Patrick Keegan, president of the YCW International Bureau, during the late 1940s and early 1950s, delivered this speech at the opening of the YCW Interntional Congress held at Braine l’Alleud, near Brussels, Belgium on 5 September, 1950.
The YCW International exists. We have come from different parts of the world, because we are resolved to sustain, assist and make possible everywhere the complete development and liberation as Christians and as workers, of all the young workers of the world.
It is a privilege for me to welcome 450 delegates, and others from countries in the world. There has been great sacrifice to enable all of us to come here. In one factory the workers collected money to send their delegate. It is therefore with great emotion that I welcome you here, in the name of the International YCW, and I would now like to present the delegates of the different countries:
Since the last international Conference in Montreal in 1947 we have made great progress throughout the world. We have seen the rise of the YCW in new countries. Three important examples of this are:
1) Germany, which brings to the International the pledge of the cooperation of the millions of young workers of this nation;
2) The USA, bringing to the International YCW a promise of the support of the working youth of the new world.
3) Japan – In this country we see the life of our movement bringing to the International that promise of deep and profound contact with the young workers of the East.
We see now in the great continents of India and Africa the transition from agrarian and simple conditions, to the beginning of a highly concentrated industry. One hears and reads of thousands of young people leaving their tribes for the first time in their life, and entering with a simplicity unknown to the Western World, a system in which they are looked upon primarily in terms of production. The barbarities carried out during the rise of industrialism in the western countries are now shamefully repeated in countries where industrialisation is just beginning.
To these young workers, the YCW sends its message of confidence and hope. In this Study Week, there will be special sessions where the methods of the YCW will be studied in relationship to its expansion in these countries. Our responsibility in these areas where working people now feel and desire freedom is very great. We have a great responsibility as delegates of the YCW of our country at this International Conference. The main purpose of this Conference is as follows:
1) The study of the situation of the young worker in the world, and how best the YCW in each country can bring a solution. This means that we must know clearly the fundamentals of our great movement, and be prepared to study the adaptation of methods of the YCW to different countries and different continents.
2) To create and strengthen a solid, deep unity, friendship and solidarity between the YCW of the different countries. To reinforce the unity between national YCWs in order that in every country we may better solve the problems and needs of the young workers which now are not only on a national plane, but also on an international plane.
3) As a result of our studies to prepare a Manifesto which will be presented to international institutions, organisations and anywhere else where the needs of the working youth must be represented and studied. From this Conference thousands more of the young workers of the world must be assisted to understand their vocation and mission in the world of work.
At the base of all our work we place ourselves with a childlike simplicity at the service of Christ’s Church, knowing clearly that there is no true solution to the young workers unless that solution be totally Christian, totally apostolic – taking its mission from the Church of Christ’s apostles, and giving itself completely to the redemptive mission of Christ’s Church.
We know very well that the YCW International exists. Therefore it is with great joy, pride and confidence that I wish to greet one of our friends who, during these days of work, represents among us the authorities of the ILO, which itself is so interested in the problem of the working youth in the world today. The real International depends for its strength on every member, on every leader in each local section in each country. There is no International YCW if there are no local sections of young workers who work with all their effort to transform the environment of their neighbourhood, the environment of the work; and be of service to their comrades – the young workers of their districts.
When we look at the YCW International, we must see very clearly that its future hope rests in the local sections – rests in the local leader and the members who carry out the repeated, deep, slow and humble work of penetration in their own environment, in their factories, in their neighbourhoods. The strength of the YCW International rests on the leaders of our local sections, giving their comrades that profound service that springs from our mission of charity.
The union of our International does not lie in words, large meetings, or in an administrative staff alone – but it exists in the spirit of the YCW – a spirit that knows no frontiers. It exists in each member end leader in the local section being profoundly conscious that all young workers, without a single exception, regardless of their colour or race, are called to be sons and daughters of God. It exists in their work, and in their action to transform the situations of life that in any way contradict this profound and vital truth.
Therefore as a result of our work at this International Conference, we must return to our countries, intending to found and to build more local sections where the young workers of our districts will discover the meaning and purpose of their life.
To conclude: the International YCW springs from the desire of each national YCW to come together and place their efforts on an international plane; because the problems of the young worker are no longer national, but international. By its very nature, the YCW could never remain confined to any- one country, and during this study week we must discover the best means in spite of all language difficulties, to bring to the young workers of the world a message of liberation, a means to discover their vocation and mission; a movement which will answer their needs and answer the real problems of their lives. Each one of us, having the spirit of pioneers, will use this study week to do everything to further equip us to win, to recruit and to make new apostles of the young workers of our countries.
From our meetings this week, we must go out consumed with a desire to bring the message of Christ to all the young workers, bearing in mind that we are responsible before God and the whole working class to bring to each young worker a sense of his value, his dignity and his vocation.
In spite of all the difficulties in our own countries, in our local sections – this meeting here is a proof that the YCW will not fail in its mission to the young workers of the world.
Patrick Keegan, YCW International Congress 1950, IYCW Archives, 2.1.05.38 (www.patkeegan.josephcardijn.com)