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)



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.


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


Bob Wilkinson, New Visions of Priesting (ATF Press)

Jean Boulier’s “I was a Red Priest” and the Holocaust


In 1977 Father Jean Boulier (1894-1980), a French priest, wrote an autobiography, J’étais un prêtre rouge. Like his American Catholic contemporary, Dorothy Day (1897-1980), he was on the left. And like Day, who is being made a “saint” by Rome, Fr Boulier is in a similar process, but it is Israel (Yad Vashem) that is considering conferring its equivalent honor, “Righteous among the Nations.”

As part of honoring Fr Boulier, an English translation of his autobiography, I was a Red Priest, is now being published. As a red priest, his book described his dealings with the French Communist Party (PCF), priest workers, Eastern Europe, the post-war peace movement, Vatican II, Jesuits, Thomism, liberation theology, liturgy, ecumenism, mysticism and the church hierarchy. His thinking and actions paralleled those of his American counterpart Day, as did the reaction of the civil and religious authorities.

It was his politics in World War II, however, which were on the side of the Jews and against the Nazi and Vichy government that both endeared him to Israel and pushed him permanently into the communist camp. As his book summarised, in 1938 he was appointed to be the pastor of Sainte-Devote Parish in Monaco. In June 1940, France fell to the Nazis and the independent principality of Monaco followed France.


Toby Terrar, An Autobiography of A Red Priest During World War II (Social Policy)


Jean Boulier, I was a red priest (CW Publishers)

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.


Seminar Papers (Jocist Women Leaders Project)

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.”


Catholic activist Jean Tyacke dies at 94 (Southern Cross)

Reaching the peripheries: France’s Worker Mission

Next week we are holding another special event to look at the work of the French Catholic Church’s Mission Ouvrière, the worker mission established 80 years ago to reach out to working people.

Many of us will remember Pope Pius XI’s famous lament to Cardijn that “the greatest tragedy of the 19th century was the loss of the working class to the Church.”

Others will recall the famous book, France, Pays de mission – France a mission country -, written by YCW chaplains, Henri Godin and Yvan Daniel, which showed the extent to which the Church had lost touch with the masses.

Since then, Pope Francis has reframed that mission as a mission to the “periphery,” meaning reaching those people beyond the reach of the Church’s traditional structures.

And this is the work of the French Mission Ouvrière, which continues to provide a framework for the YCW, the Christian Workers Movement, a children’s movement, workers priests and a whole range of apostolic groups.

Could it offer a model for Australia today as the Church seeks to implement the decisions of the recent Plenary Council?

To discuss this and other issues, we’ve invited Jackie Hocquet and Bernard Schricke, both former YCW leaders, now working with Caritas France, to explain the Worker Mission model.

Read more

The French Worker Mission (translated document)

Mission Ouvrière Nationale (French)


Thursday 22 September 2022, 7pm AEST



Book: To Jurong with Love

Former Singapore YCS and YCW leader, Tang Lay Lee, has published a history of the Singapore YCW entitled “To Jurong with love.”

She traces the history of the movement from its beginnings in 1954-55 by French Foreign Mission priests Frs Hippolyte Berthold and Louis Amiotte-Suchet in the parish of Saints Peter and Paul to its ultimate end in 1998.

In a chapter entitles “From parish to periphery,” Lay Lee explains the YCW’s transition from a parish-based movement to one that focused its work in Singapore’s then strongly developing industrial area of Jurong in the west of the island.

Her choice of the word “periphery” is perhaps highly significant because while the word echoes Pope Francis’ call for the Church to move to the peripheries of society, it also echoes the way in which the YCW itself became somewhat marginalised by the Church.

Worse, during the 1980s, the YCW’s work became the subject of accusations of communism and Marxism by the nation’s rulers, leading in 1987 to the arrest of many Church workers, including Lay Lee herself.

Moreover, it is no accident that these arrests took place just a year after the toppling of the Marcos regime in the neighbouring Philippines, events in which the Catholic Church as well as many grassroots Catholics played a large role.

The book also gently gives rise to questions about the strategy of moving from parish to periphery? Was this a success? Was the change too abrupt? Would it have been possible to maintain parish YCW groups while developing the new outreach to industrial areas?

In fact, the YCW in many other countries, particularly in Asia, followed a similar trajectory that of the Singapore YCW. Few have been able to maintain the movement in this manner. There is much to ponder from this experience.

‘To Jurong with Love’ concludes with a chapter of reminiscences and testimonies from YCW leaders of various generations.

Their sentiments are well summed up in the moving poem that introduces that chapter and which gave the book its title.

Although it concludes with the end of the movement in 1998, there is much to learn from Lay Lee’s excellent and heartfelt history as well as great inspiration for a new foundation.

Stefan Gigacz

To Jurong With Love

The roads to Jurong from everywhere were tough, decade after decade.

We went with our different backgrounds and quests, we met as strangers,

we became friends through YCW at work, at the Centre.

We left Jurong for the world, forever changed by all that we experienced and understood

of the working and living conditions confronting workers, day in day out.

We left Jurong for the world with new eyes, by the grace of God

heartened by the solidarity with one another as human beings,

This is from each one of us and all of us with YCW-

To Jurong With Love.


Tang Lay Lee, To Jurong with Love (Kinokinuya)

Russ Tershy: YCW and Peace Corps pioneer

Russell Joseph Tershy passed away on 29 June 2022, marking a century that began before the Great Depression and continued into the Internet age.

Russell Tershy believed in every person’s potential, and he believed that luck and circumstances, not ability, shaped people’s trajectories. He understood this first-hand. Tershy, born in Enid, Oklahoma, fled the Dust Bowl to California with his family in a Model-T Ford in the 1920s. He, his four siblings and his parents, Lebanese immigrants who opened a successful general store on the High Plains, lost everything and became migrant farm workers. They picked peaches in southern California, and through the generosity of a man who rented them a plot of land and a chicken barn in Robla, California but never collected full rent, the Tershy family emerged from financial ruin. They converted the barn into a home with a wood stove and an outhouse, and Russell helped grow and sell fruits and vegetables door-to-door. They started buying fruit from other farmers and reselling it to stores. By age 15 Russell was driving a truck full of fruit back and forth from Robla to Los Angeles and negotiating sales and purchases. Kindness extended was their luck.

Education was an engine of upward mobility for Tershy, as it was for so many Americans. He attended the one-room Robla Elementary school and New Deal era progressive Grant High School which sparked a lifelong commitment to education. His valedictorian speech was about the role of education in building a prosperous future. He attended Sacramento City College, the first member of his family to attend college. When World War II started, he left college to fight facism with the US Calvary. He was stationed on a cold, remote island off Washington State, but after his basic training IQ test was finally processed, he was sent to Stanford University where he spent two years studying Chinese language and culture, mule packing and survival in preparation to be parachuted with a mule into China to aid the resistance to Japanese occupation.

Much to his surprise, he was shipped off to the Philippines where he was retrained as a radio operator and undertook countless patrol missions searching for Japanese soldiers in areas transitioning from Japanese to US control. Next he was on a ship bound for the invasion of Japan and was then among the first groups of soldiers to land in the country after the Japanese surrender.

