TAPE 1 (ROUGH TRANSCRIPT)
CW: You already made some contacts in Brussels, hadn’t you and had a role in the Bureau – had that got going at all?
PK: Yes, I had gone first to Brussels at the end of the Occupation, while I was still in the air force. We were having a meeting in Brussels of the first Bureau, I think, and Father John Fitzsimons was there, and Rose McGregor and John Miles – this was before 1946, before the new team came, and there was this idea to have this big house in London.
I was at that meeting, and it was indicated to me that I was International Secretary. The idea would be International Secretary rather than International President on the grounds that we were very anxious to keep it an inter–national, rather than world, movement – you see my point? So we felt the sovereignty of the national movements was very important, and we looked very much on our role, not as the United Nations, which Cardijn never really wanted, but we looked on it as a ’service’ to help national movements to grow to their maturity, and at the same time so that the International would not be something imposed on people, but would collect all the national qualities in a way, –and then of course, we were conscious that we were three European countries that formed the Bureau, France, Belgium and England formed the working Bureau, of which I was really the President, but officially my title was Secretary.
CW: Cardijn nominated you as Secretary?
PK: Well, they elected me, they agreed on it, but he wanted it.
CW: Who else, Pat, were party to these consultations?
PK: If I remember correctly, it was Roger Cartyrade and Andre Villette, both of whom now are heads of the Editions Ouvrières – they built up this vast publication set up. They are the two heads, they are wonderful – great friends.
When I left the international, many years afterwards. I wanted to build up a publications set up and they very generously offered me all their rights and everything they had. But I had always felt that publications somehow would be very important, to be a source of income… So that was the French side, and there was a girl Mimi Pascal, who became André Villette’s wife, she was the head of the Girls.
And the two priests were very important. There was Canon Guérin – he was quite a lovely character – he was a very ascetic man – absolutely full of fun, – he always nibbled bits of spare bread out of little packets, he always seemed to take the leavings of everyone, and he always smiled a lot, very rarely spoke, but took copious notes. His diaries that he took were meticulously kept – I don’t know what’s ever happened to them, but I would think they would be the biggest ‘eye-in’ of the French Church if anybody has them. Hoppy was a bit like him on that, keeping all his notes.
Then on the Belgian side there was Jeff Deschuyffeleer, a man who was wonderful. Unfortunately, he died, he had a very sad accident later on. Jeff became the big man to unite the Flemings and the Walloons politically in Belgium. And he became of course the most powerful man in Belgium really, because he became the head of the whole worker movement, and he was the strong man of the Belgium team who Cardijn trusted enormously. He represented the powerful Flemish side, powerful not only in its paid-up membership of the YCW, but also its links with all the parts of the Christian worker movement, and he was obviously going to be the future of the whole Flemish side.
His job was to see that all the worker movement branches were flooded with YCW people, which he did, and he was very much respected, also in the national scene – he was a very great worker, and he was extremely able and didn’t frighten off the general youth thing there.
There was always a problem in Belgium of the integrists…. ‘don’t split the seamless garment of Christ’– don’t deal with problems, keep everything in the general, caramel, treacle unity.
Then on the Belgian team above there was a very important girl, Emilie Arnould, who was the head one of the girls, and she was very able with great international skill, and she came to our first Congress in Wigan, and she was very much the equivalent of Jeff, but on the Walloon side; very small, petite and nicknamed Miss Machine Gun.
There was also Jacques Meert; he wasn’t involved in that side, he was personal to the Canon – the Canon always had his own personal team as well, and Jacques was running the Centrale, and he was the boss of that and, really, he was the Canon’s man in court basically. He was very good; he was an enabler, Jacques was.
Then there was Rosa van Salen when she joined the Secretariat. She was head of the Flemish girls at that time, and then eventually there was Arnold and Jeannine Wynants, who were on.
But, of course, there was a strict segregation there – it was sort of four movements, and in a way Cardijn and Jeff were the only people who could get any unity, the four movements being the Walloon Boys & Girls and Flemish Boys and Girls – all each independent with their own set-ups, in different locations.
CW: Pat, who else came with you from England?
PK: I think at the early Bureau it was Anne Kelleher, who is now up in Manchester – very nice girl. She was the leader of the girls. I think it was John Fitzsimons in the early days and Fr Mitch and – I don’t really remember – yes, that would be it I think.
And then the Chaplains, then you had on the Belgium side, Cardijn, and of course a very important person there was Marguerite Fiévez, she was full time secretary of the International, that’s how it started. She was very much also part of the Cardijn staff, but officially she was the Secretary; even though I was the Secretary, she was the working day – today secretary, and although I had the title of International Secretary, I filled the role of Chairman. She ran the office; she ran the thing; and very much ran it.
CW: So there were about twelve people, were there?
PK: Yes, there were the Belgian team, the French team, and us, yes there would be about that and there would be two chaplains from ours, and then one boy and one girl, or possibly two, I can’t really remember now.
CW: How did you go about setting up the Bureau?
PK: Well, I think I’d have to look up my notes on it all, but the three countries assumed responsibility for the development and extension – it was very much a ‘mission’ situation.
CW: So it was envisaged this was going to be expansion throughout the world?
PK: Yes, and there was a constant conflict between being big and starting small. There was also, underneath this, but never very far away from the surface, that lasted all through, even lasts till now, the jockeying for position and the deep inner rivalry between the French and the Belgians; which is something which seems to permeate everything; and has to do with size, history, all sorts of things; but this dominated everything – and it was also during the time of the Priest Worker thing but the real preoccupation was the extension of the Movement.
We had the Secretariat with Marguerite there. Cardijn was still Chaplain to the Belgian movement, and the Belgians provided the money resources (that was the biggest thing). In other words, they made it possible – Cardijn’s offices – the offices were given next to him in the Centrale and money was made available to do this.
CW: You were made Secretary, but it was as if you were President.
PK: It really was – you were the head, you presided over the meetings.
CW: Were there any other established roles or was it otherwise members of the Bureau?
PK: Members of the Bureau – Marguerite would be the secretary for the day-to-day work, and I would spend, in the beginning, little time in Brussels, but enough to go over to prepare the Bureau and the following up and seeing that the work was done. But, in the beginning, I think the Belgians wanted me as a figurehead because they wanted very much to control things and there were all sorts of forces at work on this.
Well, it wasn’t as simple as the YCW. There were deeply political about forces at work on it, then they wanted me to control the YCW International from Brussels, and the French were determined they wouldn’t. And I was the sort of middleman in. Well, I didn’t have much strength, but I suppose I had the field sometime, and through doing that I suppose I ran the thing.
CW: This role brought you into very close contact with Cardijn – is this the point to ask you about the great man?
PK: Yes, but I’d rather we could come back eventually to the Bureau as to how we divided the work out, because we had a different pattern of work. You see, for example, we, the English YCW, we were made responsible for the English-speaking world whereas the French accepted responsibility for the French-speaking world, because this was the natural state. And the Belgians took the rest e.g. South America, and other areas, but also, in fairness you see, there was no YCW at that time in Germany or Austria and this was where Jeff was very important.
In a way I was off-stage, Jeff was far more capable than I was, and he was really brilliant. Jeff was obviously the blue-eyed boy; he was just a unique lovely person bit like Harry Tolfrey was. We have been very lucky in these people.
So even though, you know, I was very prickly about my role, and even though I had to accept from time to time the potfleur, I did it grudgingly, because I realised I had to learn as well.
So, I put my oar in from time to time. What I realised was that politically, I knew that these two elements would never agree – the Belgians and the French. It would always be there so someone had to play the middle role.
I came back and we did our international work as part of the national work, so we didn’t visualise a centralised state, and, in a way, I am very sad we too quickly. I know Cardijn was deeply sad about that. He made a good face about it, but he fought it all the way.
We were able to give practical aid. We had Eric over from South Africa. He was trained in the English YCW with us as part of the international work. People came from America to be trained here. The normal contacts came through London. It was a much more natural way to build the international than building from Brussels, even if they didn’t understand English.
