From Marian Congregations to World Christian Life Community

In order to understand our identity more deeply, it is important to know about our development. Throughout the past four centuries many generations have prepared the way for us in the Sodalities of Our Lady. Christian Life Community was not just a new name, given in 1967, but represented the rebirth, almost a new beginning. This new identity of CLC was expressed in the General Principles, approved in 1971 and revised in 1990. Besides the General Principles, CLC has prepared other documents concerning its charims and mission.

A brief review of our history

1540 Society of Jesus is founded by Ignatius of Loyola.

1563 A Jesuit teacher by the name of Jean Leunis gathers a group of students of the Roman College for spiritual advancement — the Marian Congregation is born. This first group quickly becomes a model for other congregations throughout the world.

1578 The Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Claudio Aquaviva, approves the Common Rules for those who wishes to follow Congregation life.

1584 Pope Gregory XIII with the papal Bull Omnipotentis Dei entitles the first Congregation at the Roman College (the Primaria) to be the head of all the Congregations.

1587 Pope Sixtus V, following the request of the Society of Jesus, issues the BullSuperna Dispositione. This Bull states the right of the Superior General of the Society of Jesus to create aggregates of the first Congregation within other localities, even among persons who were not students of Jesuit schools.
It might be interesting for us today to remember that in this early time of the Society of Jesus, Jesuits and lay people who were members of the Congregations would frequently work as a team. The seventeenth century not only saw the highpoint of Congregation life but also the beginning of its decline in spirit.

1748 Pope Benedict XIV, with the Bull Praeclaris Romanorum, tries to renew the vigour of Congregation life. This Bull increases the advantages of membership by granting the members enlarged spiritual benefits and this perhaps has a reverse effect. At this time the Society of Jesus, a victim of political intrigues, is already struggling for its life.

1773 Pope Clement XIV signes a document to suppress the Jesuit Order. The Congregations, by the order of the same pope, become one of the normal works of the universal Church. In the eighteenth century membership increases vastly, from 2500 groups to 80.000. The consequence is a diminishment in fervour and practice. The spiritual life of the members and the social concern for the rejected of society is reduced to pious practices and annual and symbolic events. The Marian Congregations have become a pious mass movement, different from what Ignatius or Jean Leunis or Aquaviva had meant it to be.

1922 Fr Ledochowski, Superior General of the Society, convenes a meeting of Jesuits working with the Marian Congregations or Sodalities, as they are called in some countries. The central secretariat, a service centre, is founded. It is the first secretariat for Jesuit works. Today the SJ curia has eight similar offices for other works. This is the first step towards restoration.

1948 Pope Pius XII with his Apostolic Constitution Bis Saeculari, gives an important push towards renewal of the Marian Congregations. A Bis Saeculari was exactly what was needed: a clear, authoritative statement on the authentic identity of the Marian Congregations, a pressing call for reform, orientations towards the future and some declarations on lay apostolate in general. The impact of this document was enormous (Fr Paulussen, SJ in: GOD WORKS LIKE THAT).

1950 Seventy one Jesuits from forty countries follow the call of the Superior General Fr Jansen and meet in Rome as a first answer to Bis Saeculari.

1951 The first world congress for the lay apostolate is held in Rome. Forty delegates from 16 countries take the opportunity to meet and discuss the idea of a world federation.

1952 Eucharistic Congress in Barcelona: the opportunity is used to meet and discuss the A World Federation further. The central secretariat in Rome is asked to prepare some Statutes.

1953 The World Federation of the Marian Congregations is approved by the same Pope.

1954 1st assembly of the world federation in Rome.

1959 2nd assembly in Newark, USA.

1962 opening of the Second Vatican Council.

1964 3rd assembly of the world federation in Bombay, India.

1967 4th assembly and a new name and a new beginning: Christian Life Communities.

1968 on the Feast of the Annunciation, Pope Paul VI confirms the General Principles of the World Federation of the Christian Life Communities.

1970 5th assembly in Santo Domingo a crisis and a challenges (the General Principles are amended and approved in 1971 by the Holy See).

1973 6th General Assembly in Augsburg/Germany: the call to be free, the liberation of all men and women.

1976 7th General Assembly in Manila/Philippines: the call to be poor, poor with Christ for a better service.

1979 8th General Assembly in Rome: call towards a World Community, at the service of One World.

1982 the General Assembly in Providence: the challenge to be one World Community on mission to bring about justice.

1986 10th General Assembly in Loyola: seeing Mary as model of our mission, being asked to do “whatever Christ tells us”.

1990 11th General Assembly in Guadalajara: an international community “at the service of the Kingdom, to go out and bear fruit”.

1994 12th General Assembly in Hong Kong: CLC Community in Mission “I have come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were blazing already!”.

1998 13th General Assembly in Itaici (Brasil): Deepening our identity as an apostolic Community – clarifying our common mission. “CLC, a letter from Christ, written by the Spirit, sent to today’s world.”.

2003 14th General Assembly in Nairobi (Kenya): Sent by Christ, members of one body.

2008 15th General Assembly in Fatima (Portugal): Journeying as an apostolic body: our response to this grace from God. “The apostles gathered around Jesus and told him what they had done and taught” (Mk 6, 30-34)

2013 16th General Assembly in Lebanon: From our Roots to the Frontiers. “This is my son, The Beloved, listen to what He says” (Mk 9:7)