By Amy N.

In his pastoral booklet “Let the Oppressed Go Free,” Cardinal Justin Rigali outlines six key elements in a Catholic response to addiction: an understanding of the disease state, the Catholic teaching on grace and virtue, attention to human isolation, healing within the sacramental life of the Church, prayer life in recovery, and the Twelve Steps. The Calix Society embraces all of these elements in its foundation and function. “Therefore gird up your minds, be sober, set your hope fully upon the grace that is coming to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pt1:13)

So what is Calix? Calix is an association of Catholic alcoholics who maintain their sobriety through affiliation with and participation in twelve step programs. Our concerns are in the virtue of total abstinence, the spiritual development of our members, and the sanctification of the whole personality of each member. As our credo states, “we welcome other alcoholics, not members of our faith, or any others, non-alcoholics, who are concerned with the illness of alcoholism and wish to join with us in prayer for our stated purposes.”

The Calix Society was founded in Minneapolis in 1947; the name Calix was selected as it is Latin for “chalice.” It is said that members are substituting the “cup that sanctifies for the cup that stupefies”. The first unit in Philadelphia was started by Ken J. at St. Luke the Evangelist parish in Glenside in 2007. Since then, Calix has spread to four groups meeting in the Philadelphia area. Calix units must receive approval from their bishop to begin meeting and many have affiliated spiritual chaplains. Cardinal Rigali recounts that he was in Rome when Pope Paul VI had a private audience with The Calix Society in the 1970s.

As the Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith, each Calix unit either precedes or follows its discussion portion of the meeting with Mass or a Holy Hour. These consist of reading and sharing from a variety of Calix literature which immerses our twelve step recovery programs with Scripture, virtues, and the Sacraments. For many, Calix is a bridge from their twelve step meeting rooms into a deepening relationship with Christ and His Church. As Calix is not a substitute for a twelve step group, we also function as a bridge for those in the parish who are in need of a twelve step group.

Calix celebrates the rich history of Catholic pioneers working in addiction. For example, Sister Ignatia worked with Dr. Bob to start the first alcoholic ward in an Ohio hospital. As her patients were about to be discharged, she would hand them a Sacred Heart of Jesus badge and Kempis’, “Imitation of Christ.” Newly sober, patients were told that if they were going to relapse they had to first return the Sacred Heart of Jesus badge to Sister Ignatia. Many reported that it was this promise to Sister Ignatia that prevented many relapses. Dr. Bob and Bill W. were inspired by this practice and began to use a token system or the “chip system” as it is known today. Our international web-site,, houses a treasury of historical documents, resources, and shopping cart for Calix literature.

In 2011 the national Calix meeting will be held in Philadelphia at the Malvern Retreat House on Aug. 5-7 with Cardinal Rigali as the celebrant for Mass on Sunday. The weekend retreat will include speakers, Adoration and Holy Hour, a living rosary, meetings, daily Mass, and opportunities for the sacrament of penance.

In the Philadelphia area, four groups meet either weekly or monthly. The group locations are at St. Luke the Evangelist Parish in Glenside (contact Ken J at 215-327-3236), St. Eleanor Parish in Collegeville (Contact Joe M. at 215-872-5570), Nativity B.V.M. parish in Media (contact Amy N at 610-405-7747 or Dan H at 484-432-9796), and across the street from St. Gabriel Parish in Grays Ferry (contact Harry M at 215-253-1184). Our spiritual chaplains are Msgr. Patrick Sweeney at St. Eleanor, Father John Lyons at St. Luke the Evangelist, and Father Douglas McKay in Grays Ferry. For specific times and dates go to