Vale Richard Buchhorn

Richard Buchhorn

Richard Buchhorn, or Dick as he was known to many, had a nose for injustice, hence the title of his memoir Cry Stinking Fish. He wrote: “And those who say to you: why bother us with this? Sing out, men with strong noses must cry stinking fish.”

Dick didn’t simply cry stinking fish. He sought, firstly, to understand the basis of any injustice, then to communicate this to others whom he hoped might join him in action to eliminate the stink.

Born and raised in Glen Innes, upon leaving school Dick attended the University of New South Wales and graduated as a mining engineer. He also became aware of, and was influenced by, the Young Christian Worker movement (YCW), an international organisation of the Catholic Church. In later life he gave full credit to the lasting influence the YCW had on his life and personal philosophy. He decided to train for the priesthood, first in Australia and then in Rome, where he was ordained in 1960.

Returning to Australia, he was appointed to the Tamworth parish. As YCW chaplain, he learned that many junior bank officials endured poor conditions and were underpaid. Under his leadership, the YCW’s local campaign was taken up by other branches, and banks were forced to improve wages and conditions. Their next campaign spread state-wide, resulting in much improved training for young apprentices following legislation enacted by the NSW parliament. During these actions Dick met, for the first but not last time, supportive unionists.

Dick was the catalyst. When he was around, things happened quickly.

In late 1969 Dick was moved to Narrabri where he made friends with a couple who shared his opposition to Australia’s involvement in the war in Vietnam. He suggested that, instead of travelling to Sydney for the May 1970 Moratorium, they might organise one in Narrabri. They got a few more people together and the Moratorium went ahead in the town’s main street. Posters were displayed, leaflets and flowers were distributed, and an open forum that same afternoon was attended by some fifty people.

In 1983, Dick resigned from the priesthood but continued to live at Boggabilla. He and a most remarkable Murri, Lilla Watson, entered into a permanent relationship and in time moved into their home in West End, Brisbane. Reflecting on this period of his life, Richard Buchhorn described how important it was, in terms of his own liberation, to be welcomed so warmly into the Murri community, within which he gained a more profound appreciation of Murri values and their way of life. It was his hope, he wrote, that whitefellas might: “…do the right thing: respect the law, the culture, of the people into whose country we have come, and chosen to live: to learn who we are, and to enter into an appropriate relation with this land and its people”.

He is survived by Lilla, and the last words are hers.

“If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”


Terry Fox, Activist priest stood against Vietnam war, apartheid … and fixed washing machines (Sydney Morning Herald)


Richard Buchhorn, Cry Stinking Fish

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 ( for $24.95.


Jenny Brinkworth, Time for another global youth moveme (Southern Cross)


Bob Wilkinson, New Visions of Priesting (ATF Press)

Workers must be at home in the Church: Pope Francis

In an address to the Italian Christian Workers Movement on its 50th anniversary, Pope Francis emphasised the Church’s commitment to the world of labour and the need for workers to feel at home within the Church.

“Fifty years are also a time to look realistically at one’s own history, made up of so much gratuitousness and also of hard work in Christian witness. It is important not to indulge in self-celebratory forms, but to recognize the action of the Holy Spirit in the folds of your history, not so much in the striking events, but rather in the humble and everyday ones. This anniversary could help you walk in two directions: a work of purification and a new sowing. Both: purify and sow.

“Purification is always necessary, always, for all of us and in all human experiences. We are sinners and need mercy like the air we breathe. The willingness to convert, to allow oneself to be purified, to change one’s life, to change one’s style, is a sign of courage, of strength, not of weakness; stubbornness is a sign of weakness.

“It is a question of welcoming the newness of the Spirit without placing obstacles: allowing young people to find space, that the spirit of gratuitousness be guarded and shared, that the initiative of the beginnings not be lost by preferring reassuring choices that do not help to experience the newness of the times .

“You are a movement born in the aftermath of Vatican II and you can tell the fruitfulness of that ecclesial and social season. I encourage you to rediscover the impetus of your beginnings, clearly visible in the enthusiasm with which you live the ecclesial bond in the territories and in the gratuitousness of service to the needs of workers.

“The Council has called us to read the signs of the times – and above all it has given us the example -; therefore, aware of the social changes, you can ask yourself: how can we be faithful to the service of workers today? How to live the commitment to ecological conversion and peacemaking? How to animate Italian society in the economic, political and working fields, contributing to discernment with the criteria of integral ecology and fraternity?

“Here are the reasons for a new sowing that awaits you. While celebrating, we look forward. Indeed, this is not only a time to reap fruit: it is also a time to sow again. The difficult season we are experiencing requires it. The pandemic and the war have made the social climate darker and more pessimistic. This calls you to be sowers of hope. Starting with yourself, with your associative fabric: may your doors be open; that young people feel not only guests, but protagonists, with their ability to imagine a different society.

