RIP John Maguire, chaplain to the Vatican II lay auditors

Former Brisbane priest and YCW chaplain, John Maguire, who became ecclesiastical assistant to the lay auditors at the Second Vatican Council died on 28 April at the age of 91.

John was a close friend of Pat Keegan, a founding leader of the English YCW and the first lay auditor to address the Council. It was at Keegan’s request that Paul VI appointed him as ecclesiastical assistant to the lay auditors.

He was present for several critical moments of the Council, including the dramatic Black Week at the end of the Third Session in November 1964.

He was also with Cardijn for his episcopal ordination in February 1965. He and Keegan were also with Cardijn, who wept with anguish, on the day he received his red cardinal’s hat.

At the Council and afterwards, he also became close friends with Charles Moeller, the Belgian literary scholar and theologian, who played a significant role as peritus at Vatican II.

Upon his return to Australia, John left the priesthood – at least in the traditional sense – and initially became a labourer at the Doomben racetrack.

Later he became a lecturer in history at James Cook University in Townsville. While there, he wrote a highly regarded history of the diocese entitled “Prologue.”

In 1992, he wrote a deeply personal memoir, entitled “Blessed are the Cheesemakers” taken from the Monty Python film “The The Life of Brian,” recalling his experience as a student of Thomistic philosophy in Rome, as well as his struggle to “grapple with” and to be accepted for his homosexuality.

In 1999, John wrote another book “What is conscience? A cautionary tale,” originally intended as Volume 1 of a trilogy on “Conscience and the Moral Law.”

In the preface, he quoted a 1969 talk by Moeller to Brisbane priests:

We stand at a time in history where we need to ask all the old questions – as if we have never had an answer before: what does it mean to be human? what does it mean to be saved? who is this person, Jesus of Nazareth? is there really any need for the Church?”

And Moeller continued:

As we move into the discovery of our own answers, we will need then to call on memory, on history, to reflect on the answers previous generations have given to these same questions. I believe eventually we shall be surprised how close what we will be saying will be to what others have said before us – but, at the same time, we will be seeing it all differently. With fresh insights, we will express everything with new emphases, nuances. More importantly, our answers will be alive within us, not merely parroted answers we have received from others.

As John recalls, “Moeller’s words touched a deep chord within me”:

By that time my own journey had already made me strongly aware that, just as every child has to learn to walk from inside itself, listening to the call of its own body, its own spirit, discovering its own freedom, accepting its own limitations, so too, each of us has to find the truth, the freedom of life, of love, of God, for ourselves – from within ourselves. Truth and freedom can never be separated. Truth can only be discovered in freedom; freedom can only be preserved in truth – the truth which is the God “Who Is”.

RIP John

Stefan Gigacz


John Maguire, Blessed are the Cheesemakers

John Maguire, What is conscience? A cautionary tale.

Charles Moeller (Wikipedia – French)

Patrick Keegan: The YCW International exists


The YCW International exists. We have come from different parts of the world, because we are resolved to sustain, assist and make possible everywhere the complete development and liberation as Christians and as workers, of all the young workers of the world.

It is a privilege for me to welcome 450 delegates, and others from countries in the world. There has been great sacrifice to enable all of us to come here. In one factory the workers collected money to send their delegate. It is therefore with great emotion that I welcome you here, in the name of the International YCW, and I would now like to present the delegates of the different countries:

Since the last international Conference in Montreal in 1947 we have made great progress throughout the world. We have seen the rise of the YCW in new countries. Three important examples of this are:

1) Germany, which brings to the International the pledge of the cooperation of the millions of young workers of this nation;

2) The USA, bringing to the International YCW a promise of the support of the working youth of the new world.

3) Japan – In this country we see the life of our movement bringing to the International that promise of deep and profound contact with the young workers of the East.

