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Sister Ignatia: The Apostle of Alcoholics Anonymous

Ignatia had a great devotion to the spiritual teachings of St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, particularly his notion of "love through action." She found a strong parallel between the saint's writings and AA's Twelve Steps. She routinely carried around with her a compendium of Ignatius's thoughts, along with the fourteenth century classic The Imitation of Christ. She gave copies of both to patients in the program's early days. But her spirituality was also ecumenical. To a Protestant patient, she said:

The importance of our religion lies in our making it heavenly to those around us. In its essentials Catholicism is not as far apart as you suppose, from the beliefs of our separated brethren...love can surmount every obstacle.

In 1952, Ignatia opened Rosary Hill Solarium in Cleveland, where she worked for fourteen years. During her lifetime, an estimated 15,000 alcoholics came under her care. As a result of her ministry, one author notes, "the alcoholics' world changed." At the time of her death in 1966, one commentator said: "If the Catholic Church doesn't canonize her, the Protestants will make her a saint." The Sisters poured more than 6,000 cups of coffee at her wake.

7/23/2012 4:00:00 AM