But I think the role of Jacques was very important because he was the crucial man. And the Flemish YCW to open up Germany and Austria – very important Germany and Austria after the war – and Holland. I was involved with the Dutch because it was felt that the English were more acceptable sometimes but really the Flemish played an enormous part. But, in addition, that was the method of extension. We received people here; we did the training here and then we’d send them on to Brussels. The work was done in the field.
Then, when the Bureau met, we didn’t meet to discuss great practical plans but while the work was going on. So, the work was extension, just like the English way of organising extension. It was missions out. Jacques would make a mission to Germany. I would make a mission to somewhere or write somewhere – Scotland for example. We tried to go to Ireland, which was very difficult.
CW: Was there an Irish Movement at this time?
PK: There was up in Belfast, and bits of Wexford, but we wanted to have links. There were always a constant flow of visitors coming from the English-speaking countries.
CW: You hadn’t gone to North America yet? that was to come?
PK: Yes, that was to come. So, the Belgians were very much responsibility for Latin America and other countries, for example, for opening up in Germany, and any German speaking country. This would include areas like Tanganyika at that time. I think there was something on there.
They also had great resources. I used to go along to prepare the Bureau, to meet with Cardijn, to meet with Marguerite. My problem was in the early days I didn’t have a desk there, and they wanted to keep things on a very temporary basis, but I insisted that I should have a desk. Even if I wasn’t there to use it, I wanted a desk. I wasn’t just going to be chatting in corridors. We had a nice, but firm, very clear struggle for power; I wasn’t going to be a sort of a pot flower.
I think then I learned the game and I learned to get wiser, and I think that was more helpful. I also felt that I had a unique role as well, amongst them all. I was the only layman who had more or less founded a Movement. You know what I mean? I ‘physically’ founded it. Obviously, Fr Rimmer was the true founder, but in fact I had had to make the breaks up to London – all the other things – so I felt really, all these other people, it had all been done for them.
I certainly had no complex of inferiority on that particular thing, and I think this was the distinction that also affected my relationship with Cardijn from then onwards. He was inclined to want people to adjust in that strange period, of adulation to the great man. The atmosphere was created there – it was necessary to create that atmosphere in Belgium to have some uniting figure. He was almost an organised prisoner, which takes a lot of organising. So, there was that with Cardijn.
So that was the method of work. In addition, there was the other extension work but there was also a struggle for Germany with the French. The method I insisted on was that we kept a certain finger on the English-speaking world here. There’s no doubt the French had a very big hand even. There was a suspicion from time to time that the Quai d’Orsai gave a helping hand. But the struggle was in Germany, because the influence on the style of things was coming into this reformed Germany. So John Fitzsimons was handling it from this side and with the American trade unions. It was quite as simple as that.
CW: The Americans?
PK: This was the American trade unions who controlled the mission and the trade unions. All kinds of bodies were being created and the Christian unions of Belgium wanted to have Christian unions there, more like Vanistendael and the Christian Democrats. They wanted to be based on a sectarian basis. John went more for the American pattern, and I think he was proved wise. The French didn’t mind what pattern it was, they wanted to be strongly present in it. In a way, what was happening in the YCW was what was happening in the world around.
In addition to that there as a great feeling of representation beginning. The International YCW applied for and got status with the [UN] Economic and Social Council, with the International Labour Office and the Belgian Movement brought in enormous resources, apart from finance, because they were very loyal, and obviously many of the ex-YCWs were now in positions of influence. They were ministers, they were delegates for their country to the ILO and they were certain to see there was no objection made to the YCW being granted status.
Jeff was on the International Bureau – it was a terribly sad time for us all. When he was going to represent Belgium at the ILO conference in Montreal, in ’47 or ’49, the plane crashed, and he was terribly wrecked and ill, but he survived, terribly hurt and eventually died [much later]. He lived and was highly successful, married, and became a very important man in Belgium. The men who could unite the Flemings and the Walloons were few and far apart, but Jeff was one of them.
Emilie was already representing Belgium at UNESCO so she got the status for us. My main representation, apart from the inside, was more with Cardijn and Marguerite in Rome. This was the beginning of the Roman contact. You see, we were the inner team, we formed a little trio, and the rest of the Bureau wanted my presence there, with Cardijn, and Marguerite – so that it didn’t get too cosy. My job was to be present.
Marguerite was very important in understanding the Canon. The Canon demands a lot of devotion, he needs a lot of devotion in a sense. He was highly organised; he maximised his time. Whenever I went to see him, I always prepared my pieces. I used to let him have a note beforehand.
CW: Was he, at this point, at the height of his powers?
PK: No, he was still having lots of difficulties. He must have been, yes, he was very strongly… This must have been ’46 (I am very bad on dates).
CW: He was in his late 40’s, 50’s maybe, no, he must have been older than that.
PK: I suppose he was. There was very much the public figure and the private man. He could be charming with you in the beginning – there was a distance until he really knew and trusted you and this took a time, and it was particularly difficult for me sometimes, because he equated what was good with what he wanted – which wasn’t always so.
My job was to see in those days what was good, was what the Bureau wanted and as well as what he wanted; or alternatively to try and see what he wanted, the Bureau wanted it, by proper relationships.
At the same time to do it in a way so that he would only do it from a distance, so my business obviously became longer and longer, and gave the Bureau more time. And then I did a piece of representation. I went to go to Rome with him.
But you wanted to know more about my dealings with him as a man?
Well, I found again, this seemed to be a period where the ideal role we present, of the role of the chaplain, with lay people, was such a rarity in the Church. The priest was not quite a magic figure, but there was such a deep clerical role – that even the role that we talked about of the two heads in one bonnet was considered quite revolutionary and the role that the priest could be more an animator.
You see this was the problem with Mgr Heenan through the years even though on the day that Richards left with… he said, “Oh Pat, these men have let you down.” And I told him I didn’t feel let down at all, but he was very sad at Richards going. He said “These men have let men like you down. They are not worthy of men like you.”
There is a crisis among the priests but that doesn’t necessarily follow there is a crisis in the Church. There is a big distinction between these two things. There is a crisis in the institution, but it doesn’t necessarily follow, although I know it affects the Church. The terrible feeling is that just because priests leave, the whole Church will be shattered. Well, it’s a load of nonsense. Well, it obviously affects things.
So, the role we had in those days, was definitely a priestly animator role, with lay responsible people, but in a way clearly distinctly different roles and we were working at it, put it that way. In a way that is what Wojtyla is working at, what the Council wanted as well, but it has got lost in a general bathtub of “let’s all be boys together.”
It’s nothing to do with dress or anything. It’s to do with a deep understanding of the mystery of the priesthood, and its role, its role as an adult educator in a youth movement, but in addition to that as a spiritual animator. Going back to the Cardinal, he said “Oh Pat, you’re so wrong. You are very, very, very wrong, Pat.” I said, “I’m quite right. You’re wrong. You are still thinking of the priest in a leader concept from the front to the back, whereas we are thinking of the leadership of the priest’s role, or the leadership of the tutor educator.”
I know it’s not as simple as that, but he thought the world was coming to an end. I believe in celibacy, but I also equally believe it shouldn’t necessarily be tied to the job.
But, going back on Cardijn, there was the sort of public/private thing. Publicly he could speak very much…(?)… but privately he was meticulous. He would point out such simple things as “Do you have a clean shirt?” He’d do nicely. We’d became very close, but it wasn’t a quick relationship. I think I also forced them, because I couldn’t speak any French, and still do have a problem, and they wanted to speak English and I was the means of them doing it. And he had ideas on England, and never was particularly mad about America – strange thing. He rather looked on it as a place, which I resented very much, where you get the money to build the rest of the world.
I felt he never really understood the enormous potential of the American working Catholics, who were not conscious of being workers, but were very much conscious of being Catholics, and possibly it was too big a job,
CW: But he was fond of England, wasn’t he?