When he returned from the war after five years overseas, he visited his parents, sister and baby nephew in Robla. They then drove to San Francisco to visit two of his sisters, while his mother stayed behind with the baby. When he returned a few days later, no one answered the door. He climbed in through a window and found his mother dead, his baby nephew asleep in the cradle.

The family was convinced that his mother would have been alive had they been able to afford good medical care. Russell poured his grief into making money. With his father he rented and ran a residence hotel on Polk St in San Francisco. Within a few years they were making over $US300,000/yr in today’s dollars, and Russell was living the life in San Francisco.

His family was finally financially secure, but he lingered on his mother’s early death, the devastation of war he witnessed in Japan and the Philippines, and his family’s stint as entrapped migrant farmworkers, which they escaped with the help of the man who never asked for the full rent. He turned over the hotel business to his family and joined the Young Christian Workers, making less than $US6,000/yr in today’s dollars as a labor union organizer and poverty fighter.

He considered becoming a Catholic priest, got engaged, called it off and reconsidered priesthood before meeting his wife, Ellie Marie Sheridan, in the Young Christian Workers movement. They married in 1960 when they were both 39. Their son Bernie was born the following year, and Russell was recruited by the newly formed Peace Corps to be the Deputy Director for Bolivia. The new family lived in Bolivia for four years until one of Bolivia’s frequent coups forced the Peace Corps program out.

They returned to the US where Russell, thanks to the GI Bill and Stanford’s generous re-admission policy, resumed his college education after a ~20 year pause. His plan was to return to poverty fighting in Latin America armed with a new degree, but they decided to stay in the US when his 2nd son, Bill, almost died shortly after birth and was saved by the state-of-the-art medical care available at Stanford.

Russ Tershy

With renewed focus on poverty in the US, Russell co-founded the Center for Employment Training, a non-profit job training program. Their first office was a small outbuilding behind Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in San Jose, CA, which he shared with Cesar Chavez and the nascent United Farm Workers movement. The bond and close working relationship between the two organizations continues to this day. The Center for Employment training model was to accept all applicants, have them enter the training pipeline at whatever stage matched their level, and have them remain in the program until they were placed in a permanent job with a working-class, living wage. Independent research proved this to be the most effective job training model in the US. The San Jose Center for Employment training was replicated across the country and directly lifted over 200,000 families out of poverty and into the working and middle class. Its model became standard best practice for job training around the world.

After retiring from the Center for Employment Training, Russell, with his wife Ellie, his son Bill’s family and his nephew Joe Tershay, started the Montessori Community School in Scotts Valley.

Russell passed away at the home he shared with his wife Ellie (99 YO) and his son Bill & family. He was surrounded by family and friends. He was the oldest surviving World War II veteran in Santa Cruz County.

He is survived by his wife Ellie, son Bernie, his wife Erika Zavaleta and children Raven, Finn, Russell & Navia Terhy; and son Bill and his wife Regina Tershy their children and grandchild.

Rosary Friday 15 July, 7pm, son Bill’s home- call 831.246.3463 for address & directions

Funeral Mass 16 July, open casket 930-1030am, mass 1030am, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, 435 Monterey Ave, Capitola, CA 95010

Followed by memorial celebration Bill’s home- call 831.246.3463 for address & directions

Burial 18 July, 11am, Central Coast Vets Cemetery, 2900 Parker Flats Cut Off Rd, Seaside, CA 93955


Russell Joseph Tershy (1921-2022) (Legacy)

50th Anniversary (Center for Employment Training)

Webinar: A priest for workers

Former South African YCW chaplain, Fr Joe Falkiner op, will be our speaker for our next ACI Webinar entitled “A Priest for Workers” on Tuesday 12 July 2022 at 7pm AEST.

Last year, Fr Joe published his memoirs in a book of the same name in which he recalled his many years of work as chaplain of the South African YCW movement under the apartheid regime during the 1970s and 180s.


South African Dominican priest, Fr Joe Falkiner op, was born in the town of Springs in 1934. After completing high school with the Christian Brothers, he studied geology at university.

After this, he began work with the Anglo-American Corporation mining conglomerate, which sent him to Tanganyika (now Tanzania). Through this work, he saw the terrible way in which black workers were treated by their employer, eventually leading to his resignation and search for his vocation.

In 1962, he applied to enter the Dominican Order, joining their community at Stellenbosch in 1963, leading to his ordination in 1969.

Soon after joining the Dominicans, he came into contact with local teams of the South African YCW. As a priest in a parish from 1970, he began a greater involvement with the movement, setting him on the path to eventually becoming national chaplain.

Fr Joe’s memoirs tell the story of this sometimes dangerous work, under the surveillance of the security police, at the height of the apartheid regime.


Gunther Simmermacher, Book review: A priest looks back (Australian Cardijn Institute)


A Priest for Workers: Memoirs of Father Joseph Falkiner OP (Cluster Publications)


Title: A Priest for Workers: Fr Joe Falkiner op on working with the YCW in South Africa under apartheid

Date: Tuesday 12 July 2022, 7pm AEST/11am South African time



Remembering Fr Hugh O’Sullivan: 25th anniversary

The Australian YCW together with ACI, the Cardijn Community and YCW Holdings will commemorate the 25th anniversary of the death of Fr Hugh O’Sullivan with a commemorative dinner on Saturday 28 May at 5pm and mass on Sunday 29 May at 2pm at The Monastery, 15 Cross Road, Glen Osmond, SA.

Fr Hugh (1939 -1997) was best remembered as Chaplain of the Australian YCW and also served with the international team in Asia Pacific, based in Hong Kong.

From his first parish appointment until his passing, he used his ability to relate easily to people of all ages, coupled with his profound grasp of the mission of the YCW and was able to wear so easily the two hats that adorned him: essentially faithful to the traditions of the Church, he did not balk at social agitation when it was needed.

His book ‘The Clatter of Wooden Clogs’ on the dignity of work was the fruit of his lifetime reflections on justice and continues to be used today in AYCW for the formation of leaders and mentors alike.

The event is being jointly organized by Australian Young Christian Workers Movement, Australian Cardijn Institute, Cardijn Community Australia and YCW Holdings.

“As part of the AYCW’s National Action Conference being held in Adelaide, let’s come together to listen to stories from those who worked closely with Hugh, commemorate his life and action and celebrate his ongoing legacy,” writes Adelaide YCW worker, Ashish Chaulagain.


Cost: $55 per head (2 course meal)A bar will be available

Please RSVP as numbers are limited.To RSVP or for more details, please contact Ashish at 0449913292 or ashish.chaulagain@ycw.org.au

Bank Account Details:
Account Name: Australian Young Christian Workers
Account BSB: 062-443
Account Number: 13093106
Description: Fr Hugh Your Name and Number




Notes for Leaders

Making Monday the Best Day of the Week

Tipping the world on its head

In this article, Kevin Peoples recalls his YCW experience.

My Auntie Poll asked me once what the YCW was. Polly lived with us on and off in the 1950s. She spoke with an Irish brogue, which rubbed off on me. Her question was prompted because I had started my own YCW team. The rag-tag team, made in the image of God, came in the back door at home and sheepishly made their way to the front room, which was only used when we had visitors. Up in the front room I lit a candle, we read the gospel and talked about our lives. Serious talk. Without knowing much what happened behind the door, Polly thought it all looked strange behaviour for young men. It was difficult to know where to start when she asked me the question.

