Letter from Bill Wilson to Sister Ignatia

Catholic Alcoholic

sr ignatia The scroll given to Sister may now be seen at Rosary Hall. This is the inscription:

IN GRATITUDE FOR SISTER MARY IGNATIA ON THE OCCASION OF HER GOLDEN JUBILEE

Dear Sister,

We of Alcoholics Anonymous look upon you as the finest friend and the greatest spirit we may ever know. We remember your tender ministrations to us in the days when AA was very young. Your partnership with Dr. Bob in that early time has created for us a spiritual heritage of incomparable worth.

In all the years since, we have watched you at the bedside of thousands. So watching, we have perceived ourselves to be the beneficiaries of that wondrous light which God has always sent through you to illumine our darkness. You have tirelessly tended our wounds; you have nourished us with your unique understanding and your matchless love. No greater gifts of Grace than these shall we…

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Another Catholic Role Model for Alcoholics: Father Ford

Thank you to one of my blog readers for telling me about Father Ford! What a great role model for Catholic alcoholics!  Here is an excerpt from his biography that is particularly pertinent for us.  Go to THIS LINK HERE to read all about him, how he was a friend to Pope John Paul II and has an amazingly interesting story.  Anyways, here is the excerpt:

FordMusically talented and gregarious, Ford enjoyed playing the piano and partying with his fellow Jesuits. In the early 1940s, his drinking got out of hand. Realizing this, he obtained treatment from Dr. William Silkwood at Towns Hospital in New York, regained his sobriety, and became friendly with one of A.A.’s co-founders, Bill Wilson. Finding that A.A. was more effective than previous organizations at helping alcoholics remain sober, Ford subsequently sought to ensure that A.A. would not be problematic to Catholics and would be recommended to Catholic alcoholics by their pastors. In 1948 he participated in a summer program of Alcohol Studies at Yale University; he then served as a regular lecturer in that program for many years. He also personally helped many fellow alcoholics, especially after he retired from teaching in 1969.

The experience of alcoholism nurtured Ford’s previous interest in the psychological aspects of moral life and in people’s complex, psycho-moral problems. Through the 1950s and ’60s he continued reading in psychology, conferring with professionals in the field, and addressing psycho-moral issues in his writings. Catholic professionals and pastors, including bishops, as well as many lay people with problems increasingly sought his advice and help not only with alcoholism but with other addictive behaviors, sexual problems, scrupulosity, and so on. Competent, compassionate, and generous with his time, Ford by his confidential pastoral work provided great though little-noticed service to the Church.

Book Review: Anonymous Disciple by Gerard E Goggins

untitledAnonymous Disciple, copyright 1995, is written by an author who not only did his research and is an excellent writer, but by someone who knows what he’s talking about. I can always tell when a book or a work is written by someone who has walked the walk with us.  The understanding is there. Reading this book was often like sitting in an AA meeting listening to a fellow alcoholic speak of his experience, strength and hope.  I highly recommend this book to anybody who wants a better understanding of our plight and how God’s healing miracle can be performed in the heart of an alcoholic.

It’s written like a novel – but it’s actually a biography of a Catholic priest who suffered from alcoholism and whose life was transformed by God into a beautiful thing.  Father Jim, the book explains was a disgrace to his fellow Jesuit priests, couldn’t stay away from the bottle and was admitted into the psychiatric ward of the hospital as a hopeless case.  This is what they used to do with alcoholics, put them in psychiatric wards because they were obviously insane.

There was no other way to keep them safe—from themselves and others.

Insanity. What else could the diagnosis be? A person who drinks themselves to oblivion every day, causes all sorts of trouble and disgrace to those who love him and whose own mother told him at age 50 to never come home again; yet he still continues to drink.  This wasn’t his first stay in a hospital either. He had been numerous times; but each time he was released with a little bit of health he went right back to the bottle or the bar.

A person with “so much potential.”  The alcoholic is mind-boggling to the “normal” person. Why can’t he just quit? Why would he drink again?

