Jocism Spreads to English Speaking Lands

ONE of the outstanding events of this year is bound to be the gathering in Rome of tens of thousands representing the Young Christian Workers. It will focus the attention of the whole Catholic world on a movement which has already won the commendation of Pope, Cardinals and Bishops and raised high hopes among all interested in Catholic Action. The Congress in Paris when 80,000 delegates met in a vast stadium is still remembered, as is Cardinal Verdier’s assertion on the occasion that never since the Crusades had such enthusiasm or such a Christian spirit been witnessed. With the presence (as all hope) of the new Pontiff himself to give importance to the assembly and the background of Rome to supply dignity and grandeur, the gathering this year should be even more notable. It is a “coming event” on which to keep your eye. We venture to declare that it will mark an. epoch in the history of modern Catholicism.

In the complexity of the modern world the working classes take on a growing importance, an importance which it would be stupid and unjust to underestimate. The extent to which the representatives of labour are penetrated with the principles of the Gospel will decide in large measure the extent to which the society of to-morrow will be Christian. It is no longer enough to oppose the difficulties and misfortunes of the times with a chorus of lamentations. A positive work is laid upon us. The Y.C.W. wishes to do this work, with the grace of God, and already positive results give good hope for the future.


The Y.C.W. was born in 1924, at least officially. It was then that it received its mandate as Catholic Action from the Belgium Episcopate. But it is necessary to go further back in order to describe its origins.

Among the remote causes which brought the Y.C.W. into existence, we must note on the one hand the great misery of the working class during the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth; and on the other hand, the ardent desire of leaders in the Church to reconquer the masses, to re-Christianise the world of work. The Y.C.W. recalls with pride the names of Ozanam, Harmel, von Ketteler, Ducpetiaux, Mgr. Pottier, and many others. Of their lineage comes Canon Cardijn, the founder of the Y.C.W., who had felt the misery, the moral and spiritual wretchedness of workingclass youth. He has often related how he himself, the son of a working class family, obtained permission from his father, to carry on his studies, to enter the “petit seminaire” in order to learn Latin and to be able, one day, to be a priest. When he came back to his home at Hal his old classmates, now become young workers, would have nothing to do with him. A barrier had grown between the future priest and the workers. The Church and the working class occupied opposing camps; he who passed from one to the other was considered a traitor. The young Cardijn experienced a profound sadness. That he should be considered a “traitor” to the working class! He resolves to devote his life to overcoming this barrier; as a priest he would serve and .save the working class. Some years later, at the deathbed of his father, he consecrated by a solemn vow this irresistible determination to work for the integral upraising of his brother workers. It should be noted that the Abbe

Cardijn, as a student at the “grand seminaire” of Malines, came twice to England in 1906-1907 in order to meet the founders and leaders of trade unionism. He was much impressed by the lofty religious ideal which animated these precursors of social reform. Soon afterwards he was nominated as curate in a working-class parish of Brussels, and began his experiment by gathernng round him a group of young workers and working girls. The events of August, 1914, the occupation of Brussels by the Germans, the departure to the front of his best collaborators, abruptly interrupted all activity. Cardijn, accused by the Germans of intercourse with the Allies, was soon arrested and thrown into prison. It was a providential moment for the” Y.C.W. Canon Cardijn admits that he profited from his long retreat in the prison cell by thinking out—with the aid of his past experience—the whole problem of wage-earning youth. When he came out of the prison at the Armistice the main lines of the “Manual of the Y.C.W.” were fixed. In 1919 he became director of social works in Brussels; the field for experiment was enlarged. He took Fernand Tonnet as his secretary, and together they founded the “Jeunesse Syndicalitee.”

In 1924 this group received official recognition on the part of the Church. It changed its name and became the Young Christian Workers.