Polly listened with growing scepticism as I explained the YCW. When I told her I was Christ in the world that was too much. She raised her eyes to heaven and whispered, ‘Jesus, Mary and Joseph’. Looking at me straight in the eye she told me gravely that the YCW was not only dangerous, but a distinct threat to my health and mental state and if I had any brains I would leave all that stuff to the priests. She was of course half right. The YCW was dangerous.

I joined the YCW in my late teens following a visit by the Ballarat Diocesan full-time YCW worker, Jim Ross. This was around the mid-1950s. Jim spoke to a small group of leaders of the then Catholic Young Men’s Club (CYMS) in Terang. I listened intently but I was not convinced we should move from the CYMS to the YCW. That changed when I spoke to Jim on the way out. I asked him where he was sleeping that night. He said ‘I don’t know’. I asked him where he slept the previous night. He said, ‘On the beach at Warrnambool’. I joined the YCW at that moment and it transformed my life.

I joined the YCW because of my heart not my head. My transformation took a little longer. My understanding of being a Catholic changed dramatically. My allegiance to Catholicism came from the set of beliefs I had grown into from my schooling, my parents and the preaching I heard each Sunday at Mass. I had the knowledge but it didn’t eat into me. My purpose in life, in that old, narrow dispensation was to save my soul and spend eternity in Heaven with my God who lived somewhere outside the world. My real world in Terang was a mere backdrop to my eternal salvation; in the same way as an artist paints a backdrop for a stage play. An artefact to brighten the surroundings. In the new dispensation, my religion was horizontal, encompassing all and everything about me. I was in the process of becoming something new.

The YCW tipped the old on its head. I was to become a lay apostle in the world. Christ was present in me and in each young worker – Catholic and non-Catholic. I was called to love all young workers and work for them in practical ways that would gradually bring about the Kingdom that Jesus emphasised in his mission. That Kingdom is in the here and now. Jesus had come to offer a new social order based on love and justice and not just finding a way to Heaven. This Heaven in the sky gradually slipped out of my thinking. However small my efforts might be in Terang, I came to realise that I had a vocation to help create this Kingdom that would be sharply at odds with all earthly Kingdoms and earthly institutions. I started to grow from the inside.

Father John Molony, our Diocesan Chaplain, told us leaders, to my surprise, that we all had a Divine Origin, a Divine Mission and a Divine Destiny. I puzzled over that. We were, he said, all sharers in the Divine life of Christ and in our small world we were irreplaceable. All this was to change my sense of who I was, my very identity. Molony told us that the building of the Kingdom of God in the here was dependant on us. What this meant for me was that the secular world had become sacred. There could be no dualism between this world and the next. In the YCW I had come from being virtually a no one to being someone very special. It did wonders for my self-belief. I came to believe I could do anything.

I learnt that my apostolate was not some narrow thing such as getting young workers back to Mass. Not religious in that sense, in a Church sense, but a total apostolate that included a broad social, economic and political apostolate, but not party political. I belonged to an international movement that was committed to change especially in the workplace. Our broad apostolate was exercised through individual members like me in local groups, but also through our representatives at a national level. Campaigns were planned for local groups on issues critically important for young workers.

Over a nine year cycle in the 1950s three broad themes were identified: family, work and leisure. These themes were repeated every three years. At our local leaders’ group meetings we followed a clear agenda in programs geared to local action. We had our own ‘Items of Interest’ and ‘Facts of Action’. We followed an action/reflection model. We were to learn through acting. We grew through acting. And the driver of our action was the contradiction we saw between what was and what could be. We had a vision. Our Gospel discussions provided the ‘what could be’ and our ‘enquiry method’, (what we observed) provided the ‘what was’ or the hard facts. All of this was experiential learning. If we didn’t personally experience the contradictions between the real and the ideal, between the world and the Kingdom then action was unlikely to occur. The genius who worked out this enquiry method, or See, Judge and Act, was Joseph Cardijn (1882-1967), the Belgian priest who witnessed the suffering of young workers in the industrial areas of his city.


What follows is an outline of how the YCW influenced me in two major events of my early adult life. The first was my time as an organiser for B.A. Santamaria’s ‘National Catholic Rural Movement’ (1959-1961). As a young leader in the small town of Terang I was groomed by a couple, Pat and Maureen Bourke, who were executive members of the National Catholic Rural Movement (NCRM) and local leaders of Santamaria’s anti-Communist Movement, eventually named the National Civic Council (NCC). The YCW had made me restless for something more in life. I left my clerical work and began working on the Bourke farm – no pay but free board and lodging – for three months while Pat campaigned for the Democratic Labor Party (DLP). At the end of that time, through the influence of Pat and Maureen, Santamaria agreed to employ me for a three month’s trial without a salary but all expenses paid. I was to collect money from the farming members of the NCRM. Santamaria was cautious. I had a YCW background and relationships between Santamaria and the YCW in Melbourne were icy cold.

With my 203 Peugeot and my inner voice telling me I could walk on water, I became an outstanding salesmen for Santamaria’s NCRM. I quickly resurrected the financial fortunes of the NCRM and became full time with a new powder-blue Holden. Unbelievably, I was appointed the National Organising Secretary of a Catholic Action Movement with a national mandate from the bishops. It was all nonsense, mere window dressing and I learnt quickly that the NCRM was virtually dead and useful only as a front for anti-communism in rural areas. Naturally, I wanted to change it into an adult YCW. I knew what a Catholic Action movement should look like and I found a small minority of members in the North-East of Victoria who also wanted to change the NCRM into a genuine Catholic Action Movement. That meant breaking its links with Santamaria and his anti-communist actions within the Labor Movement.

Some history is required here. In 1954, when Dr H.V. Evatt, leader of the Australian Labor Party, revealed to surprised Australians the existence of a secret movement led by a Mr B.A. Santamaria working within the Labor Movement, funded and supported by the Catholic bishops and owing allegiance to the Church, all hell broke loose. The Labor Pary split and the Conservatives ruled for the next 22 years with the support of the Democratic Labor Party (DLP) preferences or Catholic preferences. Cardinal Norman Gilroy, (Sydney) requested Rome to make a ruling on the existence of such a secret organisation working with a political party. In 1957 Rome ruled against Santamaria. In 1960 in Warrnambool, I listened as Santamaria belatedly resigned as National Secretary of the NCRM and Bishop Francis Henschke announced his replacement, Mr. W.E. (Bill) Crowe, who had worked for Santamaria and the secret movement since the mid-1940s. Nothing had changed.

But I saw an opportunity. The appointment of Crowe caused deep divisions within sections of the NCRM. The Executive had not been consulted. I built on the divisions which had been there long before I arrived. I convinced Maureen Bourke that the NCRM should adopt the Cardijn method and become a genuine Catholic Action Movement. I spoke with some chaplains and other members about the possibility of a new sort of NCRM. I convinced Bill Crowe that he was the National Secretary of an organisation that was virtually dead. Bill knew it and I think his pride led him to approach Santamaria. The proposed National Conference for 1961 was cancelled and the Executive agreed to a three day meeting to discuss the future of the NCRM. Santamaria agreed but for all the wrong reasons. He would learn who was with him and who was against. I suggested to Crowe that we invite Father John Molony from Ballarat as the keynote speaker on the nature of Catholic Action. Santamaria cultivated Molony from his days as a student and then as a priest in Rome and the United States. Santamaria knew that Molony supported his anti-communist activities and agreed that he could speak. On behalf of Crowe, I spoke with Molony and he too agreed but only after he met my friends, Pat and Maureen Bourke, who convinced him change within the NCRM was possible.

