Lay down weapons in Ukraine

This is a powerful Easter call for peace in Ukraine delivered by German Jesuit, Fr Paul Schobel, a former diocesan YCW chaplain and worker priest as well as a member of the Pax Christi movement.

Easter March, Ellwangen 2022


The names of little known places are now added to the list of towns and villages around the world that are associated with the worst war crimes. Bucha, Busova, Makariv – to mention just three – already represent thousands, perhaps even tens of thousands of murdered civilians in Ukraine: knocked off their bikes, tied up, violated and deliberately executed. Decomposing corpses line the streets. There is no one here who is not filled with disgust when mass graves have to be dug and dead bodies identified. No wonder that in our country, too, more and more people want to put an end to these atrocities by using military force and striking with tanks and grenades.

Once again we are experiencing the dull instincts that war unleashes in people – the sadistic desire to violate, torture and bestially massacre others. There is no war in human history in which marauding, demoralised troops do not drag a trail of cruelty and horror behind them. For a long time, people did not want to admit what the supposedly honourable German Wehrmacht1 had done in its campaigns.

There is no question: war criminals must be caught and brought to justice. However, I am not at all surprised that such crimes happen during a war. Why is that? Because war itself is a crime. No war simply breaks out, as the German vernacular would have us believe. Every war is broken out. And in the most recent case, too, this crime is logistically prepared, promoted by propaganda and then brutally pushed forward. Now, once again, tens of thousands on both sides are dying completely senseless deaths. Russian mothers are also weeping for their fallen sons. The skeletons of destroyed houses rise like ghosts into the sky. Survivors search through the rubble for a few belongings, then flee and set off for an uncertain future. Those who remain run for their lives as the sirens wail. Crying children in bunkers and underground tunnels, wailing women and desperate, even angry men. Our thoughts today are with the long-suffering people in Ukraine. And there is still no end in sight. The call for weapons and heavy equipment to beat back the aggressors is becoming louder and louder.

War – the worst abomination in human history – is once again raging on the political stage, almost on our doorstep. We thought it had been permanently consigned to mothballs. We did not wish to see the systematic preparations, the sabre-rattling of the warmongers and their predecessor wars. Now it’s here – and it’s no longer the same old monster2 that the older people here still know. That was bad enough. Now it has been pimped out with a terrible arsenal of new weapons. Now there are nuclear warheads and poisonous grenades in its cellar. It’s hard to imagine what would happen if a madman pressed the “red button”. All it takes is one mistake and we’ll all burn up in a nuclear inferno or suffocate miserably. It seems to me that the survival of humanity is currently hanging by the thread of a refusal to obey orders. And I hope and pray to God that, in an emergency, responsible military leaders will refuse what idiots order them to do.

Our disgust, our revulsion, our anger, our indignation is directed at those who build such death machines in East and West and now bring them into action. Instead of reaching out to each other for reconciliation and trusting coexistence after the peaceful revolution3, instead of developing a new security architecture together, the military blocs have been armed and expanded, so that we now face each other eye to eye, staring each other down with weapons. We are no longer certain whether NATO will not be drawn into this conflict or whether it will fall into the deadly trap itself. Then, God have mercy on us, we will have a “Third World War,” which will probably be the last.

It is becoming increasingly obvious that if humanity does not finally learn and politically implement how to settle conflicts humanely and without violence, its fate is sealed and it is only a question of time. The spiral of violence and counter-violence will drag it into the abyss. We only have one chance left, namely to break this chain and banish war, this miserable failure, this political zero from the face of the earth. It has never changed anything for the better – at best, this only happens in the negotiations afterwards, when a post-war order must be agreed upon over mass graves and smoking ruins. One asks oneself: Why not before? Why was it necessary to murder, plunder and crush before talking to each other?

War, this monster, is unsurpassed in primitiveness and decadence. Every war is a relapse into inhumanity. It ignores the fact that human beings are generally endowed with hearts and brains. I understand clearly that some have a stone in their chest and a cavity in their head. But why do we let the heartless and brainless, of all people, set the agenda? And come up with no better idea than to keep returning violence with violence?

War is never a political option, it only brings death and ruin, destroys people’s bodies and souls. Heavily traumatised, more Vietnam veterans have taken their own lives than actually died in the war. “Fallen” – another sham word. They didn’t stumble, they were mown down. How often as a young pastor attending the deathbeds of World War II soldiers did I experience the eruption of what they had concealed inside them for years. That in death they still needed to expiate what they had done on the battlefields and what they had suffered there. “We have become animals, murderers, we have ceased to be human beings,” is how Erich Maria Remarque described his experiences on the Western Front of the First World War. Every war is a betrayal of becoming human. As a Christian, I would add that it is a slap in the face to God, who created us in his image and likeness.

Only non-violence is disarming. And that is what we stand for in the peace movement. Anyone who believes that we can cast out the devil with the devil in chief is stupid. Jesus of Nazareth warned us urgently about this. The two will soon make common cause. War inevitably brings war. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness,” once preached the unforgotten pastor Martin Luther King, and he continues: “Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that. Violence increases violence. The chain reaction of evil must be interrupted. Otherwise we will fall into the abyss of destruction.” The unforgettable Berta Suttner, once mocked as “Peace-Berta”, puts it in a nutshell with her words: “It will not occur to any sensible person to wash away ink stains with ink, oil stains with oil. Only blood is ever attempted to be washed away with blood.”