(1) Realism: The Y.C.W. is thoroughly imbued with realism. The first work that every Y.C.W. must do consists in making enquiries in order to know, the exact situation of the young workers.. In small meetings, grouping four or five young workers, the most elementary questions are answered. At what hour do you get up? At what hour does your work begin? How do you get to your factory? Whom do you meet on the way? What do you talk about? What is your particular work? Have you any companions at work? What is their attitude? What are the hygienic and moral conditions? What are your wages? Where do you take your meals? How do you spend your evenings? Do you go to Mass on Sundays? What do you think of during the service? etc., etc. In this way an attempt is made to draw up a complete picture of the worker’s life. The immense distress of thousands of these young workers soon becomes clear.

As an example, consider this from the manual of the J.O.C.F.: “At the present time in our country there are 150,000, perhaps 200,000, working girls. Each year thousands of them, children of fourteen years of age, pass without any period of transition from the school to the factory, the workshop or the office. Even a few enquiries are sufficient to verify the fact of the lamentable consequences of all this; the moral abandonment, promiscuity, depraved conditions in which these girls are compelled to work in order to earn their living. And there is no danger of exaggeration; their situation is incredible. The girls in the factories— and these form the majority, 87,000 from 14 to 21 years of age—perform work that is so mechanical and brutalising amidst the noise and nerve-wracking rush of the machines in an environment that is often indecent, promiscuous and demoralising, that it rapidly defeminises the young girls completely, at the precise age when their nature as women should be awakened and developed.”

The girl engaged in the “professional” crafts of needlework finds, in general, a work more adapted to her temperament and feminine character. But one of its dangers is the perpetual solicitation of luxury. She is young and a trifle vain. How can she fail to be envious of that elegance which she creates for others, when her life, dwelling and dress are so different from everything she sees and produces? And the office worker? It might be thought that in an environment that is often better educated, she would be sheltered from the temptations which surround the factory worker. Unfortunately, the atmosphere of many offices is hardly better than that of the factories. Doubtless, immorality there takes on less gross forms, but flirtation installed as the normal relationship between young people and even between married men and girls, a “recherche toilette” made up simply to attract attention, conversation enlightened only by obscenity—all this would seem to put unprotected adolescents in constant danger. For the great enemy of wage-earning youth is isolation, abandonment.

(2) Idealism: The Y.C.W. equally professes a thorough idealism. All the young workers are called to a divine destiny. “From all eternity, God, by an infinite gift of His love, has predestined each young worker in particular, and all of them in general, to participate in His nature, His life, His love, His divine happiness. He has decided to give Himself, to communicate Himself to them, to enable them to live His life, to enlighten them with His truth, to enable them to take part in His reign. The young workers are not machines, animals or slaves. They are the sons, the heirs, the collaborator’s of God. ‘Dedit eis potestatem filios Dei fieri . . . divinse consortes naturae’ (He gave them power to become sons of God . . . partakers in His Divine Nature). It is their unique, their only, their true destiny, the point of their existence and their work, the origin of all their rights and duties.”

This destiny is not twofold; on the one hand eternal and on the other temporal, without a bond between them or mutual influence. There is not an eternal destiny by the side of, remote from earthly life, without relation to it. There is no disincarnate destiny, any more than there is a disincarnate religion. It is an eternal destiny incarnate in time, begun in time, realising and developing itself in time, working towards its fulfilment in time, in this earthly life, in the whole of it, in all its aspects and applications and realisations; in bodily, intellectual, moral, emotional, professional, social and public life: in the concrete, practical life of every day. Religion is not separated from morality; in the same way man’s eternal destiny is not separated from his temporal destiny. “Et Verbum caro factum est et habitavit in nobis” (And the Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us). As the Word was incarnate and dwelt among us, so the eternal destiny of each man is incarnate in his temporal life, is developed and realised there—”semper et ubique sicut in coelo et in terra” (always and everywhere as in heaven, so on earth).

(3) Action: When we observe the enormous distance which separates the actual situation of the young workers from the ideal to which they are called, we are compelled to say: a vast movement must be created which will help the young workers to escape from their distress in order that they may be able to work out their destiny.

