Cardijn’s consecration to the workers

Bangkok, 25 May 2003

Centenary of Cardijn’s Commitment to the Working Class

24 May 1903: A telegram informs Joseph Cardijn, then a 20 year old seminarian in Belgium preparing his final exams in philosophy, that his father is dying.

“I left at once,” he would write many years later, “and on entering the room where my poor father lay dying, I knelt beside him and received his blessing from his old, wrinkled hands, worn by ceaseless toil. Before that man who was so valiant, so great, I swore to give myself entirely, to die for the working masses.”

One hundred years later we want to remember Cardijn’s consecration of his life to the workers of the world, a vow which led directly to the foundation of the Young Christian Workers (YCW) movement in 1925, now a world-wide movement.

Across the years and decades, Cardijn’s commitment has also inspired countless other initiatives which have blossomed across the globe and which can be recognised instantly by their adoption of the famous “see, judge, act” methodology.

Certainly Cardijn did not spring from nowhere. He himself often proclaimed his indebtedness to the 19th century pioneers of Catholic and Christian social action across Europe: radical priests such as Félicité de Lamennais, Henri Lacordaire, Alphonse Gratry, Adolf Kolping, Bishop Ketteler and Adolf Daens as well as lay apostles from Frédéric Ozanam and Léon Harmel to Léon Ollé-Laprune and Marc Sangnier. Nor did he hesitate to look beyond the Catholic Church and he was filled with admiration for the English Christian socialist trade unionist, Ben Tillett, and carefully studied the works of Marx and others.

His genius was to draw together these various strands in the development of a new spirituality, a new ethic of conscious and responsible commitment to action for transformation of our own lives and of the world in which we live.

Joseph Cardijn was born at the end of the 19th century, the era of the European industrial revolution. At the beginning of this 21st century, we are witnesses to the globalisation of the industrial revolution which is now transforming Asia, home to 2/3 of the world’s population. In this new world context, we believe that Cardijn’s vision and commitment to workers is more relevant than ever.

As members of the Cardijn Lay Community, we want to continue his mission which was also based on Jesus’ own mission: “To bring the good news to the poor, deliver captives, let the blind see, liberate the oppressed and proclaim the year of grace of the Lord.”

In solidarity with members and former members of YCW, YCS, WMCW and other movements of the Cardijn tradition, we wish to consecrate ourselves to the workers of the world and to our common mission of liberation and human development for all.


Cardijn Lay Community International