I know that Christian love of enemies is a requirement, the absolute pinnacle of Jesus’ ethics. Many baptised people, including bishops, like to cheat their way around it. And yet it is the only thing capable of stopping the chain reaction of violence: If, instead of striking a thug in the face, I offer him the other cheek, he will be shamed and irritated. Because his strategy has not worked.

Now the fact that we have laughed at peace research for decades and have not practised effective strategies of non-violent defence is taking its revenge on us. Some fear that this means defencelessness and surrender. Yet non-violent action is the most powerful weapon because an entire people rises up, surrounds tanks, induces error on the part of the aggressors, engages them in talks and demoralises them to such an extent that they don’t know what to do. If they were shot at, they would know what to do. In 1968, when Russian troops invaded Prague, only a few people died because they resisted without violence. In 1989, Horst Sindermann, the chairman of the GDR4 Council of Ministers, had to admit: “We were ready for everything that evening, except candles and prayers. They left us defenceless.”

With a fraction of these one hundred of billions that are now being squandered on rearmament (the champagne corks are already popping among the arms dealers!), one could train whole contingents of peace workers, as a “standing army”, as “blue helmets” of a very special kind – not “at gunpoint”, but with proven methods for non-violent resistance and peaceful conflict resolution. They would be able to make the use of force so absurd and ridiculous that it would ultimately fizzle out without effect. I don’t know if such concepts are still being applied in the Ukraine conflict. Such strategies cannot be improvised, they would have to be deliberate and rehearsed.

No one here will seriously question the right of self-defence for Ukraine. But renowned military experts doubt whether military counter-defence can lead to success. If at all, then only at the price of further senseless bloodshed on both sides, at the price of scorched earth and endless suffering. All that will be left of Ukraine will be a silhouette on the map. Each additional arms delivery prolongs the misery and multiplies the deaths. But above all, a despot like Putin would not simply accept defeat, but would launch a nuclear counter-attack to drag whole sections of humanity into his own downfall. Police call this “extended suicide.”

“Imagine there is a war and no one turns up,” a joker recently sprayed on a wall. A joker? He is right: we must refuse war. As peace activists, we are used to being ridiculed as naive. But those who are naive today are those who still believe that wars can be won. Every war is lost with the first shot. Because in today’s interconnected world, there’s nothing to win, everyone can only lose. Almost everyone has realised that by now, at least at the petrol station! We are all being bombed back decades by this war. Even more people must now starve to death. Every starving child is a murdered child who accuses us with wide eyes. Because arms kill without war!

It is time for a genuine “change of era.” A different one than that proclaimed in Berlin5. It is the following: “Lay down arms!” War is so yesterday! War is over! We never tire of marching for peace, of beating the drum for peace.

As a “Jesuit” I rely on the biblical motto: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)

We are here today to uphold a vision of a just and peaceful world in the midst of a wretched war. This cannot be destroyed. No more than the One whose resurrection I plan to celebrate with my congregation at the crack of dawn tomorrow.

Paul Schobel, former YCW chaplain, Böblingen


Propagandist des Guten (Kontext) (German) (Photo credit)


1The German army under Hitler.

2Fr Schobel is referring to the experiences of aged persons during the World Wars of the 20th century.

3The fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany.

4The German Democratic Republic, namely the former East Germany.

5On 27 February 2022, the German government proclaimed a „change of era“ and set aside 100 billion euros for rearming.

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

Caroline Chisholm’s lay apostolate

In our April webinar, ACI will look at the life of Australian lay apostolate pioneer, Caroline Chisholm, known for her work with immigrant women and on family welfare.

Born in 1808, she arrived in Australia with her husband, Archibald, in 1838. They soon became aware of the difficult conditions that faced newly arrived immigrants, particularly young women who came without any money, friends, or family, or jobs to go to. Many turned to prostitution to survive.

Chisholm found placement for these young women in shelters, such as her own, and helped find them permanent places to stay. She started an organisation with the help of the governess for an immigrant women’s shelter. During the seven years she lived in Australia, she placed over 11,000 people in homes and jobs.

After a spell in England, the Chisholms returned to Australia to live in Victoria, where Caroline continued her work with immigrants, winning praise from the community and the Victorian government. In 1858, the family returned to live in Sydney before retiring to the UK in 1865 where they lived their final years. Caroline and Archibald both died in 1877.


Clara Staffa Geoghegan is co-director of the Siena Institute and an executive secretary at the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference.

Rodney Stinson is the author of two books on the life of Caroline Chisholm, “Unfeigned love: Caroline Chisholm and her works,” and “See, Judge, Act: Caroline Chisholm’s Lay Apostolate.”