PK: Yes, very fond of England and had a great respect for it. I think it was a Belgian thing at the time. In work he was very meticulous. He demanded a lot of preparation. I am just thinking of the style of his work. He was very orderly, didn’t kill himself, but his sort of day was (by the way he was very rarely late, and this was not true only for me, it was true for everyone).
He was a very important man in Belgium even outside the YCW International. He had quite a large staff. He was highly organised. He had Andre and Andre’s wife (Andre was his chauffeur, fixer and Madeleine was the housekeeper, two or three children, cleaned house, made the meals, Andre did the men’s jobs in the house). There were other priests in the house, but they all had their separate apartments – they may have met communally from time to time, but they went their own way.
CW: Who were the other priests?
PK: I think Fr …. the National Chaplain of the Flemish Girls, and the Chaplain of the Walloons was there.
CW: Fr Oliver was there?
PK: Oh no, not at that time. He was away studying – when we went to Rome, we used to see him. He was at the Belgian College in Rome.
What precisely would you like to know on Cardijn? I was thinking of his routine of the day. I don’t know if that would interest you or not?
He always had a good breakfast – he seemed to go in for an English breakfast – he’d have all the newspapers – everything would be prepared for him. Well, he had an office at the HQ – really kept his office in his own house in the rue de Palais, where he had his own chaplain, and this was the sort of first house he started. He had things marked for him, newspapers and files,
CW: He had a considerable secretariat?
PK: Oh, yes, mainly supplied from the Flemish side, and Marguerite would be the one, really while she was International Secretary, she was also his secretary for international affairs. Then there would be Rosa who would follow through the Flemish side of his work, then he had people from the National, then he would have people from the Christian Worker Movement, he was also a personality in Belgium at the time, the political world and the general world. He had quite a staff, and amongst the staff were a number of them who were really Lay Institute, and they were not merely his staff. He was their superior you see, because the obedience was given to the Cardinal of Malines – they were called The Daughters of Malines – a secular institute – and he would give those who worked connected with Cardijn, the obedience would be given to Cardinal.
This caused a little problem in my early days at the Bureau, the International YCW, because some of the girls on the Flemish side were really not considered lay by the French side, because they were members of what then was a secular institute, and if they were members of a secular institute what will they think, and the bulk of the Flemish girls were in this institute.
This was started by a woman who was close to Cardijn at the beginning of the YCW and their HQ was in Lourdes, so the people in it were very anxious at all times that they were not in any way dominated by, or instructed by, everybody thought they were, which was possibly unfair, but it was something they needed for their own spiritual life. They certainly gave continuity and stability to the Flemish Movement, but when it comes to somebody like Finnerre (?) marrying Frans Janssens She was one of the first of the Girls team at that period to break out and marry.
CW: Well, Pat, that’s very interesting – It sets the scene for the International, the developments to come, and fascinating to think of Cardijn’s personal secretariat.
PK: You think it’s helpful?
CW: Oh, yes, I think we want to go on from here to…
PK: He spoke very movingly of his mother, and the way she had burn a sort of educator to him in the use of money… I don’t really think the family were [poor?]. I think the father – it’s like a man here in the olden days when he had a good job. His father was a coal merchant. You didn’t starve when you were a coal merchant. You were quite superior in a way. It’s rather like when a man had an insurance book and was a Methodist Minister in the North of England at the time – he had it made compared to the people who were on the dole and got food checks. It was like anybody who had a stable job and stable income, but at the same time he did have this compassion.
But I think also what hasn’t been done with Cardijn is to set him in the work of the situation in Belgium as well, because he, when he went full time, had made experiments before the YCW when he was sent to the parish of Laeken – they were so advanced before the YCW even started with more events than we were in England, in the sense that they had priests working full time, not just in parish, but in what they called Oeuvres Sociales; so I used to get furious sometimes when I compared the English YCW with those abroad – I used to feel “How can they manage so well compared to us?”
We are just as good as they are, better in fact. But I think there was so much built-in infrastructure at the top then, for instance with the Chaplains, I remember on a train, three chaplains from Paris… and I was always very surprised when they kept on saying ’a Movement of young workers, by young workers, for young workers’. And it seemed, after the war they had an enormous debt in France, you know wiped out by the wars, and yet at the end of the war these full-time organisers all had to be fed. And I saw in a small group how difficult it was. And then I’d say, “Well, young workers by young workers.” If they can do it, we can do it. And, on the train, I used to be puzzled.
I talked to Canon Dewitte because I was feeling a bit sharper, and I said to him, “Well, I have met the team here in France of young workers and I know quite a lot of men in England, and I feel that our men in England are superior, but you seem to be achieving more than us.
“Ours are young workers, yours are young workers, but now, how come, with this vast budget, when I ask you about your finances, you keep on saying to me ’oh, it’s all raised by the young workers’? Now ours is actually raised by the young workers and we find it very difficult. Now what have they got, the French, what we haven’t got?”
I said, “Now be honest with me, don’t give me any more moonshine,” because in the YCW you can be fobbed off by slogans that are half completed, half the time I find them hypocritical really. So, I said this, and he said “Aah, yes, but of course the French hierarchy wrote all our debts off after the war and, of course, we, the Chaplains raise the money as well.”
And he said, “don’t forget” – and that was the first time I discovered that there were 300 full time Chaplains in 1946 for the YCW in France – “the whole system built and was paid for by the dioceses.” So, for example, I went down to a friend’s parish in Rodez in the Midi of France, in the small town of Rodez, which would be a market town something like Bath. You had a house there in which you had a team of Chaplains who lived there, one man was in charge of YCW Girls, one YCW Boys, one for the YCS, one for the agricultural movement, one for the agricultural girls, one for the adult movement. And this was their fulltime work because I think the system of priests’ organised life on the Continent and ours was quite different. They world attend the parish Church for confessions at certain hours, but they wouldn’t live on the plant. This is the distinction. Some would even be teaching part time as well.
CW: They had much more of a notion of “specialised ministry” at that stage, hadn’t they?
PK: When I went to the States, and in England, you found that, amongst a lot of the young priests, their problems were that they didn’t know how to occupy themselves between nine and five, because they were confined in a confined space and one man left the priesthood I know, who told me he was sick of just waiting for the telephone to ring.
CW: What about the effect of Cardijn at these great congresses, because, as one knows, he was a magnificent [speaker] wasn’t he? But he always had something to say, he wasn’t merely orchestrating a feeling that was already there – or perhaps he was doing a lot of that as well?
PK: What I found, after years of working with him, was that he never changed what he had to say particularly. The outer coating was the same, but it was basically the Three Truths, and he never varied from this pattern, whoever he talked to. And, in a way, to be with him regularly would drive you mad sometimes, because you knew what he was going to say next in a way – he would say it differently, with demonstration and feelings, but his basic thing was the three truths.
The situation of the young worker, the needs of the young worker, the mission of the young worker – and it went along a pattern that here was the whole worker situation that couldn’t be transformed. He would start off: the worker situation, it couldn’t be transformed from outside, it could only be transformed from inside – the primary element was the yeast and the dough of the young workers himself, nothing could replace the young worker, and therefore he had to be taken out of his isolation – in isolation he could do nothing. So, he had to be taken out of his isolation and groomed locally, and because the problems were not just on the local level, he had to be groomed regionally and nationally, and internationally because the problems were all on that level.
And then he should be grouped into an organisation that had certain characteristics; it had three jobs that it had to do – it had to educate (not in a classroom sense), it had to serve (not only personally but in an organised way) it had to educate in terms of life, it had to serve in terms of people, and the people they served were not recipients ever, they were the beers, the makers of the revolution, and then you had to represent the needs, someone had to keep on speaking all the time of the needs of these young working people, before public and private opinion, before employers before adults, before parents and you bad to keep on posing the problem, which faced the whole community but which couldn’t be solved without the young worker himself.
Then he would go on – it would be the same variation – the characteristics which such a group should have, obviously should be different in every country, first of all, it should be for all people, it wasn’t for an exclusive group; any leadership was from the masses and in the masses, he developed this theme, and then he would say we are not trying to bring any… solution; we are not bringing a Socialist solution, we are not bringing a Marxist solution, we are not bringing a Capitalist solution, we are bringing a Christian solution. And this was a unique thing – it wasn’t any other solution… just not par within the Christian wing in the general worker band, you know, being led on – no, quite different’ quite different.
