican provincial

Having been elected provincial of the Dominicans in Southern Africa in early 1976, Nolan relocated from Stellenbosch – where he had received his religious formation, and also served as university chaplain for several years up to the early 1970s – to Johannesburg. Poignantly, the move took place on June 16, 1976, a date synonymous with the ‘Soweto Uprising’ which was violently suppressed and is today commemorated as Youth Day.

As provincial, from 1976-1980, Nolan supported several of his priests – including Joe Falkiner, Benedict Mulder and Finbar Synnott – in their establishment of a simple-lifestyle community in a run-down building opposite the station on Central Avenue in Mayfair, a working-class suburb on the western edge of the Johannesburg central business district. He then made the bold decision to sell the provincial’s house in the leafy suburb of Houghton, in the richer northern suburbs, and relocate to Mayfair himself, where CASA, NCFS, YCS and the Young Christian Workers also set up their national offices. He would serve as provincial of the Dominican Order for two more terms, from 1980-1984 and from 2000-2004. Besides serving as provincial, Nolan played various other roles within his Order, including that of novice master and student master, which allowed him to continue to nurture and guide young people, as he had done for many years as a student chaplain.

Biblical scholar

A gifted Biblical scholar and theologian, Nolan completed his doctorate in Rome in 1963 – a period that coincided with the Second Vatican Council and which ushered in significant reforms across the Catholic Church. Having completed his thesis, Nolan decided it was ‘too expensive’ to have it published, a pre-requisite for being awarded the title of ‘doctor’ and, thus, he never formally secured the title that he had duly earned. He was also initially denied the distinction of being awarded an honorary doctorate when the Holy See, without explanation, disallowed the University of Fribourg (Switzerland) from bestowing such in 1990, presumably owing to misgivings at the time about Liberation Theology. However, in the same year, as a sign of solidarity, the Jesuit-run Regis College of the University of Toronto granted him an honorary doctorate. The Dominican Order recognised his contribution as a theologian and preacher of the Gospel when, in 2008, the Master of the Dominican Order promoted Nolan to a Master of Sacred Theology.

Nolan, however, preferred to see himself as a preacher rather than a Biblical scholar. He wanted the Gospel to make a difference in people’s lives, and did not view debating small issues of textual interpretation as the purpose of the scriptures. In his view, the scriptures were there to inspire, convert and transform people and lead them to change their lives and the world in which they live.

Jesus Before Christianity

Outside of South Africa, Nolan became highly regarded for his 1976 best-selling book Jesus Before Christianity, which has been translated into at least nine languages. The book was the product both of Nolan’s deep knowledge of the Bible and his work in the student movement where he gave regular inputs on ‘That Man Jesus’ in student conferences. While in hiding in the late 1980s, Nolan went on to write God in South Africa, which is the outcome of what he described as “doing theology in a particular context” and Jesus Today, which explores the spirituality of Jesus as a “spirituality that leads to unity with God, ourselves, others, and the universe”. A collection of his talks, edited by one of his brothers, Fr Stan Muyebe, was published as Hope in an Age of Despair.

Nolan, who was one of the first staff members of the Institute for Contextual Theology (ICT) in 1981, later become editor of the ecumenical Challenge magazine, widely circulated across all denominations and which offered a considered perspective on how Christians should respond to the struggle for democracy in South Africa before and after the democratic elections in 1994. Ecumenism was a theme throughout Nolan’s life and was evident not only in his student ministry and at ICT but in his close relationship with leaders outside of the Catholic church, including Reverend Frank Chikane, Dr Beyers Naudé and Reverend Cedric Mayson. Despite his criticism of the Catholic Church, he also remained respected by the Catholic hierarchy for his Biblical proficiency, his theological insight and his commitment to preaching the Gospel. He was, thus, regularly requested to deliver inputs and retreats, including to the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference, particularly when it was led by Archbishop Denis Hurley during the last decade of apartheid.