Caroline Chisholm’s Lay Apostolate, Thursday 21 April 2022, 7pm AEST


Chisholm, Caroline (1808–1877) (Australian Dictionary of Biography)

Caroline Chisholm (Wikipedia)


Public Record Office Victoria / Old Treasury Building

Coffee initiative transforms lives

Almost five years ago, the Bishops of Australia made an earnest plea to support the disadvantaged members of the community in the 2017-18 Social Justice Statement Everyone’s Business: Developing an Inclusive and Sustainable Economy:

“As people of the Gospel, we have to be concerned about growing inequality, and especially about the situation of the more vulnerable in our community. Among them are the lowest-paid in the workforce, those forced to subsist on meagre income support, people suffering housing stress and homelessness, and our Indigenous brothers and sisters who continue to endure chronic levels of hardship.”[i]

While there is still much to do to address inequality and social hardship, an initiative in the Diocese of Wilcannia-Forbes is having an enormous impact on regional communities, helping locals to find employment and purpose in their lives.

Established by CatholicCare Wilcannia-Forbes, “Cooee for Coffee” provides training and employment for people living in some of the most remote parts of Australia.

CatholicCare Wilcannia-Forbes CEO Anne-Marie Mioche says the initiative came about from a desire to assist those in need of employment in a way that supports the local community.

“There’s very high levels of disadvantage in the Diocese of Wilcannia-Forbes, and in places like Wilcannia real jobs are very difficult to access,” she explains.

Regional coffee shops and cafés, often the lifeblood of small towns and communities, tend to be run by transient workers, Ms Mioche says. As a result, when the owner leaves town, the café closes and the community loses one of its few gathering spaces.

“The last time a café closed we applied for a grant because we wanted the café to be owned by the community and to create jobs for people in the community,” she says.

“We won the grant and that started our coffee van in Wilcannia, which has been incredibly successful.”

The Cooee for Coffee van immediately became a training centre aimed at directly helping those impacted by financial hardship, substance abuse and domestic violence, providing individuals with an opportunity to break the cycle of disadvantage and to become economically secure.

“The coffee van’s success gave us the courage and the vision to want to do it in other places and so when an opportunity came up in Bourke, we thought would give it a go,” Ms Mioche says.

The initiative’s significant positive impact in the local community has prompted CatholicCare to setup more local stores. A third coffee venture is on the horizon, with Sylo’s Cooee for Coffee expected to open for business in May, while plans are underway for opening a second-hand clothing shop in Wilcannia to meet an urgent community need.

In fact, it was Bishop Columba Macbeth-Green OSPPE, Bishop of Wilcannia-Forbes, who identified a local need for quality second-hand clothes after the departure of Sr Maureen Healey RSM, who had previously run a second-hand clothing store in Wilcannia.

“Wilcannia is an isolated community,” Bishop Columba says. “The nearest town is Broken Hill, which is a two-hour drive.

“Since Sr Maureen left Wilcannia in 2019 there has not been a clothing store in the community. I think it is so important to a person’s self-esteem to be able to have something nice to wear as well as the practical purpose of clothing.

Bishop Columba says the work of CatholicCare in the diocese is having a major impact on the lives of many.

Between 20 and 30 local staff have been employed through the program since the Wilcannia coffee van opened in January 2020. For many of those employees, working at Cooee for Coffee has been their first job and has represented a turning point in their lives.

The employees at Cooee for Coffee learn a range of practical skills, such as barista techniques and food safety, but of arguably greater importance are the life skills they develop along the way.


Coffee initiative transforming lives in regional communities (National Centre for Evangelisation)

A priest for workers looks back

Book Review: A PRIEST FOR WORKERS, by Father Joseph Falkiner OP. Cluster Publications, Pietermaritzburg. 2021. 245pp

Reviewed by Günther Simmermacher, editor, Southern Cross

Born into a middle-class family in the goldmining town of Springs, Joseph Falkiner grew up regarding the established order of racial segregation — and separation of township residents and migrant workers in the hostels — as a natural way of life. As he grew older, he realised that this perspective, from a position of privilege, wasn’t natural at all, and so Joe made it his life’s mission, chosen for him by God, to fight this established order — to become, as the book’s title promises, “a priest for the workers”. In his memoirs, Fr Falkiner recounts this ministry of over half a century.

Fr Falkiner has served working-class people in many ways, most notably through the Young Christian Workers (YCW) movement, which was founded in the 1920s in Belgium by Fr Joseph Cardijn, and now so sadly largely dormant in South Africa. But before he got there, and to his vocation as a Dominican priest, he had to make a secular journey of eye-opening experiences.

The first awakening was a posting in the 1950s as a prospecting geologist for Anglo-American in Tanganyika (now Tanzania), where he was in charge of a group of rural workers who were subjected to merciless corporate exploitation. This was followed by a stint of diamond prospecting in Namaqualand, where he lost all respect for his employers and, indeed, all corporations of their kind. Both experiences guided Catholic-raised Joe to work for God instead.

Fr Joe Falkiner OP

Fr Joe and the pope

In 1962, at the age of 28, he joined the Dominican order; he would be ordained on December 13, 1969 — on the very same day, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, received his holy orders in Argentina.

While studying at the Dominican priory in Stellenbosch, with its prevailing spirit of social justice, Joe was conscientised further. Ministry with working-class youths from the local coloured community led to his involvement with YCW, then a potent movement in South Africa with its See-Judge-Act method, which puts the “Gospel into action”.

