What model for a Catholic Council for Lay Apostolate?

In its latest submission to the Australian Plenary Council, the Australian Cardijn Institute proposed the establishment of an “‘Australian Catholic Council for the Lay Apostolate” that would provide support and resources for the lay apostolate movements and their work.

Here is the proposal:

The Australian Cardijn Institute and the Jocist movements globally have seen the impact that formation in reading and responding to the signs of the times can have within the Church for the world. By reflecting on their context and experience in the light of the Gospel with others formed in the tradition of the Church (especially traditions of Catholic Social Teaching) and open to the formation that comes from taking responsible action, small groups of ordinary faithful are taking their place in the mission of God.

We urge the Council to draw on the rich experience of the Jocist movements in Australia to revitalise understanding of the lay apostolate, leading to the lay formation and social transformation outlined in what follows. Building on relationships in Review of Life groups, facilitated by appropriate chaplains and resource people, we trust that the Spirit will be at work to encourage and enable faithful and courageous responses to the issues of our context in local situations and beyond.

This would be a commitment to nurture the discipleship of faithful local groups.

We therefore propose that the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference

establish a council to be known as the Australian Catholic Council for the Lay Apostolate (ACCLA) to advise the Bishops Commission for Evangelisation, Laity and Ministry. The ACCLA should comprise members with current experience within the lay apostolate and be sufficiently resourced with funds and administrative support.

provide direct funding to nationally organised movements that promote the lay apostolate as described in the Vatican II Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity.

establish and provide financial support through the ACCLA for:

training in the theology and pedagogy of lay movements promoting faith formation and social transformation for priests, religious and lay people; and

research, publication and study to foster understanding of the lay apostolate and the application of Catholic Social Teaching.

So now the question is how do we achieve this objective? 

Perhaps one way to begin is to look at other similar bodies that exist or have existed that do or have done similar work?

Australian National Secretariat of Catholic Action

In fact, here in Australia, historically, the first such structure was the National Secretariat of Catholic Action in Australia (later known as ANSCA). This was established in 1938 in implementation of a decision by the last Australian Plenary Council in 1937. Archbishop Justin Simonds, then of Hobart, was appointed secretary of the body.

Over the next few years, the Australian Church invested immensely in the work of this body. And indeed the Australian YCW and YCS were established in 1941 and 1942 respectively.

So important was this work that by 1942, Corpus Christi College, the main seminary for Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania at the time, had appointed a “chair of Catholic Action” filled by the remarkable Jesuit, Fr Charlie Mayne.

Sadly, tensions soon broke out in ANSCA over whether it would follow the BA Santamaria line embodied by the “Catholic Social Studies Movement,” or the Specialised Catholic Action model embodied by the Jocist movements.

As a result, the YCW also ended up in a difficult relationship with ANSCA.

There’s a lot of history here to explore (perhaps in a future post), including mistakes to be avoided in the future as well as hopefully some positive insights for the future.


Catholic Action Plans (Examiner, Launceston, 22 January 1938)

Chair of Catholic Action at Corpus Christi College (The Advocate, Melbourne, 2 April 1942)

Current models

What about existing models though?

A number of countries have councils for the laity, lay movements, associations of the faithful and even the lay apostolate.

From what I can see so far, the only one model that comes close to the ACI proposal is the Mission Ouvrière or Worker Mission in France.

France’s Mission Ouvrière

The French “Worker Mission” was established in 1957 – interestingly, the year of the First World Council of the YCW and of the Second World Congress on Lay Apostolate. This is clearly the grouping that is closest to the Jocist approach.

It has a national structure and a number of dioceses also have their own corresponding diocesan structures.

This is how it describes its mission:

The Workers’ Mission is the institution of the Catholic Church which brings together the actors of the evangelization of the working class and working-class neighborhoods.

