INTERNATIONAL MOVEMENT OF CATHOLIC STUDENTS (IMCS)
The International Movement of Catholic Students (IMCS) brings together more than 80 different national federations, associations, and Catholic university movements as well as students of higher education in general, spread over all continents. Since 1921, when it was founded under the name of Pax Romana to promote peace and justice in the world, IMCS has given itself the mission to provide holistic education to students around the globe.
As a Catholic student movement, IMCS’s main mission is to evangelize the student community. Students are encouraged to live their faith while being involved in society locally, nationally and internationally.
Since 1949, IMCS has represented its members as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) with consultative status at the United Nations at the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the Department of Public Information (DPI), the Department of Science of the Education, and the Department of Culture (UNESCO).
IMCS is also active with intergovernmental and international bodies such as the International Labor Organization and the World Bank to express the concerns of youth.
The IMCS represents Catholic students within the church under the status of international association of lay Catholic faithful in close collaboration with the Pontifical Council for the Laity and the State Secretariat of the Holy See. Inspired by Jesus’ teachings and gospel values, IMCS encourages students to live spiritually in action, linking faith, intellect, and service to one another by prayer, reflection, and intervention on issues at all levels of society.
Reflection Document on the Identity of IMCS – Pax Romana
Dear all IMCS National Leaders,
The following is a reflection document on the identity of IMCS- Pax Romana. It is a result of reflections of the Working Group on Identity and the reflection by national and regional leaders at the 2003 International Committee and the 2004 International Coordination Meeting.
Why reflect on identity?
Since 1921, International Movement of Catholic Students of Pax Romana1 (IMCS), has sought to define and redefine the identity of the movement as it changes and grows to meet the challenges of the contemporary world.
Background of this Document
During the 2001 IMCS International Coordination Meeting (ICM), IMCS established a Working Group on Identity whose task was “to research the history and current understanding of the IMCS in order to produce a document which would be a proposed statement of identity today.” The results of this Working Group was presented and deepened at the 2003 IMCS International Committee and the 2004 IMCS ICM. At the 2004 meeting, the regional and international teams of IMCS agreed that the international team would send the following document to all IMCS national movements, federations, and groups for reflection and response to the International Team by September 1st, 2005. These responses would then help IMCS develop a deeper document that responds to the reality of the movement.
It is not a final reflection and it will never be, as identity is a dynamic and changing way of being. This document seeks to address three main questions:
- What is the aim and mission of our movement?
How do we achieve those objectives?
What methodology do we use?
2. Evolution of Our Identity
The beginnings of IMCS can be traced back past our “official” founding in 1921 in Fribourg, Switzerland, to the late 19th Century with the International Union of Catholic Students. In 1921, a diverse group of existing national federations of Catholic university students from Europe, Argentina, Java (Indonesia), and the United States, founded IMCS with the name of Pax Romana, to express their desire to build peace and solidarity in a world torn apart by war. Since then the identity of IMCS at the international, regional, national, and local levels has changed and grown to meet the challenges of the world and the local context in which they are active. The identity, name and structure of each national movement within IMCS also often differs from county to country.
Although, IMCS was founded by a majority of European student movements, IMCS quickly began to grow into the other regions by helping organize new national federations and incorporate preexisting ones. In the 1930s and 1940s, IMCS grew quickly in the Americas and Australia. The 1950s, saw the rapid growth of IMCS in Asia. In the 1960s, IMCS began to have a significant presence in Africa. Today, IMCS in continuing to grow especially in Africa, Asia Pacific, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East.
This ability to adapt to “read the signs of the time”2 and to address the different realities in which IMCS exists, is a main reason why IMCS has been able to last over 80 continuous years. At all times, IMCS has sought to address many significant challenges facing the world. World War I and II gave our movement the role of a peace movement. The challenges and changes of the Post World War II era with the Cold War and the Second Vatican Council focused our identity on issues of social justice, human rights, refugees, liberation theology, ecumenical dialogue and more attention to the grassroots level. In today’s globalized world IMCS faces new challenges with fundamentalist excesses and intolerance, war and new conflicts, excessive capitalism, excessive individualism, increasing marginalisation, the challenges of HIV/AIDS, and a growing divide between the rich and the poor.
In the 1940s our movement inspired the founding of ICMICA-Pax Romana and for the next thirty years the two branches of Pax Romana would share offices in Fribourg. In 1946, the International young Catholic Students (IYCS) was formed in a meeting held simultaneously with the Congress of IMCS-Pax Romana. Since then, with many ups and downs, our two movements have developed a strong relationship with some IMCS movements adopting IYCS methodologies (Review of Life, See, Judge Act, etc) and with the creation of joint regional co- ordinations in Europe, Latin America and the Middle East. This relationship also led IMCS-Pax Romana in 1977 to move from sharing offices with ICMICA-Pax Romana in Fribourg to sharing offices with IYCS in Paris.