In the face of all the problems besetting the life of the young workers, it must be admitted that the religious and moral, social and family formation of the young workers is impossible without an organisation which gathers together all the young workers from the time they leave school until they enter the adult associations. It must be an organisation which does away with isolation and abandonment, which helps them to choose a trade, which prepares them for their life as workers, watches over them at work and on the way to work, helps them to form themselves, to defend and protect themselves; which studies all the problems of their life as young workers. It must be an organisation which, in brief, assumes all the social services necessary for the education, the safeguarding, and defence of the young workers. This movement is the Y.C.W.,” which gathers together the wage-earning young men and girls from 14 to 25 years of age.


Jocism Spreads to English Speaking Lands (Advocate, Thursday 23 March 1939, page 25) (Trove)

Catholic Social Action During 1936-1937


In the Year Book for 1936-1937, published by the International Labour Office, there is a full summary of Catholic activity in social matters throughout the world (pp. 28-35). The International Labour Office was established in Geneva on January 10, 1920, with the benediction of the League of Nations. Fifty-six States have joined the organisation, whose object is to improve world labour conditions.

THE following is a “summary of the summary,” which gives some idea of the Church’s social activity throughout the world, as seen by the I.L.O.


The Bishops’ collective pastoral condemning social injustice. . . . The work of the Catholic Workers’ College. . . . The C.S.G. Summer School at Oxford. . . The beginnings of the Young Christian Workers’ movement. Their work for the young unemployed in Bristol.


The Belgian Episcopate protests against the falsities of modern life, and calls for justice and truth and love and true freedom among the workers. . . . Belgian Catholics assemble at Malines to discuss social, economic and moral problems arising out of modern conditions. They agree on the need for reform of limited companies and the banks. . . . At Louvain there is a fortnight’s congress, at which the importance of curbing financial dictatorships was emphasised. . . . New centres for the unemployed set up by Jocistes.


Messages from nearly all the dioceses calling for goodwill in attempting to solve the social problems. . . . The repeated attacks on social and economic injustices by Mgr. Salieges, Archbishop of Toulouse, by Cardinal Lienart, and by Cardinal Verdier. . . . The efforts of the Jocistes to obtain better wages and working conditions for young workers, and their ceaseless attempts to improve the lot of the unemployed.


The celebration by 5000 Jocistes of their first national congress. , . . The establishment of social centres for the unemployed.


Cardinal Innitzer’s vigorous attacks on those who destroy social justice, and those” commercial firms who make profit out of the distress of the people. . . . The establishing of Christliche Arbeiter Jugend, which corresponds to J.O.C. and Y.C.W., in four dioceses.


The second International Congress of Catholic Journalists at Rome. Cardinal Pacelli, in addressing these journalists of 28 countries, asked them to fight the anti-Christian ideas in the world, among which he included:— “The maxims and practices of plutocratic Liberalism which, ignoring or despising the intrinsic dignity of labour, and considering the worker as a tool for profit rather than a subject for justice, persevere in shackling, or at least hampering, the organised and progressive redemption of the proletariat.”


A feminine branch of the J.O.C. is established, and there are now 46 branches of J.O.C. in the country.


Mgr. Teodorowicz and Mgr. Twardowski call upon Catholics to interfere in social and economic spheres in order to alleviate the miseries of the working-class.


Cardinal Pacelli’s interview with President Roosevelt, at which reference was made to the President’s high regard for “Quadragesimo Anno.” The great celebrations in May, under the patronage of all the Bishops and Archbishops, on the anniversary of the social Encyclicals of Leo XIII. and Pius XI., when the social teaching of the Church was discussed and explained all over the continent, through pulpit, press and radio. The National Catholic Welfare Conference tries strenuously to obtain relief for rural landowners and to develop distributive co-operative societies and mutual credit societies. The Catholic Conference of Industrial Problems holds sessions in Chicago, Schenectady, Philadelphia, Washington and San Francisco, The Jociste movement is started among Portuguese workers.


The Jocistes, under the guidance of the religious authorities, organise relief for young, unemployed persons, and plan means by which their spare time may be used.


