Young Christian Workers (YCW), in partnership with the University of Notre Dame Australia (UNDA), hosted a symposium on 12 June based on Pope Leo XIII’s social encyclical, Rerum Novarum.

The revolutionary encyclical on worker’s rights, published in 1891, is considered the foundational document for the church’s social teaching.

The symposium commenced with Mass in the Notre Dame Chapel, followed by catechesis and community organizing skills delivered by a range of speakers.

Each speaker will focus on different Catholic social teachings: human dignity, subsidiarity, and solidarity.

The day concluded with a report by UNDA Politics and International Relations Senior Lecturer on poverty in Perth, particularly relating to “precarious work” and work casualization.

“Precarious work”, is one of the biggest challenges facing young workers today, particularly in the current COVID-19 economic climate, and is one of the main issues YCW intends to emphasize throughout the day.

After each talk, breakout groups will engage in discussion, which will help them reflect on their personal experience and how they can act informed by the principles of Catholic social teaching.

Sam Vermeulen, YCW Perth Youth Engagement Officer, says the conference aims to educate young Christians on Catholic social teaching and practical actions young people can commit to for the common good.

Rerum Novarum is a widely celebrated encyclical and is still relevant today; its content had a big personal effect on me in my conversion to Catholicism two years ago,” he told The eRecord. “I can still remember reading: ‘working men have been surrendered, isolated and helpless, to the hardheartedness of employers and the greed of unchecked competition, and although this was written 130 years ago, this still seems to be the condition of most workers today.

“His Holiness continues to suggest that as Catholics, we should be ‘helping [workers] out of their difficulties, inviting them to companionship, and receiving the returning wanderers to a haven where they may securely find repose. This is what I hope this event can achieve. Sam highlights Pope Pius XI’s words to a young Cardinal Joseph Cardjin (the founder of YCW): “the workers need the Church, and the Church needs the workers”. This is the main reason for running this event, the Church has so many resources [intellectual, cultural, economic, and spiritual resources] that workers desperately need. And the Church, by its missionary nature, needs to be engaging with the realities of everyday people in the world, he concluded.