Y.C.W. Rally in Belgium Call for World-wide Movement

A call for a world-wide Young Christian Workers’ movement, which will operate among the masses in factories, mines and offices was made by Canon Cardijn, founder of the movement, when he addressed the rally held in Brussels recently to celebrate the organisation’s twentieth anniversary.

The rally was one of 200 held throughout the country to mark the anniversary. Among the 10,000 who attended a meeting in Ghent were English, French and Dutch representatives. After the meetings two days were devoted to. international study groups at which many foreign delegates were present.


Canon Cardijn gave a most stirring speech which opened with a challenge to the members as to whether they were prepared to accept and live in the world of barbarism and slavery which the present regime imposed. He spoke of the crusade that was needed to raise the dignity of the worker and continued:

“Are you ready to lead this crusade? Will you be Tonnets and Garcets who died at Dachau? Will you be the giants of the Faith? Will you be the builders, justifying the hopes which the J.O.C. places in you? Will you make the world accept the statute of the Worker Youth—that statute of liberation where it is not a question of any printed words, but of something alive expressing itself through your very presence?


“Remember the first thirteen years of the J.O.C. Remember 1912 and 1935, when J.O.C. leaders were then giants. Inspired by faith alone, they discovered those tremendous truths—the divine dignity and the eternal destiny of every worker. Every worker has his own divine vocation here on earth and by this vocation no one can take his place. Your task is to build a Christian world. The hour of the deproletarianisation of the working class has come; the hour of the real revolution has rung.

“There can be no question of a sacristy or drawing-room J.O.C. We have no use for an instrument which works outside the masses. Jocism must be within the factories, the mines, the offices, the workers’ quarters. . . . This meeting is the decisive event in the history of the world, for it alone can transform the masses so that they can continue Christ’s mission.


Mr. Pat Keegan, Britain’s delegate at the .meeting, described Canon’ Cardijn as the best ambassador whom Belgium could send abroad and Jocism as the best export from Belgium. He promised the meeting that they would build a world J.O.C.

In a message written for the anniversary, Cardinal Van Roey spoke of the “conquering apostolate” of the Jocistis, the fruitful work they had done for the young workers and of the openly Christian spirit and Catholic sense with which they had always been animated and which they had always tried to spread in society, especially among the workers’ families.

“Jocists,” he added, “will strive to establish in the torn world that peace which is so desired through their apostolic action on minds and hearts, through the dissemination of the Christian principles of justice, equity and charity, through establishing the security and ennobling of work by the concord and collaboration of the social classes.”


Y.C.W. Rally in Belgium Call for World-wide Movement (Advocate, Wednesday 26 September 1945, page 7) (Trove)

Tenth Anniversary of the J.O.C.

On July 18, in Paris, the “Jeunesse Ouvriere Chretienne” (Christian Working Youth), known as the J.O.C., celebrated its tenth anniversary. This remarkable movement of Catholic Action, which has been so enthusiastically commended by the Holy Father, has already spread from Belgium and France to Africa, Canada, South America, and recently to England and the Far East. The Jocists provide many lessons for Australian Catholic youth. What is Jocism? How did it begin? What are its aims?

IN 1912, a young Flemish priest, Joseph Cardijn, born of a working-class family on November 13, 1882, was appointed curate at Laeken (a parish in one of the suburbs of Brussels). He turned his attention immediately to the poorest sections of the working-class. He applied himself to following closely their conditions of living. He resolved to dedicate himself entirely to the welfare and the re-Christianisation of the workingclass. In the course of his education for the priesthood, he studied sociological problems and spent his holidays in England in order to observe the methods and organisation of the British Labour Party.

As a result of his investigations, he realised that workers in general feel deeply their inferiority to other classes. He soon concluded that it is not sufficient to take up the defence of the workers. One must first make them conscious of the dignity of their vocation, and give them enthusiasm, so that they may enjoy the fruits of life, and thus produce a lasting effect upon them.


