A group started by a priest

Phil Callaghan, YCW National President, and Zander Lavall, St Mary's University Students Union President, with Joseph Cardijn Award Recipient 2016 Alice Stella / Million Minutes / Flickr
A group started by a priest

The next example is of a parish group started by a priest.

He had a basic understanding of the YCW, he believed in young workers, and he was prepared to give them the freedom to organise themselves.

“When I first became a priest, I was involved with the YCW in the parish. I remember all that we did then, and it was a good time for me.

I felt that the YCW was a very good movement and seemed able to motivate young workers in a way that nothing else could. Anyway, I lost contact with the YCW for many years. The Bishop gave me other work to do and I did not have the chance to do much about young workers.

Two years ago, I returned to parish work. I came to St Francis’ Church as Parish Priest. This was my first appointment as parish priest, and I set out to try to do my best to make it a success. One of the things I wanted to do was to start a YCW group. But there were many other things happening in the parish and lots of people to meet, so I set about learning about the parish first.

The first year passed quickly. I met a number of young workers while I was visiting homes in the parish. I guess I mentally ‘chose’ some of them as possible YCW members. I rang up the YCW office and spoke to one of the fulltimers about my hopes for a group but, somehow, we did not get around to doing anything.

Then one day I met the full-time worker and we had a discussion about the YCW. She told me that in their planning they would not be able to do any work in St Francis Parish for the next 12 months; I asked her if she would agree for me to try to get a group started myself. She was very pleased about that and encouraged me to go ahead.

I made a list of young workers who I thought might be interested and determined that I would write them a letter of invitation to an introductory meeting. Every time I tried to write the letter, I finished up throwing it into the rubbish bin.

One night after throwing another attempted letter into the rubbish bin, I took up the phone and rang one of the young workers on the list. I invited him to come around for a drink and a snack the following Sunday evening. He seemed surprised and not sure what I wanted him to do but he agreed to come. I thought, “Well that was easy,” and rang another. Within an hour or so I had nine acceptances.

On Sunday evening I cleared the Parish House and put in extra chairs. I bought some drinks and some nuts and chips, and I got a parishioner to make some cake and biscuits. I got some reasonable music going and waited to meet my guests.

I think they all came. We met one another and had a drink and a snack and listened to the music and talked. Then I turned the music off and started to talk about the idea of having a YCW. It was all pretty easy really. I wanted to make them feel at home and welcome. I particularly wanted them to feel that I was interested in their everyday world and their thoughts and actions there – that I could and would talk about these things as an equal without trying to preach or convert them.

That, after all is the spirit of the YCW; the respect for the person, the belief (and so the interest) in how they are living their everyday lives, the recognition of the freedom and the responsibility of every person to choose how they live their unique gift of life.

Anyway, it worked that time. We decided to meet again in two weeks and to officially start the YCW. They elected two of the group to meet with me during the week and plan how we would run the meeting. And those two young people ran the meeting very well when we met the next time.

That all happened nearly a year ago. Now you can say that we do have a YCW group in the parish. It hasn’t all been easy. Some of the original members have dropped out and the president of the group is a new member. But the group is great, and they are really taking on great actions in their work life. It is an inspiration to me, and I would recommend any priest to give it a try.”