Nolan was also a source of support to other religious in the Catholic church who took up an active role in the struggle, notably Sr. Bernard Ncube and Fr. Smangaliso Mkhatshwa, who was detained several times and banned. Ncube was a member of the first democratic Parliament in 1994, chairing the portfolio committee on arts and culture, and in 2002 became mayor of the West Rand municipality. In 1996, Mkhatshwa became the Deputy Minister of Education, a post he held until 1999. He was elected to the ANC National Executive Committee in 1997 and in 2000 he became the Executive Mayor of the City of Tshwane.

In addition, Nolan taught at St Peter’s Seminary, in Hammanskraal, in the late 1970’s when a strong Black Consciousness focus was developed there, working particularly closely with Mkhatshwa and Buti Tlhagale in attempts to promote this voice in the church. Tlhagale is the current Archbishop of Johannesburg.

As a priest, activist, author, and renowned theologian Nolan offered a forceful yet gentle message of hope, particularly hope in the building of a non-racial, non-sexist, peaceful and environmentally sustainable South Africa and world.

SOURCE

Published on Polity.org.za and written by Terence Creamer with input from Fr Mike Deeb, Fr Mark James and Prof Philippe Denis and with additions arising from tributes delivered by Fr Mark James and Horst Kleinschmidt on October 19 and 20 respectively.

Jean Tyacke, unionist and YCW extension worker in South Africa

Jean Tyacke, who came to South Africa from her native United States as a YCW extension worker, has died in Johannesburg, just a few days before her 95th birthday.

“She might have been the last of the giant Young Christian Workers-trained unionists active in the apartheid era,” writes Paul Goller in the South African Southern Cross magazine.

Jean was born in the United States in 1927 and came to South Africa in 1959. Engagingly she retained her accent over the rest of her life. But, more characteristically, she continued her voting for Democratic presidential candidates up to Joe Biden.

In Chicago, probably her favourite city, Jean came to YCW early, after having been very active in Young Christian Students In her schooldays. Even then, she said, she saw herself more as a teambuilder than as a dominant leader; the apartheid regime came to dislike both.

In 1961, Jean married Eric Tyacke, founder of the South African branch of YCW in 1949 and the Urban Training Project (UTP). They lived in Robertsham until their retirement in 1987. The non-racial parties they hosted were surely the scandal of the neighbourhood. They didn’t, one suspects, make their children’s lives at the local government school any easier.

With journalist Sydney Duval and others, Jean participated in the drafting of the SACBC’s seminal 1972 pastoral letter condemning apartheid, “Call to Conscience”, and its subsequent study materials.

She also took part in the launch of the YCS adult Family Social Action movement.

Jean’s home was raided by the security police as early as the late 1960s; the Anglican dean of Johannesburg had been charged with participating in an alleged African National Congress plan to overthrow the government by force. Jean’s YCW heritage, building on her Catholic Christian faith, would not have let her fall into that trap.

From 1976, for more than three years the Tyacke family lived under the full rigours of the banning system, which attempted to destroy most aspects of its victims’ work, social and activist lives. Percy Qoboza, the YCW editor of The World wrote of Jean and Eric: ”Take heart, you two beautiful people: you do everything possible to bridge the growing gap between black and white”.

Jean worked at Wits University — after the employment element of her banning was challenged — and into the 1980s. She was able to see the education of her daughters Kathy, Teresa and Sheila continue into socially committed professions at Wits during this period.

Jean was employed at UTP only intermittently; but in 1999 the late Donovan Lowry found her help invaluable, not only in proofreading his authoritative history of UTP but also in adding to and even shaping his research material.

Eric Tyacke died on August 20, 2014, at 89.

In a letter to Eric and Jean on their retirement in 1987, Archbishop Denis Hurley of Durban had summed up their working lives: “What a contribution you both have made in the building up of the worker movement in South Africa. You, and some others like you, have with great dedication, maintained links between organised Church and the worker. Thank you and God bless you for that.”

Reuben Denge, the director of WEP, the organisation that succeeded UTP, said upon hearing of Jean’s death: ”She really contributed immensely in the development of the labour movement in South Africa.”

SOURCE

Catholic activist Jean Tyacke dies at 94 (Southern Cross)

Pat Walsh recalls his YCS formation

A long-standing human rights worker and Timor Leste solidarity campaigner, Pat Walsh was national chaplain to the Australian YCS for five years, 1973-1978.