In April, 1912, he grouped together seven young girls about 13 or 14 years of age. They hardly knew how to read or write, and were at work from 7 in the morning until 7 at night for a very poor wage. He convinced them that they could help their fellow workers, but for that they must train themselves to become leaders in order to exercise a decisive influence over their companions.

A group of girl workers was formed and was soon followed by the formation of a group of young men who heard and obeyed the call of a leader. Minute investigations were carried on for a further period of two years by the young men and the young girls. The activities of the movement, both apostolic and social, drew inspiration from their results.

The World War did not interfere with the zeal of the promoter in continuing his work. He succeeded in keeping his movement alive in spite of countless difficulties.


In 1917 Fr. Cardijn was sent to prison by the Germans for his patriotism. In 1918 he was imprisoned again. Shortly before the Feast of the Sacred Heart, an ecclesiastical authority visited the home where the girl workers were carrying on their activities in the absence of their leader. He found them praying that Canon Cardijn might be released oil the Feast of the Sacred Heart (June It), 1918). Their prayer was answered, as he was released on that very day. His whole apostleship has been marked by similar incidents.

At the end of the war the movement spread gradually through the whole of Belgium. The founder of the work improved and increased the means suitable for the formation of the young workers.


At Easter, 1924, after 12 years’ experience, he gave a definite Constitution to the organisation, and its present title, namely, “Jeunesse Ouvriere Chretienne” (Young Christian Workers’ Guild), commonly known as “J.O.C.,” from which “Jocisme” and “Jociste” are derived.

On February 1, 1925, the young women workers adopted the Constitution of the J.O.C. The name of the girls’ section of the J.O.C. is “Jeunesse Ouvriere Chretienne Feminine” (Young Christian Women Workers’ Guild), or “J.O.C.F.”

All young men and women workers or future workers between the ages of 14 and 25 may become members of the J.O.C. or J.O.C.F. (In Belgium, education is compulsory up to the age of 14 years. From November, 1935, the age limit was raised to 16 in certain large towns.)

The J.O.C.’s programme is founded on the Faith and on the present social structure. The worker should be given every facility to realise his eternal destiny, in the coal-mines, workshops, offices, at home, in the exercise of his rights of citizenship and in his family life.

It is evident the present industrial life prevents rather than assists individuals in attaining their eternal destiny and in practising their Faith.

For this reason the J.O.C. decided:

(1) To undertake the complete formation of the young workers.

(2) To transform progressively and methodically the social life of the working-classes, to promote and facilitate the spread of religion and the reform of the social order.

(3) To create organisations to defend and help the young workers in every respect.

The J.O.C. insists on the necessity of prayer and of the Sacraments. Furthermore, it takes every opportunity of impressing members with the value of conforming their daily lives to their divine destiny, thus working out their salvation by every action of their day.


“O Lord Jesus, I offer You my day’s work, my labour, my trials, my joys and my sorrows. Teach me and all my fellow-workers to think with You, and to live in .union with You.

“Grant me grace to love You with all my heart and to serve You with my whole strength.

“May Your reign be established in the factory, in the workshop and in the office, as well as in our homes.

“May the souls of workers who are to-day often in danger find refuge in Your grace.

“And by the mercy of God, may the souls of the workers who die in the honourable discharge of their duties rest in peace.”

The prayer is followed by invocations to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and to Our Lady, Queen of the Apostles.

There are, in Belgium, 2204 parochial sections, consisting of 85,000 young workers (boys and girls together), or about 15 per cent, of the total number of young working people of both sexes between 14 and 25 years of age who are occupied in industry and commerce. The parochial groups are united in 68 regional federations. Every parochial section and every regional federation must adapt the rules of the J.O.C. to the local and occupational requirements.


Since the J.O.C. is essentially a lay apostolic organisation, it is affiliated to Catholic Action in Belgium, and a chaplain is appointed to each parochial section and to each federation. The office of the chaplain is important, and one that requires great discretion. He instructs, inspires and advises. His function may be compared to that of the heart in the human body; although unseen, it is the centre of vitality, on which the smallest cells depend.

