Episode 89 with Sr. Judith Ann Karam, CSA
Sr. Judith Ann Karam, CSA, Congregational Leader of the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine, discusses the story of one of her fellow nuns, Sr. Ignatia, who was referred to as the “Angel of Alcoholics Anonymous.”
It's a great story of how she worked with Dr. Bob Smith and Bill Wilson, founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, and of her tireless efforts to help care for the struggling alcoholic nearly 100 years ago.
Sr. Ignatia’s parents were Irish immigrants. She had a great skill and love of music. She played the piano and gave lessons to help raise money for her family.
She was also a perfectionist and high strung. Her need for perfection later caused mental and physical health issues, including anxiety and bleeding ulcers. She knew she needed to address these issues for her own inner healing.
She was transferred from Cleveland, Ohio to Akron, Ohio, and became the director of admissions of St. Thomas Hospital in Akron.
In those days, alcoholism was thought of as a moral weakness, and they used to jail the drunks and let them sober up overnight. Sister instead would admit them to the hospital and treat them with sedatives if needed. She also tried to make them feel wanted and loved. The charism of her order is showing mercy to all and follows the spirituality of Saint Ignatius.
Discovering a New Approach to Treating Alcoholism
Dr. Bob Smith was a surgeon and alcoholic who had been kicked off of several hospital staffs.
Doctor Bob had become a close friend of and prayer partner with Bill Wilson, a stockbroker from New York, and also an alcoholic. He and Dr. Bob recognized certain principles that helped them keep sober, such as transparency and honesty.
The Angel of Alcoholics Anonymous
Sr. Judith was in Georgia recently for a worldwide AA meeting, where they honored Sr. Ignatia for all her work in helping the alcoholic. She helped so many, and there was a large contingent of people at her funeral who came to show their thankfulness and gratitude to Sister for her help in keeping them sober.
She became known as the “Angel of Alcoholics Anonymous.”
Origins of AA's 12-Step Program
Of course the 12-Step Program is for all people. Many struggling with addiction wonder if God exists. The founders of the 12-Step Program decided to use the term “Higher power,” realizing that many have different concepts of God.
For example, Step 2 states – "Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity." But the founders were Christian, and there was also Sr. Ignatia admitting alcoholics to the hospital and putting their beds near the Chapel – many people don’t realize how all this evolved.
She brought the love of God to many in that situation who were so ashamed they never figured that God could love them.
Continuing Sr. Ignatia's Work
Sister caught a lot of grief from hospital staff, nurses, and doctors because of how she treated the alcoholics. The order continues to work with alcoholics and addicts in the Cleveland area, and has an inpatient unit at Charity Hospital in Cleveland.
For more information on the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine, visit their website at srsofcharity.org.