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Cardijn's Life


Video produced by the Australian YCW


Is it natural that Cardijn always felt that the original groups of young workers that he had founded in the parish of Laeken en 1912 – 14 best incarnated the YCW ideal that is also known as the « YCW mystique ». Here is what he wrote himself in 1958:

« The most fundamental characteristic of the beginnings of the YCW ( before the first World War ) was the call to an apostolate, a total and complete apostolate for several young women workers who would train and raise up the others.

It was also the time of great apostolic demands and of great apostolic commitments: leaving a « good job » for a workshop, a factory, a dirty, repugnant, sub-human job; accepting to share meals with women workers in the workshops of factories making rabbit fur, rubber, artificial silk; or going to live in an attic in Rue Haute in the midst of an environment of prostitution ».

The story of this « golden legend » has never been written down. However, it is the only explanation for the extraordinary power of the YCW, the YCW mystique. I believe that is the essential condition of the true worker revolution. Without it, the YCW is doomed to bourgeoisification: this is perhaps the greatest present danger.

This jocist mystique, this call to a total apostolate in the only explanation for the extraordianry power of the YCW.


1882 – 13/11 Birth of Joseph Cardijn

1906 – Cardijn is ordenated priest. Travels abroad.

1912 - Cardijn, curate in Laeken. Local unions for young women workers.

1916 – 18 Cardijn imprisoned by the Germans twice.

1924 – The two organisations take the names JOC and KAJ respectively ( Young Christian Workers or YCW in English ).

1925 – Belgian YCW statutes. Cardijn meets with Pope Pius XI.

1935 - YCW in Poland. 5/6: First YCW international representative action before the International Labor Office.

1938 – Cardijn travels to Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Yugoslavia.

1939 – Preparation of the YCW world-wide pilgrimage to Rome.

5/9: Planned date for the YCW pilgrimage to Rome cancelled owing to the war.

1942 – 11/6: Cardijn and the two Belgian national presidents are arrested.

21/9: Cardijn released from prison.

1957 – 23/8 – 4/9: Rome ( Italy ) Gathering First Internatinal Council and official foundation of the IYCW.

1961 – 2-11/11: Second International Council in Rio de Janeiro ( Brasil ),

1965 – February: Cardijn is made cardinal.

30/11 – 14/12: Third International Council in Bangkok ( Thailand ).

World survey on leisure activities of young people. Plan of Action of migration, big cities.

1966 – IYCW world enquiry on leisure.

1967 – 24/7: Death of Cardijn.


More information can be found here:

IYCW International Council 2016

International Colloquy of former YCW leaders 2016