“I would also like to offer you a specific commitment on the subject of work. You are a movement of workers, and you can help bring their concerns within the Christian community. It is important that workers are at home in parishes, associations, groups and movements; that their problems are taken seriously; that their call for solidarity can be heard. In fact, the work goes through a transformation phase that must be accompanied.

“Social inequalities, forms of slavery and exploitation, family poverty due to lack of work or poorly paid work are realities that must be listened to in our ecclesial environments. They are more or less forms of exploitation: we call things by name. I urge you to keep your mind and heart open to workers, especially the poor and defenceless; to give voice to the voiceless; not to worry so much about your members, but to be leaven in the social fabric of the country, leaven of justice and solidarity.

“The encyclical Fratelli tutti recalls that ‘thanks be to God so many aggregations and organizations of civil society help to compensate for the weaknesses of the international community, its lack of coordination in complex situations, its lack of attention to fundamental human rights and very critical situations of some groups. Thus the principle of subsidiarity acquires concrete expression, which guarantees the participation and action of communities and organizations of a lower level, which complement the action of the State in a complementary way’ (§ 175).

“This ongoing third world war makes us aware that renewal comes from below, where relationships are lived with solidarity and trust. Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of the courage of new beginnings of reconciliation and fraternity.”


Discorso del Santo Padre Al Movimento Cristiani Lavorati (

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)

Book & Webinar: Bill Armstrong: “Everything and Nothing: Life and development work”

Former YCW leader, Bill Armstrong, will speak about his experience with the movement and in the international development field in our next ACI webinar on Tuesday 13 December.

He will also introduce a new book on his life, “Everything and Nothing: Life and Development Work” by Peter Britton.

“Peter Britton’s telling of the story of Bill Armstrong and his passionate belief in ‘not about us without us’ is a central part of his personal philosophy, a phrase, which, paradoxically, does not appear in the book,” writes Patrick Kilby in a review of the biography in Development in Practice magazine.

“It certainly comes through, though, as well as it being about good development practice.

“My interest in this story is in the 1960s and 1970s when Bill played a major role in two institutions that grounded a lot of development practice and participatory development philosophy: Action for World Development (AWD) and Australian Volunteers Abroad (AVA).

“Both, in their own way, challenged the paternalist and colonial views of global development at the time. This was a period of intense critique of colonialism and global development: including Franz Fanon (1965), among many others. In terms of development practice, Arnstein (1969), in her highly critical assessment of urban planning for African American communities in Chicago, and the work of Freire (1970), and Illich (1971), on radical approaches to adult education, were major sources of inspiration at the time, and for Bill, it was also the work of Cardijn (1965/2018) and the Young Christian Worker movement.

“All of these writings pointed to a different way of seeing the Global South and ways of engaging together.”


Patrick Kilby, Development in Practice. Volume 32, 2022 – Issue 8


Bill Armstrong: “Everything and Nothing: Life and Development Work”

Tuesday 13 December, 7pm AEDT



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)

RIP Peter Maher

This month we remember Sydney priest, Fr Peter Maher, who died of cancer on 8 November 2022.

I first met Peter at a Cardijn Conference held at the old Manly seminary in Sydney in 1987 and he remained a convinced Cardijn priest for the rest of his life.

“The Cardijn method of see judge and act is essential to a deep listening, a competent dialogue and a compassionate and just course of action,” he once said. “This means all involved need to carefully listen to the experience of those normally excluded or silenced, study the biblical, social and theological perspectives and discern action in favour of the experience of the erased and silenced.

“Just as the Syrophoenician woman became Jesus’ teacher, the outsider and excluded stories inform the process of dialogue, reflection and action.”

Together with Minh Nguyen and others, he rebuilt ACMICA, the Australian affiliate of the Pax Romana International Catholic Movement for Intellectual and Cultural Affairs (ICMICA) during the early 2000s.

In this role, he played a major role in organising a series of New Pentecost events hosting international speakers, including World Social Forum (WSF) co-founder, Chico Whitaker, from Brazil, Malaysian Jesuit Fr Jojo Fung, an expert in Indigenous spiritualities, as well as interreligious dialogue experts, Edmund Chia and Gemma Cruz.

For many years, he worked as a student chaplain at the University of Technology, Sydney, just up the road from his own parish of St Joseph at Newtown.

There he developed profound ministries with the LGBTQI+ community as well as with Rachel’s Vineyard for women who had suffered from abortion.

I was privileged to enjoy his hospitality at the local presbytery on more than one occasion, learning also to appreciate a growing variety of Australian craft whiskies!

Many others knew Peter better and experienced his humanity far more deeply than I did.

We all mourn his passing. Condolences to all his family and friends.

Stefan Gigacz


RIP, Peter Maher, vigorous priest, Sydney, longtime editor of The Swag (Misacor)

“Impishly uncomplicated, lightly subversive”: remembering Father Peter Maher (John T. Squires)


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.


Published on 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.

