An excerpt from and article entitled “Recovery and Homeless Retreats” by Cheryl Wittenaur published in the Winter-Spring 2013 Jesuit Bulletin:
Back in the 1940’s, St. Louis Jesuit Fr. Edward Dowling first identified similarities between the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola and the Twelve Step spirituality of Alcoholics Anonymous, co-founded by his friend Bill Wilson.
Today, Jesuits are among a network of people in the U.S. who offer spiritual retreats for those in recovery from alcohol and drug abuse, a niche ministry that is in high demand.
A recent recovery retreat at White House Retreat center in St. Louis that was led by visiting retreat director, Fr. Jim Harbaugh, author of “A 12-Step Approach to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius,” drew 84 retreatants from as far away as Kentucky and South Carolina, and had a waiting list of 30 others.
Charley meyer, who recruits participants for some of the recovery retreats, said they fill up within days of his posting dates. He said Ignatian spirituality works well for people in recovery.
“Alcoholism is a spiritual, mental and physical disease,” Meyer said. “It’s about more than not drinking. There are amends to be made.”
Fr. Len Kraus, who offers recovery retreats at White House as well as at Jesuit retreat centers in Sedalia, Colo., and Oshkosk, Wis., said the Spiritual Exercises have a similar dynamic to that of Twelve Step spirituality.
Kraus explained that Twelve Step spirituality is a path to enlightenment, joy and freedom much like the Spiritual Exercises. Both recognize reliance on a higher power, staying in touch with God and bringing to others the gifts one has received.
White House currently offers 3 recovery retreats annually. We offer Ignatian Spirituality retreats year round. For information on any retreats at White House, call us at 314-416-6400.