Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Birmingham Six

September 19, 2010

Birmingham, England. Pope Benedict XVI beatified Cardinal John Henry Newman, a 19th century convert from Anglicanism. Newman was an enormously influential man in both the Anglican and Catholic churches. The beatification moves him closer to possible canonization. 

In a related story, the six men arrested for allegedly plotting an attack on Pope Benedict were released without charge. No weapons or suspicious materials were  found in their homes. The arrests had overshadowed the Pope's visit in the English media.

Makes you wonder.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Sister Mary Ignatia, Sister of Charity of Saint Augustine



J.C. Sullivan

Cleveland, Ohio. “Three things are necessary for the salvation of man,” said Thomas Aquinas. “To know what he ought to believe, to know what he ought to desire and to know what he ought to do.” Some of our fellow human beings never recognize even one of these truths. Rare is the person who understands two. One who understood all three was a woman who began life in County Mayo as Della Gavin and ended it as Sr. Mary Ignatia, Sister of Charity of Saint Augustine (CSA). Forty years after her passing she has been commemorated and fondly remembered.

A woman ahead of her time, many believe she should be commemorated for her life’s work and vision. Cleveland Attorney John Myers is one of those people. Through his efforts, and the support of numerous others, a street in Cleveland has been co-named Sister Ignatia Way. All this, forty years after her passing. A gathering of her sisters, dignitaries, friends, recovering alcoholics and others were on hand for a ceremony honoring Sister Ignatia’s memory.

From Ballyhane, two miles outside Castlebar, County Mayo, Ireland,  Patrick J. and Barbara (Neary) Gavin emigrated with their seven year old daughter. In 1916, while World War I was raging in Europe, she entered the sisters of Charity of Saint Augustine in 1916. Eleven years later, with fragile health and exhaustion dogging her, she was transferred from the Music Department to the new St. Thomas Hospital in Akron, Ohio. While there she was approached by a co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous to allow one of his patients into the hospital for care. Thus began a spiritually-directed endeavor with men and women addicts. In 1952 she was transferred to St. Vincent Charity Hospital in Cleveland, “to work with AAs.”

On the feast of the Holy Rosary she received permission to open “Rosary Hall Solarium.” Its initials also honor a co-founder of AA, “Robert Holbrook Smith.” Revitalizing RHS is Executive Director Dan Davies’ mission. “The rosary today was said in honor of Sr. Ignatia, who prayed it daily with patients.”

“My boss at the time was the late Bob Sweeney, who had Mulranny roots,” said Myers. “Bob had the sad honor of being one of her pallbearers when she died.  He made me aware of whom she was and I was amazed this woman had helped co-found AA, which is in every country of the world.” To have a woman who was a daughter of Ireland and daughter of Cleveland have such a remarkable affect on the world is a remarkable thing.”  Myers thinks that because she was a woman, and a religious, she never got proper recognition in her lifetime from those outside CSA. Myers believes AA would never have achieved its current status without the spirituality connected with the program. “Myers also gives much credit to former Cleveland Mayor Jane Campbell, then-Council President Frank Jackson and Cleveland City Council for supporting the legislation co-naming East22nd St.  He was also sure to thank the Gavin and Neary families of Mayo who “shared their daughter with the world.”

Sr. Ignatia was a second cousin to Cleveland’s Fr. Jim O’Donnell. Mary O’Donnell Hayes (John), who is active in the West Side Irish American Club, is another cousin. Sister’s late brother, Patrick, Jr., had no offspring.

Sr. Judith Ann Karam, President and CEO of Sisters of Charity Health System said Catherine O’Donnell Lenihan worked with Sister during the 1960s. Her father, Mike O’Donnell, is Sister Ignatia’s cousin. Her Catherine’s husband is Frank Lenihan from Ballycroy. “This is a wonderful celebration of the life of Sister and the wonderful community that is AA. It was always so awe-inspiring for me to see the work she was doing and the influence she had on the people she served.

 Her legacy, according to Sr. Mary Denis, Archivist, for the Sisters of CSA, is, first and foremost, all those who were present at the ceremony. those who have struggled with demons and have come to sobriety.” Furthermore, for the community and those who have ministered and supported them, has always been “a willing acceptance of whatever God sends can indeed be a blessing, not only for oneself, but in untold ways, for countless others.  Bill Wilson recalled having a small dinner with her on her 50th jubilee and could only think of her of poignant and repeated saying, ‘Eternity is with us now.’ 

Sister Ignatia was one of the untold many living saints who now, and throughout the ages, have ministered to humanity. John Myers believes the gift, the miracle, of a path to sobriety, which Ignatia helped form, is something larger than any one person, one program or one institution. “… Her genius was to infuse a movement with a life-renewing and sustaining spirituality. Not that of a faraway Pope, or the dogmas of religion; not the church or the clergy, but rather, the simple spirituality which is appropriately here on the street, an every day spirituality, an every man, every woman  spirituality; a higher power found, recognized and shared here on the street.  This is why we gather on the street, in this small way, long overdue, to honor her memory and say thank you.”