The chaplain’s task is to discover the young workers fit to become leaders and educators of the working-class. He must form them, help them, on the lines and – according to the methods of the J.O.C. By virtue of his office, he is a member of the directing committee, whether parochial or regional. The chaplain approves of the list of members who are elected to constitute the parochial committee. This committee may be re-elected each year.


In 1936, all sections in Belgium studied the conditions of working-class families and the solution of their religious problems. The results of these regional meetings are examined during a. national study week held in one of the Catholic secondary schools.

Besides this, the most promising members are given a three-day retreat each year. The response of the Jocists to these retreats and their spiritual benefits are such that priests who organise them consider them the most fruitful of their priestly functions.

The J.O.C. has its own press. Six million copies of various periodicals were either sold or distributed in Belgium in 1936. During Lent, 1936, 2,500,000 copies of a special paper were issued to all the workers inviting them to return to their Easter duty. All these papers were distributed by the Jocists who take this opportunity of getting into contact with workers.

Public entertainments are held which are intended rather for educational purposes than for amusement. These are the chief means used by the J.O.C. to raise the mental culture, the religious and moral life of the young workers. As to the financial side, the J.O.C. is independent. It derives means from fees paid by members, by the sale of its periodicals, educative calendars, etc., and by organising concerts. Each department contrives to increase the resources of the movement on business lines.

The J.O.C. is not only a school; it supports its members by means of the diverse institutions which it has created. It advises and influences their choice of a career, inculcates habits of economy, defends their interests whenever and however it may be necessary; it concerns itself with social work, such as the health of young workers, labour risks, etc., while directing its members towards the Christian Trades Unions. The J.O.C. has also formed camps for the unemployed.

The 300,000 workers who have passed through the ranks of the J.O.C. constitute the elite of the working-class and many of these are leaders in the religious and social institutions of Belgium.


Travellers who have been privileged to see the Jocists at work in Belgium and France tell us that to hear the J.O.C. speakers announce their message to the workers is to be fired by a new spirit of Christian conquest. It seems to set one’s faith on fire. The story of the first ten years of the movement is the evidence of its profound vitality and proof that the working classes can shake off the materialism which follows in the train of industrialism.

It is not merely a question of figures, though they are impressive enough. What matters is the change of heart which has been effected in ten years. The Jocists are working on real values. They have come to grips with the vital problems of the day. They are out to Christianise their milieu. It is only necessary to listen to their active members to appreciate the depth of their understanding of their own class and its problems. The Jocist mission is to those members of the working classes who are capable of recognising the workers’ destiny but who have been led astray by false hopes; being themselves of that class, they are quick to : understand and sympathise with the difficulties and disillusionment and to restore a true sense of values.

100,000 MEMBERS.

This is a record of the actual situation of the Jocistes (including the movement both for men and women) in France, according to official statistics supplied by the two secretaries. The J.O.C. and the J.O.C.F. (the organisation for women) number 100,000 young workers.

In 1927, when the first section was founded at Clichy, there were four. In that same year nine federations came into existence, numbering 40 sections. In 1937 the J.O.C. comprises 86 Federations with 734 affiliated sections and 800 in course of formation.

The J.O.C.F. comprises 96 Federations with 650 sections and 700 in course of formation.

The newspaper, “Le Jeunesse Ouvriere,” which had a circulation of 2000 in 1927, now sells over 100,000 fortnightly. “La Jeunesse Ouvriere Feminine” has a regular circulation of 100,000.


Those few figures give some indication of the progress of the J.O.C. movement in France in its first ten years. There are also the thousands of study circles held each week all over the country, and special courses organised each year for the leaders.

It would be quite wrong to think of the organisation as a matter of meetings and study circles only. In fact, they merely round off the real and continuous work of the movement, which is to give to its members a religious, moral, and intellectual formation.


Both the men’s and women’s organisations offer their help at an early stage. They offer opportunities tb boys and girls while still at school to learn something of the world in which they will have to earn their livelihood. The official papers, “My Future” and “Towards the Future,” are scattered liberally among schools, and every opportunity is taken for personal help and instruction for boys and girls before they “reach school-leaving age. Advice is also given to parents so that they may help their children to find suitable work.


