Services :: A Short History of the Xavier Society for the Blind

Xavier Society for the Blind Library, c. 1915

Xavier Society for the Blind Library, c. 1915

The Xavier “Free Publication” Society began on 16th Street in Manhattan, in a single room at the College (later the High School) of St. Francis Xavier, from which the Society derived its name. Its mission was a simple one: to make writings on religion and spirituality available to the blind.

At its founding in 1900, inspired by a group of dedicated lay women and aided by a Jesuit priest, Rev. Joseph Stadelman, SJ, Xavier Society was the only Catholic publishing house to make such writings available to the blind, and all services were provided free of charge, a tradition that continues to the present.

In 1904, the Xavier Society became legally incorporated. Its first major undertaking was a transcription of the Bible into Moontype, then New York Point and finally Braille in 1918.

Since its founding, the Xavier Society has continued its pioneering mission by adding large print, records, audiocassette and most recently digital formats to its Braille offerings. In 1995, the Xavier Society was the first to transcribe the entire Catechism of the Catholic Church, including footnotes and indices, into all three formats. As new translations of Scripture and readings and prayers for the Mass have been approved by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Xavier Society wasready to transcribe and offer them to our clients. That tradition continues today.

Father John R. Sheehan, SJ, continues the tradition of this Jesuit-led ministry today, working with six full-time staff members and almost one hundred volunteers to assure that “those without sight may see.”

St. Francis Xavier

Image - History

The patron saint of our work is St. Francis Xavier, one of the first Jesuits, who spent his life helping to spread the teachings of Christ throughout the world. He is the patron of missionaries, and ours is very much a missionary venture, taking the word of God to those who need assistance in whatever form best helps them to hear it.