Young Christian Worker Groups Sweep Western Europe
In a working man's family of Hal, Brabant, Belgium, it happened one evening—some forty years ago—that a young schoolboy, Joseph Cardijn, confided to his mother his ardent desire to be a priest of Christ.
They were not rich in that household; there were many mouths to feed. No matter ; they would work longer and harder.
One day the young seminarist was summoned to the bedside of his dying father. To him he made the vow to sacrifice his whole life to the salvation of the working class.
Soon, at Lacken, he became vicaire of a parish. In this working class parish the problem of wage-earning youth forced itself upon him. He saw the abandonment, the failing away of 600,000 young workers of his country, of millions all ovLr the world.
WORKERS BEGIN TO ACT
'An idea germi It took root in his mind. It was the solution, the only one. The remainder, all the remainder, was nothing more than the " merely useful " at the service of the solution.
The young wage-earners were to be saved by young wage-earners. The young workers must join together in a strong and stable organisation in which they would train each other, help each other, love each other, uphold each other, defend each other.
M. L'Abbe Cardijn set himself to the work. . . . He would never give in. . . .
With several young workmen he began to form "study circles." Together they studied the life, the needs of young wage-earners.
They multiplied investigations, founded syndicates of apprentices, agitated for better working conditions, enrolled more and tore young men, organis sci them, trained them—but the War came. The young men went out in uniform, carrying guns. Abbe Cardijn was arrested by the Germans, put in prison on the charge of espionage. During long months of imprisonment, he could reflect, meditate, determine more and more distinctly the :solution that was to remedy the distress of young wage-earners.
WAR ENDS: LIFE BEGINS
In 1919 the movement took up full life and activity. A journal was issued, La Jeunesse sandicanate. It was badly printed, and 31' only a few pages. The first number 31rculated 300 copies. The movement spread. Groups were created in Brussels, Liege, Namur . . . others in Flanders. The First Federation was created in Brussels (1920). Each week a " Circle if Central Studies" was held. in June, 1924, the organisation .nlarged its programme. It saw the listress of the whole life of young vorkers, physical, intellectual, moral Lnd religious. Therefore it changed its itle : it became the Jeunesse Ouvriere larettenne (Young Christian Workers), ,nd its journal proudly bore the title of 'eunesse Ouvriere. From that moment t was the conquest of the country at erge which had begun, and irresistibly be conquest went forward. In September, 1924, at the Congress f the Catholic Association of Belgian routh at Charleroi, 4,000 young workaen massed together in a large hall oard the Abbe Cardijn open out to hem the ideal of gaining working outh.
In six months 150 sections were 3unded. The movement was recognised by the lishops as the Organisation of Catholic .ction for Young Christian workers. In March, 1925, the Pope received Abbe Cardijn in private audience.
On April 18 and 19 the first General Congress of the J.O.C. (600 delegates) was held in Brussels. September 24 there was the first week of studies at Feed.
J.O.C. sweet on its conquest of Belgium and began the attack on France.
At Clichy, four working lads, ten workgirls, an indefatigable priest who carried all before him (M. l'Abbe Guerin), installed the J.O.C. in the Red outskirts of Peris.
In Lille, Marseilles, Bordeaux, Strasbourg, hundreds of young workers grouped themselves in J.O.C. The tempo of conquest quickens.
BIG DAYS FOR J.O.C.
September, 1929: 1,500 Belgian Jocists go to Rome to receive the Holy Father's Blessing.
April 27, 1930: 6,000 Jocists take part in the Fifth National Congress at Brussels.
1931: Despite the economic crisis already weighing heavily on the working Masses, 6,000 Jociste and Kajotters (the Flemish Jocists) go to Lourdes, accom partied by 160 invalid members. 1935 is the year of the tenth anniversary of the J.O.C. A wave of enthusiasm sweeps Belgium.
August 25, 1935: 100.000 Jocists and syro pathisers assemble in the stadium of Heysel for the first World Congress. Delegates are sent from seventeen countries.
During the time of festival for Berton Novarum the Jociste Centrals is inaugurated. It comprises, besides the offices of the General Secretaries of the J.O.C., an office of technical direction and a labour exchange for young workers, a home for young workers, restaurant, cafe, reading room, chapel, library, recreation hall, and numerous assembly halls. The statue of a Jocist (nearly 23 feet high) dominates the Centraie. It is the figure of a young docker, expressive of vigour and energy, brandishing with outstretched arm the Jocist badge. To celebrate the opening of the Centrale a banquet is offered to 200 of the young Belgian unemployed.
June, 1936, leaders of the J.O.C. were received in audience by the Minister of Labour; during the period of industrial strikes.
In Switzerland the First National Congress grouped 20,000 participants. 1937, the Paschal Campaign and a campaign of meetings in the cause of morality at work is organised. The 60 meetings which are held number gatherings of 150,000.
July 18, 1937, the Second World Congress of the 1.0.C. takes place in Paris. The race course of the Pare des Princes is manifestly too small to contain, even closely pressed, the tens of thousands of young workmen and workgirls come from every corner of France.
The Belgian Jocist delegation is 3,500 strong.
TO ERASE TILE INDICTMENT J.O.C., according to the nature and aim of its organisation, fulfils in regard to all young workers a threefold function:
It is a school where they are formed ' amongst them, by them, for them,' to the accomplishment of all the duties of their state, to the pursuit of their destiny, and to the conquest of the environ
ment where they work and where they live. " 2 It is a social service which organises for them all educational and technical services necessary and useful for their training and for the gaining of their companions. " 3 It is a representative body which speaks, takes measures, and presents petitions in the name of the young workers."
(Manual of the J.O.C., page 212.) The J.O.C. exists to make inapplicable that indictment of industrialism uttered by Pope Pius XI: "Inert niatter comes out of the workshop ennobled whilst men are there corrupted and degraded."