In November, 1934, Canon Cardijn presented to the Pope a record of Jocist work.

The Holy Father has given his august approval to the movement. He hopes it will extend by adapting itself to the varying situations in each country, conforming itself to the wishes of the Bishops. In a letter addressed in the name of the Pope to Canon Cardijn, Cardinal Pacelli, Secretary of State, writes: “The J.O.C. aims at Christianising working conditions through its organisation and its methods, which are exactly adapted to that purpose, with a view to gain to Our Lord Jesus Christ the souls of the young workers the more easily. It is thus seen that the thought expressed by his Holiness Pius XI. in the encyclical, ‘Quadragesimo Anno’: ‘the first apostles of the working men must themselves be workers,’ has been well understood.”

Stating in January, 1936, that the future was threatening because of Bolshevism, our Holy Father added that few people are fully aware of the power of the diabolic zeal of those who are spreading Communism, but that he had confidence in the conquering zeal of the Jocists.

In a letter dated August 19, 1935, from Castel Gandolfo, to his Eminence Cardinal Van Roey, his Holiness Pius XI. wrote: “In thinking of the J.O.C. Congress on August 25,1935, Our heart exults with joy and rises gratefully towards God. . . . Stopping for an instant to-day to survey the road already trodden, and to consider the work already done, the J.O.C. cannot but recognise the power of God. . . .”

The J.O.C., with its militant faith, its crusading spirit and its modern methods, sets about its apostolate as did the first Christians among the pagans in Rome. It may well be proud of the work it has accomplished among the working class in the last ten years. On Sunday last, while the world’s press was describing the Paris Exhibition, 60,000 young Catholic workers assembled in triumphal congress at Paris passed unnoticed.


Tenth Anniversary of the J.O.C. (Advocate, Thursday 22 July 1937, page 9) (Trove)

A Gallant New Crusade

Saving the World Through Youth

BRUSSELS, August 25.


THIS is an age of youth movements; of youthful Fascism, Hitlerism, Communism; of Young Australia, movements, Young India movements, and etc., etc., but it has been left to little Belgium to inaugurate a young Christian movement which, in the ten years of its existence, has girt together with bands as strong as steel young Christian working men and working women throughout the whole world. I speak of the Jocistes who, to-day in Brussels, held the most amazing and most genuinely moving demonstration I have ever seen.

The word Jociste, by the way, is formed (as most of you will know) from the initial letters of Jeunesse Ouvriere Chretienne (Christian Working Youth), the chief aim of whose organisation—which has branches in practically every country except our own—is the rechristianisation of the working classes ! At the moment its principal activities are directed towards the building and bastioning throughout the world of a young army whose solid, united front may prove an invincible barrier to such disruptive forces as irreligion and Communism; but the methods adopted for this building and bastioning need not be enumerated here, since a brief description of the demonstration which to-day in Brussels opened the first International Jociste Congress is the sole purpose of this article.


This Congress of Youth, or rather the inauguration of this Congress, recalls in more ways than one the age of chivalry —and paiticularly the chivalry of the Crusades, for the members of the J;O.C. may, in every sense of the word, be said to be Crusaders. . . . Here is a well-known picture which most of you will remember—it stirred my imagination When I was very young, and, probably, stirred yours, too—in which a young squire, on the eve of receiving his knighthood, keeps watch all night before the altar upon which his armour is laid. It was a common practice in those days for earnest young squires, before being knighted, to keep this Viellee d’Armes. . . . Last night in the churches of Belgium just such a vigil was kept, and, hour after hour, young Jocistes took it in turn to mount guard before the Blessed Sacrament. Outside the quiet churches very different preparations were going on. All through the night trains hurried in and out of Brussels, two huge stations, depositing their seemingly endless cargoes of young working men from England, Holland, Spain, from Canada, Portugal, Switzerland, India, Africa, France. From France, at half-past five in the morning arrived a contingent of 1300 youngsters who marched straight off to the Church of Notre Dame de la Chapelle, where the Cardinal Archbishop of Paris was waiting to say Mass for them!


