Posts Tagged ‘Mary C. Darrah’

Meditation for June 1 — I pray that I may be gradually transformed from the old life to the new life.

June 1, 2018

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Meditation For The Day: June 1

You were born with a spark of the Divine within you. It had been all
but smothered by the life you were living. That celestial fire has to be
tended and fed so that it will grow eventually into a real desire to live
the right way. By trying to do the will of God, you grow more and
more in the new way of life. By thinking of God, praying to Him, and
having communion with Him, you gradually grow more like Him. The
way of your transformation from the material to the spiritual is the
way of Divine Companionship.

Prayer For The Day

I pray that I may tend the spark of the Divine within me so that it will
grow. I pray that I may be gradually transformed from the old life to
the new life.

— From the book “24 Hours a Day”


God, I offer myself to Thee-
To build with me
and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness
to those I would help of Thy Power,
Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!
Thank you, God, Amen!

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Sister Ignatia: Angel to Alcoholics and Co-Founder of AA

June 21, 2012

Most people familiar with Alcoholics Anonymous know the story of Bill W. and Dr. Bob.  But not as many people know about the woman both those men considered the third co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA): Sister Ignatia.

Sister Ignatia was instrumental in crafting the spiritual program alcoholics have used to get sober since the middle 1930s; including the Twelve Steps, the Big Book, the coins (medallions or tokens) still in use today.  But mainly, she instituted the very first hospital ward for recovering alcoholics anywhere in the world and spearheaded the concepts today used in all hospital recovery programs.

By John Francis Carey

Sister Mary Ignatia was a Catholic Sister of Charity of St. Augustine who was considered a co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous by the other more famous co-founders, Dr. Bob Smith and Bill Wilson.

Born Bridget Della Mary Gavin on 2 January 1889 at Shanvalley, Burren, in County Mayo, Ireland, the young lass learned from her mother at an early age that “drunks are an abomination. They sin against the will of God.”

Her mother’s feelings toward those who took a drink in Ireland were so well know that the word “drunk” was never allowed to be used in her presence.

At an early age she came to America and entered the convent novitiate announcing her intention to dedicate her life to God in 1914.

A skilled musician, she spent many years as a music teacher. In fact, she was so dedicated to her work that she suffered a nervous breakdown in February 1927  that left her with bleeding ulcers and two paralyzed arms.

It was then that a physician named Frank Doran  entered her life. He told the nun that she needed to totally accept her illness – her new situation in life.  She realized that even her malady was a gift from God.

Dr. Doran believed Sr. Ignatia needed a spiritual as well as a physical and mental recovery effort.

Both Dr. Doran and Sr. Ignatia decided that they were powerless to give her a full recovery based upon their powers alone: they needed a spiritual experience, then known as a conversion.

Biographer Mary C. Darrah, author of Sr. Ignatia, Angel of Alcoholics Anonymous, writes: “She redefined her spiritual values, this time honestly integrating the physical realities of her life… She balanced prayer, self-examination, meditation, and the comfort of spiritual readings against the physical and psychological realities of her life.”

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Sister Ignatia

“Providence suddenly struck Ignatia,” Mary Darrah wrote, “to redirect her course of action; to re-channel her creative drive and energy; to redefine and purify her spiritual path; to reintegrate her physical, mental and spiritual natures; and to open her heart in preparation for a new direction.”

The rest is history. Sr Ignatia became totally dedicated to the recovery of alcoholics, instituted the first tokens or ships in the pockets of alcoholics to remind them of their commitment, and was the single guiding light in the establishment of the first hospital ward dedicated to sober up alcoholics anywhere in the world.

Dr. Bob and Bill Wilson both considered her a co-founder of alcoholics Anonymous (AA).

Sister Ignatia was the first person to use medallions in Alcoholics Anonymous. She gave the drunks who were leaving St. Thomas after a five day dry out a Sacred Heart Medallion and instructed them that the acceptance of the medallion signified a commitment to God, to A.A. and to recovery and that if they were going to drink, they had a responsibility to return the medallion to her before drinking.

This is the way she expressed it all: “I am just one of those many women of the Catholic nursing community of America who are striving to rescue men and women from the bottomless pit of alcoholism.


“Universities and welfare groups have expended millions of dollars in an attempt to find the causes of alcoholism. Yet, no one has been able to place his or her finger upon the exact cause. However, it is the consensus of opinion among great minds who have attacked the problem that a lack of proper spiritual application on the part of the victim is at least a primary cause.

“The co-founders of Alcoholics Anonymous believed that the solution of the problem for many was to be found in the merger of forces of medicine and religion. With this union, what could be more conducive to the regeneration of the whole person than the atmosphere of a Catholic hospital? The professional, medical case administered within its precincts affords spiritual, physical, mental, and moral therapy.

“Alcoholism strikes at men and women in all walks of life. Surveys show that 25 percent of the “Skid Row” population in any large city possess university degrees. The fruit of the vine — a harmless stimulant for many — in the hands of the alcoholic turns to poison.”

“The alcoholic is deserving of sympathy. Christlike charity and intelligent care are needed so that with God’s grace he or she may be given the opportunity to accept a new philosophy of life.”

Sister Ignatia has special names for each of the five days a patient spends at Rosary Hall. They are: Day of Reception; Day of Realization; Day of Moral Inventory; Day of Resolution; and Day of Plans for the Future.

As he leaves Rosary Hall, the recovering patient must then face his own problem. The way has been paved by the A.A. sponsor. The future is in God’s hands. He has learned to say, “O, God, grant me the serenity to accept things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

The patient is urged to guard against pride, self-pity, resentment, intolerance, and criticism; to attend meetings, spread the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous, and to return to the hospital to help others.

Finally, there is the Sacred Heart Badge. Not many are returned to Sister Ignatia. But when they are, she pleads for the patient not to take the first step on the return to ruin. Very often it means a long distance phone call, a fervent prayer, and the help of a local A.A. group to keep the tempted on the right path.

To alcoholics all over America, Sister Ignatia is called “Little Angel.” She is indeed small and frail, but her strength is that of a Michael and her message that of Gabriel. Both the humble and the great who “died” in drink and became “new” again will attest to that.

More on Sister Ignatia:

Many of ideas of Alcoholics Anonymous — including the use of tokens to mark milestones in sobriety — were introduced by Sister Ignatia. She would give alcoholics leaving St. Thomas Hospital a medallion of the Sacred Heart, instructing them that the acceptance of the medallion represented commitment to God, to A.A. and to recovery. She added that if they were going to drink, they should first return the medallion TO HER HAND.

Sacred Heart of Jesus Scalloped Medal Color EXCLUSIVE

I carry my “Sacred Heart of Jesus” Medal in my wallet and each day when I see it I think of Bill W., Dr. Bob and Sr. Ignatia: and thank God for them! This is my A.A. “coin.”  When I leave this earth, my wife, I expect will find it in my wallet.