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!