Fr Falkiner explains this method, which also guided people like Archbishop Denis Hurley, in vivid detail — in the memoirs section of the book as well as in the illuminating appendix, which also outlines the Church’s Social Teachings, the Theology of Work, and work through the lens of Scripture.

God guided Fr Joe into other areas of activism, such as the nascent black trade unionism, which pre-1976 was a primary arena of the struggle against apartheid. As a priest in KwaThema, he had a hand in the first case in South Africa in which dismissed non-striking workers of colour, in this case at the Raleigh bicycle factory in Brakpan, successfully sued for their reinstatement. The day after the court judgment, there were queues of people wanting to join YCW. And this increased membership led to the establishment of several unions — whose meetings would always begin with a prayer.

The ascendancy of Cosatu as the dominant union federation meant that faith-based worker activism would be frozen out. As a result, Fr Falkiner notes, history has ignored the pivotal role of YCW in the rise of black trade unions.

Apartheid’s great enemy

The regime certainly did not ignore YCW, whose members were routinely detained. At one point, Fr Falkiner recalls, police minister Jimmy Kruger singled out YCW as one of apartheid’s three greatest enemies. The 1988 bombing of Khanya House, the SACBC’s Pretoria headquarters — also mentioned in the book — showed just how much the regime saw the Catholic Church in general as a threat.

In the post-apartheid era, YCW faded away, for various reasons which Fr Falkiner outlines. But, as he explains, the See-Judge-Act method is still being used and promoted today.

As good memoirs do, this one name-checks important people whom the author encountered in his journey. Four notable representatives of Catholic Social Teachings activism stand out: the late labour leader Eric Tyacke; Sam Ntuli, an activist and convert who was assassinated in 1991; and the late Roddy Mzwandile Nunes and John Capel, who successively coordinated the SACBC’s Commission for Church and Work, until it was arbitrarily closed down in 2002, despite having sufficient funding (that decision put an end to the annual Workers’ Sundays).

Fr Falkiner runs through his life briskly, in short chapters. It is difficult to put this readable book down. Despite its weighty themes, there is some light relief in occasional anecdotes, including one in which Fr Joe finds himself propositioned by a prostitute. But Fr Falkiner doesn’t dwell long on personal matters: the author keeps the focus firmly on his ministry and God’s presence in it.

A Priest for Workers can be ordered at R200 ($A18.50 plus p&p at


A Priest for Workers Looks Back (Southern Cross)

Thanks to Gunther Simmermacher and Southern Cross for permission to reproduce this review.

Empowering women in Church and Society

Pax Romana ICMICA president, Ana Maria Bidegain, will speak on “Empowering women in Church and Society” in a webinar organised by IMCS Asia-Pacific on 31 March at 8pm Manila time (11pm AEDT).

Originally from Uruguay, Ana Maria was a prominent Catholic student leader during the 1970s. In 1979, she completed a PhD in history at the Catholic University of Louvain-la-Neuve on “The organisation of Catholic Action youth movements in Latin America. The cases of workers and university students in Brazil and Colombia between 1930-1955.”

She worked as an academic in Colombia for more than 20 years, launching the History Department at the Universidad de los Andes and developing the field of Religious Studies at the National University of Colombia.

Ana Maria was a Visiting Professor in Harvard University’s Women’s Studies in Religion Program prior to joining Florida International University where she continues to teach.

In 1991, she was an advisor on Church history to CLAR, the Confederation of Latin American and Caribbean Religious.

She is also currently a member of the CELAM, the Latin American Episcopal Council.

In December 2021, Ana was elected as president of Pax Romana ICMICA.


Empowering women in Church and Society – IMCS Asia-Pacific – 8pm Manila/Perth 11pm Sydney – 31 March 2022

Pope Francis: New roles for lay people

After nearly nine years of preparation, Pope Francis has promulgated the Apostolic Constitution “Praedicate Evangelium,” reforming the Roman Curia and its structures.

Fundamental among the general principles in the new Constitution is the provision that anyone – including lay people – can be appointed to roles of government in the Roman Curia by virtue of the vicarious power of the Successor of Peter.

The preamble to the Constitution explains this in the following terms:

“Every Christian, by virtue of Baptism, is a missionary disciple to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus. One cannot fail to take this into account in the updating of the Curia, whose reform, therefore, must provide for the involvement of laymen and women, even in roles of government and responsibility.”

Noting that the “pope, bishops and other ordained ministers are not the only evangelisers in the Church,” the Constitution goes on to explain that the role of lay people in governance was “essential” because of their familiarity with family life and “social reality.”

Consequently, “any member of the faithful can head a dicastery (Curia department) or organism” if the pope decides they are qualified and appoints them, it provides.


Pope Francis promulgates Apostolic Constitution on Roman Curia ‘Praedicate Evangelium’ (Vatican News)

Pope rules baptised lay Catholics, including women, can lead Vatican departments (Reuters)


Pope Francis visits Palo Cathedral in one of his sorties in Leyte Province Saturday, January 17, 2015. / Malacañang Photo Bureau/ Picryl

Alberto Methol Ferré: Catholics and the diversity of civilisations

Alberto Methol Ferré (1929 – 2009) was a Uruguayan Catholic political theorist and theologian who was influenced by Jacques Maritain, Augusto Del Noce, and the JOC chaplain Lucio Gera, among others.

