Working Catholic Youth’s Second National Congress and Convention of 100 Marriages, Montreal, 1939


The Jeunesse ouvrière catholique (Working Catholic Youth) in Quebec produced this silent film in 1939, which depicts the Congrès des cent mariages (Convention of 100 Marriages) on the occasion of its Second National Congress. The film is in the Fonds d’archives de la Jeunesse ouvrière catholique (Working Catholic Youth Archive) at the Quebec National Library and Archives. The Canadian group was modeled after the “Jeunesse ouvrière chrétienne,” (JOC—Young Christian Workers) a Roman Catholic movement lead by Joseph Cardijn (1882–1967), a Belgian cardinal who founded it in 1912. Jeunesse ouvrière chrétienne gained the support of Belgian bishops and Pope Pius XI in 1925 and evolved into a global Catholic movement. It spread to Canada in 1931 under the name “Jeunesse ouvrière catholique.” The group gained popularity in Quebec during the Great Depression, when Georges Gauthier (1871–1940), archbishop of Montreal, and Father Henri Roy, an oblate, launched an initiative to study and combat social issues facing working-class youth. In Quebec, the Jeunesse ouvrière catholique aimed to reach youth who were increasingly dispirited by the conditions of industrialization and the economic crisis. As a space of social engagement within the Catholic Church, the JOC, or jocistes, represented a current of liberal independence among Catholic congregations. The movement also represented an early example of “youth” seen as a separate social group with its own identity. Led by the youth themselves, the Jeunesse ouvrière catholique established 172 local sections and attracted more than 6,000 members. Between 1935 and 1939 the JOC journal, Jeunesse ouvrière (Working Youth), printed 20,000 copies every week. The group targeted the declining rate of marriage associated with the Great Depression. On July 23, 1939, the Jeunesse ouvrière catholique celebrated 106 outdoor weddings at the Delorimier Stadium in Montreal. This event required months of preparation. The group offered participating couples a gold ring per spouse and paid for wedding festivities for 25 guests per couple. The event was originally intended to be hosted in the Notre-Dame Basilica, but the venue was changed to the Delorimier Stadium to accommodate the 25,000 attendees. Two weeks after the event, World War II broke out, and the JOC’s influence gradually declined thereafter. Half the association’s members left to participate in the war, and postwar prosperity ended youth interest in the JOC. However, out of the ceremony and Gauthier and Roy’s studies were born the Cours de préparation au mariage (Marriage Preparation Courses), which subsequently spread throughout the world.

Last updated: September 2, 2015