HISTORY AND DESCRIPTION OF THE MOVEMENT
Ignatius of Loyola
Christian Life Community traces its roots to St. Ignatius Loyola, who, as a soldier recovering from his battle wounds, was given an extraordinary grace of conversion. That mystical experience of God led to his total dedication to Christ and his mission. After his conversion, Ignatius sought to help others by speaking with them in groups about the work of God in their lives. He guided many towards God by drawing on his own spiritual experiences and gradually formulated the Spiritual Exercises to help future guides lead others to God. The Exercises thus helped the development of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) and the congregation of lay persons, which became the Sodalities of Our Lady, from which the Christian Life Communities developed after Vatican II. After the Society of Jesus was suppressed in the mid-1700s, the link with the Spiritual Exercises faded until its rediscovery after Vatican II.
In 1563 in Rome, a young Jesuit, John Leunis, founded the first CLC by gathering a group of young lay students at the Roman College to help them unite their lives -- jobs, studies, families, relationships, etc. -- with Christian values. The movement, originally called the Sodality of Our Lady, grew and was confirmed by Pope Gregory XIII in 1584. Over the years the movement spread dramatically. In 1920 there were 80,000 sodalities worldwide. In the 1950s in the U.S., there were over two million teenage members and numerous adult members. When Vatican II urged groups like the Sodality to rediscover their original roots, some sodalities continued as before, while others became Christian Life Communities. The main difference is in the size (7 to 12) and the regularity of meeting (weekly or biweekly). Jesuits and the Spiritual Exercises have continued in a close relationship with the CLC.
National and International
Although primarily associated with the Catholic Church, many communities have some other Christians as members. Today Christian Life Communities exist in 64 countries in the world, with their world headquarters situated in Rome. There is a national organization which meets regularly and has as some of its duties: to preserve the integrity of the local CLC communities; to foster its growth; to supervise the biennial, national meetings; to act as a liaison with the international community, which meets every four years.
Breaking into Regions
In the year 1994 CLC -- USA decided to regionalize, breaking into ten parts covering the geographical areas of the ten provinces of the Jesuits in the United States. Since that time a more concerted effort has been made to spread the movement in the North Central Region (Wisconsin Province of the Society of Jesus). This geographical area covers seven states: Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Wyoming. Since CLC has been most active in the Omaha, Nebraska, area, this central location is the home of the Regional Convener as well as the Ecclesial or Regional Assistant.
A Lay Organization
CLC is a lay movement. The international and national presidents as well as the Regional Convener are lay persons. Jesuits and other priests and religious are often members of a community.
Faith Sharing Central
Very central to the meetings of CLC is the process of Faith Sharing. It is by listening to the faith stories of others that we gain insight and strength for our own faith journey. It is important to initially gain some facility and comfort in this mode of communication. Faith Sharing is not discussion, not Bible study, not a formal prayer. It is, however, a very powerful means of growing in one’s spiritual life, utilizing the ministry of listening in a prayerful atmosphere. Instruction on and the experience of Faith Sharing is an important part of the Pre-Community Program.
Most of the description in these pages is for the CLC adult community program. For those interested in finding out more about high school or college groups can contact the Youth Coordinator listed under “For More Information” below.