I was a dreamer, a naïve optimist. I didn’t know with whom I was dealing. Santamaria was devious. And he didn’t believe in Molony’s Catholic Action. He thought it ineffective. He was never going to hand over the NCRM to those who wanted to split it from him. It was his baby which he created aged 22 in 1939. I thought I was dealing with people who wanted the best for the NCRM. But there was another agonising irony. John Molony didn’t believe in the NCRM either. Neither did his close friend, Jim Ross, who had brought me into the YCW. Molony and Ross were starting their own YCW Adult Movement in the Ballarat Diocese and their bishop, James O’Collins, had given them a mandate, but, importantly, limited to the diocese. They saw an opportunity to capture then terminate the NCRM and gain its national mandate. They didn’t tell me.

Weeks later, Molony asked me to drive him to Melbourne. He wanted to meet with Santamaria before giving his keynote address. Molony was an honest man Deceiving Santamaria was not in his nature. The poor man told Santamaria of his plans to terminate the NCRM. Santamaria had already heard whispers from his spies in Ballarat about Molony’s plan. Molony sought Santamaria’s better angels — support the development of a genuine adult Catholic Action Movement. It was foolhardy. Promises were made and not kept. Molony left his meeting believing Santamaria would remain neutral at the conference. It was agreed Santamaria would speak first and introduce Molony as a friend. Molony could then put his proposition to the members at an appropriate time. The members would decide their future. Stay with Santamaria or join with Ballarat in the formation of a new Adult Movement based on the principles of Catholic Action. Rural Movement groups in the Ballarat Diocese would be serviced by Ballarat. Nothing like that happened. Molony found himself at the last minute speaking first. He spoke on the nature of Catholic Action. He made no mention of the NCRM. His speech was left hanging out to dry. Irrelevant to the main game. The atmosphere was cool, then cold, then over the three days hostile to Ballarat. Santamaria had planned it so. He fought to keep control of the NCRM emphasising the ineffectiveness of Catholic Action. The YCW, he argued, had no social apostolate. He wished Ballarat well in its ‘experiment’ and hypocritically invited Molony to return to the next conference and report to members.

Ballarat was lost, the NCRM was lost and so was I. In a sense I had innocently brought this mayhem about. Because I believed in Cardijn. Because I was YCW. Because I knew what Catholic Action was. But I discovered I was playing with fire. Before the end of the conference I was asked to speak. I had nothing to say so I resigned. Santamaria accepted and said I would be happier with Molony in Ballarat. When Molony went to say good bye to Santamaria he told the priest to ‘go to buggery’. When Maureen Bourke went to say good bye, he told her to ‘go to hell’.

Molony invited me to Ballarat to join his Diocesan adult movement. I became a window cleaner. At my first meeting, a dejected Molony quietly announced that the bishop had withdrawn his mandate. Santamaria was never going to accept an Adult Movement competing with the NCC and the NCRM. The adult movement was dead. Molony never really recovered. He left the priesthood a year and a half later. (These events are told in detail in my book ‘Santamaria’s Salesman’, (2012) Garratt Publishing, Mulgrave. They still have a small number of copies left).


The second major event in my young life where the YCW determined my actions was the decision to leave my studies for the priesthood. After two years back at Chevalier Secondary College in Bowral, New South Wales, I entered St Columba’s Seminary in the Blue Mountains in 1964. I left towards the end of 1966 following nearly three years of philosophy.

In the seminary I met an alien god. My seminary god was gender specific. A male chauvinistic and judgmental god, he was at once cold, distant and aloof. This god lived somewhere above the clouds and his truths were handed down to my superiors. This god enveloped me not in his love but in his rules and I demonstrated my love for him when I obeyed his rules. This patriarchal and misogninistic god looked down from Heaven and found women lacking. We were not permitted to speak to the nine women who cooked and cleaned for us. Celibacy was never mentioned.

I learn that I had not chosen to be here but this seminary god had chosen me and I was thus deemed ‘special’. I was trapped. How could I leave when I had been chosen? This god was the opposite of my YCW God. The clerical mission worried me greatly. The Church taught that God directly created souls and souls were the business of the church and its priests. And the salvation of souls was intimately connected to notions of sin, forgiveness and our true happiness in Heaven. The clerical caste worked as shepherds. Thy guided and protected their flocks from the evils and errors of the world and forgave their sins when they faulted. I was a restless shepherd. Rather than protecting people from the world I wanted to save the world. I wanted to help bring about the Kingdom that was central to the teaching of Jesus. Ths Kingdom was the reign of God here on Earth. In the YCW we saw it the transformation of earthly life and a continuation of the work begun by Jesus. Its constitutive elements were built on love and justice. At heart, I was a layman, not a saver of disembodied souls seeking happiness in Heaven.

I came to the conclusion that the seminary existed to weed people out. The only change permitted was in the number of students. This seminary system was four hundred years old. The favoured philosopher of the Vatican died in 1274. I could not walk alone with a friend. I was not permitted to enter another student’s room. I could smell the fear of gay sex. When I sang in concerts I was forced to change the lyrics if authorities thought them ‘inappropriate’. I was in danger of becoming something I wasn’t. The seminary drew me into myself and made me smaller. The YCW drew me out of myself and made me bigger.

God cannot be gender specific. But I learnt in the seminary that my God was more female than male. That I was a mix of male and female. My female God was sweet and warm and she loved the world that she had begun and all the people who were created in her image. When I hung white, feminine curtains in my small room I was asked to take them down. Real men play rugby. They don’t fly white curtains in the wind. My God lived in the real world where the secular and the sacred were one. When I left my family and relatives in Terang to return on the morning train to the seminary, I saw my God. She was real and I could see her. She stood in vegetable gardens and waved me good bye. She stood in the middle of the road with tears in her eyes because I was leaving her. She was my mother. Sometimes my God stood in the middle of the road wearing a pink dressing gown, and made me hot curries when I came home for Christmas. She was my Auntie. My God was calm and gentle. She had gnarled hands from working in the factory. She dressed in blue overalls and when she dressed up she wore a tie and put on a green cardigan. She rubbed the noses of untamed horses and whispered in their ears to calm them. She was my father and she voted for the Labor Party and joined a union.

And so I left the seminary.

Kevin Peoples

Making life beautiful: The Jocist Women Leaders project

Led by Katharine Massam and Stefan Gigacz, ACI’s latest project aims to record the lives and contributions of women jocist leaders from around the world and of every generation.

Few remember today that when Cardijn began his ministry in the parish of Our Lady of Laeken, near Brussels, he started by forming study circles of young female teenage workers. And to achieve this, he recruited several young women with experience in community and labour organising, including Victoire Cappe and Madeleine De Roo.

Entitled “Making daily life vast and beautiful,” the Jocist Women Leaders project will draw on oral and written sources to bring the stories of these women to life.

