Sunday, October 9, 2011

Young Catholic Workers Movement of Korea

From 1970 to 1980, the JOC movement in Korea was very active. (JOC stands for Jeunesse Ouvrières Catholiques in French and Young Catholic Workers in English.) Founded by Cardinal Cardijn in 1958, the movement spread from France to many other countries of the world. Its mission, as set forth by JOC's international chaplain, is "to form a just society, raise the level of our appreciation of our human dignity, and promote fraternal love. To change the world is the work we have been given." He added that he hopes the movement will never forget this.
The JOC conducts its meetings by focusing on a three-prong approach of "seeing, judging, and acting."  First, a member examines a situation that needs to be confronted; second, forms a judgement with the light of Catholic social principles; and third, decides what to do in the concrete situation to implement these principles. In the 1990s it lost its vitality here in Korea primarily because of the change in the workers' environment. But, according to an article on the visit of the international chaplain that appeared in the Catholic Times, we are now seeing a change in the fortunes of the movement. 

 The bishops decided in 1999 to no longer have oversight of the movement, abrogated the national office, and returned the oversight to the individual dioceses, hoping to see some growth in the movement. But even in Inchon, where it was very active, it gradually disappeared. In Seoul it continued to thrive but the article mentions that there was a change there to a more spiritual approach, with the recognition that changing society begins with changing oneself.

The problems we had in society during the 70s and 80s have been remedied to a great extent so the ideals and expectations of the young have to be reconsidered with the eyes of the young workers.The chaplain, when talking to a group in Seoul, quoted the words of founder Cardinal Cardijn: "Young people are worth more than all the gold in the world because they are sons and daughters of God. All actions start from this premise." 
Since we are concerned with the young people in our society and their alienation from the Church, it is sad to hear that one of the great movements in the Church, which has inspired many other groups in the Church, was itself not helped to continue its work. 

The efforts of Cardinal Joseph Cardijn have not been appreciated by many in the Church. In his own time he ran into difficulty in having his concern for the workers brought more directly into the evangelizing life of the Church. He appreciated the role of the laity like few did in his day: "The lay apostolate is a necessity that does not have ecclesiastical origin but is of the divine order, willed by God himself." His most famous quote: "We are always at the beginning."  

The Cardinal had much to do with the ideas that formed the basis of Pope John's encyclical Mater and Magistra. His insights also appeared in the Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern World and the Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity. There are those who would like to see him declared a Doctor of the Church so his words and life would reach more of the Catholic World.                                                                                                                                                                 

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