A first and most successful social week is held at Rio de Janeiro (June 8-12). There is considerable increase in the general interest on social subjects, and courses and lectures are instituted. The Jociste movement develops strongly in all the Brazilian States.


The activities of the Economic and Social Secretariat, set up barely three years ago, now cover the whole country. The organisation institutes a vast enquiry, in 22 dioceses, into the conditions of urban and rural workers. Under its auspices, a culture week, which deals exclusively with social problems, is held at Santiago-del-Estero.


Catholic Social Action During 1936-1937 (Advocate, Thursday 20 January 1938, page 27) (Trove)

Impressive Spectacle In Paris.

“MANY times indeed, have I mounted the pulpit in Notre Dame; many times have I seen affecting spectacles in its naves; but I make bold to say that never have I seen a finer one.”

Such were the words pronounced by His Eminence Jean Cardinal Verdier, Archbishop of Paris, in the course of a ceremony when, to use the Cardinal’s own words, “French Jocism was baptized.”

By “Jocism” is meant the spirit of the organisation of the young Christian workers, ” La Jeunesse Ouvriere Chretienne,” familiarly known in French-speaking countries as the “JOC.” The term Jociste is regularly used to describe members of the association.

The first national congress of the JOC, just held at Paris, proved most successful. About 8,000 delegates from all the cities and many small towns, the majority of them factory employees, came to the Capital for the congress.

Special Groups Formed.

For some years there functioned in France an organisation of young Catholics known as la Jeunesse Catholique Francaise. In order to improve its methods of apostleship and organisation, it was decided to organise specialised movements for industrial workers, farmers, students and seamen.

Perhaps because, unfortunately, they must live in factory neighborhoods, too many workers are ignorant of their faith. Nevertheless, the Jocistes give every evidence of apostolic zeal and high courage.

Without neglecting for a moment the defence of their material interests and the vindication of their group, they devote themselves to combating the irreligion about them, to dispel hostile prejudices, to defend their comrades against the injustices and the attacks and brutalities which are frequently encountered in the shops.

Methods to be used to exercise a beneficent influence in the factory, workshop and office were the subject of discussion at the congress. Should Jocistes work individually and discreetly? Would it be better to work in unison, that is by means of an avowed, official existence of a group in each factory exercising action in common?

The latter plan a priori, seemed more appealing. All the members of the group would co-operate, would assist one another, reciprocally strengthening their action. But in discussion it was brought out that opposing elements would find it easier to take offence at collective action and that certain employers, even among Catholics, would be disturbed over collective activities and would demand their cessation.

It was decided that the method followed should be determined by individual or particular circumstances, since it was felt important that neither fellow-workers nor employers be offended. The essential point, in either event, it was decided, is that members of the JOC should always be the best of workers, obliging and considerate of their comrades.

Even though Jocistes act individually in the shop, it was pointed out that the members in the same line of work and in the same parish should meet frequently for the purpose of mutual encouragement and advice.

Another interesting session was devoted to the consideration of modes of action for a Jociste group reorganised in an industrial community. The kinds of service members can render to their parish were discussed also.

Attendance at all the sessions was so large that finally it was decided to hold duplicate sessions and other halls were secured to meet the need. The largest auditorium in Paris, at the Trocadero, could not accommodate all those who wished to attend the closing session. About 2,500 youths had to go to the basement of a neighboring church, where the speakers came to them after addressing the assembly at the Trocadero.

Besides the French Jocistes, the congress was attended by members of the Catholic Action organizations, directors of – the Christian labor unions, and representatives oi the Belgian, Spanish and Swiss Jocistes.

The founder of the Belgian organisation, Canon Cardijn, delivered a particularly stirring address.

“I predict for you the conquest of the working class,” he declared. “It is jrou who will accomplish this. For

you are the real revolution, not that administered with the blows of cudgels, but the revolution of souls, not that which destroys, but that which builds.


French Jocism Baptised (Southern Cross, Friday 8 February 1935, page 12) (Trove)