St Ambrose’s University at Davenport, Iowa, USA hosted a major conference in March to mark the 10th anniversary of Pope Francis’ pontificate.
Architect and major sponsor of the event was former US YCS leader, Tom Higgins, later a state congressman and a member of the Carter administration.
Perhaps also significant in the orientation of both the Diocese of Davenport and St Ambrose’s University is a lively Cardijn tradition exemplified by the late Monsignor Marvin Mottet, a key figure at the university as well as with the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.
Keynote speakers included theologians Massimo Faggioli and Phyllis Zagano, Pope Francis’ biographer, Austen Ivereigh, Catholic social teaching specialist, tony Annett, as well as Cardinal Joseph Tobin.
Also present was Holy See Nuncio, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, who delivered a message from Pope Francis. As Archbishop Pierre told me, his mother was one of the key leaders who worked with Marie-Louise Monnet in the foundation of the JIC (Jeunesse Indépendante Catholique), a Specialised Catholic Action movement for young people from a bourgeois background.
The conference also hosted a panel proposed by ACI on the theme “Promoting Integral Human Development; From Cardijn to Pope Francis.”
Our panel featured:
Ana Grande, who spoke about her uncle, Blessed Rutilio Grande, the Salvadoran Jesuit and see-judge-act practitioner, whose martyrdom inspired Archbishop Oscar Romero.
Elias Crim, founder of Solidarity Hall, an initiative to promote the implementation of Catholic Social teaching, who spoke on Fr Josemaria Arizmendi and the Mondragon cooperatives.
Finally, I traced the links between Cardijn’s vision and methods and those of Pope Francis.
Overall, the conference was an inspirational event and a credit to its organisers.
ACI secretary, Stefan Gigacz, will present our April webinar marking the 150th anniversary of the birth on 3 April 1873 of Marc Sangnier, founder of the French democratic movement, Le Sillon, which had such a great influence on Cardijn and the YCW.
Deeply impressed by Sangnier’s movement, young Cardijn would later describe it as “the greatest surge of faith and apostolate that France has known since the Revolution.”
Welcoming Sangnier to Brussels in 1921, Cardijn lamented the closure of the movement in 1910 after Pope Pius X called on its leaders to resign and explicitly linked himself and his work to the Sillon’s heritage.
“The winds of the air and the birds of the sky carry off this seed and deposit it sometimes far away, in a field where God’s dew fertilises and multiplies it,” he told Sangnier.
The emerging YCW and other Specialised Catholic Action movements were the fruit of this inspiration with many early movement chaplains formed by the Sillon’s “method of democratic education,” which would provide the basis for Cardijn’s see-judge-act method of formation.
The Sangnier and Sillon influence also extended to the YCW’s sister movements, which would become known as the “Specialised Catholic Action” movements.
Across the Atlantic, Dorothy Day’s Catholic Worker also drew inspiration from the Sillon through her co-founder and mentor, Peter (Pierre) Maurin, who had also belonged to Marc Sangnier’s movement.
In 1950, Holy See nuncio, Angelo Roncalli, the future Pope John XXIII, would characterise Marc Sangnier as the greatest influence on his early priesthood.
Listen to the story of this remarkable man and his movement at our April webinar on Saturday 15 April.
Thirteen years after Joseph Cardijn and his collaborators launched their first experimental study circles with teenage girl needleworkers in the Brussels suburb of Laeken, the Young Christian Worker Movement was founded formally in 1925. It spread quickly across the globe. The method of ‘see-judge-act’ enabled a lay apostolate that saw faith as inextricably and powerfully connected to the whole of life. By 1966 the outward and public focus of YCW formation involved 4 million young people in 100 countries with a dozen allied movements, each committed to transforming the social context through shared reflection. The method impacted 10 of the 16 major documents of the Second Vatican Council and resourced ‘liberation theologies’ globally, not least through countless ‘mundane’ actions in the daily lives of members.