Both at the local and national level, the mission of the workers’ mission is to :

coordinate the actors of evangelization in the working world and working-class neighborhoods

offer its members tools and training to promote their pastoral mission

offer the Church expertise and attention to the working world and working-class neighborhoods

support research and innovation in theology and pastoral care of the workers

Initiated by the assembly of the Bishops of France in 1957, it includes:

Catholic Action for Children (ACE)

Young Christian Workers (JOC)

Workers Catholic Action (ACO)

Worker priests (PO)

Worker Pastoral Research and Study Group (GREPO)

Christian Workers (TC)(Consecrated women)

Nuns , priests, deacons in the working-class world, and lay people in connection with the working-class world and working-class neighborhoods

The Workers’ Mission is tens of thousands of children, young people and adults who listen, play, share and act as close as possible to the realities of working people in neighborhoods, associations, companies. …

Clearly, it’s a very comprehensive approach, bringing together a whole range of actors and movements. 


France’s Mission de l’Eglise en rurale

This is the rural oriented counterpart of the Worker Mission.

In contrast to the Mission Ouvrière, other councils of the lay apostolate and the like that I have found are more centres of dialogue and cooperation.


Belgium: Interdiocesan Council for the Laity (CIL)

The CIL aims to be “a place of meetings, consultations and initiatives of the laity involved in the Catholic Church and in the society.”

“Recognized by the Episcopal Conference, the CIL promotes dialogues and debates, first among the various sensibilities expressed by the members who compose it, but also with the bishops and other members of the Catholic Church, as well as with followers of other religious and philosophical currents, holders of public powers, civil society and other citizens.

“In 1962, on the basis of the See, Judge, Act method developed particularly in Belgium and to take into account the contributions of Vatican Council II, an authentic Advisory Council was formed to allow bishops, vicars general, chaplains and lay people to share and to enrich what is lived within the works, organizations, services and movements of the Church. In 1965 followed the installation of the General Council of the Lay Apostolate (CGAL) which in 1996 became the Interdiocesan Council of the Laity or CIL, in order to strengthen the collaboration of the dioceses of Wallonia and Brussels, especially between the councils. pastoral care desired by Vatican II.

“Three quarters of these members, including a delegate bishop, represent the dioceses, movements, organizations and Church services of Wallonia and Brussels. In addition to these delegates, there are co-opted members invited to join the CIL because of their commitments among immigrants, in the media world, for the defense of human rights, the construction of Europe, including at the pluralist level.

“The vast majority of these members are formed by lay people. But there are also clerics, including religious, leading engagements alongside lay people.

“In addition to all these members, there are also observers from the Dutch-speaking Interdiocesan Pastoral Council (IPB), the United Protestant Church and the Orthodox Church of Belgium.

All CIL activities are carried out in a voluntary capacity. It had a staffed secretariat from the 1980s until 2012.

These activities include:

  • A General Assembly;

  • One-off or permanent working groups;

  • A Board of Directors ;

  • An animation team .

It is also accompanied by a theological adviser .


France: Conseil pour les mouvements et associations de fidèles (Council for the Movements and Associations of the Faithful)

This is a largely clerical body comprising mostly bishops.

The Council lists eight different kinds of groups:

a) Catholic Action

b) Children and young people

c) Family movements

d) Spiritual movements and families

e) The Renewal Family

f) Health groups

g) Solidarity groups

h) Economic and professional life

i) Other movements and associations

United Kingdom: National Council for Lay Associations

Representatives from 23 lay apostolic member associations, representatives from nine liaison organisations, an Episcopal Advisor, a Chaplain, five officers and three lay advisors, form the council.

It convenes twice a year for a two day conference. Ideas, insights and experiences are shared on major issues of national concern. And the council fosters cooperation between its members.


South Korea: Catholic Lay Apostolate Seoul

CLAS lists its main activities as:

The exchange of information and the reinforcement of relationship among its members.

Collecting research materials about Lay Apostolate and the research of them.

Preparing the homily materials for Laity Sunday and the distribution of it.

The cooperation for the reeducation of the laity

The research for methods for evangelization of the Korean people, programming of mission work, suggestions and publications.

Mutual exchange with other international associations and organizations of Lay Apostolate

Nevertheless, it’s not clear (at least on the English site) what it’s relationship is with the YCW and other movements.



Uganda: Uganda National Council of the Lay Apostolate


North America

Coming soon!

Latin America

Coming soon!

Author: Stefan Gigacz






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