CW: So, you had no sense of debt to Marxism?
PK: Not at all, not at all, we respected it, but we had no sense of debt.
And then he went on with this sort of thing, so then you had to build – so the authentic signs of our movement, taking people out of their isolation, doing the three things, then the movement had to have certain characteristics – they had to have a worker characteristic – they should be in the mainstream of all worker events but they should always be conscious that they were the leaven in the lump: then he would fall back on that – he would move away from the general mainstream of the worker theme – he still felt the main stream was the Christian stream, because he was part of the training that had come from the existence of Christian social movement.
He was conscious of the Protestant Christian Socialist movement here and in this he was very Belgian – this would irritate the French a bit, but he was conscious that he was speaking, not only of a social worker movement but of a Christian character that existed, and had existed, and would continue to exist.
CW: Had the social teaching of the Church inspired him a great deal?
PK: Oh, yes, the thing we forget is, before the YCW existed in Belgium, that there was a big social movement there. It had been started by Fr Rutten, and the Dominicans, and the YCW owes an enormous debt to that. Cardijn himself would not have been full time to do his original experiments except for all that – and there was constant tension between that body and the YCW until, eventually, in time, the leadership of the major body was taken over by the people from the YCW. But, going back to the concept he gave all the time – to educate, to serve, to represent; and then he’d come back to be truly in the workers stream, not one inch away, but nevertheless at a Christian level.
Then he would go on, and this was the next characteristic, that while you are truly a worker, you are truly in the Church, and this is where you bring in this whole sense of the Church – the history of the Church – and when he spoke of the thing, he spoke of it with love, with feeling, with pride, its a living thing, you felt bobbing up and down in the whole thing was a John Bosco, bobbing up and down was St Peter, bobbing up and down was St Paul – they were all real to him, this sense of the Church came down.
We are not part of a worker movement in the abstract out there, but we are the worker part within the Church being present in the whole community and leavening it – so in a way, he pointed out why we should have two battles. One was in the Church to see there was a proper recognition of the worker reality, and the worker potential, as apostles to evangelise the whole, to make the Church itself more conscious of the industrial/reality of capitalism, socialism, Marxism – everything like that and the Christian presence within it, because he was haunted with the sense of the great scandal of the Church had been that it had lost the working class in many parts of the world – this was real to him.
The other authentic sign he would say was that the characteristic of or movement the local section/had to be truly worker, truly of the Church, but if you were a Christian then you must by essence be apostolic and missionary, and then he would bring up the whole idea of ’you are the irreplaceable missionaries’ and then to me he unfolded this concept without using the words, Pius XII used the words later on; this idea of the missions of the interior being as important as those of the exterior – one doesn’t contradict the other.
CW: Pat, would you say it’s true that Cardijn saw his mission fairly early in life, and it didn’t evolve much from his early days – it wasn’t that his thoughts and his senses were constantly evolving but he had it fully fashioned at an early stage, and then the rest was delivering the message?
PK: Not totally, but I would say 75% right. Don’t forget, to know that you have to read the thing that he wrote while he was in prison. The manual of the JOC, which was translated at one time, it’s never been properly put together – he wrote a meticulous manual of the JOC, just like Frank Duff wrote for the Legion of Mary – it was an organised pattern.
I think also, that while he had this meticulous mind, he was capable of interpreting on the wing as well. I give you an example; I think in the history of the YCW it caused a lot of trouble – I mentioned about Mgr Hillenbrand and his orientation in the States. When he got to Chicago was he had come to the YCW by wanting to make Catholic Action, because as a papalist, trained in Rome and everything like that, and that rather superior Pius XI, who was his great hero when he was in Rome. Now, Catholic Action could mean many things to many people, and he wanted to make it in the States, and he started Catholic Action groups.
What is interesting is that I had long chats with Cardijn, and as I said before, the Pope mentioned the YCW was the perfect form, the germ of Catholic Action. I said, “Well, Pius XI had used this extraordinary phrase that was very crucial that an example of the most perfect form of Catholic Action was the YCW.” So, I felt, for example, when I met priests all around, there were many priests who wanted to make Catholic Action, but weren’t interested in the worker question, or weren’t interested in young workers – so this used to puzzle me a lot.
So, with Cardijn I had a long chat with him on this. I pinned him down, you see, because he could give the malarkey as well. I said “Now look, what was the situation of the YCW when Pope Pius XI made this phrase about the YCW being the perfect form of Catholic Action – the living example. What condition was the YCW in? Was it good? Getting ready for extension and so on?” and Cardijn said, “Yes, it was, it was going very well”.
But I said, “When you started off, you’d started off to do what?” He said, “to bring a Christian answer to the needs of young workers”. He was rather irritated at being asked. So, I said, “tell me again what you set out to do”. He said, “To bring a Christian answer to the needs of young workers, in a social sense of the Church, and liberate themselves.”
And I kept on pinning him you see, and I said, “but did you set out – when did you make Catholic Action?” He said, “We were Catholic Action”. So, in other words, what I think was the distinction between him – he built something up which the Pope then pointed out as a model of Catholic Action – which was very important in the Church, in all the formation of the generation of priests and bishops. Hillenbrand was trying to make something called Catholic Action.
But he’d made it and therefore, as it were, “what did you feel like when the Pope pointed it out as the example of Catholic Action?” “Oh,” he said, “it was a tremendous boost to us.”
CW: The Pope called it the perfect form of Catholic Action within its sphere?
PK: Yes, but he used it – there is a phrase (I can’t remember it now, but Mitch would tell you) when he said, “One of the most authentic and perfect examples of a living Catholic Action is the Young Christian Workers.”
You know, the germ, the kernel, whatever it is, what was interesting was, Cardijn never set out to make Catholic Action – what he made was confirmed as Catholic Action, while other priests were wanting to make Catholic Action but didn’t necessarily want to solve the problems of young workers.
CW: His solution was to bring a Christian solution to…
PK: Yes, to young working people. So, where you had – where this, to me, lights up a problem in the training of priests – we know the real problem is to how to start with the situation and needs of people, and in doing this you bring an authentic Christian solution to that situation – there’s a difference between that and starting with the theory.
CW: As you took the message, was he very sensitive to the new conditions? Did he alter his approach, or his technique at all?
PK: Well, he did, and he didn’t, he was a man almost with a packet message – and, let’s face it, the needs were… there were always young workers, the Church generally was not present among young workers; the Church in general, apart from the works of mercy, was mainly concerned in their educations programme with higher schools of education for people wanting degrees.
And so really, as there still isn’t, there is still no kind of evangelisation for young working people – the apprentice is often not really considered in the Church because/the priest has not come through that type of apprenticeship either.
He has come more from an academic vein. But what I found was that he was open – as time went on, I remember his curiosity when we got to Ceylon and wanting to go for the first time to a Buddhist monastery, much to the displeasure of the Catholic priests. But he went to the Buddhist monastery, but he said exactly to the Buddhist monks what he had said to the priests in the morning – which was the problem of the young workers, and you, as monks, what are you doing about the problems of the young workers? The Buddhist monks got the same message.
CW: How did they react?
PK: Well, very interesting, very nice, quite stunned… you know, karma and fate. I used to think what exacting language he uses. I used to think he was a bit corny on this. He used to say, “I’d die for the young worker.” And I think he would actually. Whatever sins you’d got and, in a way, he was a man of discipline himself, and while he was interested in the lay apostolate and all things going on in the Church, he was basically interested in the young worker.
CW: I suppose his message was…
PK: Oh yes, I think it was, and also his interpretation was. There was another side of him which was very important, he dealt with the common needs in the lives of young workers, and this might irritate some of the brighter [ones] later on, but he felt there were basic periods that had to be properly dealt with in the young workers life.
