The Australian Young Catholic Students movement is today marking 80 years since its first leaders’ rally was held in Melbourne, when nearly 200 Catholic college leaders met to discuss the work of the newly formed organisation.
The YCS Leaders’ Rally on October 14, 1942, was a major event, attracting the attendance of three archbishops and a bishop.
This was a time when northern Australia was being bombed and threatened with invasion, and many of these students were facing military service after they left school. Yet these students, like many others in the newly established YCS groups around Australia, were planning for a better post-war Australia.
The framework for the work of the YCS was established by the Australian bishops’ annual Social Justice Statement, which started in 1941, but with the objective of having the students control their own movement.
Much has changed since the YCS was established 80 years ago as the first national Catholic student social justice movement. At the time, it was mandated as the preferred student organisation within Catholic schools in many dioceses.
The YCS reached maximum membership in the late 1960s when it had over 30,000 members in 24 dioceses. The YCS has become inactive in most of the dioceses in which it was once present, but its pioneering work has continued.
Since the 1960s, a wide number of other social justice initiatives have been introduced into schools providing a rich diversity for student involvement in social issues and social action. Many former YCS members have contributed to the development of the lay apostolate within the Church and Catholic schools.
Commemorating 80 years of Australia’s Catholic Student Social Justice movement (Australian YCS Facebook page)