The Young Christian Workers (YCW-JOC) movement was founded by Joseph Cardijn in Belgium in the early 20th century as a response by the Church to the problems of industrialization and the growing working class.
Approved by Pope Pius XI in 1925, the movement became a model of “specialized Catholic Action” with its own specific method best known by the emblematic expression “see, judge, act.” By 1939, it had spread to nearly 50 countries.
The movement reached the USA during the 1930s by several routes, including seminarians returning from studies at Louvain, contacts with the JOC in French-speaking Canada, backing from the Chicago Archdiocese, and the work of Holy Cross priests from the University of Notre Dame. Joseph Cardijn himself visited the USA on several occasions during that period.
An early leader of the US YCW, Mary Irene Zotti, documented the rise and the eventual fall of the movement in her book, A Time of Awakening, The Young Christian Worker Story in the United States, 1938 to 1970.
Other specialized Catholic Action movements based on the YCW, including the Young Christian Students (YCS) and the Christian Family Movement (CFM) also flourished during this period.
More recently the YCW method has experienced a revival in the USA, particularly among the Hispanic communities who have brought it from Latin America, where it also formed the heart of the Basic Christian Communities movement. The recent speech by Bishop of San Diego, Robert McElroy to the US Regional World Meeting of Popular Movements in Modesto, California, was a highlight of the renewed interest in the Cardijn method.
At a global level, the Cardijn method has also experienced a resurgence of interest under the pontificate of Pope Francis, who has often insisted on the need to bridge the gap between faith and life. Pope Francis’s recent encyclical Laudato Si’ has also illustrated the applicability of the Cardijn method as part of a response to environmental issues.