The first one was school to work, and he felt this needed massive attention, and it was almost unlimited. He felt that the shock of people coming from school into working life was a very important thing where the Church […] and a means of evangelisation. Otherwise, he felt there was a great loss there, an unnecessary blood loss.
And he didn’t think of it in terms of people losing their souls. It wasn’t that; it was much more the apostolic loss. While he was very convinced on the priests and their vocations […] to just be with them while they were sorting out whether they had a vocation to the priesthood, and thousands of men and women [religious] have come from the YCW.
In ’57, just before I left, I did a serious report on things. I think, following the official archives, we could claim specifically over 26,000 priests and religious. We stopped on the nuns, we had too many.
But he linked the priestly vocation to the vocation of the young worker. He realised that, obviously priests have to serve other people. But he felt that any who had come from the YCW should have a specific bent. And I remember in the Philippines we were very distressed – this was of course pre-conciliar days when we arrived – and we went to see the ex-YCWs who were nuns in the Philippines. And this one community we went to we met the girl who had been the organiser – a Flemish girl organiser – and she mustered up her courage when the Canon came, because they loved the Canon.
And she cried to him, and she said, “Look, this is my life, I have come to be a nun here, and this is all under the silly thing of obedience, and here what do I do – I want to organise the YCW in the midst of this poverty and squalor. Here am I in this great rich school. And what I do is I teach to the sons and daughters of the rich. That’s all I do now, she says. I know they have souls and I want to care for them. They love me and I love them, but I don’t want to spend my life doing this – now how can I do something other than breaking my vow of obedience?
And I said to her, “Well, are there any more in your situation? Let’s get together and go back to the head of this order and explain that, if this is the best they can do with our ex-YCWs, we will strongly discourage them coming to you and to go somewhere else.” That’s why I think you have an awful lot going into the people who worked for Charles de Foucauld – most of the bulk of the YCW went to the missions. It is interesting because the home front was never looked on as a “mission field”. It’s strange that you went abroad for excitement.
CW: But as you say, a lot of the French and Belgium jocists, the girls particularly, went into the Little Sisters, and some of the boys went into the Little Brothers too.
PK: And then from the Flemish side thousands went and they went into Missionary orders, the Sisters of Heverlee, and a lot went nursing, in enormous numbers; oh, we met some happy nuns travelling around, so – on Cardijn, sorry.
CW: Pat, I want really to move now to Europe, and I think we have got a sense of the man – perhaps other things will come through as we are discussing the journeys you made together. In order of time, I am thinking now of the very first post–war journeys and extension drives – where were the first places?
PK: Well, I’m not sure, I think the first real trip for me was to the Montreal Congress which I think was’47. so that meant that I made my first contacts in the United States – I think this was the first trip that Hoppy made – and Hoppy would have had his diaries, Mitch would have had his diaries – or there would be something in New Life about that time. That was my first trip to our first World Congress – then which was held in Brussels, the big congress after that was the ’50 and then the next big hallmark would be the one held in Rome. There were innumerable regional ones – lots of trips in between – but those would have been the three highlights – I was mainly on the International.
The beginning of the Marriage courses, which influenced the Marriage courses here, of the Catholic Marriage courses. It was the first attempt here to help people’s marital breakdown, to form people, and they made part of this whole scheme of pre-marriage training which still exists. It remained part of the OMI university, worked through the YCW, developed by the YCW chaplains who were OMIs. and then put at the service of the wider church. And this is another interesting method which is constantly being used which we’ve never had the means to do here. We work something out, like with the pre-YCW, which is unique, and we work out all this large pilot project. We should then be able to hand it over to another agency, and this means generosity on our part, and then to be more in touch with the masses, by the people who have the contact.
CW: You mean to hand on the service… you can’t hand on an organic???
PK: You could hand on a service, or you can experiment, like, for example, the Belgian YCW pioneered an experiment in Vocational Guidance, they soon got to such a state with it that the State took it over.
CW: Can we get clear – this is Roy, who then became Cardinal Roy?
PK: No, he was his nephew. He was related to him but was not the very great man himself. He was a dynamic priest, and apparently a very prickly one, with all kinds of difficulties later on. He was obviously a charismatic man, and he built a very strong so North America was chosen, Canada was chosen for the first large rally of the YCW.
CW: There already was a Movement there? It had been founded from France – was that true?
PK: Well, it had been founded from Canada, because Canada was always in touch with Louvain – plenty of links – going on all the time – all the 1930s – but it didn’t come from it.
CW: So, you’ve got then Montreal in French Canada was chosen as the location for the first great North American Congress. Who was to be there, besides the French Canadians?
PK: Well, the French delegation were to be there to provide the numbers and the facilities of a large rally, which would be for French Canadian consumption; there would be then an international Study Week, where we’d sort international things out for the first time, and a larger thing than the three countries of Belgium, France and England; and it would be a study week of formation, but of contacts – so, wherever there was YCW in the world they were allowed to send delegates. This was, in fact, a World Assembly, as far as we could – and there, where you had no real Movement, what little elements there were came – that was the case in America – there were groups in San Franscisco, there were Catholic Action groups in Chicago, there were YCW groups in New York, there were French Canadian groups within the United States, there was a mixture of them. So, we brought them all together. They had never met themselves before.
CW: Were these the first beginnings in the United States?
PK: Yes, they’d come together in Montreal, and I was responsible for the English-speaking side. mind, we saw to Latin America (?) and the French saw to the other things.
CW: This included Latin America as well, did it?
PK: Oh yes, they all came. You’d have to get the list of the Congress. It would be in the archives. You’d find Dom Helder who was the chaplain of the YCW in Rio Janeiro at the time and Don Tavora was there, Mgr Fragoso, the pioneer bishops in Latin America… I remember Dom Fragoso or Helder telling me of the terrible problems they had with the Cardinal of Rio, who was apparently the Lefebvre of Lefebvres of his day.
CW: So then, the Montreal Congress…
PK: So, there was a lot of preparation on that, and this is where the hand of Cardijn came in. Cardijn was the driver, but again he was the man who thought things out. So, the bulk of the work was done, obviously by the French Canadians. Then Marguerite, myself and the Bureau were responsible for the international side. But at the same time Cardijn – it wasn’t just Cardijn – we all on the Bureau, we wanted it to be North American, our first thing in North America.
Secondly, we wanted it to be non-European. Then we wanted it to be representative, to show the fact that the Movement existed. It is all right to have lots of little groups doing fine work and doing it all quietly but there comes a moment when you have got to have some public demonstration of what you are. Now, not everybody who comes are authentic, bona fide, 100% gold nuggets, and, like any other international organisation, you may have a black man coming carrying a flag, and he is a student from a university locally, representing Somalia. In the war years there was a bit of that, even in the YCW, say you’d run out of someone from the country, you’d get someone to carry their flag.
So, that was the first meeting – I can’t remember in too much detail, all I know it was the delegations came from the United States. And my main job was to work with the Americans to see if we could get a little more unified approach and see if we could get a little team among these scattered groups recognised. And there were differences on the Bureau because Marguerite had her own views and rather sided with Father ???, the Dominican in New York, who recently died. And I rather sided with Chicago, to have a centre in Chicago. And the trouble about it all was, of course, American is not a country, it is a continent.
CW: Was the Montreal Congress a great milestone then?
PK: Well, it was more a sort of official coming out after the war. This was Cardijn as a great timer – he was very concerned with the timing of things. He was conscious very much of this presence before the Church that we existed, and before the new international institutions that had been created – the United Nations, the International Labour Office, UNESCO, all these things. And that was where we began to have difficulties with this general Catholic Action concept, which said you must have one Catholic representation everywhere. We said, no, you can’t have Professor Dot representing young workers in UNESCO. We want more representation, not less.
CW: So, it was what the present Pope might have called “a new Advent”?1
PK: I think so.
CW: Now, Pat, for you it led to the great United States. Can you describe how you got on?
