Scranton Christian Life Community Collection

History of the Scranton Christian Life Community

By Rev. Dominic Totaro, S.J.

May 13, 2003

The Jesuits at the Scranton Preparatory School had Sodalities (the forerunner of Christian Life Community) from its beginning in 1944. Practically every student was enrolled as a member and was asked to follow the Common Rules of 1910. This meant fifteen minutes of mental prayer each day, devotion to Our Lady, and works of Christian Charity such as visiting the sick, tutoring, or teaching catechism. Frs. Robert Paquet, S.J. and John Fitzpatrick, S.J., the student counselors, were long-time moderators of this Sodality.

At the University of Scranton, the Sodalists called themselves "The Swordsmen," after Ignatius' example of giving his sword to Our Lady. Fr. Gordon Henderson, the chaplain of the school, guided these men. Annually, the Swordsmen conducted a weekend for youth in May. The weekends, attracting hundreds of youth from high schools in the area, highlighted prayer, apostolic action, and social interaction.

In 1959, George Aschenbrenner, S.J. implemented the Probation Program which had originated at John Carroll University in Cleveland. Sophomore Sodalists at Scranton Prep were asked to be serious about putting their spiritual life into practice. Upperclassmen worked individually with the sophomores; they declared if they felt a sophomore was ready for the fuller Sodality program; and if so, each sophomore was expected to choose this way of living.

In the mid-1960s Frs. John Herrity, S.J. and Larry Jones, S.J. combined the group at Scranton Prep with its counterpart at Marywood Seminary. Called the "Action Group," these boys and girls met on Sundays for Mass, a meeting, and social.

In 1968, Fr. Dominic Totaro, S.J. reorganized the group according to the new General Principles of the Christian Life Community (CLC). The numbers dropped drastically from 235 to 17.

In 1975, the CLC at Prep began to have Days of Recollection and social activities with a similar group from Bishop Hoban High School in Wilkes-Barre. Sr. Joan Daniel Healy, S.C.C., moderated this group. Later, a group from Bishop Hannan High School in Scranton, moderated by Sr. Maryla Farfour, I.H.M., joined for combined activities.

In the meantime, Sr. Mary Talbot Keliher, I.H.M. led the C.L.C. at Marywood College (now Marywood University) in Dunmore. Several non-Catholic students found a home in CLC. This CLC had many good Evenings of Recollection and hosted the annual celebrations of World CLC Day on the Sunday closest to the Feast of the Annunciation (March 25), the CLC's titular feast.

In 1984, Fr. Totaro began programs to introduce adults to CLC. Two communities, the "Third Friday" CLC and the "Friends in Christ" CLC, became outstanding in their living of the General Principles. There were several gatherings of adults and youth, and these people drafted a host of prayers and activities for the Marian Year (1988). These recommendations were given to the National Office in St. Louis, which shared them with all the CLCs in the United States. Several communities mentioned how helpful and practical these recommendations were to them.

In 1991, the CLCs in the Scranton Diocese hosted the National Convention for NCLC. The speakers, faith-sharing, activities, and youth program all went very well. But it failed to draw new individuals and groups into CLC locally.

In 1990, the Diocese of Scranton inaugurated the Renew Program in most parishes. Lois Campbell, who had been the National President of CLC, directed this program. The few members of CLC played key roles in helping Renew to be a successful renewal of faithful living of Christ's teachings.

When this program had completed its five session in 1993, CLC invited many of these groups to continue the good process they had begun by doing so as a CLC. Our members went to many parishes to make introductions. But we did not have sufficient numbers of CLCers who could guide them, and these groups did not feel confident to proceed as CLC on their own.

When Fr. Totaro went to Benin City in Nigeria in 1994, the communities struggled to maintain themselves. But there was no one to pick up the slack and help to promote CLC. Yet some of these members continue to support one another and have formed a lifetime friendship.

As of this writing, there is no CLC in the Diocese of Scranton.