Be the leaven in the dough: Pope Francis

During his visit to Bahrein for the  “Bahrain Forum for Dialogue: East and West for Human Coexistence” from 3-6 November, Pope Francis met with young people at Sacred Heart School/

“I am happy to have seen in the Kingdom of Bahrain a place of encounter and dialogue between different cultures and beliefs.,” Pope Francis said. “As I look out at you, who are not all of the same religion and are not afraid of being together, I think that without you this coexistence of differences would not be possible. And it would have no future!

“In the dough of the world, you are the good leaven destined to rise, to break down many social and cultural barriers and to foster the growth of fraternity and innovation. You are young people who, as restless travellers open to the unexpected, are not afraid to exchange ideas with one another, to dialogue, to ‘make some noise’ and mingle among yourselves; and so you become the basis of a society marked by friendship and solidarity. *

“This, dear friends, is something essential in the complex and varied situations in which we live: to tear down certain barriers in order to bring about a world that is people-oriented and more fraternal, even if this involves facing a number of challenges,” Pope Francis said.

He proposed three invitations to young people.

Culture of care

My first invitation: to embrace the culture of care. Sister Rosalyn used that expression: “culture of care”. To care means to develop an inner attitude of empathy, an attentive gaze that takes us out of ourselves, a gentle presence that overcomes our lack of concern and makes us take an interest in other people.

“This is the turning point, the start of something new, the antidote to a world closed in on itself and, rife with individualism, a world that devours its children. A world imprisoned by a kind of sadness that gives rise to indifference and solitude. Let me say this to you: how badly the spirit of sadness hurts, how badly! If we do not learn to take care of our surroundings – other people, our cities, our society, the environment – we will end up spending our lives like those people who are constantly in a hurry, running around, doing many things at once, but in the end are sad because they have never really known the joy of friendship and generosity. Nor have they given the world that unique dab of beauty that they alone, and no one else, were capable of giving.

“As a Christian, I think of Jesus and I see that everything he did was inspired by care for others. He was concerned about relating to all whom he met, in their homes, in the towns and along the wayside. He looked people in the eye, listened to their pleas for help, drew near to them and touched their wounds. Do you look people in the eye? Jesus entered into our human history in order to tell us that the Most High cares for us. To remind us that being on God’s side involves caring for someone and something, especially for those who are in greatest need.

“Dear friends, how beautiful it is to care for others, to build relationships! Yet, like everything in life, this calls for constant training. So do not forget, first of all, to care for yourself: not so much outside as inside, in the deepest and most precious part of yourselves. What part is that? It is your soul, your heart! And how can you care for the heart? By trying to be silent and listen to it. Try to make time to keep in touch with what is going on inside you, to appreciate the gift that you are, to take hold of your life and not let it slip through your fingers. “

Spread fraternity

“This, then, is my first invitation, to embrace the culture of care. If we embrace it, we will help make the seed of fraternity grow.

“And this is my second invitation: to spread fraternity. I liked what you said Abdulla: ‘You have to be a champion not only on the playing field, but in life!’ Champions off the playing field. That is true, so strive to be champions of fraternity, off the playing field! This is the challenge of today that will make us winners tomorrow, the challenge faced by our increasingly globalized and multicultural societies.

“For you see, the devices and technology that modernity offers us are not enough to make our world peaceful and fraternal. We are witnessing this: the winds of war do not stop blowing with technological progress. We are seeing with sorrow that in many regions, tensions and threats are increasing and, at times, are breaking out in conflicts. Often enough, this happens because we do not work on the heart; we allow distances between ourselves and others to increase and, as a result, ethnic, cultural, religious and other differences become problems and fears that isolate rather than opportunities to grow together. And when those differences seem more powerful than the fraternity that keeps us together, we risk confrontation and conflict.

“To you, young people, who are more straightforward and more capable of making contacts and building friendships, overcoming prejudices and ideological barriers, I would like to say this: continue to sow the seeds of fraternity, and you will be builders of the future, because only in fraternity will our world have a future!

“This invitation is one that I find at the heart of my faith. Indeed, the Bible says, “Those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this, that those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also” (1 Jn 4:20-21). Yes, Jesus tells us never to separate the love of God from love of neighbour, and to become neighbours to everyone (cf. Lk 10:29-37).

“Everyone, not just the people we like. To live as brothers and sisters is the universal vocation entrusted to every creature. You young people – you more than anyone else – in the face of the prevailing tendency to remain indifferent and intolerant of others, even supporting wars and conflicts, are called to “respond with a new vision of fraternity and social friendship that will not remain at the level of words” (Fratelli Tutti, 6).

“Words are not enough: there is need for concrete gestures carried out on a daily basis,” Pope Francis emphasised.

“Here too, we can ask ourselves a few questions. Am I open to others? Am I friends with someone who does not share all my interests, or has different beliefs and customs from mine? Do I try to meet others, or do I stick to the people I know? The key, in a few words, is in what Nevin told us: to “create good relationships” with everyone.

The challenge of making decisions

“I would also like to offer you yet a third invitation: accept the challenge of making decisions in life. You know from everyday experience there is no such thing as a life without challenges. Just as when you come to a fork in the road you have to choose, so, when faced with a challenge, you always have to put yourself on the line, take risks and make a decision.