The international project team includes researchers from Latin America, Europe and Australia. The initial aims will be to publish a book presenting the life and work of ten jocist women leaders and to develop an online database recording the stories of so many more of these powerful women.

“The international conversation is already showing that women held key leadership roles as the movement grew and spread,” Katharine Massam noted. “We’re keen to understand what made that possible, and to recover the memory of those contributions in many different contexts.”

A special website has been launched to host the project.


Jocist Women Leaders Project (Australian Cardijn Institute/Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Vale Fr Kevin Mogg AM

Born on 23 April 1932, former YCW chaplain, Fr Kevin Mogg AM died on Saturday 26 February 2000 – just two months shy of his 90th birthday.

Regarded as an inspiring parish leader for over six decades, an educator, and a prison and youth justice chaplain, he founded Catholic Social Services Victoria (CSSV) and was a member of the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council for 15 years.

ACI president and former YCW leader, Brian Lawrence, recalled Fr Kevin’s work with the YCW:

When I was in the YCW in Fawkner in the 1960s, Kevin Mogg was the curate at St Pius’ in West Heidelberg.  He was a legend in what was a very challenging parish, based on the old 1956 Olympic Village, into which the Government moved families from the inner-city slums. It had a very strong parish and a parish YCW well able to serve the youth of a tough neighbourhood.  Its football teams were the most successful across the northern suburbs, at least, and they produced some notable footballers, including the Collingwood great, Peter McKenna. This was a place where football was just not a sporting service, but a connection with the wider community. 

I heard a lot about Kevin Mogg in the 1960s because one of our parish YCW chaplains, Fr Joe McMahon, was a great mate of his. (We had two chaplains, one for the Girls YCW and one for the Boys YCW.)  Joe McMahon died five years ago, a priest of 54 years. His nephew, Fr Joe Caddy, is the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Melbourne.  Our other chaplain, Fr Don Burnard, left the priesthood and kept the faith. He died in January 2022, aged 90. Joe McMahon and Don Burnard were inspirational, just like Kevin Mogg was in West Heidelberg.

Readers of these newsletters will know that we often write about former YCW chaplains who have died.  Some of them have gone on to higher office and greater responsibilities in the Church, but whether they did or not is beside the point.  These three priests, like dozens of other priests of their generation in and around Melbourne (and many more outside Melbourne) might be called Cardijn or Jocist priests, but, more accurately, they were Vatican II priests. Most of their formation in the seminaries and after ordination was during the Vatican II years. In Melbourne, at least, the emergence of the outward-looking lay apostolate of Vatican II started before Vatican II was called in January 1959 by Pope John XXIII. 

The great success of the YCW in Australia was found in parishes where there were a lot of young workers, from 14 or 15 years though to 20 or, maybe, 21. The young chaplains were able to engage with this group because they were, for the most part, from ordinary, and often large, working class families. It kept them grounded. The decline of the YCW is often put down to sociological factors impacting on young people (especially increased mobility through car ownership, greater entertainment options, and higher school retention rates), but a significant and often overlooked factor is the loss of priests like Kevin Mogg, Joe McMahon and Don Burnard.

CSSV board chairman, Bernie Cronin, remembered Fr Kevin as “a true servant leader” who worked tirelessly towards a better and “encouraged very many others to share a sense of belonging and to take action towards a more just, equitable and compassionate society.”

Don Burnard also died recently
Don Burnard (left) with a parish football team


Vale Fr Kevin Mogg AM (Catholic Social Services Victoria)

John Harms, Almanac Racing – Warrnambool Carnival: Pilgrims’ Progress (The Footy Almanac)

Relationship expert turns 90, and shares his top tip for happy ‘marrying’ (Mayflower)


Catholic Social Services Victoria


Bishop Remi De Roo, apostle of Vatican II

Born in Manitoba, Canada of Flemish Belgian parents on 24 February 1924, Remi De Roo first met Cardijn while a seminarian at the time of the 1947 YCW International Congress in Montreal.

Ordained in 1950, a year later he was appointed director of Catholic Action for the Diocese of St Boniface, Manitoba. Later he served as parish priest at Holy Cross parish.

Aged only 38, he was appointed by Pope John XXIII as bishop of Victoria, British Columbia in October 1962. This enabled him to attend all four sessions of Vatican II.

During the Council, he worked closely with Cardijn, delivering a significant intervention on the role of the laity.

In his memoirs, he recalled the battles Cardijn had faced at the Council.

“At Vatican II, Cardinal Cardijn confided to me that he never fully succeeded in getting “those Romans” to grasp the true nature of specialized (meaning the apostolate of like to like) Catholic Action. They failed to grasp how it was directed primarily towards the transformation of society through Gospel values. It was not meant to be oriented towards the strengthening or promotion of Church structures as such. I remember him bemoaning the fact that in the commission in which he participated during the Council, he had found it practically impossible to get the members to understand the true nature of Catholic Action.

After the Council, he became a strong proponent of social action and liberation theology and a critic of capitalism. He was the main force behind the 1983 Canadian bishops’ statement “Ethical Reflections on the Economic Crisis,” which stated that the “goal of serving the human needs of all people in our society must take precedence over the maximization of profits and growth.”

Letter from Remi De Roo to Margaret Bacon

When YCW leaders in Brazil were arrested in 1971-72, he wrote letters on their behalf. He was close friends with Margaret Bacon, IYCW secretary-general, who later married Brian Burke.

As bishop, he was also criticised for his management of diocesan finances. Eventually, however, the investments he had made proved sound.

He also broached the subject of married priest and women priests with Pope John Paul II, who accepted Bishop De Roo’s resignation within weeks of his reaching the official retirement age of 75.

Sadly, according to reports from abuse survivors’ groups, it also appears he was not immune to the temptation to place protection of priests and the church above the safety of the young and the vulnerable in his care.

Remi De Roo died on 1 February 2022.


Bishop Remi De Roo (Catholic Hierarchy)

Remi De Roo, A bishop calls for a more dynamic way of dealing with the lay apostolate (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Bishop Remi De Roo, social justice champion who attended Vatican II, dies (National Catholic Reporter)

Vatican II was first time church asked ‘Who am I?’ says Canadian bishop (Catholic Register)

Arthur Jones, Remi De Roo – An unflagging apostle for and of the Second Vatican Council (National Catholic Reporter/Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

SNAP Vancouver responds to accolades given to Bishop Remi De Roo (Bishop Accountability)

Chronicles of a Vatican II bishop (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)


Reforming Tradition: A Conversation with Remi De Roo, June 21, 2018 (Centre for Studies on Religion and Society, University of Victoria)

Witnesses to the Council (University of St Paul, Ottawa)

Australian YCW 80th anniversary

On 23 November, the Australian YCW, the Cardijn Community and ACI will present a webinar to commemorate and celebrate the 80th anniversary of the foundation of the movement in 1941.

Keynote speaker will be Bill Armstrong AO, former YCW leader from Victoria, who later had a distinguished career in international development

Responding to Bill will be Marilyn Bellett, current president of the Australian YCW.

Register for the event here:


Bill Armstrong AO

Bill Armstrong AO

Bill grew up on a sheep farm in Alexandra, central Victoria. He studied at St Bede’s College Mentone before taking up an apprenticeship in Fitting and Turning.

