JOC and the Workers’ Apostolate

In this article, Mr. Paul McGuire concludes his study of Jocism with a description of its study group technique. Jocist study circles meet once a week. The priest, as assistant, has ultimately responsibility, but to train members in initiative and form them into apostles of their milieu, the officers of the groups are themselves all working boys or girls who are militants.

EACH meeting reviews the work of the last, the programme then set, the jobs since attempted. How did this or that succeed? What do we do next? What have we done this week to imitate Christ, in our homes, at work, in the street? What ways exactly? (JOC is always insisting on precise statement.) Did we make friends? Give a helping hand? Is there any lad we know well who will help us to keep an eye on the youngsters fresh from school, to talk to the other chaps, to help people, to keep conversations clean? Will he help in propaganda? Could he and I form an A.S.U. (Active Service Unit), the’ very front-line of Jocist attack in the factories and the streets and the playing fields and the billiard halls?

The need for co-operation for social action, is constantly stressed. Get a comrade. Build a group. Do a job for your fellows. Speak up for the rest to the factory inspectors, get on the job in your trades union, act for the rest, if necessary, in dealing with your employers. Isn’t it necessary that the workers should be properly organised and led? Isn’t it right that Christian ideas should govern them in their demands? The milieu must be changed. It can only be changed if workers understand the real needs and interests of their class, and work together. We workers must change the milieu. In what ways are we fit to do it? We are fit to do it because we are Christian, organised workers.


The agenda of a study circle is usually something like this: 1. Prayer or the Jocist Hymn (I have been making ardent efforts at an Eng-

lish version, but I am afraid it is still unfit for publication). 2. The Religious Enquiry, conducted in turn by militants, who prepare the matter for discussion. It usually consists of a reading from the New Testament and discussion. 3. Minutes, sometimes formal, sometimes (to vary the monotony) a paraphrase of the last proceedings given by a member. 4. Consideration of the jobs set at the previous meeting. What has succeeded? What failed? Why? What do we do next? 5. Report by each militant of the work done by him and his A.S.U. (A militant is commonly the centre of an Active Service Unit.) 6. What matter of national importance is before the public mind? Under this head, extraordinary contributions have been made by Jocist groups to labour and unemployment enquiries and the like. 7. Set the work for the coming week; selling of the “Young Worker,” contacts with this or that young worker, inquiries to be made for national reports, and so on. 8. The Prayer of JOC.


The study group is generally directed by a small committee of militants, two or three, who also make the plans for the general meetings. The militants are the core of the movement, and their word is Conquer; conquer the truths of life, the relation of oneself to God; conquer oneself, conquer spiritual aids, conquer others in the apostolate. The general meetings’ are held to win recruits, and for the ordinary run of fellows. The G.M. must always be a cheerful affair, and remarkable care is taken in planning it. It is held once a month, and invitations are issued to the boys or girls with whom contacts have been made. It is always held on a regular date and at a regular time. Jocists must not look like mere bunglers, their Handbook sternly states. Be definite, and do not play the fool. Settle a suitable date and time, and always stick to it. All the A.S.U.’s take some part in a G.M. One looks after games, another after a playlet perhaps, while another decorates the room. Every member of the study circle has a job to do for the G.M.


Each G.M. has its special theme, and the programme and the decorations are all planned as a whole to illustrate it. Hints are given in Jocist publications (did I mention that JOC publishes 15 reviews in Belgium, 17 in France?). Everything in the room contributes to the theme of the G.M., posters, pictorial graphs, inscriptions, streamers, booklets, newspapers and cuttings. For example, if the theme is the finance of the JOC, the treasurer would have graphs of the subscriptions, the money spent on young workers, the numbers of publications sold, outings arranged, charity given, and so on. Over all hangs the great shield of JOC. The Jocist is reminded to have care always for “good taste”; one must make the guests feel that this is a pleasant arrangement of things, that one would like the chairs in one’s own house arranged like these, and so forth.


A personal invitation is issued to the guest. Then an attractive card is sent out. Then a Jocist is sent to bring him to the meeting. If he should by any chance (which seems inconceivable) escape, don’t despair. Invite .him again and again, until he does come. As Jocists arrive at G.M,. they pay their subs., to encourage the others. And their savings bank is open, to encourage the others, too, no doubt. All the places have been carefully prepared. Even the arrangement of chairs is important. The chairman must rise to address the meeting. It helps to increase his effect of leadership. Militants must scatter through the audience and make the guests at home, talk to them, gather impressions from them.