“This requires good planning. You cannot improvise, living by instinct or always acting on the spur of the moment! So how do you prepare, how do you develop your decision-making ability, your creativity, your courage and your tenacity? How do you sharpen your inner gaze, learn to judge situations, and grasp what is important? It requires learning how to weigh your options and take the right direction. This is why the third invitation is to make decisions in life, right decisions.

“It is important, then, to learn how to distinguish his voice, God’s voice that speaks to us. And how do we learn to do this? As you told us, Merina: through silent prayer and intimate dialogue with him, treasuring in our hearts what helps us and gives us peace. God’s light illumines the maze of thoughts, emotions and feelings in which we often find ourselves.

“The Lord wants to enlighten your understanding, your innermost thoughts, the aspirations in your heart, and the judgements that are taking shape within you. He wants to help you distinguish what is essential from what is superfluous, what is good from what is harmful to you and to others, what is just from what leads to injustice and disorder. Nothing we experience is foreign to God, nothing. Often we are the ones who turn away from him; we fail to turn people and situations over to him, and instead turn in on ourselves in fear and shame. Let us cultivate in prayer the consoling certainty that the Lord watches over us, that he does not grow tired, but constantly watches out for us and keeps us safe.

Good counselors

“Dear young friends, making decisions is not something we do alone. So let me say one last thing to you. Before you go to the Internet for advice, always seek out good counselors in life, wise and reliable people who can guide and help you. Do this first. I am thinking of parents and teachers, but also of the elderly, your grandparents, and a good spiritual guide.

“Each of us needs to be accompanied on the road of life! I will say again what I told you: never alone! We need to be accompanied on the road of life.

“Dear young people, we need you. We need your creativity, your dreams and your courage, your charm and your smiles, your contagious joy and that touch of craziness that you can bring to every situation, which helps to break us out of our stale habits and ways of looking at things. As Pope, I want to tell you: the Church is with you and needs each one of you very much, so that we can be renewed, explore new paths, experiment with new languages, and become more joyful and hospitable. Never lose the courage to dream big and to live life to the full!

“Adopt the culture of care and spread it. Become champions of fraternity. Face life’s challenges by letting yourselves be guided by God’s faithful creativity and by good counsellors.

“And lastly, remember me in your prayers. I will do the same for you, carrying you in my heart. Thank you!

“God be with you! Allah ma’akum!”


Meeting with the youth, Address of His Holiness, Sacred Heart School (Awali), Saturday, 5 November 2022 (

Pope in Bahrain: Dear young people, we need you! (Vatican News)

Coffees for Cardijn Appeal launches

It’s November! Nearly Christmas! Nearly time for the Cardijn Lecture with Cardinal Michael Czerny SJ! And also nearly Cardijn’s birth anniversary (13 November)!

A good time, we hope, to launch our Coffees for Cardijn Appeal inviting you to make a regular contribution of the price of a cup of coffee towards the Joseph Cardijn Digital Library, the online repository devoted to Cardijn’s life and work, including his speeches and writings, biographies, etc.

The aim, of course, is to make his writings available once again to present and future leaders of the YCW, YCS and other “see-judge-act” movements and initiatives inspired by the Cardijn model.

3000 resources

Nearly 3000 Cardijn documents and items are already online in French and English. A Spanish site is under development.

So far this year, the site has averaged over 1570 visitors per month – more than 50 per day – in a strong indication of the library’s utility to leaders, chaplains, mentors, youth ministers, community leaders, researchers and others.

All of this work to date has been done by volunteer labour. But the task is rapidly growing beyond our efforts. We need to ensure the library’s longevity and its future development. And regular donations provide a regular cashflow, enabling us to plan ahead.

Give generously

Hence this Coffees for Cardijn Appeal seeking a regular donation of the price of a coffee per week. Or in these challenging economic, we’ll be equally grateful for a monthly or even one off donation.

And if you do have the means, please give even more generously! Young workers, students and lay apostolate pioneers of today and the future will thank you!

Visit the Joseph Cardijn Digital Library

Sign up for Coffees for Cardijn (direct link)

Church’s mission starts from reality: Cardinal Hollerich

In an interview with La Civilta Cattolica, Luxembourg Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich has called for the Church to focus on its mission, starting the reality that see us all as children of the same Father.

“I believe that today in Europe we are suffering from a pathology, which, that is, we are unable to see clearly what the mission of the Church is,” Cardinal Hollerich, a former chaplain to the Luxembourg YCW, warned.

“We always talk about structures, which is certainly not a bad thing, because structures are important and certainly need to be rethought. But there is not enough talk of the mission of the Church. Which is to announce the Gospel. To announce, and above all to testify, the death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. 

“A witness that the Christian must interpret mainly through his commitment in the world for the safeguarding of creation, for justice, for peace. 