The author describes how to an alcoholic in this dilemma, this insane thinking is commonplace. We think alcohol is the solution to our problems, our only solace. Alcohol becomes the problem and the solution.  We get to the point we can’t imagine life with or without alcohol.  So we keep trying to drink the next time and hope for no consequences.

Father Jim and Father Fred drank together. Father Fred visited his friend in the hospital one last time before traveling to Detroit to “get sober” at Guest House, a rehab for alcoholic priests.  A few months later, Father Jim joins him at Guest House and the book walks the reader through their experience at Guest House and their miraculous lives afterwards.

Both Father Jim and Father Fred devoted their lives to AA, sobriety and helping other alcoholics. God turned disgraced lives into saintly ones.  A must read for every Catholic alcoholic and every Catholic who loves an alcoholic.

Guest House is still doing great work today.  http://www.guesthouse.org

Their mission is to provide the information, education, treatment and care needed to assure that clergy, men and women religious and seminarians suffering from alcoholism, addictions and other behavioral health conditions have the best opportunity for quality recovery and overall health and wellness.

Now located in a beautiful setting in Lake Orion, Michigan, Guest House continues to do God’s work helping their clients return to active, faith-filled ministry in the Church. A lay ministry of Guest House is the National Catholic Council on Addictions.

Catholic Priests, Nuns and Religious Recover from Alcoholism through Guest House

00000000000000000000000000I just received this email from my affiliation with Guest House.

Guest House is an essential/vital /necessary/absolutely wonderful mission that helps Catholic priests, nuns and religious start the road to recovery from alcoholism. Worthy, worthy, worth charity. Please help out if you are financially able.  Here is the letter I just received from them promoting their new e-learning project, and I couldn’t wait to share so I am sharing verbatim:

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Guest House is North America’s founding behavioral health and addiction program for Catholic clergy and religious.  Since 1956, we’ve provided personalized clinical treatment with a spiritual emphasis.  Our goal is focused:  To successfully return men and women to their mission.  Our accredited full time clinical staff provides these services at our tranquil, private residential facilities.

To provide such important treatment, education and recovery to more than 8,000 clients since our inception, we’ve constantly sought out new and innovative ways to treat, reach, educate, serve and follow-up with our clients.  As part of our mission to the Church, we have recognized that the valuable information compiled in our field is crucial to all servants of the Church, and all advocates of education, prevention, intervention, treatment and lifelong sobriety, including:

  • Key decision makers within Orders and Dioceses
  • Hospitals, health systems and other agencies who provide behavioral health services
  • Therapists, social workers and others who must maintain Continuing Education Units (CEU’s)
  • Our alumni and alumnae
  • Family members
  • Parishioners
  • Students
  • Seminarians
  • Donors
  • Volunteers
  • Our dedicated staff
  • Teachers and educators

I’m pleased to tell you of  a significant new Guest House initiative.

Education is a critical part of awareness for the many and varied audiences we serve.  Debuting in April, 2013 is a Guest House and NCCA (National Catholic Council on Addictions) comprehensive e-learning educational library. Offerings are made possible through an affiliation with  Essential Learning, LLC., a corporation that offers online learning, staff compliance training and continuing education for behavioral health, mental health, addiction treatment, community health, developmental disability, community action and child welfare organizations.  The cost for users runs from $8.00 for some individual courses to a high of $99.00 for a series of online lessons.

  • Available exclusively on-line via http://www.guesthouse.org/education
  • Catalogue incorporates nearly 500 course selections
  • More than 800 training hours available using the most contemporary digital techniques
  • No other Catholic addiction treatment facility has such extensive content available to you
  • Library is designed for everyone from Church leadership through medical and addiction   treatment  professionals; CEU units are available
  • Courses from adolescents to aging; ethics, risk management and leadership techniques

As always, thanks to so many of you for your ongoing support of Guest House and NCCA in our critical endeavors. Whether we are providing Catholic clergy and religious addiction treatment and prevention, education or recovery, always remember, “Guest House Heals!”  Find out more and follow our Blog at guesthouse.org.