2.1. Core Identity
Amidst all these changes however we have maintained a core identity that is still present in our movement today as we try to address the new challenges facing us. The document “Toward a Re-Definition of the Movement” from the 1975 IMCS Interfederal Assembly pointed to three main realities in our core identity which are still valid today.
A. Student movement
The constituency of IMCS has been made up of national movements of Catholic university or post–secondary students. At the heart of the constituency have always been however, the students themselves. As a student movement, IMCS is concerned with the student and the role of education as a whole. This concern is not limited to the classroom but includes all dimensions of student life (including social, spiritual, physical and familial). This compels us to work with other student movements and organizations dealing with education at the local and international levels (including student organizations of other faiths and denominations and other civil society organizations). In this work we are actively involved in the work of UNESCO. As a student movement, we are not only concerned with student issues but seek to raise awareness and action among students to broader issues of social justice. In this reality we recognize that we are not apart from society and are not just the future of society but we are an active part of it today with a special responsibility as students to question and analyze the problems of society.
B. Church Movement
A second element of the identity of IMCS is its role as a Church Movement at the local, national and international level. As the IMCS International Team pointed out in 1987 with the occasion of the Synod on the Laity, IMCS is not only a Church Movement but is ”the Church in movement.”3 As an international lay movement, IMCS is recognized by the Pontifical Council for the Laity and by the Secretariat of State of the Holy See (Vatican). As an International Catholic Organization, IMCS is able to have a strong voice for its members within the global Church. At the national level, IMCS movements and federations are recognized by their local national bishops’ conference. At the regional level, most of the IMCS regions have developed strong relationships with the regional Church bodies. The 1971 reflection on IMCS’s identity clearly stated IMCS’s dual mission as a Church movement: “We also want the Church to be present in the student milieu, and the student milieu within the Church.”4
Long before the ecumenical push of the Second Vatican Council, IMCS has sought to build relationships and to include in its programs students of other faith traditions. Often IMCS has held joint meetings with the World Student Christian Federation (WSCF) and at one point in the 1960s held joint regional offices with WSCF for North America. In addition to promoting ecumenical dialogue, IMCS believes that the promotion of inter-religious dialogue among students and student groups is a central part of its mission.
C. International Movement
Since its very beginning IMCS has taken its international identity seriously, helping its members to develop a global perspective of their reality, and to enable them to have a voice and impact in the international arena. The international dimension of our movement offers us a chance to promote solidarity, to share our vision and to undertake common actions. IMCS believes that it is through this dialogue between cultures that we understand the universality of the message of the Gospel and we can help build peace in the world.
Based in the student and Catholic perspective, IMCS has used its international identity to speak out on behalf of its members and in solidarity with the oppressed in many important forums including the League of Nations and then with the United Nations and UNESCO. Under the common name of Pax Romana, IMCS and ICMICA advocate in these forums as a non governmentalorganizationinconsultativestatuswiththeUNECOSOC. TodayIMCSisoneof the leading youth NGOs working with the UN, and has played an active role in many of the major UN Conferences in the past 10 years.
At the moment IMCS – Pax Romana is actively present in about 80 countries throughout the world. These national groups make up the core of the IMCS membership. Each national group has a different name, structure, and program. The federated structure of IMCS allows each national movement, federation, association, etc to have autonomy to maintain and develop its own identity to meet the local realities they face, and together at the regional and international levels to face common global challenges and build a common vision.
The diverse regional structures of IMCS which have developed in recent decades provide an invaluable space for the national movements to connect with one another at the regional levels and to reflect and take action on common issues. At the same time, they promote the global reality and identity of IMCS as a whole.
Since its founding, IMCS has sought to unite in a community of solidarity “national movements of Catholic students in higher education, without prejudice to their autonomy”5
As Pope John Paul II has pointed out, the “Christian virtue” of true solidarity will help us to become more aware and feel “personally affected by the injustices and human rights violations committed in distant countries”6 and will compel us to reflect and act to transform the world. This important role of solidarity has and continues to be an important part of this mission. It calls us to work to open the hearts and minds of the students to social issues, “taking the Gospel’s point of view and constantly responding to ‘what would Jesus have done.’”7 This mission also compels IMCS to advocate at the international level with the Church, the United Nations, and other organizations, on behalf of the students IMCS serves.