Some forty years on, he has written up his experiences looking at the impact on the secondary school YCS of this exciting but turbulent period of historic change and reflects on the experience and its potential lessons for today’s church.

Pat writes:

The movement known as the Young Christian Students (YCS) has morphed several times during its 80 or so year history in Australia. Once highly favoured by popes, principals and parish priests, YCS’s footprint today is far smaller than it used to be. Given, however, that the principles it represents both informed and were endorsed by the Second Vatican Council and remain highly relevant, this is a paradox.

Whether or not clues to this change of fortune can be found in the following account, it is to be hoped that Australia’s upcoming synod process will recognise what a unique vehicle the YCS can be to foster young laity and their contribution to the church and the world.

Looking to the future, he notes that “the Jocist review of life is not just a training tool or a practice confined to the YCS and YCW”:

It is grounded in, and an extension of, a common, almost unconcious, human habit that we use a thousand times a day. What Cardijn did was to formalise and baptise this see-judge-act reflex. Its practice is an enriching life skill. Many former YCS colleagues testify that it has served them well in adult professional life, enhancing their sense of responsibility for others and the world and engagement in many local and international contexts.

He concludes:

The fate of the YCS is no different to that of many other church entities across the Christian spectrum, particularly in Australia and the West. In that sense, understanding its current situation in Australia requires a broader study than the above sketch. On the other hand, in other settings the YCS remains a global Catholic youth movement. It continues to function in over 100 countries, particularly the South, and takes its lead on issues like climate change, refugees, conflict resolution, inequality, human rights, inter-religious dialogue and criticism of capitalism and consumerism from Pope Francis, himself from the
global South.

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Pat Walsh, YCS in the 1970s: Young Laity in Search of Vocation (patwalsh.net)

RIP +Bill Wright: From YCS to bishop of Maitland-Newcastle

Thanks to Teresa Brierley and MN News for allowing us to reproduce Teresa’s remembrance of the late Bishop Bill Wright of Maitland-Newcastle, who died on Cardijn’s birth anniversary, 13 November.

It is difficult to know how to begin this week’s message, with the news of the death of Bishop Bill Wright. Like me, many of you may have been thinking of him and holding him in prayer over the past few months, but nothing prepares you for the finality of someone not being there anymore. I have been struck lately by his empty chair in our Cathedral, and now it is really empty as we await a new Bishop.

I was thinking of him on Saturday as I attended The Cardijn Lecture, hosted by the Australian Cardijn Institute on The Emergence of Synodality: The Latin American Experience, presented by Professor Rafael Luciani, a Venezuelan lay theologian.

You may wonder why Bishop Bill was particularly on my mind. Both Bishop Bill and I, along with other people from across Australia, were part of the Young Christian Students Movement (YCS) of the 1960’s and 1970’s. This is a student run movement which uses the Joseph Cardijn method of “SEE, JUDGE, ACT” which enables students to SEE what is happening in the world around us and analyse facts, to then JUDGE this in light of our beliefs and the Gospel, and to take ACTION to transform not only the world around us but ourselves. YCS still exists and forms part of our diocesan outreach to young people.

Formation as Christian leaders

I was thinking of Bishop Bill and me, and how the YCS was so critical to our formation as Christian leaders, not only then but now and in all of the intervening years. I recall leading small groups in which we would reflect on Gospel passages and then the following week do what was called, the Review of Life. At quite a young age we learnt how to read the scriptures in light of the world around us and to then take action. It challenged us to look beyond ourselves in the light of the teachings of Jesus. Not only would we meet each week at school or in the parish, but we would have holiday YCS camps, where we would gather with young people from across a number of schools. I recall attending a couple of camps at Morpeth before I moved to Sydney. Like Bishop Bill, these experiences were life-changing for me and many others, who continue to lead our church from a ‘synodal’ position. We learnt the method of journeying with each other, of deep listening, of reflecting on encounters in the light of faith and of responding.