As a student, he was a co-editor of the International Catholic Movement of Students (IMCS) publication, Vispera, and he worked closely with leader of the JUC and JAC in Argentina. More recently, his work has also greatly influenced Pope Francis’ own thought.

Here we reproduce several excerpts from an important 1955 article on Catholics and western culture, translated by the Terre Nouvelle website.

The fundamental advent of history is not any secular revolution — be it French, fascist, or communist — but the Incarnation of Christ, the center and fullness of time. Only in and through Christ is man and the world restored, and any ideology which pretends otherwise remains in the margins of essential history, that is to say, it participates in it indirectly, insofar as it can not escape the providential designs of God. In such a sense even atheists and idolatries are instrumental collaborators of Providence within the eschatological, final structure of history.

The Incarnation diffused and communicated is the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, visible and sacramental presence of the eternal in time, which it perpetuates universally and according to the spirit of the ancient mission of Israel. The Church has its source in the transcendent, not purely immanent historical values.

However, if the Church, by essence, is supernatural, and civilizations are natural, in the sense that they intrinsically depend on space and time, it is evident that there can only exist a diversity of Christian civilizations, none of which expresses life in its plenitude. The same occurs with non-Christian civilizations, since the present [actualidad] and essence coincide in perfect identity only in God. Clearly, the only absolute “Christian civilization” is the Reign of God, which is already the Church in a “pilgrim, militant, crucified” condition and which will have full completion in the Parousia.

The whole mystery of the Church is beyond history, presenting and coexisting with history itself. The fundamental fact is that history is in Christianity and not the other way around, since, it has been said with justice, sacred history is a fourth dimension, but a dimension constituent of history.


Alberto Methol Ferré – Catholics and Western Culture (1955) (Terre Nouvelle)

Alberto Methol Ferré (Wikipedia)


Methol Ferré (Sadop Nación/YouTube)

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


Three things that can change the world

“Almost exactly a year ago I gave a TedX Youth talk called ‘Three things you already have that can change the world’,’ writes former Perth YCS leader, Sophie Stewart. “It’s now online!”

“I touch on some of the awesome work I’ve gotten to be part of with Social Reinvestment WA, Swim For Refugees, and Olabud Doogethu.

“If you think you don’t have the tools to change your world, think again,” TedX comments. “Sophie has successfully campaigned to change unfair laws, supported refugee communities and helped towns reduce youth crime. And through those experiences she has learned that there are fewer barriers to making change than you imagine.”

“Doing this talk was a real challenge- distilling big, unwieldy ideas into something concise, and you don’t have any notes as a safety net. I was almost hyperventilating back stage. Thanks to Rob, Ben, Joel, and Tamkin with TEDxPerth and TEDx KingsPark for helping me make some big ideas into something comprehensible and to Edd, and my friends and family who came to support me on the day. I hope you enjoy it!”

“And literally…. Thank you for coming to my Ted talk,” Sophie concludes.


Three things you already have that can change the world (TEDx)

Taking off our shoes

Former Adelaide YCS fulltimer, Catherine Whewell, who later worked as Director of People in Ministry and Chancellor, shared her reflections on “being Church” in a recent series of articles published in Catholic Outlook magazine.

Central to Christianity is belief in life after death; resurrection after apparent failure; letting go so that something new can be discovered, the seed that dies in the ground so new life can grow. Death. Brings. Life. These themes are often repeated in the Word we hear together when we celebrate Eucharist, or in our own prayer. And yet even though we know the truth of this in our own lives, that God can make something new where nothing seems possible, as a Church community it seems that we fear letting go of what is, in order to discover what might be even more faithful and faith-filled.

Our Traditions and Scripture assure us that life is to be found in love, that freedom comes from letting go and that the truth will set us free. Jesus showed us what being his disciple looks like – healing, loving, forgiving, celebrating, proclaiming, walking among, withdrawing to pray, being community that acts out of love for the people and whatever binds them, and re-gathers for prayer and teaching. Jesus showed us he could let go, when the Syrophoenician woman challenged him and, profoundly in his death. The early Church is indeed a powerful example of letting go: no circumcision for Gentiles, including the excluded of the time, slave and free sitting together. Christianity was an alternative to the prevailing culture.  Jesus showed us that God is on our side. With us. For us. Inviting us to fullness of life. Not like the Roman and Greek gods who needed placating and appeasing.

So, if this is all true, then two questions confound me: Why are we not brave? Not brave enough to let go and step out over the waves when everything in our faith tells us that is how we will find life in its fullness? I also wonder how it is that we people of faith seem not to trust that God is already there ahead of us, being light in the darkness, inspiring hope, love, forgiveness, justice and peace where they are needed? It puzzles me that we think we have everything to give the world, when the world already has Love. God is already present as Nostra Aetate[1] teaches. What would happen if we believed that?

God is to be found already active in this world of ours, rather than waiting for us to bring God to the world. How can it be that we ‘have God’ and others don’t?