The objectives of IMCS can be seen in its statues where it lists the objectives as the following:
- To promote the student apostolate among students in higher education stressing their responsibility in life, in the Church’s mission and in the world;
- To recognize the problems of justice, a precondition which is vital to the transformation of society, and work with all concerned men and women for joint action and reflection leading to a more just and equitable social order at all levels, national, continental and international;
- To further the Christian faith experience lived in one’s own commitment and to try to communicate this faith to the student milieu by bearing witness to Jesus Christ;
- To develop a pedagogy which helps students integrate their Christian faith in their efforts to build a more just society.
As a Catholic Action movement,8 IMCS has always maintained a spirituality inspired by the Gospel and Catholic Social Teaching, to work to transform the world and build peace based on justice. Inspired by the example of Christ, we are committed to having a “Spirituality of Action,” which calls us to live our faith with action in our daily lives, recognizing that “faith without action is dead” (James 2:26). As a student movement IMCS seeks to integrate the Gospel call for justice and the preferential option for the poor, with our realities as students.
4. Ways to Achieve Our Objectives
The diversity of IMCS has led to the development of a variety of methodologies rooted in the Review of Life. Some IMCS movements use the “See, Judge and Act” method developed by Cardinal Cardijn and used by IYCS and IYCW. Other movements adapt this methodology and use an “Action-Reflection-Action” method in some way. Other movements and local groups, however, struggle over how to make the most of these powerful methodologies. Many IMCS national movements, however, do not claim any particular methodology.
The essential methodology of IMCS is one of social, spiritual, and intellectual formation of the student that integrates reflection and action. As pointed out by the 1986 IMCS Orientation Document, this must not be “only of life, but also for life.”9 We have seen how many IMCS alumni have continued to carry the spirit of IMCS into the world after university, with some of them becoming respected heads of state and others becoming leaders in other political, social and Church movements, and responsible individuals.
4.2 Particular Methods
To achieve the objectives and meet the challenges facing the Catholic student milieu, IMCS has developed a number of ways and methods that are present in most all national groups.
At all levels of IMCS, celebrations play an important role in forming communities of faith, in fostering joy and in building commitment. An important celebration is the celebration of the Mass, where students can encounter God and one another.
b. Active Involvement
IMCS and its members strive to respond to issues of the university and the society in which it is located with a view to making the Christian values of justice, love, and equality more present.
c. Formation Events
From the local to the international level, IMCS provides various formation events the faith and in the Church, as well as integrated individual and social formation. An important tool in formation used by many IMCS groups is to organize exposure programs to open the hearts of students to other realties.
d. Conferences and Study Sessions
Since its founding IMCS has seen the importance of gathering representatives of its member movements for reflection, critical analysis, and the development of action plans. These various meetings at the international and national levels have often produced important, influential and enlightening reflection documents and action plans. One form of meeting used since the beginning of IMCS at all levels of the movement is the study session.
e. Publications and Communication
In order to deepen solidarity and to create effective change, IMCS groups at all levels see the importance of developing strong communication. Through the publication of newsletters, books, websites and resource guides, IMCS helps not only to connect students with each other but helps in formation and support of local groups. In order to deepen the sense of internationality within the movement, IMCS at the global level focuses on the publication of newsletters, a website, circular letters, and regular communication. Their aim is to keep the national movements (as well as partner organizations and friends of the movement) informed of reflections and activities at the international level, and to enable an exchange of views between the regions and between the national movements.
f. Representation and Advocacy
An important part of IMCS is the representation of Catholic students in various forums at all levels. As a Non Governmental Organization in Consultative Status with the United Nations ECOSOC and as a recognized International Catholic Organization, IMCS-Pax Romana has a mission to represent and advocate on behalf of Catholic university students, especially its members at the United Nations and with the Vatican. IMCS empowers its members to lead this representation by advocating for and with students, the poor, and the marginalized.
IMCS also places an importance in collaborating with movements sharing similar objectives. IMCS participates in many gatherings of other like-minded organizations including the Conference of International Catholic Organizations (ICOs), the Group 8 (specialized Catholic Action Movements) and the Conference of Non-Governmental Organizations (CONGO). IMCS has had and continues to have deep relationships with ICMICA, based in our common history, identity, and global advocacy work as Pax Romana and with the World Student Christian Federation, based in our common space in working with Christian students in the post-secondary level.
IMCS has a special relationship with the International Young Catholic Students (IYCS), based in our common mission to evangelize the student milieu. This common mission has led the two movements to develop a collaboration at the regional and international levels. IMCS and IYCS have joint regional coordinations in Latin America, Europe and the Middle East.
h. Inter-Cultural Dialogue
IMCS brings together students from different cultures in ways which celebrate these differences and promote tolerance, solidarity and peace.