By Bonny Van  

The Catholic Commentator

Seventh- and eighth-grade girls of St. Elizabeth School in Paincourtville, dressed in white uniform shirts and pale blue skirts, the color of blue often associated with the mantle worn by the Blessed Virgin Mary, made their way to the front pews of St. Elizabeth Church. They were followed by their male classmates, who were dressed in khaki pants, white dress shirts and pale blue ties. Some of the students were holding the hands of much younger students, guiding them to pews in the front rows. It was a special day for this group of older students. They were being inducted into Sodality, an organization devoted to Mary. 

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Alyse Walker passes the gavel to Noah Deshotel, the new prefect, of Sodality during an induction ceremony at St. Elizabeth Church in Paincourtville on May 11. Photo by Bonny Van | The Catholic Commentator

 

“I was a ‘Child of Mary,’ ” said religion teacher Jane Guillot, referring to the same group but with a different name in the 1960s. “We wore white uniforms and the blue beautiful cloth veil like Mary. That was 1965 and in public school, we could do that.” 

The history of Sodality of Our Lady and similar lay ministry confraternities dates back to the Middle Ages. Over the years, those ministries spread throughout Europe, India and the Americas. The Children of Mary Sodalites were founded in France in the 1800s by St. Catherine Laboure, who was also a Marian visionary. Later, Carmelite nuns from France were sent to New Orleans to help establish schools. Eventually, the nuns ended up in the river parishes, bringing with them the tradition of the Children of Mary. “The Carmelite nuns came and brought Sodality and instituted the rules (here),” said Guillot. “That’s how far back it’s been active and they gave the scapula of the Carmelite nuns.” 

Among their duties, the group attends Mass every Friday dressed in their special uniforms and help with the younger students. They also lead prayer services and devotionals and organize the charity project for Catholic Schools Week. In addition to required service hours for their school, they must also perform five hours of community service every nine weeks and attend community events such as the Blue Mass honoring public safety employees. 

“This sodality has been going on close to 90 years,” said Father Matthew Graham, pastor of St. Elizabeth Church. “This is a wonderful tradition from the Carmelites who formed the school and so just kind of that idea of consecration to Christ through Mary and using that spiritual authority that the kids need to realize that they do have. They don’t always need (me) to lead things, you know, the beauty to see those kids leading those prayers, those activities truly tying them to Christ.” 

Every year, the Sodality induction is held at St. Elizabeth during a Friday Mass in May, the month of Mary. Eighth-grade Sodality officers pass the gavel to the seventh-grade incoming officers, who also make a pledge of honor. During the Mass on May 11, Noah Deshotel, the new prefect of Sodality, accepted the gavel from outgoing prefect Alyse Walker. 

“It’s kind of a big responsibility to me,” said Deshotel. “And, it means a lot to me to get more included in my faith. And, it just kind of tells me a lot more about myself.” 

Father Graham said he sees both leadership and spirituality growing among the members of Sodality as the students take on bigger roles. 

“Every Friday we have school Mass and there are certain Fridays I cannot be here and so now we’re trying to turn some of that leadership over to them,” he said. “I wasn’t here in September and I heard that it was absolutely beautiful. I always try to remind people of their role of leading the faith and embracing it.” 

Because of schedule changes, Guillot will not teach religion next school year but plans to continue being the sponsor for Sodality as a tribute to her mother who died 11 years ago. 

“My mother was a believer that Mary was an intercessor to Jesus,” said Guillot, “and she used to always say, ‘You know how you come to me to get to your daddy, well, that’s how Mary is and when we know we have our Blessed Mother being an intercessor for us for Jesus and God and the Holy Spirit.How can you be a loser?’ ” 

Sodality members for the 2017-18 school year are eighth-grade students Alyssa Bailey, Haley Castro, Logan Falsetta, Lindsey Gros, Tyler Gros, Alex Hood, Sadie Jacobs, Rylie Klack, Abby Landry, Adley Mury, Emily Pilley, Saniya Prean, Darrius Thomas, Sherman Verner and Alyse Walker. Seventh-grade members are Alexander Blanchard, Maddex Blanchard, Noah Deshotel, Candan Herbert, Sanai’ja Horton, Annamarie Mabile, Makayla McKinney, Khai Prean, Owen Rives, Breana Sanchez and Sara Solomon.