You may be responding, but we have the Good News of Jesus Christ that the world needs. And that is true, but what is the Good News of Jesus Christ?


Taking off our shoes: A personal reflection on being Church in the 21st Century – PART ONE (Catholic Outlook)

Taking off our shoes: A personal reflection on being Church in the 21st Century – PART TWO (Catholic Outlook)

Taking off our shoes: A personal reflection on being Church in the 21st Century – PART THREE (Catholic Outlook)


Dennis Jarvis / Wikipedia / CCA BY SA 2.0

Bernie Docherty, YCW extension worker in India

Bernie Docherty, a former YCW leader from Melbourne, who went to work as a YCW extension worker in India, died on 26 January 2022. While in India, he met his future wife, Philomena Dubier, also a YCW leader from Madras (now Chennai).

Below we present the eulogy delivered by Bernie’s daughter, Ambika (Roseanne), at his requiem mass at St Cecilia’s Church, Glen Iris, on 10 February 2022.

Bernard James Docherty 8/6/34 – 26/1/22

(Excerpts from the Eulogy at the Requiem Mass for the repose of the soul of Bernard Docherty, held on 10/2/22 at St Cecilia’s church, Glen Iris)

After a long battle with ill health, we bid farewell to Bernie Docherty snr. 

In 1934 Bernie was born in Geelong and raised in Carlton, Melbourne, to Mother Cecilia and Father Bernard Docherty. He had one younger brother Noel.

He was educated at St George’s school in Carlton and liked to follow the fortunes of his favorite football club Carlton.

Growing up, Bernie enjoyed playing cricket and umpiring the game, he watched boxing and he also enjoyed going out and dancing at the local dance.

At the age of 18, Bernie joined the YCW movement in 1952. He helped to establish the Carlton branch of the YCW and assisted Fr Gerrard Dowling to establish the Burwood branch in 1959.

Bernie went on the first International pilgrimage to Rome in 1957 and had a great trip.

After returning home he settled back into the old routine until the YCW Victorian State Conference in 1958. There, National Chaplain Fr K Toomey put the challenge to delegates to go to Asia and help the YCW there. This idea appealed to Bernie, so he spent some time to save his money almost two years later he packed up and went to India in 1960. In Bernie’s own words, he said he was just an ordinary fellow…but he had an extraordinary opportunity to visit Asia as a YCW volunteer extension worker.

Meanwhile, around the same era in India…


In 1942 Philomena was born, the eldest child of Patrick and Rosemond Dubier. Philomena grew up and was educated in Chennai, then Madras with her three younger sisters, Rita, Audrey and Dorothy.

In her teenage years Philomena also became a YCW member in Chennai.

It appeared that one of her responsibilities was to meet and greet the foreign YCW delegates!

Girls YCW groups in India

Also in India at that time was a young Fr Ernie Smith.

Fr Ernie was our family friend for over 50 years. He went on to establish the St Kilda Mission in Melbourne.

Betty King, was also a YCW member in India, and remained a close friend for Philomena & Bernie.

And Fr Little, who later was installed as the Archbishop of Melbourne, reigning for 22 years.

The other Australian delegate in India at that time was of course, Bernie! Philomena met Bernie, and they worked together at meetings and activities of the YCW…but their passion clearly went way beyond the YCW movement! Bernie initially signed up for a two year stint in India but stayed for three years!

They courted in Chennai and Bernie sought permission from Philomena’s father to take her hand in marriage.

They were engaged and later married on the 8th of September 1963.

Philomena’s family was not happy.

Her father cried that this bugger was going to take his daughter to a far away, unknown land. Patrick Dubier had every right to be concerned as Australia was still in its early stages of dismantling its White Australia Policy. Bernie returned from his three-year service in India with his new wife to the fanfare of reporters and newspaper articles, such was the novelty of an Indian person arriving in Australia at that time.

Some Like It Hot!

Together Bernie and Philomena were instrumental in introducing Indian food to Australia. From personal experience, Philomena realized the need for chili and spice in Australia. At that time, typical Australian cuisine was highlighted with salt, pepper and tomato sauce. Not even yoghurt was readily available in the shops.

From 1973 to 1999 Philomena and Bernie ran their Docherty Catering Business. They started in the Van Ness Ave house, before running functions in Coburg, followed by Hedgely Dene Reception Centre in Malvern and St Michael’s in Ashburton. They ran cooking classes in their catering kitchen in Oakleigh. Bernie and Philomena took cooking class tours to India and during this time, in 1987 Philomena launched her cookbook “Some Like it Hot”.

With Bernies support, Philomena has helped many of her relatives to migrate to Australia and welcomed them with open arms. Those who have migrated from India to Australia have said that they would not be living the life they lead in Australia if it wasn’t for Uncle Bernie.

Bernie was a good man who always tried to make choices based on Christian values and the YCW principles.

Remembering Bernie

During the last few weeks we have received so many compliments about Bernie; that he was always smiling and kind. He was inclusive and welcoming. He acknowledged people’s presence. He had a cheeky sense of humour, if you were quick enough to understand his jokes!