From 1958 till 1963 he worked for the YCW and also managed to play two AFL league games for Carlton Football Club.

In 1964 he began a career in international development with the newly formed OSB (Overseas Service Bureau, later to change its’ name to Australian Volunteers International).

In the 1970s Bill was National Co-ordinator of the Churches International Development Education Program, Action for World Development (AWD).

In 1982 he returned to AVI as CEO, a position he held till 2002, managing the growth of the organisation from a staff of 12 to a total of 130 people nationally and an annual budget of A$400,000 to over A$20 million. In 2001 AVI managed 1000 volunteers in 45 countries.

He was also a member of the ACFOA (Now ACFID) Executive for 20 years and was its president from 1993-1997.

Since his retirement in 2002 Bill has served on a variety of boards including Caritas Australia (2002-2009), ActionAid Australia (2003-2012), Indigenous Community Volunteers (Now Community First Development) 2000-2019, Friends of Suai/Covalima (Timor Leste) 2003-2017,and YCW Holdings (Melbourne) 2003-present.

He is a life member of AVI, ACFID and Action Aid Australia.

In 1995 Bill was presented with a Friendship Award by the State Bureau of Foreign Experts, People’s Republic of China and in 2000 he was the recipient of the Sir Edward Weary Dunlop Asia Medal, “In recognition of his significant contribution to forging stronger relations between Australia and Asia.”

In 2003 Bill was made an Officer in the General Division of the Order of Australia (AO) “For service to the international community—-“

Marilyn Bellett

Marilyn Bellett
Marilyn Bellett

Marilyn is from Sydney where she obtained a Bachelors Degree in Biodiversity and Conservation from Macquarie University.

While in high school, she belonged to the YCS in Parramatta Diocese before later joining the YCW. In 2018, she worked for the Australian YCW as a youth engagement officer in Melbourne and later in her home diocese of Parramatta. She has also worked for Catholic Mission.

Currently, she is national president of the movement.


Marilyn Bellett, The work of the YCW in light of the Synod on Young People

Respect worker dignity, reject culture of waste: Pope to IYCW

Holy See Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin has written to the Brussels-based International YCW on behalf of Pope Francis for the movement’s postponed international council, which was finally held via Zoom last month.

“His Holiness trusts that in this time of economic and social crisis, the Council’’s deliberations will reaffirm the efforts of young people to advance the Kingdom of God through the building of a more just and equitable society which leaves no one behind and which promotes respect for the fundamental rights of all, including that of safe and dignified employment,” Cardinal Parolin wrote.

In May 2020, Holy See Substitute, Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra, also wrote to the IYCW for the council, which was initially planned to take place in Lima, Peru in August 2020.

“His Holiness assures the delegates of his spiritual closeness as they share their experience of the challenges facing today’s youth, especially in the context of the grave social and economic repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic,” Cardinal Parolin wrote.

“He prays that their deliberations will promote efforts internationally to raising awareness and respect for the dignity and rights of working people and to rejecting the culture of waste.

“He likewise encourages the apostolate of YCW to help young Christians to grow in closer spiritual and practical solidarity with their brothers and sisters, particularly in the poorest countries and with those who struggle to find employment, so that young people everywhere may have the opportunity to encounter Jesus Christ in their work and to sanctify their lives by contributing to a more just and fraternal world.”

During the Council, each national gave a presentation of its action

During its Council, the IYCW elected a new leadership team including Errol Alonso (Philippines), Rony Robiansyah (Indonesia), Kenson Sainlor (Haiti), Ana-Cecilia Salazar (Peru), Carolin Moch (Germany), Omeme Geslin (Gabon) and Leizyl Salem (Philippines) as international treasurer. John Ofori (Ghana) will continue in his role.

Meanwhile, the International Coordination of the YCW in Rome also recently held its own international council online. Clémence Otekpo (France) was elected as International President with Victor Dabire from Burkina Faso elected as International Treasurer.

The two movements are continuing to dialogue and collaborate on various projects and actions, including common celebrations for Cardijn’s birth anniversary and representation at the ILO.


International YCW

International Coordination of IYCW

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

Australian YCW celebrates 80 years

This month marks the 80th anniversary of the formal establishment of the YCW in Melbourne, the first Australian diocese in which the movement was launched with the support of the local bishop.

In fact, some local YCW parish “sections” had been operating since 1939 with some experimental groups even earlier.

Nevertheless, 8 September has traditionally been recognised as the anniversary, a date apparently chosen by chaplain, Fr Frank Lombard, in honour of the birthday of Our Lady.

Six weeks later, the movement was planning for its first rally at Xavier College, Kew, to be held on 26 October 1941, as the Melbourne Advocate reported.

Action was already a feature of the early YCW “sections.”

“In one Melbourne parish, a flourishing section has been built up of young men previously not practical Catholics. The leader saw that it was the menace of dead-end jobs which was demoralising his young comrades,” the Advocate says.

“In another parish, the leaders’ group realised that the majority of young workers were wasting a large part of the money they earned. A savings system was brought into existence.

“Another parish section, seeing that many Catholic boys from the country were coming to Melbourne, and that their Faith was imperilled by living in unsuitable boarding houses, has made the provision of Catholic board and lodging one of its activities.

“In another parish, six leaders, who are now determined and enthusiastic apostles, were once boys who did not even go to Mass. If you ask them why the movement won their allegiance – they will tell you that it is precisely because the movement, when it sees a need of the young worker, DOES something about it.

The Young Christian Workers of Melbourne run the biggest football competition in Victoria. Their “learn to dance” classes answer a real need of young Australians. That in a Catholic atmosphere.”

Since then the Australian movement has continued to form thousands of young worker leaders across the country.


YCW Demonstration, October 26 (The Advocate) (Trove)

RIP Lesley Campbell

Lesley Campbell

30 June 2020 witnessed the funeral in Adelaide of former YCW full time worker Lesley Campbell. In a true sign of our times, it was conducted online due to the Coronavirus.

I first met Lesley when she worked for the Adelaide YCW in the late 1970s and was struck by how friendly she was and how she always made an effort to get to know the young workers of the movement. Through her YCW work Lesley met and later married Michael Campbell, who became our National President.

Lesley and Michael went on to start a family with four children, Ruth, Robert, Duncan and Clare, being born and raised by the couple. I knew Duncan and Clare very well later when they became key leaders in the YCS and later YCW. They both made significant leadership contributions to those movements, very much in the example and tradition of their parents.

After YCW Lesley became a nurse and for many years worked with the care and disciplined approach needed to be good at the profession. This approach was appreciated by all who benefited from her care.

In 2000 Lesley became the diocesan collaborator for the Adelaide YCW. I was the group collaborator to Salisbury YCW and often sought her advice and leadership. She was patient and kind toward me when I struggled for a while with that role.  I recall how she took a great interest in the campaign to welcome and provide services for young worker refugees from Afghanistan and I often attended the YCW-refugee football and cricket matches with her.

Lesley also introduced the young refugees to the Adelaide habit of eating ‘bung fritz’ which used to make us laugh at times. She encouraged the promotion of friendships among young workers and there were many successful YCW social events and training weekends I attended with her.

I share the great sorrow that the family is feeling at the loss of Lesley. She truly lived the Jocist life and inspired us by her example. Michael is a member of the Australian Cardijn Institute and we all extend our affection and solidarity to him and his family.