To mark the centenary of the foundation of the YCW, we aim to workshop and publish an edited collection of academic contributions on the YCW in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific. We are interested to hear from writers across the academic disciplines (including, but not limited to business and labour history, education, gender studies, history, law, literature, sociology, theology and religious studies) to explore the variety of the YCW movement across time and the in diverse locations of Oceania in chapters of 4,000 – 7,000 words.
Topics to be explored include but, again, are not limited to:
Foundation stories of the YCW / NCGM in different regions
Contextual studies by decade and era: e.g. post-Second World War, into the 1960s, post Vatican II, through Vietnam War, into the 1980s
Colonial and post-colonial realities
Trajectories of members after the movement
Co-operatives, credit unions and housing initiatives
Changes in the theological climate
Accounts of major actions – (e.g. Springbok tour, Adelaide’s freeway campaign, Walton’s campaign, Fitzroy Legal Service, apprentices)
YCW Extension Workers
Formation programmes and conceptions of leadership
For an overview of original sources, biographical material and existing studies, please see:
Please send a short abstract of up to 250 words and a biographical statement of up to 100 words to Anthony O’Donnell firstname.lastname@example.org by 15 May 2023.
Acceptance will be advised by 31 May 2023.
Presentation at a hybrid workshop 27 October 2023
Revision of manuscripts for publication by 31 March 2024.
About the project team:
Anthony O’Donnell is an adjunct senior lecturer in the School of Law, La Trobe University. He researches and publishes in labour law, labour history and social policy. His most recent books are a biography of Moss Cass and a history of Australian unemployment policy. He was a member of TYCS in the 1980s.
Stefan Gigacz is an honorary post-doctoral researcher with Yarra Theological Union within the University of Divinity and secretary of the Australian Cardijn Institute. Previously, he worked for the YCW in Australia and internationally. His doctorate, and forthcoming book, The Leaven in the Council identifies the key role of Joseph Cardijn at the Second Vatican Council.
Katharine Massam is professor of history at Pilgrim Theological College within the University of Divinity. She has published extensively on the history of Catholicism in Australia, most recently A Bridge Between: Spanish Benedictine Missionary Women in Australia, with a particular interest in the spirituality of work.. She is a member of the board of the Australian Cardijn Institute.
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.
This month we celebrate the 70th anniversary of one of Cardijn’s greatest triumphs, i.e. his keynote speech to and decisive influence over the First World Congress on Lay Apostolate in Rome from 7-14 October 1951, which helped set the stage for Vatican II.
Recalling Cardijn’s keynote speech entitled, “The World Today and the Lay Apostolate,” Brazilian Bishop Helder Camara would later characterise Cardijn’s ” complete panorama of the great issues of the present time” as having a “very great impact” on him, “one of the greatest of my life.”
In the longer term, however, the most important impact of Cardijn’s speech and the work of his allies was the change in perspective introduced by the Congress.
As Stefan Gigacz writes in an article recalling the Congress and Cardijn’s contribution, “the Congress proved to be a defining moment, introducing two major shifts in perspective that would come to fruition at Vatican II.”
First, it introduced the JOC’s reality-based see-judge-act as the method of work at the Congress instead of the traditional doctrinal approach beginning from Church teaching.
Secondly, and equally if not even more important, it introduced Cardijn’s conception of lay apostolate as the role of the lay person transforming the world “in his personal life, in his family, professional, social, cultural and civic life, on the national and international planes” rather than in terms of personal piety, charitable and even social action.
In this sense, Cardijn’s speech anticipated both the conception of lay apostolate that would be adopted by Vatican II in its Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, and Decree on the Lay Apostolate, Apostolicam Actuositatem, as well as the see-judge-act method adopted in the Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the World of Today, Gaudium et Spes.
Indeed, Cardijn’s conception of a “new apostolate” for the emerging “new world” also directly foreshadows the concept of “new evangelisation” that would be adopted by the CELAM bishops at Medellin in 1968.