Everything said and done should drive in some Jocist idea. The meeting again starts with the hymn, and then someone gives a “catchy” resume of the last meeting. The secretary notes those present. Absentees are to be looked up by militants. Then items of local news are read; letters from Jocists in the army, from the sick, from members absent who have something of interest to report. There is comment on the news, on sport, politics, even on murders and suicides, comment informed by the Jocist idea. Articles from the “Young Worker” or from some other Catholic paper are discussed. And then the principal theme of the meeting is raised. Points for discussion here will probably have been suggested by the “A.S.U. Bulletin” of the month. After that, report is made of the work done during the month. “Action is the life’s blood of the Jocist movement.” How many papers have been sold, how many families visited, how many propaganda posters stuck up, how many books distributed, how many hikes arranged, and so on. This reporting is also designed to influence the guest. ENROLMENTS. Enrolments of new Jocists take place at the G.M.’s; and the occasion is made as impressive and solemn as possible. After the enrolments, the meeting is given to amusements, and here the Jocist is -especially required to make his meeting as lively and amusing as he can. Films are shown, chiefly documentary films, 16 mm. or 9.5 mm. Then there are competitions, games, riddles, crosswords; and even these have a Jocist bent. And there are songs. Most decidedly there are songs. The JOC sing-songs and their song-book are very celebrated indeed. Sometimes there is a playlet. Always, the effort is to get every boy engaged. If he knows a trick or plays the sax., ask him in. After the meeting, militants must see their guests home, and in good time, for “that wins their parents’ approval.” On the way home, of course, the militant drives in the points of the evening. He also carefully notes any criticisms which the guest may be ungracious enough to offer.


The chairman of a JOC section is always one of the boys or girls. But he must make special efforts. Like the militants (he himself is a militant of militants), he has his own handbook and review. It is interesting to observe the care with which JOC meets all its members’ needs. The chairman is instructed to keep a notebook. In it he must record a plan of his section, a map of its district, a list of dates and anniversaries and feasts of special interest to JOC; a list of workers known to be Jocists; a list of street canvassers for selling papers; details of the finances of his section; addresses, at home and work, with telephone numbers, of his Jocists. He must make notes for his committee meeting, his study circle, and his general meeting. He must keep a list of JOC’s special achievements and exploits. He must jot down ideas, news, notions, anything which may serve JOC.


The general organisation is superb. For instance, amongst its publications is a handbook for Jocist soldiers. When a boy is called to the colours, he receives his copy. Inside it is a postcard which may be torn off. As soon as the boy is ordered to a unit and a barracks, he fills in the card and drops it into the nearest letter-box. When he arrives, or shortly after, he has a letter from JOC headquarters to tell him what other Jocists have been sent to his unit or barracks. Jocist publications are all direct, terse, simple, and packed with sound sense. Its’ reviews, especially, are models of newspaper production. The staffs at headquarters are now very large, but all Jocists, all drawn from the workers. The organisation is financed by subscriptions and by the sale of its very exciting and very Catholic calendars.

JOC insists that its boys and girls understand their environments, the special problems and dangers of their fellows. It may sometimes be a risky business, but JOC is an apostolate. The priest cannot get at .the worker in the mill or the mine. It is the boy next to him who must save him. And he is doing it. Before JOC, an appalling percentage of the children who left Belgian Catholic schools for the industrial jobs were lost to the Church within a few months. Now the leakage has been practically stopped. JOC advances; because, again, in the words of the Holy Father, it is “an ideal form of Catholic Action.” If one could conceive every vocation organised as JOC is organising the young workers for the propagation of the Faith, if each Catholic doctor, lawyer, business man, author, agent, was an apostle to his fellows, we could change the world in a generation. As Fr. Kothen said the other day at Oxford: “The one means of combating Communism is to establish a spiritual Communism between souls in order to put them at the service of the Church, of society, of Our Lord, of God. The social problem will not be solved by a simple redistribution of goods. What is necessary is, much more profoundly, to socialise souls, so that hearts and minds may unite in the Mystical Body of Christ, in that vast association in which one is enabled to forget oneself, to go beyond one’s personal interest in order to seek the general good, to serve the common good. …”

Jocist meetings close with the Jocist Prayer; these articles may well close with it, too: Lord Jesus, I offer Thee my work, my struggles, my joys and all my sorrows of this day. Grant to me and to all my working brethren, to think like Thee, to work with Thee, to live in Thee. Help me to love Thee with all my heart and to serve Thee with all my strength. Thy Kingdom come in all our factories, workshops, offices, and in all our homes. Grant that the souls of the workers who to-day will be in danger remain in Thy grace, And to the souls of the workers who died on labour’s battlefield, give Thy eternal rest. Sacred Heart of Jesus, bless the JOC, Sacred Heart of Jesus, sanctify the JOC, Sacred Heart of Jesus, Thy kingdom come through the JOC. Queen of Apostles, pray for us.

—Paul McGuire.


Formation for Catholic Action (Advocate (Melbourne, Vic. : 1868 – 1954), Thursday 7 October 1937, page 31