The YCW in England and Wales held its 80th National Council last month in Trafford Park. It was a well attended day, drawing young leaders, Companions and Chaplains from across the country.
The day began with welcomes, introductions and prayers - led by Mgr. John Marsland, National Chaplain - using the YCW Prayer as a means of reflection towards the day ahead, but also the year of work behind us all.
We were also joined by Bishop of Salford, John Arnold, who spoke of his support for the work of the YCW and his wish that we continue our work across his Diocese but also the rest of the country. Afterwards, the Bishop said: “I am impressed by the energy and sense of commitment of the young people. This is precisely the age group that we hear all too much about as drifting from the Church” and encouraged parishes to look at setting up Groups.
Following the opening remarks, Kate Wilkinson, gave her President’s report - outlining all that has happened since the last National Council. She took the members through the current 1 year action plan and 3 year strategic aims, which guides the work of the NEC over the year. Kate also announced that after 2 years at the helm, she would be stepping down as President.
Before the election of a new President, there was some business to do first. This involved approving the accounts put before the members by Sean Smith the National Treasurer.
With the accounts approved, the process of electing a new President began. There was only one nomination - for current National Training and Development Worker, Marc Besford. Marc gave a short speech outlining why he wanted to stand for the position and some of the experience he has. The vote to elect Marc was unanimous and he will take office officially in July to allow for a period of transition into the role.
In response to his election Marc said: “It is truly an honour to be elected as President of the YCW in England and Wales. This movement has given me so much over the past few years and I look forward to giving back as much as I can. Kate had done a fantastic job over the past 2 years and so I also want to thank her for everything she has done.”
Kate wished Marc well on his election, saying: “I have worked alongside Marc on the NEC and know of his passion and commitment to the movement. He is well placed to keep it growing and developing in the coming years.”
The National Council also gave the NEC an opportunity to launch the YCW’s new leadership programme - Be The Difference - which aims to draw together the many ways that a young person can develop their leadership skills through the YCW.
In the afternoon session of the day, those assembled welcomed Kevin Flanagan along to speak about the trade union roots of the YCW. Kevin is the Director of St Anthony’s Centre for Church and Industry and a former YCW leader. The topic was chosen because the Trades Union Congress has chosen this year to focus on young workers.
Kevin gave a barnstorming presentation, highlighting how the YCW began as the “Trade Union Youth” and grew out of this deep connection between young workers and the message of the Gospels. Weaving in quotes from Cardijn and various Papal encyclicals, Kevin focused on how the core principles of Catholic Social Teaching mean we have to express our solidarity with workers through support of Trade Unions and the dignity of work.
For the final part of the day, the young leaders split off from the adult companions/chaplains and each group went through some training sessions.
The young leaders looked at the idea of leadership, including the different ways in which one can be a leader and the important skills found in leaders. This involved looking specifically at how Jesus calls us all to be Christian leaders and how we can live this out each day amongst our family, friends and work colleagues.
The adult companions explored more deeply the units within the leadership programme and discussed how they could best help the young leaders work their way through it.
Finally, the day ended with Mass in St Anthony’s Church.