7 Quick Takes Friday: 7 Role Models for Catholic Alcoholics

matt talbot

Here we go again with our 7 Quick Takes Friday hosted by Jennifer Fulwiler over at Conversion Diary. We reciprocate links to her blog and then post 7 “quick-takes” on our blogs.

7 Role Models for Catholic Alcoholics

1. Venerable Matt Talbott

Matt Talbott was born in the poverty of Dublin’s inner city. He began drinking at twelve years of age and became a chronic alcoholic. It was the drug culture of the 19th century. Matt was an addict.

After a horrendous sixteen year struggle, he found sobriety.  He decided to ‘kick the habit’. A priest helped him, giving him a rehabilitation program, which providentially incorporated aspects and principles of the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. With the help of this Priest friend Matt modeled his life on that of the monks, who lived in Ireland in the 6th and 7th centuries.7quicktakes

He remained sober for forty years until his death. His life story has been an inspiration for alcoholics and addicts throughout the world. He is a candidate for canonization in the Church and has achieved the title of “venerable.”

Matt’s program of recovery was built around devotion to the Eucharist, love of Mary, Mother of God, spiritual reading, self-discipline and manual work. But he never forgot his struggle with his addiction.

“Never look down on a man, who cannot give up the drink”, he told his sister, “it is easier to get out of hell!” (Matt Talbott)

Here is an 8 minute YouTube video telling the story of Matt Talbott.

seeds of grace book2. “Sister Molly Monahan” (not her real name), author of Seeds of Grace

Sister Molly Monahan” wrote a wonderful book a decade or so ago about her experiences with alcoholism and recovery through Alcoholics Anonymous. She had been drinking, quietly and compulsively, for years when she finally decided to attend her first AA meeting. There she found the emotional support that AA is famous for-but she also found a surprising source of spiritual strength. In this unique book, she reflects on how a nonreligious group brought about such a powerful reawakening of faith-and explores gratitude, community, forgiveness, prayer, and many more subjects of interest not only to alcoholics but to anyone on a spiritual quest.

“Monahan’s unique understanding of both the human and spiritual side of alcoholism forms an important, personal understanding of theology in action.” (Library Journal)

Sister “Molly” was trained in the methods of Ignatian Spirituality, had made week-long retreats annually, had studied spirituality and obtained a graduate degree in theology, yet as she writes, “None of this prevented me from becoming an alcoholic.” And she claims that without Alcoholics Anonymous’ spiritual program of recovery she would be “spiritually bereft.” That is a big statement!  She had all the spirituality and knowledge of Catholic sacramental life yet still couldn’t break the alcoholism cycle until she made it into AA.

I wrote a review of her book here.

Vogt3. Father Emmerich Vogt, “12-Step Review”

Fr. Emmerich Vogt, O.P. is a Dominican priest of the Western Dominican Province. Educated by the Dominican Order at its seminary in California, Fr. Emmerich went on to receive a MA degree in Theology from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, and a graduate degree in Near Eastern Religions from University of California.

THE 12 STEP REVIEW is a publication of the Western Dominican Province, a nonprofit organization of the Dominican Fathers and Brothers, and is founded and edited by Fr. Emmerich Vogt, O.P. It is published four times a year through donations. Father Vogt travels around the country giving retreat talks on Christian principles within 12 Step spirituality. Sober for 30 years, Vogt wrote a book published last year The Freedom to Love and continues to make his talks and retreats available on CD and DVD.

The site 12 Step Review is maintained by volunteers and offers a wonderful resource for today’s recovering Catholic alcoholic. My mother attended sessions of his retreat in Johns Creek, Georgia a couple of weeks ago and said they were wonderful and appealing to all types of relationship dilemmas, with the focus on 12 Step process of recovery.

father jim4. Father Jim McKenna (1953 – 2006)

Fr. Jim’s lifelong dream to become a Catholic priest came true in 1960. At that time he took a pledge to refrain from alcohol for five years. In 1965, while he was fulfilling his priestly duties he started enjoying occasional cocktails.