“The teaching of Pope Francis is everything and nothing other than the clarification of the Gospel. It is not difficult to understand. In today’s secularised world, direct proclamation is not always understood, but our witness is. We are observed and valued in the world for how we live the gospel. 

“It is a bit like it happens for teachers at school: it is certainly important what they say, but even more important is what they communicate about themselves. In our case, what matters is consistency with the Gospel. 

“Take the encyclical for example it is certainly important what they say, but even more important is what they communicate about themselves. In our case, what matters is consistency with the Gospel. Take the encyclical for example it is certainly important what they say, but even more important is what they communicate about themselves. In our case, what matters is consistency with the Gospel. 

“Take the encyclical for example Laudato si ‘.  Many have read it, even among non-believers, even among those who do not know the Gospel. And all those who read it shared its value, importance, urgency. I had direct feedback from my daily contacts with the politicians of the European Parliament and Commission in Brussels. So everyone has read  Laudato Sì,  and admires it. And the same was also true for  Fratelli Tutti. 

“In other words, everyone recognizes Pope Francis as the paternity of the proposal for a new humanism. Which he often proposes in solitude among the great world leaders. But then it is up to us to be able to explain that Francis’ humanism is not just a political proposal, but a proclamation of the Gospel. Those outside the Church sometimes understand the Gospel better than those inside. 

“Pope Francis therefore indicated this way of proclaiming the Gospel, which starts from reality, that reality that sees us all as creatures and children of the same Father. But to answer your initial question: in all European countries there has been much talk at synods of communion, of participation, but very little of mission,” Cardinal Hollerich concluded.


Hollerich: la Chiesa deve cambiare, rischiamo di parlare a un uomo che non c’è più (Vatican News)


GilPe / Wikipedia / CCA BY SA 4.0

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)

RIP Fr Albert Nolan o.p., author of ‘Jesus before Christianity’

Liberation theologian and former South African YCS chaplain, Fr Albert Nolan o.p. has died at the age of 88.

Born in Cape Town in 1934 in a lower middle-class family of Irish extraction, young Dennis Nolan worked as a bank clerk after finishing school until he joined the Order of Preachers in 1954. Taking the name Albert, he completed his studies for the priesthood at St. Nicholas Priory in Stellenbosch, near Cape Town, before completing doctoral studies at the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, the Angelicum, in Rome.

Because he considered the cost of publishing his thesis a waste of money, the degree was never conferred. Undeterred, he returned to South Africa to teach theology at the Dominican house of studies from which he had graduated. He combined his teaching with serving as chaplain to Catholic students at the overwhelmingly white and Afrikaans-speaking Stellenbosch University.

He would also in the 1970s onward serve as a chaplain and advisor to the Young Christian Students.

Father Nolan’s responsibilities as chaplain broadened in 1973 when he was made National Chaplain of the National Catholic Federation of Students, at a time when even liberal-minded student movements were in ferment generated by the rise of the Black Consciousness movement. Started in 1969 by the late Steve Biko, the movement encouraged black pride and self-reliance, with a view to political liberation.

Albert challenged through his writings and his life a whole generation of Catholic students and young Catholic men and women religious of many orders.

His specific contribution at this stage was theological. Prompted by a meeting in the mid-1970s with liberation theologian Gustavo Gutierrez (who would himself later become a Dominican), Father Nolan gave a series of lectures on the historical Jesus to two N.C.F.S. national conferences, which he later turned into a book published in 1976 as Jesus Before Christianity.

After a small print run from a local publisher, the book was picked up by theological publishers in the United Kingdom and United States. It became one of the bestselling theological texts of the last 100 years and is still in print.

By the early 1980s, Father Nolan was provincial of the Dominicans in Southern Africa, which necessitated a move to Johannesburg. While in Johannesburg, he helped to found the Institute for Contextual Theology, an ecumenical network of pastors and theologians engaged in the struggle against apartheid. This brought together white and Black university professors and clergy in South Africa’s townships who had embraced Black Consciousness (which had been suppressed as a movement in 1977).

Midway through all this, in 1983 Father Nolan was elected master general of the Order of Preachers. In an unprecedented move in Dominican history, he politely turned down the appointment, believing that his work in South Africa would serve the Gospel more.

Returning to South Africa, in the decade of apartheid’s endgame, Father Nolan threw himself into his work. Crucial to this period was his involvement in drafting and editing the 1985 Kairos Document, a call from pastors and theologians to the churches of South Africa to fully embrace the struggle for democracy and to put their institutions at the service of nonviolent resistance. Although the institutions responded uneasily to Kairos, criticizing (perhaps correctly) the representation of themselves in the text, by the end of the 1980s the churches in fact took a leading role in nonviolent action.

Meanwhile within the Catholic Church, though he was controversial, Father Nolan was a major resource for the Southern African Justice and Peace Commission, advising the bishops on public statements and even at one point visiting and reporting on the state of the church in Communist countries. (The report has never been published!)

