Friday, January 2, 2009

Angel of Alcoholics Anonymous

Sister Mary Ignatia Gavin (born on this day in 1889) was a music teacher for 21 years. But at age 39, she suffered a nervous breakdown, and decided to leave teaching.

In 1928, she was assigned as a registration clerk in the admissions office of the Sisters of Charity's new hospital in Akron, Ohio. Here at St Thomas Hospital she met Dr Bob Smith, a recovering alcoholic, who co-founded Alcoholics Anonymous. The two soon became friends.

Dr Smith and Bill Wilson (another recovering alcoholic) had just published a book, outlining the 12 steps of spiritual healing. But in order for this healing to occur, Dr Smith needed to find a hospital willing to provide care for the alcoholic's medical needs.

In the summer of 1939, he asked Sr Ignatia to help him find a hospital where alcoholics could detox as they learned to live without alcohol. It was a risky request. Back then, alcoholism was seen as a character defect rather than a disease requiring treatment.

But Sister Ignatia wouldn't be deterred. She admitted alcoholic men into the hospital during shift changes and before nursing supervisors could object. Eventually Dr Smith and the nun convinced hospital officials to change their policy, and St Thomas Hospital became the first religious institution to recognize alcoholics' right to receive medical treatment.

When an alcoholic patient left the hospital, Sr Ignatia would give them a Sacred Heart medallion, representing their commitment to God. If they were going to drink, she'd say they should return the medal first.

Sr Mary Ignatia died April 1, 1966, in Cleveland, Ohio.

**This was taken from my "The Little Blue Book" (a 6 minute daily reflection book)
For more information on Sr Ignatia's life go here.

For a great movie about how Alcoholics Anonymous started watch "My Name is Bill W" starring James Woods and one of my favorites, James Garner! (I love him, my dad always watched the Rockford Files, remember Lance White? Who can guess who played Lance White?) ***OK, I will give you a hint: He later became Magnum P.I.

For those of you who don't know, my husband celebrated 19 years of sobriety this past May and runs a half-way house that houses 24 men in recovery. (He's a drug and alcohol counselor)
SO, I found this very interesting about Sister Ignatia!


  1. Like the new pic of you Jamie!

    Happy New Year to you and your family!

    That was a great post. Learned a lot! Congrats to your DH. and to all the work he does.

  2. Congrats to your DH! That is quite an accomplishment!

  3. Wonderful. Helping others recover is another way to give back and fight back. My dad's been sober since I was about 12-14 (I can't remember exactly, but when he did I was a young teen; he quit cold turkey). My husband hasn't had a drink since he joined the Navy in 1988. Kudos to those who survive it.

  4. What a wonderful post! And congratulations to your husband. I'm sure he is helping so many from his own personal experieince of suffering. If you're ever interested, Fr. Emmerick Vogt has a wonderful apostolate called the 12 Step Review. He personally came from an alcoholic household and had personal demons to overcome, and did so using the 12 step program (from such programs as AA, OA, SA, etc), and applied those the teachings of the Church. I have two of his talks: Detaching with Love, and has a 9 CD set on the 12 steps. His website is God Bless you and your family!

  5. Thank you everyone! Yes, I am very proud of my husband and all he does to help these men in their recovery and their hope for their futures.

    Jen, I will have to look up those CD's thank you so much! I'm sure my husband will like them too and maybe use them for his program.

    Sarah (JOT) that's wonderful about your dad and your husband!

    I have not had a drink since I met my husband 13 years ago. (although I am not an alcoholic I just figure why would I drink something that nearly ruined his life?)

  6. Thanks for sharing this story. It's lovely.

  7. I had heard about the founder of AA, but didn't know this part of the story. Very interesting. I'm sure you're very proud of your husband, because it's a struggle. I have a very close friend who has founght this fight for years too. I agree with Christine--your photo is beautiful. Nerm

  8. thanks for that story. and congrats to your husband....mine is at one of his meetings as i write......thank GOD for aa and all that the Lord accomplishes through it.

    ps. thanks for stopping by and yes, it does help to have a good camera, but you still take some great pictures! =)

  9. I do think I remember you writing about your husband before. This was a great post. God bless your husband and his work!

  10. thanks for this post. I am a catholic mom of an addict. We are still early in our journey and I blog about the experience which is wonderfully therapeutic. I congratulate your husband and I am thankful to men like him who help others recover through half way houses, encouragement and just by living the example. Thanks be to God for him.

  11. It was great to stumble on this post today, as it really warmed my heart! Thank you again for posting it.


Thank you so much for stopping and commenting!


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