CHARLESTON—Charleston area Catholics who are struggling with alcoholism have a new way to incorporate faith into their recovery.
The St. Matthias Society, based at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, is a support group that uses the core principles of Catholicism to help guide men and women in their daily journey of sobriety. The group is named after St. Matthias because he is considered the patron saint of those battling alcoholism.
The society meets at 6:30 p.m. Mondays in the Cathedral hall. Seth, whose full name is withheld to maintain his anonymity, is the group’s main organizer. He said the society is for those who are also in an Alcoholics Anonymous program, but want to stress their Catholic faith while in recovery.
Like AA, membership in the group is kept anonymous.
Seth said he wanted to help start the society because the church had helped him so much during his two-and-a-half years of sobriety. He said that while groups like AA encourage members to rely on a higher power, the St. Matthias group is for those who want to have a solid grounding in the Catholic faith in their recovery process.
“If I didn’t have the Catholic Church I would not be sober,” he said. “AA in general needs to be open to all people, to be non-denominational, so they can’t focus on one form of spirituality or another. We focus on the spiritual development of Catholic members of AA. Our spiritual founding is in Jesus Christ, and the basis is the church. We want to offer a place for Catholic AA members to rediscover their faith, for some to come back to the church.”
Seth and others who wanted to start the society met with Father Gregory B. Wilson, rector pro tem at the Cathedral, and he supported starting the group, which first met during the fall. It is open to all ages who want church teaching to be the foundation of their recovery.
“I would hope this would be a place for any Catholic who is interested in using the rich history of our faith and spirituality in bringing about healing, and in helping with day-to-day recovery,” Father Wilson said. He said the society is meant to work in tandem with an AA program, “not as a replacement, but as a supplement.”
Father Wilson has supported the meetings through prayer, and has attended some of them to pray with members of the group.
Each gathering includes prayer and readings from Catholic recovery literature, including works used by a national organization called the Calix Society (Latin for chalice), which focuses on the spiritual development of Catholics who have come to recovery through AA.
The meetings have specific goals, including providing an approach to the 12 steps of recovery used by AA that includes Catholic teaching, regular reception of the sacraments, and spiritual guidance. The goal, members say, is to provide a comfortable format where Catholics can openly refer to their higher power as Jesus Christ, and openly refer to Scripture.
Another focus is to welcome those who feel they have been hurt by the church in the past and have resentments they need to work through. The meetings are not in any way intended to be theological debates or arguments, and are not a place to criticize other denominations or recovery programs.
Seth said most members of the society are already attending an AA program, but the group also welcomes Catholics who sense they are struggling with an addiction to alcohol and are looking for a way to begin the recovery process.
“If someone is new and having a problem, we welcome them,” he said. The goal for those people would be to introduce them to the recovery process and steer them toward attending AA meetings along with St. Matthias meetings.
Anyone interested in learning more about the St. Matthias Society can call Seth at (843) 276-5583.