Mark Ager

Click here to read the eulogy and service written by Michael Campbell:

Lesley Anne Campbell (1954 – 2020)

Lesley Anne Campbell Funeral Service from TBS Productions on Vimeo.

Des Tobin: Writer, speaker, YCW fulltimer

Des Tobin

Born in 1938, Des Tobin says he’s crammed more lives into his 82 years “than your average cat.” He has variously been a failed student, a springboard diver, a discontented apprentice panel beater, a junior pole-vaulter, a VFL and Olympic Australian Rules footballer, a YCW extension worker in Queensland, a ten pin bowling instructor, a successful business executive within the funeral industry, a golfing tragic, a university lecturer and a published author.

Des joined the Malvern Branch of the YCW in 1954 while still a 15-year-old schoolboy at St Joseph’s Technical College Abbottsford. His older brother Barry – who at the time was assistant Melbourne YCW diocesan secretary to Dan Callahan and was later ordained to the priesthood – was Captain of the Malvern YCW under 18-football team and recruited Des as a player. After leaving Abbotsford at the end of 1954 Des joined the branch leaders group.

Terminating his apprenticeship indentures in 1957 and completing National Service Training, Des worked at the YCW Co-operatives before “volunteering” to work for the National YCW at the beginning of 1959. He was assigned to Queensland and has described his two years as a YCW extension worker as a “life changing experience.” The work took him throughout the vast state of Queensland where he helped establish new YCW branches in every Queensland diocese other than Cairns where the then Bishop refused to welcome the YCW.

The responsibility of the position and living away from home brought him a new maturity and as Des was to say “those years helped me become a person in my own right.”

“I was lucky enough to be a premiership player with the Coorporoo Football Club in the QANFL in 1960 but best of all I was to meet my future wife Margaret Cleary (a member of the Brisbane NCGM executive) to whom I have been married for 58 years,” he said. “We have been blessed with a good marriage, four loving, independent children and eleven beautiful grandchildren.”

Des joined the Tobin Brothers funeral business in 1961. He ultimately became the company CEO in 1982 and remained in that position until his retirement in 1998.

A man called Phonse


He then turned his hand to writing and since 2003 he has written and published six biographical works.

His most recent work Just a Man Called Phonse – the biography of his late father A.V. (Phonse) Tobin – was published in October 2018..

The life of Phonse Tobin was anything but ordinary. Born in 1905, he followed on behind soldiers as they marched to the wharves to depart for World War I. He earned pocket money by trapping rats and collecting the South Melbourne Council’s rat bounty, and almost ‘haunted’ the Collins Street movie and live theatres.

After leaving school in 1919 he worked as a storeman, salesman, soldier and fireman. In 1934 Phonse and three of his brothers started what has become Australia’s most successful family-owned funeral service company – Tobin Brothers Funerals.

A natural entertainer, Phonse possessed a fine singing voice and produced many amateur theatrical productions in the 1930s. He was a good all-round sportsman and a successful professional footrunner. He was a long-serving member of the North Melbourne Football Club committee and was the club’s president from 1955 to 1957. He was a life member of both the NMFC and the VFL (now AFL).

Phonse was one of those rare characters who could meet, communicate and be at ease with people of all classes and walks of life – from prize fighters to prime ministers, from “mug” punters to wealthy publicans or bookmakers, from Knights of the Southern Cross to knights of the realm, from everyday parish priests to ‘princes’ of the church, and from grave diggers to governors.

Like everyone else, he had his failings. But these failings – such as they were – were more than offset by his strength of character, generous spirit, creative flair, kindness to people in need, and his love for and undying support of his family.

To obtain a copy of Just a Man Called Phonse (or other books by Des Tobin), visit Des’s website destobin.com.au, call him on 0417 510 211 or email destobin@killaghy.com

Des Ryan

Laudato Si’ five years on

Laudato Si'

This month marks the fifth anniversary of Pope Francis’ important encyclical Laudato Si’ on “Care for Our Common Home,” updating Catholic Social Teaching on environmental as well as labour and other issues.

Brian Lawrence offers a detailed analysis of the encyclical in his article “The Economics of Laudato Si’: No surprises here” published by the Australian Catholic Council for Employment Relations.”

“Pope Francis’ Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ is primarily concerned with a range of environmental issues, particularly climate change. However, as the Pope emphasises, environmental issues cannot be separated from the promotion of social justice, the need to care for the poor and the operation of economic systems. As a result, a significant part of the encyclical draws on Catholic social teaching on economic affairs and the operation of markets,” Lawrence writes.

“The encyclical’s analysis and consideration of economic issues has been criticised in some quarters. Prominent attacks on the encyclical, and Pope Francis personally, are to be found in editions of The Australian and The Weekend Australian newspapers published shortly after the publication of the encyclical.

“The editorial of The Weekend Australian on 27-28 June 2015 claimed that Pope Francis and his advisers “emerge as environmental populists and economic ideologues of a quasi-Marxist bent”, that his views “are not part of the church’s deposit of the faith and they are not tenets of faith and morals” and that “the flock is not obliged to follow the shepherd” in his attempt to “reposition the church so far to the green-left”.

“The substance of the editorial is a personal attack on Pope Francis for taking the Catholic Church into new areas of social and economic teaching and departing from the teaching of his predecessors. These claims are part of an ongoing narrative being spread in sections of the media and in social commentary. Confronting the matters raised in the editorial is a means of setting the public record straight.

The response to the editorial in this paper falls into several section: an outline of the nature and purpose of Catholic social teaching; a review of Catholic social teaching on economics and markets; an outline of what Laudato Si’ says on economic matters; a response to the editorial’s use of quotations from the encyclical; and a response to the various criticisms made in the editorial.

“This paper demonstrates these kinds of criticisms of the economics of Laudato Si’ are without foundation and that what Pope Francis has said on economic issues is sound and is perfectly consistent with earlier Catholic social teaching on economic issues, including the operation and regulation of markets. The criticisms of Pope Francis and the encyclical by The Weekend Australian are unjustified and grossly unfair,” Lawrence concludes.

Meanwhile, Parramatta YCW are taking action as part of Laudato Si’ Week, writes youth engagement officer, Thomas Magri in Catholic Outlook.

“We are taking action with the introduction of a range of climate justice projects including vegan cooking classes, environmental documentary reviews, social inquiries and reviews and engaging our Facebook community to keep everyone updated.

“This project began when we realised that a lot of the YCW members held climate justice quite close to their hearts and are passionate about this issue. They felt that if they did not take action now, that future generations will not be able to live the same quality of life that we do now.

“Soon after this, we put together a climate justice coordination team which was made up of three people. As the call to ‘care for our common home’ talks about working in unity with everyone, we are all equal on this earth so let’s work towards a community where we are working towards a common good.

‘The community reacted strongly to our projects with our vegan cooking classes selling out after only a few days of advertisement. Once completed, it left everyone who attended eager and passionate to be more involved and to start taking action in their personal lives.

Parramatta YCW is in the process of planning sustainability classes which will be paired up with running a community garden. The classes will teach practical skills which would allow people to take personal action in their own lives at home to reduce their carbon footprint.


