The death of Sulpician Father Joseph Martin last week illuminated the work of countless good priests who in their ministry bring souls to God. This priest, however, also helped free thousands of men and women from the slavery of addiction to drugs and alcohol.

After his 1948 ordination and the beginning of his own recovery from alcoholism in 1958, he cofounded in 1983 Father Martin’s Ashley, a treatment center that has helped more than 40,000 people recover from dependency on drugs and alcohol.

While helping those in his care, Father Martin also educated the general public through lectures that alcoholism is a disease to be treated and not a matter of an alcoholic’s lack of will power. Medical treatment and the development of a person’s spiritual resources emphasizing total dependency on God, plus the other components of the 12-step recovery process, were key to a person’s road to recovery.

Father Martin’s life showed how the cross of dependency need not end in despair and an early death. Recovery transforms a person’s life into one of health and happiness as God intends, through total reliance on His spanine grace for help one day, even one moment, at a time.

During this lent of fasting and self-discipline, all Catholics can learn a lesson from Father Martin’s example and that of people recovering from the disease of alcohol or drug addiction. Only radical dependence on God, our constant willingness to forgive each other, the support of a tight-knit community and love for ourselves and our neighbor can free us from whatever it is that binds us. Our simple, child-like reliance on God enables us to live fully and freely the life that is God’s gift to every person.

Send a note, protect life

Two weeks ago this newspaper informed readers of the Obama administration’s proposal to rescind the right of health care workers to follow the dictates of their conscience by not participating in procedures such as abortion that violate the sanctity of life.

A period of public comment is now open until April 9 for Catholics and all people of good will to express their opposition to this proposal. Here is what you can do: Read up on the issue, then send an e-mail message with your comments via a link on the U.S. Bishops’ web site, protection. Or send a message directly to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services at

You can also mail a letter to Office of Public Health and Science, DHHS, Attn: Rescission Proposal Comments, Hubert H. Humphrey Bldg., 200 Independence Ave., SW, Room 716 G, Washington, D.C. 20201. In all comments, refer to “rescission proposal.”

Time for expressing comments is limited. Let the administration know that the current regulation protecting the conscience rights of health care workers should remain in force.