You may be interested to know that Bishop Bill died on the birthday of Joseph Cardijn, (13 November 1882 – 24 July 1967). Joseph Cardijn was a Belgian priest who devoted his life to bringing Christianity to the working class and advocating for an end to the dehumanising influences that were enforced onto them. He began the Young Christian Worker Movement (YCW) from which the YCS has its origins. I wonder if this is what led Bishop Bill to explore some of his priestly ministry in places like Moree and Mt Druitt. Like Joseph Cardijn, Bishop Bill saw the priesthood of the ordained as a means of bringing positive change and hope to those he encountered.

The Movement plays a role in seeing the world as it should be, and not as it is. I hope in this phrase you can hear echoes of synodality. Rafael Luciani spoke about synodality and the continual work of renewal and reform that is required in our church. Like the YCS, synodality is a movement of formation and change in which we respectfully journey with each other, from both grassroots and hierarchical organisations.

Council for Mission

During the webinar, on Saturday afternoon, I remembered the change management project introduced by Bishop Bill in 2017, which we call, Many parts, One body, One mission. The thinking behind these core changes sought by Bishop Bill was around having overt structures of participation across our diocese in aiding the curia to serve the diocese better and to work better together. He identified four core areas for change:

Instituting a ‘Council for Mission’ for the whole diocese, which will review our overall direction as Church, establish priorities for the development of our ministries, agencies and services and foster collaborative initiatives between agencies. The Council will meet regularly throughout the year and establish this as a priority.

The Diocesan Executive will be expanded to include Directors of agencies to enhance information sharing and opportunities for joint planning and projects across the curia.

Existing agency Boards and Councils will be charged primarily with exercising governance of the agency directly, through each Director, and providing periodic reports to the Diocesan Executive.

Within the curia, bringing together resources and services that all areas of the curia may benefit from, and which do not need to exist as separate units in each agency. This will enable agency leadership to focus on core business, reduce confusion across agencies and diminish duplication of staff and resources. This will also enable staff in these areas to have opportunities for broader experience.

While a lot of what Bishop Bill imagined has been accomplished, there is still work that needs to be done in achieving his vision for a more collaborative synodal diocese focused on God’s mission in our diocese. He would become very frustrated if the talk was only about structures and not about our core business of being the Good News of God’s love for all of humanity.

Governance principles

The following words come from a document which is ‘under construction’ as part of the work of one of the Synod Working Party’s Focus Group on Governance Principles and Documentation:

By virtue of their baptism, all the faithful enjoy true equality in dignity and action. Hence, all are called to co-operate, according to their particular circumstances and responsibilities, in building up the Body of Christ and in fulfilling the mission that God gave the Church to accomplish in the world. The organic nature of ecclesial communion and the spirituality of communion require the Bishop to evaluate the structures of participation envisaged by canon law. These structures guarantee a dimension of communion in the pastoral governance of the Bishop, insofar as they generate a kind of reciprocal interplay between what a Bishop is called to contribute to the good of the diocese through exercising his personal responsibility, and the contribution made through the collaboration of all the faithful. The Bishop should keep clearly in mind that these structures of participation do not take their inspiration from criteria of parliamentary democracy, because they are consultative rather than deliberative. Fruitful dialogue between a Pastor and his faithful will unite them “a priori in all that is essential, and… [lead] them to pondered agreement in matters open to discussion”. In promoting the participation of the faithful in the life of the Church, the Bishop will recall the rights and duties of governance to which he is personally bound. These include not only witnessing, nurturing and caring for the faith, but also cherishing, defending and proposing it rightly.

The co-ordination and marshalling of all diocesan resources requires opportunities to gather for joint reflection. The Bishop needs to make sure that these encounters are well prepared and not unduly long, that they have clear objectives and achieve tangible results. In this way, with a genuine Christian spirit, the participants establish a good mutual rapport and sincerely seek to collaborate. (N.165 Congregation for Bishops, Directory for The Pastoral Ministry of Bishops, Apostolorum Successores, 2004)

I believe this forms the legacy for our own diocesan synodal journey during Bishop Bill’s time as Bishop of the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle. We have been striving to create structures with a focus on both our need for spiritual and structural conversion so that God’s mission can be accomplished in this time and place. Pope Francis refers to this as our search for a new institutional model of Church for the third millennium.

