In May, 1935, St Catherine Laboure received a revelation from the Blessed Virgin Mary during a series of apparitions while at the convent Rue du Bac, Paris.

“It is the Blessed Virgin’s wish that you should found a Confraternity of the Children of Mary. She will give them many graces. The month of May will be kept with great splendour and Mary will bestow abundant blessings upon them.”

Over subsequent decades the grotto at the College became a focus for devotional gatherings and photographs of the Children of Mary. The Sodality of the Children of Mary originated from the Church’s acceptance of three visitations by the Virgin Mary in 1830 to Catherine Laboure, a novice of the Daughters of Charity in Paris. In 1876, Pope Pius IX formally extended admission to girls at all Catholic schools. They were identified by the Miraculous Medal (said to bestow ‘a promise of great graces to those who wear it when blessed’),the blue ribbon from which it hung and the blue cloak, normally sewn by the student.

The Children of Mary Sodalities first embraced the pupils and orphans of the schools and institutions of the Sisters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul. In 1847, Blessed Pius IX affiliated them to Jesuit Roman Sodality.

At Sacred Heart Boarding School on July 1867, six students, (including Ellen Killen, a foundation student), were first received into ‘The Congregation of the Children of Mary’. They were identified by the wearing of the Miraculous Medal and the blue ribbon from which it hung. On 28 November, 99 ‘members’ (including the four founding sisters) were formally enrolled in the ‘proper Church of the Sodality of the Sacred Heart in Rome’ (also known as the Association of the Sacred Heart). 

Later students would make and wear cloaks of blue, with a white veil and a scapular. Admission to the Sodality was not automatic and aspirants waited 6 months before acceptance. Admission was based on ‘reward for exemplary conduct’ and having already received first Holy Communion. Apart from daily Mass, the Children of Mary had ‘further privilege of daily Communion.’

The school later offered “two Sodalities, one of the Blessed Virgin (presumably the Children of Mary) the other of the Holy Angels”. However, admission to either was not automatic: it was based on reward for exemplary conduct and having received first Holy Communion. Apart from daily mass, the Sodalists “had a further privilege of daily communion”,

On leaving school a Child of Mary would go to the Oratory. Kneeling before the statue of our Immaculate Mother, she ‘promised with the help of her protection never to contract marriage with a non-Catholic. She usually kept that promise, thanks to her own goodwill and the protection of Divine Providence.’

On the wedding day of a Child of Mary, her fellow members would form a guard outside the church, the bride would arrive wearing her blue cloak over her wedding dress and as she passed under the threshold of the church her cloak would be removed and her time as a Child of Mary over.

As a result of Vatican II, the Children of Mary Sodality was perceived to be outmoded and less relevant. With a renewed focus on modern teachings, Sacred Heart College followed the world-wide trend and established a Legion of Mary Congregation for the students.

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