PK: I would have to look up my diaries, but generally, I suppose I was anxious to get some centre there in the States, with whom I could work, and who would take some responsibility – because the problem of the YCW, as you know, is that it could remain a lovely idea unless you have peasants in the field’ – you can busy yourself with large meetings, but once the large meetings are overhand this was whet Cardijn didn’t always understand – I used to get cross with him for this and say “before you start rushing to the next large meeting let’s do something about building at the base.”
Mgr Hillenbrand was on the delegation – and by the way, Mitch was heavily involved – but Mgr Hillenbrand became the Chaplain of the YCW in the US. And he became the centre priest in a way in Chicago because they eventually decided to have the YCW centre in Chicago, and to accept Mgr Hillenbrand as the key priest.
CW: Was this a decision taken in Montreal?
PK: I am not sure. I think there was a lot of politicking around and I think it may have been the priests’ meeting in Montreal. And it didn’t please everybody – and that problem went on for a long time because there was no move for it to be officially recognised by the hierarchy.
And the Church at that time in the US was an extremely conservative Church, and rather anti-European in a way. It was the real triumphalist Church, a little like General Motors coming out after the war, it was the biggest and the best and the richest I suppose – and in a way it was. I loved it.
But, at the same time, one of the problems I always had was that they never let anything grow – never gave anything a chance to grow – it all had to be done so quick, that if it wasn’t done quick then it was obviously no use – which the kind of work we represent isn’t that kind of thing. I think they are paying for this now and it was very much a church of bricks and mortar, but a good church. The community was marvellous.
CW: So, Pat, you made a number of trips to Chicago did you not?
PK: I did, to Chicago and to other parts of the States – I can’t remember how many now – I went over to help in the formation of the teams there.
CW: Mgr Hillenbrand was recognised to be the leader?
PK: Not recognised by the hierarchy, because the Movement wasn’t recognised, but recognised by the people in the YCW as being the key man.
CW: And you had Father Quinn and Father Egan too?
PK: Yes, what the Chicago was, was Hillenbrand was more the prophet, he had been the director of the large seminary at Mundelein. And under his period when he was Rector, a lot of what we would term the “good” priests of Chicago came out. In other words, he turned the seminary over towards looking at the problems of negroes, the problems of work, the problems of the laity, and he moved it away from an integrist situation run by the Jesuits, and they eventually got him out.
But it was a very integrist situation, and very clerical. Two of his close friends, who I think had been trained by him, were Mgr Jack Egan, who is now at Notre Dame, and he was chaplain of the Girls – he actually built the Girls group up. Originally it was Catholic Action groups, before the Montreal Congress, and he brought some of the girls who were in the Catholic Action groups, and then they became YCW. They always suffered a little there from the thing I have mentioned before on the tape, the business of they fundamentally set out to make Catholic Action, because the Pope, the Church wanted it. They didn’t necessarily set out to bring a Christian solution to the needs of the young working people. And you always had this little problem, you see.
So, then Mgr Quinn, he was at the parish of St Gall, so he built the first men’s groups, – no, Mgr Hillenbrand built the first central men’s group – but Bill Quinn built the first men’s groups based on the parish, and I was anxious that we would build on that structure. So, out of that group of Bill Quinn’s, the man made responsible, who was made president, was Tony Zivalich and then Caroline was vice president, but she came from the New York group. Eddie Dansart was the Treasurer.
Then they started to propagandise – they were not full time – Hilly had to get money, a tremendous problem, something I have never understood. This was one of the richest dioceses in the world, pouring money into building big colleges. Yet he had no money, strange thing, for the development of his own apostolate. They had a big set up under a Bishop Shiels who was a great personality, but it was a general Catholic youth thing, basketball, athletic guilds; the formation of apostles was not
Ironically, the team of the American YCW was always the poorest in the world, this I could never get over, and Cardijn never understood that. He could never understand the sacrifices those kids were making. No YCW organiser in either Belgium or France ever, in my opinion, made the element of sacrifice that the English organisers, and above all, the American organisers had to make – because it was even worse for the Americans in an absolutely rich country, with money oozing out of it all over, golden crucifixes, and golden ciboriums, the vulgarity of it all was terrible.
CW: They were on the breadline?
PK: The breadline! Bernie Kelly, take Bernie Kelly, who to me is the great saint of the whole YCW, – I give you this as an example – Bernie became the President after Tony I think, because Tony wanted to marry and move on. Bernie was working as a superintendent in a factory somewhere (came from an Irish family) and then he was in a YCW group with a priest called Father Shakmuth, who was very much underestimated, a very great priest. He then volunteered to come on fulltime, and I’d started them off the way I’d start off here. “If there was no money you starved – you shared what you had.” (I only found this out afterwards) Bernie brought all his savings with him to the YCW.
I was with him in New York, this was the situation we were in, it was really a bitter day in New York. We had an interview for him with a Jewish friend of mine, who had a private foundation, and we were trying to get money for the American YCW from him, and Bernie arrived from Chicago the night before. This was a very important interview for the first budget, the training budget for the American YCW and I was waiting there because I had these contacts internationally.
But Bernie came in; he was in a terrible state, and we were in the bloody YMCA – of the famous song2 – in 31st Street – the only clean accommodation, it was cheap, it was an awful place, and you weren’t allowed to bring food up to your room. When Bernie came, he was all of a sweat – it was bitterly cold – he wouldn’t let me get a doctor – he was extremely obstinate – and we had two single beds in the YMCA room. And I went down and got coffee in these plastic things, and the man on the lift wouldn’t let me bring them up, and I went to clout him, and I said, “My friend’s ill and I’m taking he bloody coffee up.”
And then we got to the room and Bernie for the first time opened up to me that night that there was something really wrong with him. He was dying of Hodgkinson’s disease – and he had known this when he came on the YCW. It was cancer of the blood – something like leukaemia – he wasted, away. He had been told this but kept it to himself, he had come on to give himself completely to the YCW. When he recovered a bit he said, “Everything is alright, don’t worry about me.”
And he went and did this interview the following day, and he got the money. I just had to put him back onto the plane, and then I followed up to Canada to meet the Canon, Mgr Cardijn, and then came down to Chicago – I was with him when he died. He really was a holy (he was an irritable man) but holy, really holy – I have never met such real holiness in the YCW. Bernie died, and I remember that night in the YMCA when Bernie told me about everything, and how he had kept it to himself, and he gave me strict instructions that if I was over when he died about the funeral. He had totally given himself goodness beyond crying with him really, I felt touched with great goodness and there was a certain asperity about him as well, you couldn’t sympathise with him. But this shows you the silliest situation and this deeply horrible clerical institution there, remote from the needs of these people. And Cardinal Stritch had been kind to Hilly, but we were right in the middle of a hotbed of clerical politics, and the apostolate to the young worker, and more and more I realised it was nothing to do with the YCW. You were between two theological schools of a triumphalist? legalistic Church suffering from a dose of creeping infallibility – and the other thing, which was in the life of people. It goes back to what you said originally – it was the congregation of the parish, but not really moving into the secular order and the realities changing.
CW: Pat, you made a number of trips to the United States???
PK: Yes. mainly in the 1950s, then I would link up with Cardijn somewhere else.
CW: Where else was the YCW Pat?
PK: Another trip I made there, Caroline was the president of the Girls, Tony president of the Boys, Mgr Hillenbrand and myself, we went on a three-months long trip to extend the Movement using all the Monsignor’s contacts all round, from Chicago westwards. Now there were already little groups which had been started by a priest who had studied in Rome. He had heard someone speak at the Gregorian, someone had started, someone had met someone else, and there was a current of similar things going on at the same time. There were three great developments in the United States which were going on at that time, which were also going on worldwide. There was the biblical renewal, through the Jesuits from Chicago, there was the great liturgical renewal going on from St ??? the big monastery, and Hillenbrand was one of the pioneers of the liturgical renewal. The spine of the whole movement was also the social doctrine, the progressive social doctrine, rather rigidly applied, the social ethic, the social doctrine, and the third thing was the advance of the work of the lay apostolate, and these three elements expressed in the States in a weaker form, were more prominent in Europe and Latin America, were the three elements which culminated in the breakthrough of the Vatican Council. The pastoral and liturgical renewal, the development of the social doctrine of the Church, the priest workers, the social situation, the secular world, and the whole doctrine of the laity – those were the three things. There may have been other subsidiaries. Ecumenism was much more subsidiary than that.