Fiat voluntas tua

Bishop Bill’s last words to me in a text on Friday afternoon were, Fiat voluntas tua (Thy will be done) from one of his favourite prayers. I will finish with his other favourite prayer, the prayer of St Ignatius of Loyola, which both of us know from our years in YCS:

Lord Jesus, teach me to be generous, to serve you as you deserve to be served, to give without counting the cost, to fight without counting the wounds, to work without seeking rest, then to spend my life without expecting any other in return, then the knowledge that I do your holy will, Amen.

Eternal rest, grant unto him O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace, may he rest in peace. Amen.

Teresa Brierley
Director Pastoral Ministries
16 November 2021

SOURCE

Teresa Brierley, Fiat voluntas tua (MN News)

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Death of Bishop Bill Wright (MN News)

Teresa Brierley

IYCS 75th anniversary

The International Young Christian Students (IYCS) movement has launched a year of celebration of the 75th anniversary of its foundation at international level in Paris in 1946.

In a video for the occasion, secretary-general, Innocent Odongo, has invited former members from around the world to share their memories by recording a two-minute video clip as follows:

  • Introduce yourself: name country
  • Share your favorite moment in the movement
  • Your wishes for the IYCS 75th Anniversary.

Send your videos to: is@iycs-jeci.org

The clips will be shared during a special online celebration to take place on 13 November 2021.

REGISTER FOR THE EVENT

IYCS 75th Anniversary Online Celebration, 13 November 2021

Building social activism and personal formation

IYCS gathering

In this article, ACI president, Brian Lawrence, who is also currently chairperson of the Australian YCS National Adult Support Team shares reflections he prepared for the International YCS Online Global Training Session on 24 April 2021.

Jesus, fill us with the spirit of your love.
Help us to see the world as you do,
to judge with your heart,
and to act with the strength and courage you have shown us,
as we work to transform our world.
Amen

This is the kind of prayer used by the Young Christian Students in Australia, based on the see, judge, act methodology developed by Cardinal Joseph Cardijn. The prayer recognises that the see, judge, act process is not just a meeting technique, but a way of life, a way of thinking about how we can be more Christ-like in our lives, from the personal everyday circumstances of our lives through to the great social issues of the world today. We must remember that this Review of Life is more than a meeting procedure.

I am participating in this training session in my capacity as the chairperson of the National Adult Support Team of the Australian YCS. I also have an indirect connection with the YCS in my position as President of the Australian Cardijn Institute. The Secretary of the institute, Stefan Gigacz, has made an enormous international contribution to the study and promotion of the works of Joseph Cardijn and the Jocist movements that he has inspired; see https://australiancardijninstitute.org/

A few words about my introduction to the YCS. I live in Melbourne. I joined the Young Christian Workers in 1960, while I was still at secondary school. Like many, I joined our parish YCW because of its social and sporting activities. During my University years I became a member of our parish YCW Leaders group and helped establish the YCS and a separate Tertiary students’ group in the parish. In 1966, three other YCW activists and I established Jocist groups at the University of Melbourne. As a result of my activities, I was employed full time by the Australian YCS after my graduation. I was National Secretary in 1968 and National President in 1969. I was a Barrister at The Victorian Bar from 1971 to 2008, save for 1987 to 1993 when I was a Deputy President of the Industrial Relations Commission of Victoria. From 2007 to 2015 I was Chairman of Australian Catholic Council for Employment Relations, an agency of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference. My experience and formation in the YCW and the YCS have shaped my life’s journey.

In the late 1960s there were over 30,000 members of the Australian YCS, including about 5,000 in Melbourne. At the same time, the Australian YCW, especially the Melbourne YCW, was regarded as one of the most successful YCW movements throughout the world. It was, by far, the largest and most effective youth organisation in Australia. Both organisations were at their zenith in Australia.