During the State of Emergency, 1985 through February 1990, in South Africa—the beginning of the end for apartheid—Father Nolan’s life took further dramatic turns. For a while, he was in hiding, hunted by the security police who wanted to detain him without trial for his work on the Kairos document.

Father Nolan saw an opportunity and wrote his second major book, God in South Africa, literally on the run. It was published in 1988. This work, in many ways his most radical, analyzed the South African situation from a perspective very close to the A.N.C.’s understanding and argued that hope lay in the very struggle for freedom that the A.N.C. and other internal resistance moments committed to non-racial democracy were waging.

May his memory inspire us all to hope and struggle onwards in new times for that reign.


Anthony Egan SJ, Remembering Father Albert Nolan, a best-selling theologian who explored the humanity of Christ (America Magazine)


Image by Ricardo da Silva, S.J. Photo courtesy of The Southern Cross.


An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Fr Albert was a YCW chaplain. He was a strong supporter of the movement but was in fact a YCS chaplain.

Cardijn’s greatest battle: Lay apostolate vs apostolate of the faithful at Vatican II

This month marks the 60th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council on 11 October 1962.

Many will know that Cardijn played several roles at the Council, initially as a member of the Preparatory Commission on Lay Apostolate, then as a peritus in the conciliar commission and finally as a Council Father after Paul VI made him a cardinal in February 1965.

In addition to the above, in July 1963, he published his influential book “Lay People into Action,” which was translated from French into five languages.

Finally, – and perhaps most significant of all – was Cardijn’s role as the centre of a network of 250 jocist bishops, who had all been formed by and/or had personal experience as chaplains of the YCW, YCS and other Specialised Catholic Action movements.

All this may make it seem as if Cardijn had an easy time at the Council. Nothing could be further from the truth! In reality, Vatican II would prove to be the greatest battle of his life.

At the age of 80, Cardijn found himself called to explain and promote his conception of the “specifically lay apostolate of lay people” as distinguished from the “apostolate of the faithful” common to all the baptised. It was a distinction that many theologians and bishops who had no personal experience of the Cardijn movements failed to grasp. Indeed, I would argue that many still fail to grasp it!

Yet, as the documents of Vatican II attest, Cardijn and his colleagues were ultimately successful in their endeavours as evidenced by §31 of Lumen Gentium, which made clear that “the laity, by their very vocation, seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and by ordering them according to the plan of God.”

In this month’s webinar, Stefan Gigacz explains the struggle that Cardijn and his network faced in their efforts to achieve this.


Originally from Melbourne, Stefan worked for a short time as a personal injuries lawyer. While at university, he became involved in a local parish YCW group. In 1978, he became a fulltime worker for the movement, working in Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney and later for the International YCW.

Later, he completed master’s degrees in canon law and legal theory. From 1997-2000, he coordinated an international project to document the history of the YCW before taking up a position as a project officer with the French Catholic development agency, CCFD-Terre Solidaire. From 2006-2008, he worked as a pastoral worker in a Melbourne Catholic parish. Since then, he has worked as an editor and journalist for a series of Catholic online publications.

From 2012-2018, he worked on his PhD thesis on the role of Joseph Cardijn at the Second Vatican Council, now published under the title “The Leaven in the Council: Joseph Cardijn and the Jocist Network at Vatican II.” He now resides in Perth, Western Australia, where he devotes his time to the development of the Australian Cardijn Institute.


Tuesday 11 October 2022, 8pm AEDT or 11am Brussels/Paris time.


Video: Gerard Philips, theologian, senator and promoter of the laity: Prof. Mathijs Lamberigts

2022 not only marks the 60th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council in October 1962 but it is also the 50th anniversary of the death of Belgian theologian, Gerard Philips, the architect of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium.

ACI invited Professor Mathijs Lamberigts, former director of the Vatican II Centre at the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium, to be the presenter for our 13 September webinar entitled “Gerard Philips, Theologian, senator and promoter of the laity.”

Gerard Philips, theologian, senator and promoter of the laity

Born on 29 April 1899, Philips was an early and enthusiastic collaborator of Joseph Cardijn, founder of the Young Christian Workers (YCW) movement. During the 1930s, he played a key role as chaplain in the development of the Flemish Catholic students movement. Continuing his work with Cardijn, he promoted Specialised Catholic Action among generations of Belgian seminarians.

In 1952, he published his landmark book, De leek in de Kerk, translated into English as “The laity in the Church.” In 1957, he achieved further prominence with his keynote address to the Second World Congress on Lay Apostolate in Rome.

As a peritus at the Second Vatican Council, Philips was called on by Cardinal Léon-Joseph Suenens to write what became the first draft of the future Dogmatic Constution on the Church, Lumen Gentium. Later, he collaborated closely with French peritus, Pierre Haubtmann, in the drafting of the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the World, Gaudium et Spes.

To these tasks, he brought his knowledge as a theologian but also the skills of diplomacy and negotiation that he had developed as a co-opted senator in the Belgian parliament

Originally from the Diocese of Liège, Gerard Philips taught at the University of Louvain (Leuven) from 1944 until his death on 14 July 1972.