CW: The YCW happened though in people interested in these things.
PK: Well, amongst the priests who were interested in making the liturgical renewal, and often who were interested in making Catholic action. So you see, many of the key men in training in the United States had been trained in Rome, and the Rome training, mainly through the Gregorian, was on the making of Catholic action. There was quite a progress coming from the Gregorian. So, a lot of them coming the YCW were coming not from the worker side, but coming to make Catholic action.
So, when we went on this trip with Mgr Hillenbrand, the four of us, it was a great propaganda trip. And, in the meantime, we had started the Christian Family Movement, which had come about because I had been living with the Crowleys. They were friends of Mgr Hillenbrand. And Pat Crowley was a lawyer in Chicago, and he had a very good, practice, he had a very good lawyers’ group. And he was obviously interested in making Catholic action – this had come from Hillenbrand.
So, when we were there, I was having some difficulty in the growth of the YCW, because I think it was the time of the Korean war. And Paddy, Pats’ wife, both of them were very loving, beautiful people, very dynamic, and very hospitable – they had all the qualities that go with a very good high-class education in America, and riches to back it up.
It was very simple, but they had the means to travel, the means to communicate, it didn’t matter how much you used the phone, and they were genuinely hospitable. They always had open house and they took me in because I wanted to be near Mgr Hillenbrand and had to have a place to stay. And amongst the things we did together, (I don’t know how it all happened) they thought we really should do something for the family, the couples. So, I remember I worked very closely with them in the early days, with Hillenbrand, and other friends.
Paddy did a lot of the work in practical terms, she was able to get a woman in to do the washing and to do the cleaning, although she had a big family – she was an amazing organiser – so we worked the first ’How to Start a Section’ out of the Christian Family Movement and it was based on the English ’How to Start a Section’ of the YCW. I used the same formula – the principles of the movement applied to the family situation, but what was absent from it was the worker theme, and this was the problem when they began to extend it into Latin America, which they did. Evidently nobody is against the family everybody is for the family – it’s like being for mother’s apple pie. But in the middle-class church there, already emerging out of its working-class origins, they didn’t want to know really. It was all so anti-American to be “worker” in that sense.
CW: They had a different concept of the worker?
PK: Yes, I couldn’t do it on the tape, and you would need to read someone like Greeley3 though I don’t always trust him. I think it’s very superficial. But I think you need someone with an understanding of America to explain things. They were workers but it didn’t dominate their life, leisure would be more dominant than work. The social pattern was the Horatio Alger story— any man can become President – and so therefore, a worker movement, you didn’t even call the trade union a worker movement. The only ones who wanted to be called a worker movement were sort of wild-eyed socialists.
CW: So there was a great conceptual…?
PK: It was a problem – even the title, Young Christian Worker Movement, and I held on to it and gave wider interpretations to it, but Dave O’Shea was adamant in wanting to change the title from YCW to YCM (Young Christian Movement). They wanted to do this because they had so much difficulty. But I held on to it and I am glad they did hold on to it. I think the thing that helped them to hold, on to it were the links with the International.
CW: You mentioned Dave somebody?
PK: Dave O’Shea. As parties our international work in London in that period of 1946 – 1950, the way the International was organised, we were responsible for the development in English speaking countries, the English YCW, to contact them. So, what happened was, while I was doing this travelling…
CW: Excuse me, Pat, you had ceased to be President in Britain, hadn’t you?
PK: In 1950 – I was still President in 1950 even though I was increasingly away. And the work was done by Tom Casey and by others – but I remained on till 1950 (that had been my promise that I would). I don’t know who succeeded me, I think it was Kevin Muir.
CW: But the North American outreach?
PK: Simultaneously there was my work on the International, going to and fro from London, going to Brussels for my Bureau meetings, Marguerite running the show basically in Brussels, with Cardijn, me increasingly being demanded to go over there, from little to very much, mixed up with trips representing the YCW International at UNESCO, and all those things. We fitted trips in with these sort of things.
And in the meantime, I had got involved on the English side here, just to sort the English side out because it is connected with that. So, while all this was going on, the English movement proper were taking a full international role – they felt themselves as the International – the International wasn’t a group in Brussels – they were the International there.
So, for example, from the English Team we received in our team people from other countries, Eric Tyacke came from South Africa to train, Romeo Maione came over to train – none of them knew anything about the YCW – Eric came over to study British youth work.
Romeo was sent over because on my previous trip in ’47, (Romeo wasn’t connected with the Movement in 47) Bishop Power had started a group, and he said to me ’if ever you could receive this man and train him, he would be a good man’. I should think Maurice Foley did more on his training than anybody, and Mitch (this is where Mitch comes in).
So, there was all this physically present in 106 – 106 Clapham Road is a very important place – more came from that from the pre-conciliar Church that led into the Council than any other spot in England. That’s where Congar came when he was being attacked, and others, and there was a flow in from France and the Continent and there was a flow in from the English-speaking world.
So, Eric came to train from South Africa, Romeo came and was trained from Canada, a number came over from America, three or four, I can’t even remember their names, people came from Ceylon, from India, they lived with us, we had open house more or less. When Romeo came Bishop Power paid for him all the time he was staying with us, and joined in, and the way we trained them was to treat as an Organiser – they joined as a Training Organiser, and Romeo was put in the charge of Maurice Foley, he had to his rule of life as an organiser, then he would go out with Maurice to his area in Birmingham, and live on the road, and the great shock for Romeo when he came, for all his great worker aura, Romeo comes from quite a reasonably comfortable background, (you don’t know a very uncomfortable Italian background especially in the US or Canada).
Romeo, as a man-child never cleaned the stairs or done anything remotely considered as feminine work, and when he arrived, I was cleaning the stairs, and he said, “what do I do?” and I said, “you clean the bloody stairs like everybody!” So, the style was a bit of a combination.
So, a lot of work was going on there – don’t forget, Mitch played a very important part internationally, he was very quiet, this is another side of Mitch. He was at every meeting of the International Bureau – Mitch went to North America, Mitch contacted Power, Mitch spoke at the international seminaries in Rome, Poppy did a fantastic job as well, and John (Fitzsimons) had all his contacts all over the world – we were internationally known – we received people.
Equally, we sent people out on mission, for example, Eric went back to South Africa, Kevin Muir opened up Africa – on motor bike, walked – he was really remarkable. We irritate each other, he and I, but he really is extraordinary apostle. he went out to support Eric in South Africa and then he went to open up in Nigeria, and we were able to do this from the English YCW because we could pay them.
By this time, I (or we as a group) had become involved in starting a thing called the World Assembly of Youth (WAY), as an alternative to the World Federation Democratic Youth (WFDY), which was a large communist inspired thing. But the World Assembly of Youth was a round table of, not only traditional associations like scouts etc., which were highly non-political, and political movements, because Ernie Bevin and Morrison had realised that the whole youth work outside England was a way in which men and women were preparing for political life and suddenly realised that you couldn’t do this with non-political movements. And if England was going to be present in this increasingly modern world, the youth movements of the world were being used for political formation – and the first ones to realise that in this country were the Conservatives – they were very right and they came in and took up the connection with the Christian Democrats in Europe.
Kevin Muir went to represent the YCW at the World Assembly of Youth with a mandate to develop the YCW in all those areas. Then, during that period, I went out (the British Council paid for me to go) to the West Indian islands of Antigua and Dominica – the Leeward Islands – when they were coming into their freedom. I went as a representative. John had gone out for the formation of Trades Unions in Germany (John Fitzsimons) so Mitch was very much involved in this. And really, in fairness, when you talk about me, you have to include Mitch in all this – we were very much two heads in one bonnet – like, for instance, what I found was wonderful with him, when I came back from these trips he was so anxious to know, he was waiting in raptures, he thought I was terrific – I think we all meet this don’t we, and he was so good, and he genuinely wanted to know, and he didn’t grumble about the work. Mitch had this genius – he wasn’t narrow, and he didn’t see any confusion between building the movement in America and building it in England.