Not the least part of this day’s celebrations, by the way, has been the smooth organisation of colossal crowds. One hundred thousand Jocistes arrived in Brussels, and Brussels was hardly aware of the fact. Every single one was comfortably accommodated, and everyone knew exactly what was expected of him (or her). This morning, in their various groups, they attended early Mass, received Holy Communion, and, subsequently, found breakfast prepared in nearby schools and clubs. Afterwards, valiant and young and proud, they marched to the wooded heights of Laecken, where, beneath the towering monument of Leopold I., Cardinal Van Roey celebrated High Mass. Immediately after High Mass, the congressists, together with their families and their friends (whose numbers nobody even attempted to guess) had their luncheon on the great Plain of Laecken. That pleasant ceremony over, they marched to the Heysel Stadium, where their picturesque and moving demon stratum was to begin at half-past two.

It would need a poet to describe the effect created by those hundred thousand young men wearing, according to their groups, different coloured shirts, and the ten thousand young women in brightly coloured pinafores and white blouses, all kneeling before an altar which was made lovely by the surrounding forest of banners whose glorious colours reminded one of the knights of old who valued beauty even in the panoply of war. And it would need a Memling or a Van Eyck to paint the picture they made as, beneath a cloudless sky, they carried their banners there were, literally, thousands of them, and they were made of shimmering satin and velvet, in rich deep tones of rose and blue and green and red—to the stadium. There, another miracle of organisation was worked—for it must be remembered that the majority of congressists had arrived in Brussels during the night, too late to take part in yesterday’s rehearsals. After the arrival of the important personages, the Prime Minister of Belgium, several ambassadors, three Cardinals and some two hundred prelates, the demonstration began with a picturesque trooping of flags. This was followed by a Jociste song, and then by the speaking choir which proclaimed the aims and ideals of Jocism.

A rostrum was erected in the centre of the arena, and there the two leaders of the choir—one speaking Flemish, the other French—directed the proceedings. They were surrounded by some five hundred trained youths, who all the time accompanied the choir with appropriate actions, whilst on the surrounding benches sat massed Jocistes from every land, adding the thunder of their voices to this mighty profession of faith.


I shall quote only a few extracts to give you some idea (if possible) of the spoken songs which, for close on three hours, held that huge audience spellbound. . . . One is called the Chorus of Revolt. It begins in Flemish:

“Hard is’t labeur

Hard! Hard! Hard!”

Those two lines need no translation, but the ones which follow bear little resemblance to our own language, so I must give my own rough translation of the Frencli version:

“Pitiless masters burden us with work.”

“Like a yoke work weighs upon our shoulders.”

“We break beneath its weight.”

“We die beneath its weight.”

1st Chorister: “Workers we are, not slaves.”

Choir (100,000 male voices) shouting: “Slaves!”

1st Chorister: “Our backs are breaking.”

Choir (shouting): “Slaves!”

1st Chorister: “We dare not lift our eyes.”

Choir (shouting): “Slaves!”

1st Chorister: “We are outcasts. We are pariahs. We are the cogs in a merciless machine.”

Choir: “We are finished with. life. We have had enough of life. Life has beaten us,” . . . and so on. This lament is then followed by the Jociste’ challenge to liberty, to manhood and to hope. Accompanied by Theban trumpets the young voices proclaim their faith and pride in the J.O.C. Then the chorus of Revolt asks—

“Who goes there?”

The crowd answers: “The Jocistes.”

Chorus of Revolt: “Jocistes! Who are the Jocistes?”

1st Chorister: “Jocistes, who are you?”

The Crowd: “We are youth!” 1st Jociste: “Jocistes, who are you?” The Crowd: “We are the working Youth.”

1st Jociste: “Jocistes, who are you?”

The Crowd: “We are the Christian Working Youth.”