He later went for an evaluation and it was decided that while he was a good priest, he was also an alcoholic. After three months in Guest House in Minnesota, an addiction treatment rehab for Catholic clergy and religious, he returned to Bergen County and attended AA meetings.

Fr. Jim was assigned to Oradell’s St. Joseph’s R.C. Church where he started the recovery mass for anyone affected by the disease of alcoholism, with the hope of giving more people an opportunity to leave the “Hell” of Alcoholism and Drug Addiction and perhaps find the “Heaven of Sobriety.” The Third Saturday mass began with 18 people and quickly spread to over 500. Fr. Jim began each mass with, “Hello, my name is Jim and I am an alcoholic”; and all felt welcome.

This is a special Mass for all who are affected by the disease of Alcoholism. The Recovery Mass continues on even after Father Jim’s death and is held on the third Saturday of every month.

“Alcoholism is a disease, not a bad habit.” (Father Jim)

FatherCanavan5. Father Francis Canavan (1917 – 2009)

An author of more than 10 books and a political philosopher who inspired and encouraged many students at Fordham, Father Canavan taught for 22 years in the Department of Political Science. He wrote prolifically about liberalism and Catholic social teaching, and, during the 1960s, served as associate editor of America magazine. He was also a member of the advisory board of the Society of Catholic Social Scientists.

During the 1980s, Father Francis Canavan had given inspirational talks to members of the Calix Society, which were compiled into a pair of books, The Light of Faith and By the Grace of God. I haven’t read them but intend to. They are both available via the Calix Society website.  He was the spiritual director for the Calix Society for many years.

Here is part of the talk he gave on the topic of the 2nd Step “Coming to Believe:”

“[Coming] to believe is a process that goes on all our lives and is never completely finished. No matter how deeply we believe, we can always believe more deeply, and God will lead us to a steadily more profound faith through the experiences of our lives, if we will let Him. But what is of immediate interest to us here is the coming to believe of the person who has little or no faith in God. “Acting as if” is the way in which he begins the process of coming to believe.” (Father Canavan)

fathermartinpicture6. Father Joseph Martin (1924 – 2009)

Father Joseph Martin, after ten years of priesthood, was encouraged to get help for his alcoholism. He was treated at the Guest House in Orion, Michigan. After getting sober he presented the “Chalk Talk”- a blackboard presentation that helped earn Father Martin national recognition as an authority on addiction.

“Chalk Talk” was filmed by the U.S. Navy for use in drug and alcohol education around the world. Father Martin later received multiple awards for his work with addiction in various branches of the military.

Father Martin and Mae Abraham (an alcoholic who was helped by the “Chalk Talk.”) sought resources to open a chemical addiction treatment center based on Father Martin’s philosophies of treatment, including his heartfelt belief that every addict is worth saving. A 20-acre property, the Oakington estate in Havre de Grace, Maryland was the perfect location for a treatment center.

Finally, Father Martin’s Ashley opened its doors to the first group of patients. The center was named for co-founder Father Martin, as it was his treatment philosophy that would be the basis of patient care. Soon he helped establish the Ashley Relapse Treatment program, which incorporates the Gorski Relapse Prevention Model, 12 Step approaches and Father Martin’s treatment philosophy.

Father Martin’s published a book No Laughing Matter, compiling three of his talks—”The Chalk Talk”, “Guidelines” and “Alcoholism and the Family.” The Rainbow of Hope Children’s Program was started at FMA. Held one Saturday each month, the program is open to all children who live in homes with addiction.

“He (Father Martin) is the master mentor who teaches and touches at the same time.” Robert Ackerman, Ph.D.

pfau7. Father Ralph Pfau (1904 – 1967)

He is believed to have been the first Roman Catholic priest to enter Alcoholics Anonymous and is affectionately known also as “Father John Doe.”