From the early 1970s until 2018 I had no connection with the YCW or the YCS, although I retained strong friendships with many friends from my years with the YCW and the YCS. When I joined the National Adult Support Team of the YCS in 2018 the YCW had disappeared in Melbourne and there was serious talk of winding it up as a national organisation. The YCS had only two small parish groups in Melbourne, but they ceased to operate during that year. The YCS had a small presence in only four other dioceses in a country of 27 dioceses. As a result it lost national funding from the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, funding which had started in 1942 when the Australian YCS was established, with the strong support of the Australian bishops and with the intention that it would be the leading and preferred student grouping within Catholic secondary schools.
So, I come here very conscious of the limited contribution that the YCS can make to the work of the International YCS. However, a few short reflections from me might be of interest to delegates to this meeting.

The decline of the YCS

There are several major reasons for the decline of the YCS in Australia. Time does not allow a full discussion of them. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, what was then known as the “New Catechetics”, inspired by Vatican II and with an emphasis on real life issues and interactive teaching methods, suggested to some schools that the YCS was no longer needed. In the 1970s the widespread development of “social justice” groups in Catholic schools lessened the perceived need for the YCS.

The factor in the collapse in YCS numbers that I would like to highlight is the decline in adult support for the YCS. This has been particularly important because the Australian YCS is a secondary students movement. Cardijn used to say that the chaplain is everything and nothing in the YCW. The same applied in the YCS where priests and nuns and brothers in Catholic schools put in hours each week to develop among student leaders an understanding of the realities of life, the values that Christians should live by and how the students might transform their lives. It was in this context that see, judge, act became more than a meeting methodology. And it was this experience that led students to start looking at broader social issues and the possibilities for transforming the wider world.

Over the past five decades there has been a collapse in the number of priests and religious in Australia and in the time that they have available to do this time-consuming work. Both the YCS and the YCW have failed to engage lay adults in this process. Furthermore, in my view, the Australian Church has failed to provide sufficient intellectual and financial resources into supporting the development of the lay apostolate. The Catholic Church is the largest non-government employer in Australia with over 220,00 employees in a population of 26 million. Too often the demands of running a large and complex organisation have overshadowed the basic objective of Christian formation which is expressed in the YCS prayer. There are some parts of the YCS in Australia where we have adult assistants who can take on the traditional role of chaplains, but they are too few.

The term Review of Life, which is now a fundamental description of the YCS, and the YCW, was a product of the 1960s. It was a term unknown to the Australian YCW and the Australian YCS in 1965. It emerged in a description of YCW methodology at the International Council of the YCW in Bangkok in November and December 1965. It was a major preoccupation of the Montreal International Council of the YCS in 1967. In substance, it was intended to take the see, judge, act approach beyond a meeting methodology into a way of life, which included a life of prayer. Michel Quoist’s Prayers of Life was part of this change. Quoist, who had been a JOC chaplain in France showed how the see, judge act approach could extend to personal reflections on life and into prayer. And this fitted into the engagement with the world that Vatican II had inspired.

Review of Life focus

In Australia, at least, the YCS’s focus moved to the Review of Life. The 1968 National Conference marked a definite turning point. Almost overnight the YCS took up the “Review of Life” as the central part of YCS meetings. The old Personal Enquiry became the Review of Life and the other standard components of the meeting, the Gospel discussion and the Social Enquiry became less important. A few years ago I found some draft notes that I made in about 1972, in which I argued that:

“… a mistake was made, by myself included, in confusing the aims of the YCS to develop a Review of Life approach, with the method of achieving it. Suddenly groups threw away the old method of Gospel, Personal Enquiry and Social Enquiry and replaced them by a non-directive fluid review. The theory was good-“don’t tell them what to do, let them discover it”. When starting a group we said “sit down, start talking- we will take it from there”. In fact you might be able to take it [reflection and action] from a general conversation, but practically speaking the YCS movement is not able to cope with this at all levels. An experienced Religious Assistant or Chaplain or an exceptional student could make a fist of it, but otherwise negative.”

My notes record that there had been a swing back from that position, but that I was still concerned about the confusion of objective of the “whole of life” Review of Life and, on the other hand, the way in which YCS meetings were structured and how students could become introduced to the YCS. I suggested, in the absence of situations where there was an experienced adult (religious or lay), that the starting point for student engagement should be social issues for which the students would use the see, judge, act methodology, with a developmental process to take students back to a more personal, and prayerful, Review of Life. I think my suggestion would have been made by many others at the time.