CW: So the English movement at this time was very, very missionary?
PK: Yes, very. We were constantly receiving people in Clapham Road. Bishop Power came to stay with us. He was Monsignor Power then and he had started YCW. We had umpteen priests – Bobby Bogan was very important at this stage as well because through his international seminarians he did an awful lot – the place was flooded all the time. Then Billy Hough was an English organiser and we sent him out to work in America as an organiser. The American YCW asked for him and he became very successful, the best organiser they ever had in Chicago where he was dealing with the Irish – he was Irish. He became a priest and is now one of the Parish Priests in Minneapolis. He opened up the movement in Minneapolis St Paul.
And Dave O’Shea, who was the General Secretary here, went out to work in Chicago at their invitation to help them. He was willing, he was very good, and he did a lot to organise the whole federation of Chicago of all the movements, not just the YCW. And he married an American, lived out there. He is now a professor in one of the Western universities, he took a degree out there. The States offered men like David, who had just come in at the end of the wedge, who was of university material but who couldn’t go, and the States offered that possibility.
CW: Who was it that went to Detroit?
PK: Tom Johnson (Billy Hough also went, and David) and then we had people who went out to the West Indies; we were in touch for the start of the YCW in Dominica and Rousseau, the federations there, and Australia – we had so much contact with Australia – Fr Lombard came here – the two early leaders of the YCW came and spent time with us, and so, in a way, the international was being organised not from one Secretariat in Brussels, but from the Secretariat in London linked with the grassroots development here.
It was the same in Brussels, linked with the grassroots development – what they all wanted to know was “how to do it” linked with the grassroots development in France. Now the French were fantastic. So, in an odd sort of way, the big development came during that period, with the three countries working like this.
And it stopped when they got the big superstructure, which is very interesting, because then they had to make a combinations of two blacks, one white, one mulatto, – one boy, one Middlesex, we had a combination of North America, South America – so when you get that no one could even communicate.
So, on America, there is a lot to be said on America which we could go back to. I made a number of trips there, and it was also not only connected to the American YCW. For instance – part of my work on the International had become for the World Assembly of Youth. This was where Maurice Foley had come in and was my deputy there. The WAY had sums of money to expend. It was a little bit anti-communist in a way. But, more than that, it was a round table for the West in youth movements. This brought us into contact with the European movement with Jean Monnet and Paul-Henri Spaak and so on.
And so, the English YCW during that period of the ’40s to ’60s through the ’50s and on had a very strong theme of receiving people from different countries, sending people out of our own, international representation through the World Assembly of Youth; international through the European Youth programme, contact with the British Council – a lot went on. And in a way, you wouldn’t accept this, but I think Mitch was much more effective than Cardijn in a lot of these things. Things were going on with him.
CW: Was he more effective in the English-speaking world?
PK: Oh yes, he was more effective in the English-speaking world than Cardijn, no doubt about that. Oh no doubt about that – you know, for the nitty gritty stuff. Cardijn would arrive, he was the prophet. He would give a speech. Nobody quite understood but we got the message that he was unique and that if it wasn’t he slipped off. He didn’t remain too long in the United States. I think the nitty gritty would have got him a bit.
But, also, he had this obsession with getting money there, and I used to feel slightly soiled after this. Here was I trying to – I could see the poverty of the American YCW and their needs which he could never understand; but he never understood it you see. And he was naughty on this because, you see, he always had the facility in Belgium to find enormous sums of money for the Movement, and don’t forget the Movement was heavily subsidised by the State.
And let’s face it, the political expression of the YCW in Belgium, especially the Flanders side, was in the Christian Democratic Party – you would have to see the structure and see where it fitted on – so it was always a fifty-fifty division between the socialists and the capitalists, and a few percent to the liberals, and so Cardijn had this facility. Cardijn was never, never short of money, always raised enough money. He raised vast sums of money from men like Beckaar (?) and he was in touch with a chemical factory in Arles and so on.
I was a bit upset – I knew he didn’t want it for himself, he wanted it for the development of the YCW, but what about the development there? I felt I wanted to do more for the development of the American YCW.
CW: I suppose there was a little bit of a legacy from the war too, wasn’t there? Because you certainly had it in France that the Americans and Russians were equally alien, and this was something we had to protect ourselves from.
CW: Your connection with the Movement in North America – presumably English–speaking Canada had got going?
PK: Yes, Rom was there, with Bishop Power and Tom Johnson and they were doing very well indeed – I think the problem came when Mgr Power was made a Bishop – some of the best YCW were made Bishops – and taken away and, rather like when men are taken away to be parish priests, they really feel that this was a work they did in their youth.
CW: Can I just butt in to ask you Pat, your interest and involvement with the North American movement was continuous until 1957 when you finally gave up the International?
PK: That’s right – it continued afterwards because they were friends of mine – some of the priests in America, it wasn’t just Hillenbrand in Chicago. For instance, one of the great YCW priests in US was John Berkerey a priest in Brooklyn, who is now chaplain to possibly the largest hospital for mentally affected people in probably the whole Western world, and he is a marvellous priest, he was great.
He was chaplain in Brooklyn – there was a team of priests in Brooklyn; there was him and Donnelly, Wendell in New York. They were all different characters; and Hillenbrand couldn’t gel at all, he was too authoritarian, really basic he was.
CW: But, Pat, the American movement eventually fell away, didn’t it?
PK: In my time it went through a number of stages, it grew from lying on the floor in St Gall’s4 writing the first How to Start a Section. One of the methods we used for extension was, because we had to use some method, we received people in from priests who would send in some young man and we would give him a three weeks training course. We would run twenty people on a training course – it was rather like the training of the YCW organisers in England, with a good retreat at the beginning and a good retreat at the end. And it was really pounding them with them having to write enquiries, write booklets, things they had never done before, learn how to give speeches and then we let them out to become organisers in their local area which they did very well.
All was going well, I mean in general, but the YCW, because of personalities, Hillenbrand possibly, or because of the deep integrism – because [while] the American Church was very advanced theologically on certain things like religious freedom through men like Murray, there were stonewall diehards, you talk about Prince Bishops here.
CW: We are near the end Pat so – the Movement did fall away, as we know in North America by stages?
PK: This came through when the big defection of priests happened.
CW: That was one of the factors, was it?
PK: Yes, the most important factor, because they were the one link of stability, because they had no backing from the Hierarchy.
You see, there was another consolidated problem which is historically important, which we were able to remain free of here, by my good judgement a little. And that was, you see, it’s like you now, if you had been in the YCW, there was a time when you would have had to be under the youth director of the diocese, and you would have had to report to him. Now what you had in the States was worse than that – you had a bit department called The National Conference of Catholic Men and The National Conference of Catholic Women – and these did all the representative work for the Church. And they were absolute tools of a very dynamic General Secretary who ran the Church; he thought he was Pope. And there was a big Youth Council, like a big Jimmy James thing, and we couldn’t be under that sort of thing; so, we were outside that structure.
CW: Pat, we are nearly at the end of the tape now. Where else did you go besides North America?
Well, India, there was a big trip to India; Ceylon, Philippines, Japan – that was the beginning of that opening up. Africa, of course. Kevin mainly saw to Africa. Then eventually Romeo saw to Canada, and eventually David saw to America after me; and then Billy saw to it afterwards – we always had someone present. The Australian YCW never had anyone present – oh yes, we did, Johnny Stamp, went from the East End, and he became a Jesuit lay brother – he really had a tremendous influence in Australia – he is still there.
Patrick Keegan Archives, English YCW
Undated but after 1978 which was the year of the Village People YMCA song and that Wojtyla became pope (October 1978) plus the reference to New Advent (1979).
1Pope John Paul II spoke of a New Advent in his first encyclical, Redemptor Hominis in 1979: http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_04031979_redemptor-hominis.html
4Possibly St Gall’s parish in Chicago.