Mathijs Lamberigts

Mathijs Lamberigts

Mathijs Lamberigts is Emeritus Professor at the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, KU Leuven, where he remains a member of the Research Unit on the History of Church and Theology.

An academic librarian from 1989 to 2000, Professor Lamberigts was Dean of the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies at Leuven from 2000 to 2008, and again from 2014 to 2018.

For 15 years, he was a member of the Religious Sciences working group of the Belgian National Foundation for Scientific Research (FNRS) and is also a member of the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium.

He is a member of the editorial staff of several leading theological including. Augustiniana, Corpus Christianorum. Series Latina, Ephemerides Theologicae Lovanienses, Melitta, Recherches de Théologie et Philosophie médiévales, Revue d’Histoire Ecclésiastique, and Sacris Erudiri.

Fr Hal Ranger, reluctant to retire at 87

Senior Toowoomba priest, Fr Hal Ranger credits Cardijn with his reluctance to retire, ABC News reports.

At St Patrick’s Cathedral, where he is Associate Pastor, Father Hal, 87, leads mass, or “meetings of the team” as he calls it.

“The game is out there in the world,” he said.

“You get the team together to kind of re-align yourself with the spirit of the team, listen to the word of God and talk about it a bit.

“Then you go out the door to live that out in the nitty-gritty of the real world.”

Father Hal puts his reluctance to retire down to a meeting many years ago with Belgian Cardinal Joseph Cardijn, who was 84 when he said to him, “If you’ve got the health and the energy and a bit of adrenaline, then why not?”.

He remembers his mother taking a job at Toowoomba’s Willowburn Mental Asylum to work with “the broken, isolated people the rest of the world didn’t want anything to do with”.

Father Hal says being there for the “battling people looking for meaning in their life” became a theme in his life, but also pitted him against the Catholic Church’s rigid traditions.

“There were times I seriously thought about how I can really live meaningfully and peacefully and with energy in the system, so I rebelled a bit against it,” he says.

“But I was never tempted to throw the whole baby out with the bath water.”

Father Hal believes the biggest barrier between the church and the people it wants to connect with are the churches themselves.

“This will come across as a bit of a heresy, but I think the building that we’re sitting in and other church buildings and the institution that the church has kind of got itself locked into is almost foreign to the gospel,” he said.

“I really don’t think Jesus, if he were here today, would be building churches.

“If there is value in gathering big groups of people, then use the town hall. Once you build something like this, I think it gives a message of being cut off from the rest of the world.”


Young and old reflect on life as Catholic priests in 2022 (ABC News)


Father Hal Ranger has been a Catholic priest for 64 years.(ABC Southern Queensland: Belinda Sanders)

Newark synod synthesis highlights “priesthood of the laity”

In its diocesan synthesis for the Synod on Synodality in 2023, the US Archdiocese of Newark has called for “significant formation” on the “priesthood of the laity” and in “lay leadership.”

The recommendations include:

Provide significant formation regarding “the priesthood of the laity” and how each person is called to be a disciple of Christ through baptism for members of the laity and Church leaders.

The report noted that “many parishioners are more focused on their local concerns rather than on global issues.”

“Pastors, parish staff members, and school and campus leaders can facilitate “lifelong learning” by gathering groups to read, study and reflect on the many resources available to know more about the faith and contemporary issues the Church is speaking of,” the synthesis continued.

Small Christian Communities

Giving examples, the synthesis noted that “parishioners can be invited to come together for Small Christian Communities, Bible study, books, journal studies, etc., on parish or deanery levels.”

It concluded that there was a need to “help parishioners who are unsure how to reach out to the margins: the poor, former Catholics, unchurched, younger generations, and others.e


“Training is needed in ways to gently reach out to others and invite them into the life of Christ,” the synthesis added, calling for “lay leadership training in parish leadership, ministries and groups, social justice and outreach.

Cardinal Joseph Tobin CSsR welcomed the report, saying:

The synod consultation process provided the Archdiocese with a new opportunity, not only for the prayer, dialogue and discernment called for by Pope Francis, but also a way to think concretely about how to address issues on the local level. A goal for the synod listening sessions was to reach as many people as possible throughout the Archdiocese. As the Archdiocesan planning team began to organize the diocesan consultations, they provided information sessions so that everyone could learn about the Synod and ways they could participate. It was hoped that parish pastoral councils, with some additional training, could facilitate the listening sessions in their respective parishes. This was very effective in gaining participation from a significant number of people. In places that did not have functioning pastoral councils, other leaders were called upon to facilitate the listening sessions.


Diocesan Synthesis Synod on Synodality (Archdiocese of Newark)

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


Webinar: Gerard Philips, architect of Lumen Gentium

2022 not only marks the 60th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council in October 1962 but it is also the 50th anniversary of the death of Belgian theologian, Gerard Philips, the architect of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium.

