SPRINGFIELD — Thanks to the foresight of some local residents, those recovering from drug and alcohol addiction will no longer have to travel outside of Delaware County for extra help to stay clean and sober.
A new unit of the International Calix Society was launched in January at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Springfield. It is the fifth Calix unit in Pennsylvania, the third Calix unit in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, and the only Calix unit in Delaware County.
Calix is a fellowship of Catholics in recovery from alcoholism and drug addiction, who maintain their sobriety through membership and participation in the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) community. Although AA rarely endorses organizations, Bill Wilson, one of AA’s founders, wrote a rare letter of endorsement in 1962 acknowledging Calix’s merits.
The Calix Society is open not only to people in recovery, but also to family members and friends affected by the addictions of their loved one. Individuals and families do not have to be Catholic to attend these meetings. They are open to anyone concerned or affected by the disease of alcoholism and drug addiction. Calix is the Latin word for “cup”. The organization’s motto is “substitute the cup that stuns for the cup that sanctifies”.
The Calix Society is here to support sobriety by offering participants, who participate in a 12-step program, an opportunity to deepen their Catholic faith. According to Calix, if someone approaches the organization while still drinking alcohol or using drugs, the very first effort of a Calix member is to bring the drinker or drug addict into a detox center, a treatment center or in an AA or NA group. It is only when an individual achieves a certain degree of sobriety that they are ready for Calix. As William Montroy, one of the founders of the Calix Society, said, “AA restores your health and keeps you from falling prematurely. Calix saves your soul and puts you on the road to heaven.
“Calix’s mission is not to replace AA,” explained Luke LeTourneau of Springfield. “We like people to think of us as an extension of AA’s Eleventh Step. We want to be extra faith-based support, to be there to give strength, mentally and spiritually.
LeTourneau knows firsthand how effective the Calix Society can be for a recovering person. He says his life would be very different today if it weren’t for God and the support of Catholic brotherhood, which he found through the Calix Society. A father of eight, LeTourneau miraculously achieved long-term sobriety after a 15-year battle with alcoholism. He has now been sober for seven years.
“From 20 to 35, I was a functional alcoholic,” LeTourneau said. “Calix basically saved my life and I was able to miraculously, by the grace of God, find my way back to a life of sobriety.”
Currently a mission ambassador with Rob Longo at Stewardship: A Mission of Faith, LeTourneau saw the need for a local Calix chapter. Residents of this area, including LeTourneau, had to travel to St. Gabriel Parish in the Grays Ferry area south of Philadelphia, Queen of the Universe Parish in Levittown, or St. Matthew Parish in Wilmington, Delaware to participate.
“When you come home from work and have a meeting at 7 p.m. on a weeknight, it’s hard to get into town,” LeTourneu said. “Residents of Delaware and Chester counties really needed a closer location.”
LeTourneu went to Reverend Matthew Tralies, the parish priest of St. Francis of Assisi, to ask permission to start a Calix group in St. Francis.
“Father Tralies didn’t hesitate and has been supporting the group since day one,” said LeTourneau. “He sees the need every day, with so many people struggling, and the toll it takes on individuals and their families. The pandemic appears to have made matters worse, with an increase in boredom, isolation and mental health issues.
After gaining approval from the Archdiocese to begin the ministry, Tralies committed to be chaplain to the new Calix group. Although Calix is primarily a lay organization, it depends on the dedication and commitment of priests to provide leadership and guidance, celebrate Mass, and participate in retreats and other spiritual activities.
“I think it’s important for parishes to support lay people when they come up with ideas on how to better serve the spiritual, mental and physical well-being of the community,” Tralies said. “I am happy that St. Francis now has a Calix ministry to help those in recovery. I also plan to use the ministry in my own life.
The new Calix group will meet in the library/basement of St. Francis of Assisi, 136 Saxer Ave., Springfield, on the last Saturday of the month, after the celebration of the 4 p.m. mass in the church.
The Reverend Douglas McKay, an archdiocesan priest who co-founded Our House Ministries, a Catholic recovery organization in the Grays Ferry section of Philadelphia, with Ken Johnston, is the Calix Society’s national chaplain. Johnston, of Glenside, was president of the National Calix Society for several years. He is credited with bringing the International Calix Society to Philadelphia in 2007. The Calix Society has chapters across the United States, Ireland, and the United Kingdom.
McKay and Johnston have worked with people living with substance use disorders for over 40 years and were instrumental in guiding the creation of the new Delaware County Calix group.
McKay offered to come to St. Francis to celebrate the 4 p.m. Mass before the meetings. The next mass and group meeting are scheduled for this Saturday, February 26. Everyone is welcome.
“After Mass, we meet in faith, around 5 p.m., to share our struggles, encourage each other and increase our spirituality,” LeTourneau explained. “Starting our time together with Mass is especially important because if you take Mass out of the equation, we’re just like any other support group. We want our Catholic faith to make a difference.
The Calix Society is open to men, women, and even teenagers, as a place of learning, encouragement and support, and deepening of their faith. Calix members stress the importance of sacramental grace as a path to sobriety.
Like AA, Calix depends on the help of its members to other members at the heart of its program. Group members are speakers and share resources with each other. It is also possible to attend retreats and days of recollection, sometimes with neighboring Calix units. Although the new St. Francis Calix group only meets monthly at this time, the frequency of meetings may increase in the future, depending on demand.
“It’s only when you’re completely torn down that you can rebuild yourself,” LeTourneau explained. “We are all broken in one way or another. Everyone who attends will find that what they are experiencing is far more mundane than they realize. They will hopefully find that prayer and a closer relationship with God is all they need on their journey to recovery. ”
For more information about the new Calix group at St. Francis of Assisi, call the parish at 610-543-0848 or contact Luke LeTourneau at 610-986-6660. For more information about The Calix Society, or how to form a Calix unit in another parish, email Ken Johnston at [email protected] or visit http://www.calixsociety.org.