2021 was not a good year for Bernie. He spent nine months either in hospital or rehab, and due to the covid pandemic we were unable to visit for many of those months. Bernie did not complain. The rehab staff said Bernie was a good patient, trying hard in the rehab sessions, but there were only so many set backs he could bear.

At the age of 87 yrs, on January 26th, Australia Day and India’s Republic Day Bernie left us. What a symbolic day for him to depart from this earth. Even in death, he tremendously reinforced his allegiance to both countries.

Philomena and Bernie were an inseparable couple. They met over 60 years ago and were happily married for 58 of those years. They hailed from different countries and cultures, but they were united by their faith and love. They spent their careers working together, they lived and loved and prayed together.

It will be hard to imagine Philo without her Bernie.


Joseph Arokyasamy, Remembering Bernie Docherty, extension worker in India (

Betty King (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Philomena and Bernie

Stand with Ukraine

Dr Yuriy Pidlisny PhD, head of the Department of Political Science at the Ukrainian Catholic University in Kyiv and a member of the Ukrainian Pax Romana affiliate, Obnova, has issued an appeal for solidarity.

Signs of the Times: From Alphonse Gratry to Vatican II

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the death of French priest, Alphonse Gratry (1805-1872), philosopher and theologian, whose work inspired Cardijn and many other social activists of the late 19th century.

In our next ACI webinar at 11.30am AEDT on Friday 18 March 2022 (Thursday evening 17 March US time 5.30pm West, 8.30pm East), American philosopher, Madonna Clare Adams, and ACI secretary, Stefan Gigacz, reflect on Gratry’s life and work.

As principal of Stanislas College in Paris, in 1840, he hired the young Frédéric Ozanam, founder of the Society of St Vincent de Paul. During the Revolutions of 1848, he wrote a pioneering manual of social action.

From the 1850s, he began publishing his major works in the fields of philosophy and theology. His theory of induction helped provide the foundation for Cardijn’s see-judge-act method.

During the First Vatican Council in 1870, he led the battle against the very broad definition of papal infallibility that many Council Fathers had sought.

He died of cancer on 7 February 1872, aged only 66.



Madonna Clare Adams holds an STM from Yale Divinity School and a doctorate in Philosophy from Catholic University of America in Ancient and History of Philosophy. She directed a NY State Liberty Partnership Program for at-risk high school students, and was Director for the Center for Applied Ethics at Pace University, NY.

She has articles in the Dictionary on Catholic Spirituality, and has written on Plato’s political thought and modern democratic theory; the philosophy of Dr. Maria Montessori in relation to Plato’s education for citizenship, Aristotle’s philosophy of nature, and Marx’s concept of work; and Medieval Philosophers and the Environment.

A student of Dr. Mary L. O’Hara, CSJ, she assisted in the publication of her translation of Gratry’s Philosophy: A Translation of Julián Marías’ La Filosofia del Padre Gratry (Adelaide: ATF Press Publishing, 2020) the first major work on Gratry in English. Retired from Caldwell University and living in Whittier, CA.


Originally from Melbourne, Stefan Gigacz 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 a 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.


Alphonse Gratry (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)


Signs of the Times: From Alphonse Gratry to Vatican II, Friday 18 March 2022, 11.30am AEDT



If today you hear his voice

ACI is proud to present its first Lenten see-judge-act Gospel enquiry program designed by Dr Pat Branson for use in parishes and other settings. Official launch Monday 28 February 2022 (details below).

“Christians around the world celebrate Lent, which is forty days of fasting and prayer and doing good deeds. They do this in the name of Jesus,” Pat writes. “He fasted and prayed for forty days before beginning his mission. And he commissioned his followers to carry on his mission to the world.

“Every year, Christians spend the season of Lent as a time of preparation for the mission they will carry out in the year ahead and for the rest of their time on earth. Therefore, it seems only right and appropriate that we reflect on our mission by means of the gospel.

“What is that mission? Recently, I discovered the following statement about the mission of every person. The truth of our
faith, wrote Cardinal Joseph Cardijn, is that we are:

called by God Himself to a magnificent divine destiny, which is the sole reason for [our] existence, the sole end of [our] temporal and eternal life. “Not beasts of burden, machines or slaves; but sons of God, collaborators with God, heirs of God.” And this divine destiny is not to begin after death; no, it becomes incarnate in [our] temporal life Because we are prone to forget this truth, we need Lent to remind ourselves of God’s love for each of us. Lent is a time of conversion and reform, both individually and communally.

“The forty days are spent listening to the Word of God, reflecting on its application to our lives and to the society in which we live, and then looking for ways of bringing others to Christ through all that we do each day.

“This Lenten programme makes use of the method used by the Young Christian Workers Movement (YCW) and the Young Christian Students Movement (YCS) and Cardijn communities around the world. These movements were formed by Cardinal Joseph Cardijn and they continue to use his method for discovering the presence of God in their lives and guiding their apostolic life. The method, which emerged from his support for workers, has three steps or stages: SEE, JUDGE and ACT. These stages form what is commonly referred to as a “review” or an “enquiry.”

“Thus, what we are about to engage in for this season of Lent can be referred to as a ‘Gospel Review’ or a ‘Gospel Enquiry.’

