The Christian Life Community movement traces its roots to 1563 when Fr. John Leunis, SJ, founded the first Sodality of Our Lady by “gathering a group of young lay students at the Roman College to help them unite their lives.”2 The first Sodalities at SI were among the 80,000 Sodalities that prospered around the world into the early 20th century.
By the 1950s, more than 2 million American teens were members of Sodalities. Some Church leaders, responding to Vatican II, felt these groups would work better as smaller communities, and the CLC movement began. For the first few years of the 1970s, SI students used the words “Sodality” and “CLCs” interchangeably, but by the mid-70s, the name change took hold for good.
CLCs prospered at SI because they involved smaller communities than the Sodality. A dozen or so students met weekly with one or more moderators — priest or lay teachers — to discuss matters spiritual, go on retreats or simply enjoy each others’ company. These CLCs grew in popularity with students at SI (there were 10 active CLCs by 1979) in part because they stressed six points that are at the heart of Ignatian spirituality: Finding God in all things, following the Spirit (to hear and respond to any call), collaboration with Jesus to further God’s kingdom, ordering relationships by living and choosing in loving collaboration with Jesus, living in the freedom for which we are created, and making retreats along the lines of the Spiritual Exercises.
CLCs remain popular at SI to this day. “My fondest memory of SI was my involvement with CLCs,” said Elwyn Cabebe, MD ’92. “As a freshman, I joined Lucie Rosa-Stagi’s CLC, which at the time had only four members. After the first meeting, by default, I became the CLC leader and continued on until senior year. By senior year, however, it had grown to more than 100 members. It served a social function and fostered empowerment. It also taught us that our community extends well beyond the walls of SI.”
Cabebe’s group raised money towards tuition for a girl in South America, volunteered at community events, had discussions about spirituality and learned to pray together. “My CLC gave me the tools and encouragement to become involved in my community and build on the relationship that God has with all of us,” he added. “For that, I am truly grateful.”
The CLCs (and the Sodalities of past years) held an annual Christmas food drive to help San Francisco families of limited means. The food baskets, with the help of Fathers’ Club drivers, now help families who come to the Christmas Store at St. Dominic’s Church in a program devised by Sr. Cathryn deBack who, in 1981, became the first sister hired at SI. (She received the President’s Award in 1998 for her service to the city and the school.)