The Sodality Union of the Archdiocese of Washington looks forward to celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2018!  (Details about the celebration are forthcoming.)

         Sodality Union Archdiocese of Washington

                                                                                           To Jesus through Mary.


History of Sodality


The Sodality Union Emblem (Insignia)

At the International Sodality Congress held at Barcelona, Spain in 1947, the above-pictured emblem, which had been in use in many countries up to that time, was formally adopted as the symbol for all the Sodalities in the world.  This simple emblem is composed of three Greek letters; “chi,” “rho,” and “mu.” The first two have been used from earliest times to stand for the name of Christ. The third is the ancient letter which sums up Our Lady’s sweet name, Mary. Put these letters together and you have a perfect expression of the Sodality’s objective:

“To Jesus through Mary.”

It is interesting to note also that the Congress forecast, as it were, a pronouncement which the Pope was to make later. The “XP” part of the Sodality emblem has been used by many Catholic Action groups. The addition of the “M” gives expression in sign of His Holiness’ declaration in the Apostolic Constitution, Bis Saeculari, issued in 1948, that the Sodality is authentic “Catholic Action under the auspices and inspiration of the Blessed Virgin Mary.”

The Beginnings of Sodality

About midway of the sixteenth century [1563], a young Jesuit priest named Father John Leontius (Van de Leewuw) was teaching a small class in the Jesuit College in Rome when one day, around a little altar of the Blessed Virgin Mary, he gathered what seem to have been his prized pupils.  He sketched out a single program that appeared to fit instinctively into precisely the needs of that time when the Church was being persecuted.  These young students bound themselves in faith, hope and love to Christ Jesus.  As active, militant Catholics, they were to be recognized as followers of Christ by their military zeal, charity and service.  They found in Mary the great inspiration to give themselves to the service of Christ.  They loved her for what she was and did for the Lord, and showed her special veneration, placing their groups in her loving protection. This was the beginning of the first structured Sodality.

Later in the century [1584] Pope Gregory XIII acknowledged the Sodality in the Roman College, and grant it a list of special indulgences.  This Sodality was made the Mother Sodality for the world, and was given the title "Prima Primaria."

The Sodalities spread quickly throughout Europe and later came to America.  About two hundred years later women and girls were finally admitted to the Society by Pope Benedict XXIV [1751].

The Sodality came to North America in 1739 when Clement XII issued a Papal Bull approving the Sodality founded in 1730 at the Ursuline School in New Orleans, Louisiana.  Georgetown University was the site of the first Sodality in the newly formed United State of America.  It had been established and functioning since shortly after the founding of the college in 1789, although it was not affiliated with Rome until 1833.

Early in this century the Sodality was used as a basic organization for men and women who met separately, both stressing corporate Mass and Communion.  While regular meetings were held, they proved insufficient to instill the common Rule of Sodality, resulting in revision of the Rule in 1910.

Again the Jesuits were commissioned to begin promulgating the Rule, this time through the instrument of a magazine, THE QUEEN’S WORK, Editor F. Garasche, S.J. fulfilled this purpose for many years and succeeded in bringing about a Diocesan Union of Sodalities in 1918.  Three still exist: New York, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C.  Father Daniel a Lord, S.J. succeeded Father Garasche, both as editor of QUEEN’S WORK and promoter of Sodality.  From 1929 to the National Diocesan Directors Conference [1954], much credit could be traced to him.  “Catholic Action” was the key work in 1931 when Summer Schools for Catholic Action for the training of Sodality leaders were organized.  By 1963, 250,000 had participated in the program.

Due to the rapid growth of Sodalities and the need for unity among Sodalities internationally, other higher governing bodies were established, such as, the World Federation of Sodalities and the National Federation of Sodalities.  The Second Vatican Council in 1965 heralded significant changes in Sodalities.  New “General Principles” replaced the Common Rule of 1910.  At the World Federation of Sodalities in Rome in 1970, it was voted to change the Name of Sodality to “Christian Life Communities”.  After an experimental period of three years, Pope Paul VI gave final approval to the general principles and statues of Christian Life and both The National and World Federation of Christian life Communities.  The General Principles are Spiritual, Communal and Mission Centered.  The purpose of Christian Life Communities is to foster a deeper spirituality with everyday life. 

Sodality Union of the

Archdiocese of Washington

and Parish Sodalities

The World Federation of Christian Life Communities is based in Rome.  The national office for the United States is located in St. Louis, Missouri.  Groups exist today in states from coast to coast and internationally groups are to be found in 64 countries.  In Washington, when the concept of Christian Life Communities was introduced in the early seventies, there were many meetings and workshops to explain its direction to the Parish Sodalities and to invite membership.

For four years Sodality Union of the Archdiocese of Washington retained both names and in its title.  The Executive Council of the Sodality Union voted in 1983 to drop Christian Life Communities.  The two factors that contributed to each organization remaining as it was, were the lack of Jesuit support for the Christian Live Communities here, and the decision of the Sodality Union membership to remain Sodality.  Parish Sodalities in the Archdiocese of Washington are free to join the National Federation of Christian Life Communities if they wish.

Where does the Parish Sodality stand today?  Sodality has no central organization, since the former World Federation of Sodalities no longer exists.  Each Sodality is considered autonomous.  Fortunately, for the Sodalities in the Archdiocese of Washington, there is the Sodality Union, a medium supported by the leadership of the Archdiocese of Washington by which affiliated parishes can come together to celebrate, share ideas, information and concerns and to give and receive assistance.