He was a priest in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, ordained at St. Meinrad Seminary, and received an MA in Education at Fordham University.

In the opening paragraph of his autobiography, “Prodigal Shepherd,” Father Pfau wrote:

“All my life, I will carry three indelible marks. I am a Roman Catholic priest. I am an alcoholic. And I am a neurotic.”

He had never a drink until about a year after his ordination. But by 1943 he was sufficiently worried about his drinking to investigate A.A. While responding to a call from a woman who said her husband was dying, he learned from the doctor that the man was not dying, but merely passed out from a combination of alcohol and barbital. As Fr. Pfau was leaving the house he noticed a book on a shelf and asked if he could borrow it. It was “Alcoholics Anonymous.”

AA history recalled by a member who attended the first International A.A. Convention in Cleveland in 1950, speaks of how Father Pfau helped insist that AA remain non-religious.

In this first Convention in 1950, at the ‘Spiritual Meeting’ the main speaker’s topic, “dealt with the idea that the alcoholic was to be the instrument that God would use to regenerate and save the world. He expounded the idea that alcoholics were God’s Chosen People and he was starting to talk about AA being ‘The Third Covenant,’ when he was interrupted by shouted objections from the back of the room. The objector, who turned out to be a small Catholic priest (Father Pfau), would not be hushed up. There was chaos and embarrassment as the meeting was quickly adjourned.” As the member recalls Father Pfau’s objections:

” How well we shall always remember that A.A. is never to be thought of as a religion. How firmly we shall insist that A.A. membership cannot depend upon any particular belief whatever; that our twelve steps contain no article of religious faith except faith in God — as each of us understands Him. How carefully we shall henceforth avoid any situation which could possibly lead us to debate matters of personal religious belief.”

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So there you go! This is a great list but where are all the Catholic alcoholic women?  “Sister Molly Monahan” on this list but she remains anonymous.  hmmmm..  I am going to have to scout out Google (or Bing, if I’m feeling counter-cultural) for women Catholic alcoholics.  Where are we?

Letter from Bill Wilson to Sister Ignatia

sr ignatiaThe scroll given to Sister may now be seen at Rosary Hall. This is the inscription:

IN GRATITUDE FOR SISTER MARY IGNATIA ON THE OCCASION OF HER GOLDEN JUBILEE

Dear Sister,

We of Alcoholics Anonymous look upon you as the finest friend and the greatest spirit we may ever know. We remember your tender ministrations to us in the days when AA was very young. Your partnership with Dr. Bob in that early time has created for us a spiritual heritage of incomparable worth.

In all the years since, we have watched you at the bedside of thousands. So watching, we have perceived ourselves to be the beneficiaries of that wondrous light which God has always sent through you to illumine our darkness. You have tirelessly tended our wounds; you have nourished us with your unique understanding and your matchless love. No greater gifts of Grace than these shall we ever have. Speaking for AA members throughout the world, I say: “May God abundantly reward you according to your blessed works – now and forever!’

In devotion,

March 25,1964, Bill W.

Copyright © AA Grapevine August 1966

Prayer for the Addicted

prayer guyPRAYER FOR THE ADDICTED

God of mercy, we bless you in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, who ministered to all who come to Him. Give your strength to (name of the one I am praying for), who is bound by the chains of addiction. Enfold him/her in your love and restore him/her to freedom through your grace.

Lord, look with compassion on all those who have lost their health and have broken relationships because of their attachment to the object of their addiction. Restore to them the assurance of your unfailing mercy, and strengthen them in the work of recovery. To those who care for them, grant patient understanding and a love that perseveres.

Lord, in your servant, Venerable Matt Talbot you have given us a wonderful example of triumph over addiction, of devotion to duty, and of lifelong reverence of the Holy Sacrament. May his life of prayer and penance give (name of the one I am praying for) courage to take up his/her cross and follow in the footsteps of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Father, we ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.