Treatment Center

Parish Diary

Fr. Peter Daly

July 25, 2001


            Every third Sunday, it is my turn to go to the County drug and alcohol treatment center for afternoon services.  To be honest, I never really want to go.  I have four masses every Sunday.  After the masses, I often have baptisms.  By the time I get to this service, I am tired.  But, on my way back, I am always glad I went.  I feel rejuvenated by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Our church conducts an ecumenical prayer service.  The treatment center is a public facility for people recovering from various forms of chemical addiction.  The service is entirely voluntary.  The residents are given a choice of a meeting, a movie, or the prayer service.

However, not everyone is at the center voluntarily.  Some are there by court order.  Others have been brought in by family, friends, or a concerned employer.  A few have come of their own accord.  This last group realizes that this place is the end of the line.   From here, the choices are recovery or death.

Most residents stay about 28 days.  A few stay as much as six months. I seldom see the same faces.  But the situation is always pretty much the same.

The service starts out with difficulty.  I introduce myself.  Very few are Catholics.  Some are lapsed Catholics.  Someone usually asks, “What kind of preacher are you?” 

I tell them I am a Catholic priest, a preacher of hope in Jesus Christ.

I bring hymn books, but they are usually not necessary.  They always  pick “Amazing Grace”.  It is the one hymn that everybody knows.  It also is a hymn that everybody there can identify with.  “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me….”

We try to find readers for the scriptures.  It is hard.  Many have trouble reading.    Eventually, a couple of brave souls volunteer after a little coaxing.

The scriptures follow the seasons but my message is always the same. I tell them that God will make a way back for them.  God gives us second chances.  The whole message of Jesus is that God made a way back for the human race.

I can’t say I reach everybody.  Some sleep.  Some stare out the window.  But a few listen with an intensity that I seldom see in church.

After the service, I give communion to the Catholics.

Often one or two residents stay around to talk. These are the moments that really lift me up.   These are the moments of real redemption for us both.

 These people are starved for the presence of God.  They are hungry for His word. They are searching for a path out of chaos.  They know the world’s answers are useless.  They have been in a living hell. Their stories are tragic, foolish and heroic, all at the same time.

They want to know how to pray.  They want to know that we are praying for them. They want to hear that they are forgiven and that miracles still happen.

When I leave the treatment center, I am always grateful for it.  Places like that center are the real answer to drugs in North America.

We will never be able to stop the flow of drugs until we stop the demand.  And we will never be able to stop the demand so long as people are trying using drugs to fill the spiritual void that only God can fill.

At its core, the drug problem is a spiritual problem. Our prayer service creates a little space for the Holy Spirit.  I may go reluctantly, but I return rejoicing because it is a  grace for them and for me.