And the Dominicans…

Dominican priests also played a major role in the development of the early YCW, including some very big names such as Yves Congar and MD Chenu who lived in the Dominican convent Le Saulchoir which was located near Tournai in Belgium during the formative years of the movement.

Perhaps the first Dominican to work closely with Cardijn was Fr Ceslas Rutten OP (1875 – 1952), who was Cardijn’s superior as director of social work for the Mechelen-Brussels archdiocese. A good summary of his life here:

(Dead link)

It was Fr Rutten who launched the study of Catholic social teaching at the Mechelen seminary while Cardijn was studying there. In his doctorate on strikes in the mining industry, he developed LePlay’s observation method into a “participant observation” method by going down and working in the mines himself. He also founded the Christian Workers Union in 1905. In 1911, he published his Petit manuel d’études sociales, which he later developed into his Manuel d’Etudes et d’Action sociale (1930).

He worked closely with Cardijn in the development of the worker movement and cooperatives from 1915. Fr Rutten was also present in 1924 when Cardinal Mercier convoked Cardijn to defend the YCW.

As mentioned, the French Dominicans from Le Saulchoir were also living in Belgium at this time.

Among them were Fr AD Sertillanges, a former Sillon counsellor, who helped developed the theory of virtue ethics, including the virtue of prudence, which he analysed as “seek, judge, act“.

And as also documented previously, Yves Congar ran weekend retreats for YCW leaders during the 1930s.

Later he helped Cardijn draft his speeches to Vatican II as did Henri-Marie Feret.

Meanwhile, MD Chenu worked alongside Cardijn in the development of a theology of work.

Dominicans also played a key role in the development of the YCW in the United Kingdom and no doubt elsewhere.

Another French Dominican, Louis-Joseph Lebret founded the Jeunesse Maritime Chrétienne for young seafarers on the model of the JOC-YCW.

Worker priest, DJ Robert also recalled his involvement in the YCW, acknowledging the movement’s influence on the emergence of the worker priests.

In more recent times, South African theologian Albert Nolan was a prominent YCS chaplain.

And, no doubt in recognition of this Dominican tradition, liberation theologian and another YCS chaplain, Gustavo Gutierrez also became a Dominican in recent years.

And many more..

Stefan Gigacz


One response to “And the Dominicans…”

  1. Unknown Avatar

    Thanks for your interesting blog on Cardijn. I enjoy reading your reflections. My name is Mark James. I am a Dominican priest living and working in South Africa. You mentioned that Albert Nolan was involved with YCS in South Africa. This is very true. Less known is that two Dominicans in South Africa were involved with YCW in South Africa, namely Joseph Falkiner OP (National Chaplain in the 1980s) and Benedict Mulder OP (chaplain on the West Rand -west of Johannesburg). Also Mike Deeb OP was a collaborator of Albert Nolan's in YCS. Mike was previously International Chaplain for IYCS from 2000 -2008). For more information it would be good to consult: Philippe Denis A Social History of the Dominicans in South Africa, Peters publishers..