Brian Lawrence, The Economics of Laudato Si’: No surprises here (Australian Catholic Council for Employment Relations)

Thomas Magri, Climate justice close to hearts of Parramatta Young Christian Workers (Catholic Outlook)


Parramatta YCW


Training Catholic Activists in New Zealand

See Judge Act

Rod Orange’s book, “See, Judge, Act, Training Catholic Activists in New Zealand, 1939-1983” is a history of the lay leadership training groups In this country, variously known as the Catholic Youth Movement (CYM), later the Young Christian Workers (YCW), and affiliated with Young Christian Students (YCS) and the Christian Family Movement (CFM), writes Pat Lythe in NZ Catholic, writes Pat Lythe, a former Parish and Pastoral Services Group leader at Auckland diocese, in NZ Catholic magazine.

“It is more than just a history; it is an analysis of the foundational principles behind the ‘See, Judge, Act’ theology, combining Catholic social teaching with leadership training In order to reform society. It traces the development and growth of the groups and their later decline and eventual closure. Rod himself was a leader In the movement, but Jocelyn Franklin, who had years as a full-time leader and had surveyed members about their experiences, was the Inspiration and instigator of the book. Jocelyn sadly died the day the book was released.

“Belgian priest Joseph Cardijn developed the movement to prepare young leaders to be the yeast in the dough of society struggling in the disturbed social conditions of the Depression and two world wars. The author traces the history from the beginnings in Dunedin in 1937, followed by groups in Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington. The study programs and the numbers and, In many cases, names of young people involved are examined. Prior to Vatican II, when there was very little lay involvement in the Church, these groups expanded and blossomed

“In the 1950s and 1960s. Chapter 6 looks at the influence of Vatican II on the movement and Chapter 7 covers the more radical positions the movement began to take, followed by a proliferation of other groups people could join. Chapter 8 looks at the decline of the movement, and the last chapter asks “what now” under Pope Francis?

“Rod has meticulously researched every group, published as many photographs as he could find and name, and gives an interesting take on the support or otherwise of the hierarchy. Many of our leaders today, (or yesterday!), Jim Anderton, Ivan Snook,, Paul and Shirley Temm, Alf Kirk, Ian Shirley, Cardinal Tom Williams, and Manuka Henare were products of this Catholic Action movement.

“Rod asks at the end, what are we doing today which enables our lay people to use their lived experience as a catalyst for being missionary in today’s world? In a ‘Fit for Mission’ scenario, it Is a very pertinent question. A book to reminisce through, but to be challenged by,” Lythe concludes.

Former YCW chaplain, Jim Consedine, also has another review in Common Good, magazine.

“What a labour of love this book is!” Consedine begins.

“For more than 10 years, Rod Orange researched, wrote and has finally produced an amazing history of not just one Church lay organisation, but four-the Catholic Youth Movement (CYM), Young Christian Workers (YCW), Young Christian Students (YCS) and the Christian Family Movement (CFM). These movements thrived in New Zealand during the 1960s and 1970s and gradually died out in the 1980s.

“At their peak, they helped form several thousand lay Catholics nationwide about Christian life and how to live it in today’s world. Their formula was simple – to follow the mantra of the prophetic Belgian priest/founder Joseph Cardijn: See, Judge, Act. Nourished by their regular weekly meetings, these folk went into their workplaces, homes and wider communities to bear witness to the message of Christ as found in the gospels and in Catholic teaching.

“Rod Orange explores in much detail the modus operandi of the movements, interviews many key leaders and draws on written archival material. Ultimately he asks and attempts to answer the difficult question-why did they flourish so successfully for so long and then wither and die within a short few years? He looks at the key role bishops and chaplains played, the secular social movements that arose during the latter period, the upheaval in the Church after Vatican II, and the influence changing social mores and values had on Church lay movements.

“He has produced a very readable popular history, filled with facts and insights. Illustrated with more than 100 photographs, many of them along with a lucid text provide historic insights into the youth of previous generations and their involvement with the Church.

See, Judge, Act largely succeeds in its aims to provide an eyewitness account of the lay movements of the era, 1937-83. That he opens up many questions which need far more in-depth reflection is clear and answers are not immediate. Historians in the future will hopefully seek resolution to such questions and will find this book a great aid in their further research.


NZ Catholic

Common Good (Catholic Worker)


SEE, JUDGE, ACT – Training Catholic Activists in Now Zealand, 1937-1983. By Rod Orange, (Steele Roberts Aotoaroa, 2019) $NZ39.99

International Week of Young Workers


As it has done since the 1980s, the International YCW is this week celebrating the International Week of Young Workers, which has its origins with the Brazilian YCW which first celebrated the National Week of Young Workers in 1970.

The IYCW adopted it as an international event in 1983. This year, however, the movement is celebrating the week as a virtual event.

Former IYCW chaplain, Bishop Reginaldo Andrietta of Jales, Brazil, has written a special prayer for the event.

“The working class in Brazil has suffered a serious setback that is affecting everyone but especially young people,” he writes. “In the face of the current scenario, we are called to unify our voices and actions.

“As a milestone for this challenge, we invite all young people and all people who share our struggle for worthy living and working conditions, to join us, praying as follows:


Jesus, I offer you this day:
my work, my difficulties,
Battles, joys and hopes. Grant to us,
young people who are preparing for our professional life,
who are looking for jobs
or who have work,
the consciousness of our dignity,
of our rights and our responsibilities. Grant us the grace to witness our love of life
and to what is honest and just,
through our daily dedication to our union and organisations,
and the wisdom of to act collectively
for the betterment of our living and working conditions. Finally, grant us
loyalty to the mission of working
For the kingdom that is yours,
today and always.



The IYCW celebrates the International Week of Young Workers – April 24th – May 1st, 2020 (JOCI)

Dom Reginaldo Andrietta (Facebook)

Dom Reginaldo Andrietta

From Vatican II to the Synod on Young People

Vatican II Session

“’Twelve bishops gathered with Cardinal Pierre-Marie Gerlier for the first meeting,’ reads a contemporary report on the origins of group of bishops at the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) that took as its motto, ‘Jesus Christ, the Church and the Poor.'” writes Stefan Gigacz at La Croix International.
“These prelates ‘reviewed their lives and their thinking, as well as that of their churches and the Church, on the issues raised for them by the poor and the workers, and more radically by Jesus of Nazareth, the Carpenter,’ the report continues.

“Best remembered for the ‘Pact of the Catacombs‘ they later adopted, these bishops wanted to ensure that the Council tackled the ‘anguishing’ issues of poverty, the working class and world development.

“Convened by Bishop Charles-Marie Himmer of Tournai, Belgium and Bishop George Hakim of Galilee (later Patriarch Maximos V), the group first met on Oct. 26, 1962 at the Belgian College in Rome. Cardinal Pierre-Marie Gerlier of Lyon was the group’s president.

“Inspired by Pope John XXIII’s phrase ‘the Church of the Poor,’ members saw themselves operating ‘as an extension of’ John’s 1961 social encyclical, Mater et Magistra (Church as Mother and Teacher of All Nations), following the see-judge-act method pioneered and popularized by Joseph Cardijn.


From the Vatican II ‘Church of the Poor’ group to the Synod meet on young people (La Croix International)


Second Vatican Council. (Photo by Lothar Wolleh/CC BY-SA 3.0)