When we launched the 80th year of the YCW in England and Wales, we asked for any stories about the peoples' experiences of the movement over the past 80 years. Below are examples of some of the wonderful responses we've had.

Thank you to all those who have responded so generously.


Monica Jackson - St. Joseph’s RC Church, Birtley

My memories start with the Pre-YCW when l was maybe 13/14 yrs. Old. How grown up we thought we were as this was a introduction to YCW which my older sisters were in.

I know we had discussions about our faith and as Christians how we could help other people of the parish, which we did by doing odd jobs for our older people of the parish: shopping, filling the coal bucket, etc. I also collected the mission money with my older sister. I’m sure we had quizzes and played games and l remember sing alongside (probably hymns ). Once a year we would go to St. Dominic's to meet up with other YCW groups for a social night.

By 15yrs old l was working, so I advanced to YCW which seemed to have more responsibilities.

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It was all part of parish life, school, Brownies, guides, Pre-YCW, Children of Mary, YCW, it was all the norm for families to socialise together. When we were 17/18yrs we were introduced to the parish hall socials, where our friend’s brothers taught us to dance. May....June we walked in processions singing hymns from church to a nearby house "The Croft" where we had benediction. Police controlled the traffic.

I know Faith of Our Father by heart as you sang it like the national anthem after every event. Church was our second home. I’ll be 80 yrs this year and have enjoyed thinking back on what we thought were the good times ....no one had much but everyone shared. It was a great start in life for me and I am still living by the examples l was given. I wish you every success on the 80th anniversary.

Joyce Barrett - Hebburn, North-East England


I was inspired to join the YCW by going to a study week in Hove/Brighton in Sussex in 1948 with a friend whose name is Bernie McIlroy. We stayed in a convent boarding school, courtesy of the nuns. We had brilliant accommodation, good food and beautiful surroundings. There were about 100 other girls there from all over England and some from European countries like Germany and France. It was there that we met Pat Keegan.

It was a great experience for us and left a lasting impression on both of us. We were filled with enthusiasm. The week was set up by organisers like Betty Molyneux, Molly Madison and Eileen Frain, who were so dedicated that we couldn't help but be inspired by them.

So we came back to Tyneside raring to go and we set up a section of the YCW in Hebburn-on-Tyne with five other girls - there were no mixed groups in those far-off days, of course there were plenty of boys' groups. It was still going strong when I left to marry Eugene Barrett, a fellow YCW member from the Seaham section, and it continued for several years.

After our marriage, we joined the adult section, which was the family and social apostalate. We were members of this until we left Tyneside to live in Harpenden, Herts, in 1964, but we kept supporting the YCW in any way we could. Sadly, my husband died four years ago.

Canon Cardijn (eventually Cardinal if I remember rightly) was a great man who introduced the church to quite revolutionary ideas, starting from the First World War, which reached out to young workers who were not only estranged from the church, but also working in very bad conditions with no regard for their dignity as human beings, just cogs in the wheel. He organised groups which made them aware of their rights and of the needs of their fellow workers and taught them that Christ would always want better for them and all workers. We were encouraged to strive for a much better world of work with fairness for all regardless of whether you were a Catholic.

Personally, it transformed my whole outlook on life. I could then see the need for social justice, the importance of caring for all of those around us and the importance of trade unions and the raising of people's living standards. I knew people who, because of the YCW, went into local government and one was in Harold Wilson's Government. His name was Maurice Foley.

It gave me a new take on Christianity and a true relationship with Christ. People of my age group on Tyneside were Mary Carty (Fitzpatrick), Bernadette Madigan, Pat Morgan, Jimmy Berry, Ronnie Brown (who became a priest) to mention a few.

In my long life I haven't found any way of life that beats what I was shown in my youth. We went to other study weeks in Harrogate and Roehampton. They were our further education or university, with great benefits for all.

So don't be discouraged - the YCW is a very important movement and very worthwhile.

Gerard Sherlock - St Edmund's Little Hulton

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In the early 60s I was a member of the Pre-YCW and YCW in the parish of St Edmund's, Little Hulton. Our chaplain was Father Joseph ( later Dean) Loran, a man who loved and inspired so many young people by his great love of the YCW and its principles.

I spent many happy times in my years in the YCW and as a group we worked very closely with other regions, namely Blackburn, Warrington and Bradford with Fr. Loran overseeing the activities of the regions. We would hold an annual get together and in turn each region would play host to the other groups for a weekend of spiritual and social activities, culminating in Sunday morning Mass.

There was also an annual holiday where the four regions under Fr. Loran's guidance would come together for a week away. The one I attended being at Gormanston College in Co. Meath near Dublin. This was also made up of spiritual and social activities with Gospel Enquiries and See, Judge and Act being at the forefront of our days but also lots of time being free for sport and leisure events....a great time!!

One of my special memories was attending King's Hall at Belle Vue in Manchester in May of 1962 and watching and listening to the founder, Cardinal Cardijn!! In fact very little was heard due to the non-stop cheering and applauding from the crowd each time the Cardinal attempted to speak.... a truly memorable day which I will always treasure.

I will be seventy later this year but the time I spent as a boy/young man as a member of the YCW will remain with me forever and will always remind me of the impact its principles and teachings had on my life.

Regards and best wishes to all YCW members everywhere.

Mary Plucinski (nee Bennett) - Leicester

In 1959, I was fortunate to go with the YCW from Nottingham on a pilgrimage to Rome. I was 19 years old and was living in Leicester at the time and a group of us joined up with Nottingham for this purpose. We went by rail and the journey there was uneventful. However, when we arrived in Rome we attended Mass in several churches toured Rome at our leisure and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

The most memorable moment was the torchlight procession to the Coliseum where we all attended Mass. I shall never forget that there were 87 different speaking nationalities and we all celebrated Mass in Latin. I shared my hymn book with an African girl and it was wonderful to think that we both shared this beautiful experience.

I shall be 80 this year, but I shall always remember that Mass.

On a different note, on the journey back there were two trains – A and B. I was on train A and it was de-railed at Hesdigneul in France. I was asleep in the luggage rack and on impact was thrown out of it and landed on the floor. Then we had to vacate the train and all gather in a field in the pouring rain, and pray that train B could be stopped in time.

Our prayers were answered. Another train was sent for us and we continued our journey to England.

The end of my story is that, through standing in the rain I caught Asian Flu and was off work for two weeks!

Always Mass in the Coliseum will stay in my mind as a most wonderful uplifting experience.