It seemed as if the fervour of that declaration would shatter the blue dome of heaven. And so it goes on. The Jocistes are asked what they wish to become, and why. Their answer is that they want to Christianise their work; they want to be pure and strong; that they want to glory in it, not to hate it. The Chorus of Revolt mutters:

“You are outcasts, just as we are. You are slaves, just as we are. You are miserable working men, as we are— nothing more.” At this the leader cries:

“Jocistes, say the name of Him Who, like you, was a working Man.”

A hundred thousand voices answer: “Jesus Christ!”

Other songs follow, and the burden of them all is this: that work is a noble and creative thing, a thing into which the Jocistes must put their whole hearts and their whole strength in order to support their families, to bring prosperity to their country, and to win back the world to Christ. That statement, of whose truth the Jocistes are utterly convinced, is no idle boast. Less than ten years ago they numbered a paltry few hundreds ardent young Belgians struggling against what, even to them, must have seemed insuperable obstacles, but determined to answer generously (quixotically, it seemed to their critics) the Holy Father’s call to Catholic Action— and to-day one-tenth of a million representatives (mark you!) from every nation bear eloquent testimony of health and strength and powerful growth. There must be something magnetic about self-sacrifice. There must, I think, be something pretty big and splendid deep down beneath “our tainted nature” that responds to the call to immolate itself—when the call is properly made! In every human being there must be a strong urge to do grand things and good things, for it is a well-established fact that the criminal has yet to hang who is not possessed of qualities which, did they know of them should make the more law-abiding citizens blush for very shame. All that is needed is the genius of direction-and the Jocistes have found just such a genius in their leader, Canon Chardyn Membership of the J.O.C. is not an easy thing. It is a daily battle. Battle against those who promise—and can give—the means to make life easier than it i s-battle against those who make fun of Jociste ideals and Catholic principles and, hardest of all, battle against beloved parents and friends who think the whole idea is a little demode and farfetched, and that modern youth should spend its leisure on the beach or tennis court, in dance halls and cinemas, instead of giving up valuable time to the service of the J.O.C.—which, by the way, provides its members with every facility for bathing, tennis, dancing, cinemas, etc.!

But, to return to the demonstration of this afternoon. Every word and every action was directed towards one central idea—namely, that the world can be saved only through a mighty revolution of youth determined to destroy utterly forever the forces of atheism, nihilism, and materialism; and, with all its heart and all its soul, to fight for the restoration of the only true kingdom—the kingdom of Christ. “But,” Canon Chardyn was careful to point out in his address at the end of the afternoon, “though this demonstration has been neither a declamation, a play, nor a concert, but a public confession of Jociste faith in the Jociste ideal, it is not here, in the midst of music and pageantry, that you must look for the true spirit of Jocism. That spirit is to be found only in the factories, the mines, ths workrooms, the shops, the kitchens and the offices where Jociste boys and Jociste girls live night and day the hard and hidden realisation of their great crusade.”


Then the Canon endsd his address with these words:

“You have shown to-day that in the whole world there is but one J.O.C., and that it knows no such thin – ; as hatred, violence, egoism, or jealousy. It has but one moving force—unselfish love for all young labourers and for all mankind irrespactive of class, race, or country. To all wars and threats of war, the J.O.C. will oppose its unshakeable determination for peace, the only true peace, which is the peace of Jesus Christ. . . . Jocistes, I send you forth now to your homes, to your workshops, to your various countries with only one command, one watchword—


“Conquest of yourselves.

“Conquest of your comrades.

“Conquest of your workshops.

“Conquest of your families, to-day and to-morrow.

“Jocistes, be the glory of the Church, be the honour of your country, be the hope of your age. … I give you my blessing!


No comment is necessary. To all those who have eyes to see, it must be clear as day that Jocism is a lively and constructive thing, and all those who are not blinded by prejudice must agree that it is not only a finer and more noble thing than Communism, its arch enemy—but a more natural, more friendly, and infinitely happier solution to this world’s troubles. In short, it is a daring and audacious attempt t» establish Christianity—as the Founder of Christianity meant that it should be!

Pray heaven it may succeed.



A Gallant New Crusade (Advocate, Thursday 17 October 1935, page 6) (Trove)