Risks

The risk for the YCS, and for the YCW and other Jocist organisations, in starting from social issues is that they, or parts of them, may not move beyond social issues; and that social action may be seen to be the sole purpose of the YCS. The development in the body of Catholic Social Teaching since the early 1960s can inform and deepen social action, but there is a risk of secularisation, by which I mean engaging in social action that is unaccompanied by any spiritual purpose or dimension. The YCS’s (and Cardijn’s) vision and understanding of the lay apostolate can be lost.

Pope Francis has stated that the Church must be a “field hospital”. The Church, which includes Catholic bodies like the YCS and the YCW, must provide field hospitals, alongside the other field hospitals of civil society, and provide support and services to those in need, including those of different faiths or no faith. In this role the field hospitals must maintain their essential character. As the Pope has also stressed, the Church is not another NGO. Similarly, the YCS, and the YCW, are not just socially active youth organisations.

It is the work of a Catholic field hospital that will be the initial point of engagement for many young Catholics and, in practice, for many non-Catholics. The interests and work of a field hospital is varied. Here are some issues that concern Australian students: Homelessness; Asylum seekers/refugees; Indigenous rights; Environment; Consumerism; Mental health/Body image; Family relationships; Multicultural relationships; Education and the Future of Work; Social media; Rights at work; Bullying and harassment; Modern slavery/Human trafficking; Animal cruelty. Some of these are connected to the Sustainable Development Goals that this training session of the IYCS is discussing. Some of these topics manifest themselves close to home, but others are removed from the everyday lives of the students.

In days gone by our YCS and YCW groups usually worked out from the personal to the social, whereas now we are more likely to start from the social issues of the day. In my view, if the Australian YCS is to re-establish itself as a major movement in the Catholic Church in Australia it must engage in the social issues that concern students. The challenge is to find ways to work back to the personal transformation that the Review of Life promises. Sadly, in some places the Review of Life is secularised and treated only as a method for decision-making on social issues.

The YCS mission

The introduction to one of our Australian YCS programmes includes the following:

“A major part of the mission of the YCS is to work for a fairer and more just society consistent with the teachings and values of Jesus Christ and the principles and objectives of Catholic Social Teaching. ….

But the YCS is more than that. There is something closer to home. The YCS also challenges students to focus on the reality of their own lives and the lives of those around them; for example, the needs of other students within their schools and local communities.

But the YCS is even more than that. Engaging with the world, from the local to the global, and working to improve the lives of our nearest neighbours through to those we will never meet will transform the YCS member. Leadership skills, self-confidence and social friendships will grow, not because they are pursued for personal improvement, but because they are the result of a commitment to something above and beyond self-interest.

Formation through action

So the YCS is a “formation through action” movement. Formation means different things to different people. When we talk of formation in the YCS we talk about Christian formation: where engagement in the world and serving the needs of others is seen as inextricably linked to a commitment to Jesus Christ. At the heart of the YCS is what is called the Review of Life or the “See, Judge, Act” methodology. It is used by YCS groups as a method or process for discovering, evaluating and acting on a wide range of topics.

But the Review of Life is more than a methodology for dealing with social issues. It is also personal. It is a way of thinking and working our way through a wide range of issues that come into our personal lives, where the judging or evaluating part of the process helps us to better understand ourselves and our relationships with others.

And there is another dimension to the Review of Life that moves us beyond the purely human. The Review of Life is also a process in which our personal and silent reflections on the realities of a commitment to Jesus Christ can become our prayers of life.

In the following pages we will continue the introduction to the YCS’s way of thinking and how it operates. We hope it will take you on a journey of social engagement and spiritual discovery.”

The engagement in social issues is a necessary part of the reestablishment of the YCS in Australia, but it cannot be sufficient. The challenge for the Australian YCS is to find the ways in which we can take students on a journey of social engagement and spiritual discovery.

Brian Lawrence