“Preparing this program brought home to me more than ever before the presence of God in every moment and situation in life, no matter how dark and chaotic things might seem,” Pat concludes. “I find myself looking for God in the dark spaces and finding God there, like the prodigal father, waiting and longing for us to return.”


Official Launch Monday 28 February 2022, 7pm AEDT


If today you hear his voice (Australian Cardijn Institute)

Dr Pat Branson

Venerable Eduardo Pironio, precursor of Pope Francis

Pope Francis has promulgated a decree recognising the heroic virtues of Argentinian Cardinal (Venerable) Eduardo Francesco Pironio.

Born on 3 December, 1920, he was the last of 22 children of his Italian immigrant parents, José Pironio and Enriqueta Rosa Butazzoni.

At the age of eleven, he entered San José de La Plata Seminary. Twelve years later he was ordained on 5 December, 1943.

For fifteen years, he then taught literature, Latin, philosophy and theology successively at the Pío XII Seminary in Mercedes.

During this period, he also wrote regularly for the JOC chaplains’ magazine, Notas de Pastoral Jocista, where he was also a member of the editorial team.

From 1953-55, he studied theology in Rome, completing a doctoral thesis on the work of Belgian Benedictine monk, Dom Columba Marmion.

In 1958, he was appointed vicar-general of Mercedes Diocese. Soon after he became professor of theology at the new Catholic University of Argentina of which he became rector in 1963.

During this period, he also served as chaplain general to Argentine Catholic Action where, according to Claudia Carbajal, “his opportune word formed the lay conscience for a determined presence in the world and in their daily life to radiate the Good News in the commitments of the believer in daily life.”

In 1964, Pope Paul VI appointed him as auxiliary bishop to the diocese of La Plata, enabling him to take part in Sessions Three and Four of the Second Vatican Council. In 1972, he was appointed bishop of Mar del Plata.

In 1967, he was elected Secretary-General of the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM), enabling him to play a key role in the CELAM conference at Medellin, Colombia in 1968. From 1972-75, he also served as president of CELAM.

During the turbulent 1970s which ended in military dictatorship, he came under strong attack from conservative forces in Argentina.

Pironio also took part in several Synods of Bishops meetings, including the 1974 Synod on Evangelisation in the Modern World where he was one of the General Rapporteurs. In this capacity, drawings on the writings of the Argentine jocist priest, Lucio Gera, he contributed significantly to the drafting of Pope Paul VI’s Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Nuntiandi, particularly the section on evangelisation and culture.

In 1975, Pope Paul appointed him as Pro-Prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes and a year later he was made Prefect after being made a cardinal.

On 8 April 1984 Pope John Paul II named him President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity in which position he helped promote the first World Youth Day events.

As Austen Ivereigh has written:

Cardinal Pironio can be considered in certain aspects the precursor of Bergoglio. His mission was to apply the principles of the Second Vatican Council to Latin America; he had a clear “preferential option” for the poor, but he also distrusted ideologies and was convinced that the Gospel represented the basis of a new model of society that went beyond the capitalism-communism dichotomy. As Bergoglio would later, he alienated himself from conservatives by committing himself to social justice and alienated himself from the left by denying support for extremist versions of liberation theology.

Like Bergoglio, Pironio was not a revolutionary, but he had great spiritual depth: he was a radical defender of the Gospel, with a pastoral strategy that gave priority to the poor.

Cardinal Pironio died of bone cancer on 5 February, 1998.

Meeting with leaders of Argentine Catholic Action /Acción Católica Argentina


Pope recognizes Cardinal Pironio’s heroic virtues (Vatican News)

Eduardo Francisco Cardinal Pironio (Catholic Hierarchy)

Eduardo Francisco Pironio (Wikipedia)

Claudia Carbajal, Las “virtudes heroicas” del cardenal Pironio, el hombre humilde reconocido por el papa Francisco (Infobae)

Austen Ivereigh, The Great Reformer (Picador Paper, 2015)

Stefan Gigacz, The Pontifical Council for the Laity de-recognises the IYCW (Cardijn Research)


Thanks to Claudio Remeseira for providing information and background for this article.


Fr Pironio addressing an Argentine Catholic Action conference (Acción Católica Argentina)

Campion Society webinar: Video

Thanks to Colin Jory and Richard Doig for an excellent webinar on “The Campion Society and the development of the lay apostolate in Australia” on Tuesday 15 February 2022.

Also taking part were eight direct descendants of the original Campions, Karl Schmude, son of Alf, Anne Kelly and Barbara Kelly Cooper, daughters of Kevin T. Kelly, Jacinta Heffey and Marilyn Puglisi, daughters of Gerard Heffey, Tom Knowles son of Bill Knowles, as well as Paul Santamaria and Anne McIlroy, son and daugther of BA Santamaria. Also present was David Moloney, nephew of Des O’Connell.

We thank them all for joining us.



Colin Jory, The Campion Society and the development of the lay apostolate in Australia (Text of talk)

Richard Doig, The National Catholic Rural Movement and a ‘New Deal’ for Australia: the rise and fall of an agrarian movement 1931-1958 (Charles Sturt University)

Campion Society website (Australian Cardijn Institute)

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)