By Lou Baldwin
Special to The CS&T

KING OF PRUSSIA — Karl Sprow, a community relations representative for Father Martin’s Ashley in Havre de Grace, Md., bases his own spirituality on the Serenity Prayer of American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr: “God grant me the serenity to change accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”

To sum it up it means: It is God’s will, not mine, be done. God gave us free will; we should try to make decisions ourselves but not try to control things.

The Serenity Prayer is especially appropriate because it has been adopted as a special prayer by many Alcoholics Anonymous groups and many other Twelve Step programs including Father Martin’s Ashley, a 78-bed treatment facility for those addicted to alcohol and drugs.

Father Joseph Martin (1924-2009) was a Baltimore Sulpician priest and a recovering alcoholic. After he entered a recovery program in Michigan and achieved sobriety in 1958, “he devoted his life to helping the addicted,” Sprow said.

A member of Mother of spanine Providence Parish in King of Prussia since 1971, Sprow, 73, is originally from West Nanticoke, in Luzerne County, Pa.

He and his wife Elizabeth (Dolly) were married in 1958 immediately after he completed college. He was in the Marine Corps Reserves as a college student, but because it was difficult to obtain employment while eligible for the military draft he entered the U.S. Army and served most of his tour of duty at Fort Bliss, Texas, as an instructor in missile guidance systems, especially with Nike Ajax and Nike Hercules missiles.

With his military obligation out of the way he entered the business world in sales, first selling laboratory supplies. He then took a job with IBM, where he spent most of his career. He and Dolly raised three now-adult children; Susanne, Karl Jr. and Bethanne.

Although he has recently cut down his work schedule to three days a week, Sprow has been associated with Father Martin’s Ashley for the past 15 years, and has fond memories of Father Martin, a gifted lecturer who brought empathy and humor to his work and is still remembered for his jokes.

During his many years at Ashley, Father Martin would celebrate Mass every day for the residents and staff, according to Sprow.

“We have a chapel and we still have Mass said every day by a chaplain as well as nondenominational services,” he said.

Nevertheless, Father Martin’s Ashley is non-sectarian, and those who come for its 28-day residential program include priests, ministers, doctors, lawyers, railroad engineers and housewives. They come from all over the world.

“It’s considered one of the top rehabilitation centers in the country,” Sprow said. “There is a full medical staff to provide for detox and all other medical issues. It’s not just alcohol and drugs; our medical director is a psychiatrist.”

Sprow is a recovering alcoholic, and while that is a contributing factor to his remaining on the job well after normal retirement age, the greatest reason is “It’s such a satisfying job,” he said.

“It is a loving place. It is a program based on a Higher Power. It brings God into everything.”

For more information on Father Martin’s Ashley see

Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.