ACI has therefore invited Professor Mathijs Lamberigts, former director of the Vatican II Centre at the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium, to be the presenter for our 13 September webinar entitled “Gerard Philips, Theologian, senator and promoter of the laity.”

Gerard Philips, theologian, senator and promoter of the laity

Born on 29 April 1899, Philips was an early and enthusiastic collaborator of Joseph Cardijn, founder of the Young Christian Workers (YCW) movement. During the 1930s, he played a key role as chaplain in the development of the Flemish Catholic students movement. Continuing his work with Cardijn, he promoted Specialised Catholic Action among generations of Belgian seminarians.

In 1952, he published his landmark book, De leek in de Kerk, translated into English as “The laity in the Church.” In 1957, he achieved further prominence with his keynote address to the Second World Congress on Lay Apostolate in Rome.

As a peritus at the Second Vatican Council, Philips was called on by Cardinal Léon-Joseph Suenens to write what became the first draft of the future Dogmatic Constution on the Church, Lumen Gentium. Later, he collaborated closely with French peritus, Pierre Haubtmann, in the drafting of the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the World, Gaudium et Spes.

To these tasks, he brought his knowledge as a theologian but also the skills of diplomacy and negotiation that he had developed as a co-opted senator in the Belgian parliament

Originally from the Diocese of Liège, Gerard Philips taught at the University of Louvain (Leuven) from 1944 until his death on 14 July 1972.

Mathijs Lamberigts

Mathijs Lamberigts

Mathijs Lamberigts is Emeritus Professor at the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, KU Leuven, where he remains a member of the Research Unit on the History of Church and Theology.

An academic librarian from 1989 to 2000, Professor Lamberigts was Dean of the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies at Leuven from 2000 to 2008, and again from 2014 to 2018.

For 15 years, he was a member of the Religious Sciences working group of the Belgian National Foundation for Scientific Research (FNRS) and is also a member of the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium.

He is a member of the editorial staff of several leading theological including. Augustiniana, Corpus Christianorum. Series Latina, Ephemerides Theologicae Lovanienses, Melitta, Recherches de Théologie et Philosophie médiévales, Revue d’Histoire Ecclésiastique, and Sacris Erudiri.

Date and time

Tuesday 13 September, 7pm AEST



Gerard Philips (French Wikipedia)

Gerard Phiips, The 25th anniversary of the YCW (French)

Gerard Philips, Reflections of a theologian (French)

Mondragon limits maximum salaries to 6x

Writing in The New Yorker magazine, Nick Romeo investigates the secrets of success of the Mondragon worker coops – now the world’s largest worker coop group.

Romeo writes:

The Mondragon Corporation, as it’s known, is a voluntary association of ninety-five autonomous coöperatives that differs radically from a conventional company. Each co-op’s highest-paid executive makes at most six times the salary of its lowest-paid employee. There are no outside shareholders; instead, after a temporary contract, new workers who have proved themselves may become member-owners of their co-ops. A managing director acts as a kind of C.E.O. within each co-op, but the members themselves vote on many vital decisions about strategy, salaries, and policy, and the votes of all members, whether they are senior management or blue-collar, count equally.


When individual coöperatives do well, their members share in the profits. When times are hard, the coöperatives collectively support one another, sharing funds and reallocating workers among themselves to preserve jobs. During the pandemic, workers at many Mondragon co-ops voted to temporarily reduce their own salaries or hours until markets recovered; people who felt sick were trusted and encouraged to stay home.

Six-to-one maximum pay ratio

If JPMorgan adopted Mondragon’s six-to-one pay ratio, ​​Dimon’s compensation would be capped at six times that of his lowest-paid employee; while it’s hard to estimate his hypothetical salary too narrowly, he would almost certainly make less than a million dollars instead of the more than eighty-four million dollars he earned in 2021, and his decisions would be subject to approval by workers. Furthermore, if JPMorgan were a Mondragon co-op, its profits and staff would sometimes be shared with Basque co-op versions of Bank of America and Wells Fargo.


It’s easy to assume that such arrangements must impair productivity. But multiple academic studies have found that coöperatives with worker governance and ownership are as profitable as or more profitable than ordinary firms. Researchers note that, in co-ops, incentives are better aligned: people benefit directly when their co-op succeeds, and so they are more committed. (The same principle motivates work at many startups.) They also find that democratic governance empowers workers to suggest improvements and increases their satisfaction.

Will it be repeated?

Mondragon’s network of co-ops, many clustered along Spain’s Deba River, has managed to survive nearly seventy years of capitalism’s creative destruction. Its persistence suggests that there are fairer and more sustainable ways of doing business. But whether a version of its model could be replicated outside of one beautiful region of northern Spain is an open question, debated within Mondragon and beyond. The collective has a unique history, and its density powers a rare feedback loop in which coöperative values shape institutions, which then reinforce the same values, spiralling outward to define an entire way of life. Mondragon is an inspiring and successful experiment. Will it ever be repeated?


How Mondragon became the world’s largest coop (The New Yorker)