We see now in the great continents of India and Africa the transition from agrarian and simple conditions, to the beginning of a highly concentrated industry. One hears and reads of thousands of young people leaving their tribes for the first time in their life, and entering with a simplicity unknown to the Western World, a system in which they are looked upon primarily in terms of production. The barbarities carried out during the rise of industrialism in the western countries are now shamefully repeated in countries where industrialisation is just beginning.

To these young workers, the YCW sends its message of confidence and hope. In this Study Week, there will be special sessions where the methods of the YCW will be studied in relationship to its expansion in these countries. Our responsibility in these areas where working people now feel and desire freedom is very great. We have a great responsibility as delegates of the YCW of our country at this International Conference. The main purpose of this Conference is as follows:

1) The study of the situation of the young worker in the world, and how best the YCW in each country can bring a solution. This means that we must know clearly the fundamentals of our great movement, and be prepared to study the adaptation of methods of the YCW to different countries and different continents.

2) To create and strengthen a solid, deep unity, friendship and solidarity between the YCW of the different countries. To reinforce the unity between national YCWs in order that in every country we may better solve the problems and needs of the young workers which now are not only on a national plane, but also on an international plane.

3) As a result of our studies to prepare a Manifesto which will be presented to international institutions, organisations and anywhere else where the needs of the working youth must be represented and studied. From this Conference thousands more of the young workers of the world must be assisted to understand their vocation and mission in the world of work.

At the base of all our work we place ourselves with a childlike simplicity at the service of Christ’s Church, knowing clearly that there is no true solution to the young workers unless that solution be totally Christian, totally apostolic – taking its mission from the Church of Christ’s apostles, and giving itself completely to the redemptive mission of Christ’s Church.

We know very well that the YCW International exists. Therefore it is with great joy, pride and confidence that I wish to greet one of our friends who, during these days of work, represents among us the authorities of the ILO, which itself is so interested in the problem of the working youth in the world today. The real International depends for its strength on every member, on every leader in each local section in each country. There is no International YCW if there are no local sections of young workers who work with all their effort to transform the environment of their neighbourhood, the environment of the work; and be of service to their comrades – the young workers of their districts.

When we look at the YCW International, we must see very clearly that its future hope rests in the local sections – rests in the local leader and the members who carry out the repeated, deep, slow and humble work of penetration in their own environment, in their factories, in their neighbourhoods. The strength of the YCW International rests on the leaders of our local sections, giving their comrades that profound service that springs from our mission of charity.

The union of our International does not lie in words, large meetings, or in an administrative staff alone – but it exists in the spirit of the YCW – a spirit that knows no frontiers. It exists in each member end leader in the local section being profoundly conscious that all young workers, without a single exception, regardless of their colour or race, are called to be sons and daughters of God. It exists in their work, and in their action to transform the situations of life that in any way contradict this profound and vital truth.

Therefore as a result of our work at this International Conference, we must return to our countries, intending to found and to build more local sections where the young workers of our districts will discover the meaning and purpose of their life.

To conclude: the International YCW springs from the desire of each national YCW to come together and place their efforts on an international plane; because the problems of the young worker are no longer national, but international. By its very nature, the YCW could never remain confined to any- one country, and during this study week we must discover the best means in spite of all language difficulties, to bring to the young workers of the world a message of liberation, a means to discover their vocation and mission; a movement which will answer their needs and answer the real problems of their lives. Each one of us, having the spirit of pioneers, will use this study week to do everything to further equip us to win, to recruit and to make new apostles of the young workers of our countries.

From our meetings this week, we must go out consumed with a desire to bring the message of Christ to all the young workers, bearing in mind that we are responsible before God and the whole working class to bring to each young worker a sense of his value, his dignity and his vocation.

In spite of all the difficulties in our own countries, in our local sections – this meeting here is a proof that the YCW will not fail in its mission to the young workers of the world.

Patrick Keegan


Patrick Keegan, YCW International Congress 1950, IYCW Archives, (