In the 1930’s, a chance encounter took place at a hospital in Akron, Ohio. Dr. Bob Smith, a physician recovering from alcoholism, met Sister Mary Ignatia Gavin at St. Thomas Hospital. She was a frail, displaced music teacher. Her order, the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine had shifted her to hospital work after she had a nervous breakdown. Dr. Smith was desperate for a hospital that would help with his idea that alcoholism was a disease that could be treated. While her superiors were against the idea, Sister Mary Ignatia was ready for an experiment. She began sneaking patients into the hospital, hiding them at first in a room reserved for flower arrangements. The result of this collaboration was Alcoholics Anonymous, probably the most successful rehabilitation program in American history. The shy, bespectacled nun always made light of her role in the founding of AA. “We’re just like the Army, you know. We go where we are sent.”
Sisters: Catholic Nuns and the Making of America—John J. Fialka.
St. Martin’s Press. New York, NY. 2003
Those who wish to read more about these incredible women and their gift of service to the church and the world can do so in John’s book, which you can order from Amazon.com or receive directly from SOAR! for a donation of $50. This donation will support retired religious sisters and brothers through the work of SOAR! To receive the book for your donation, please contact Danielle Bell directly by email or by phone at 202.529.7627.