From the In My Backyard Desk: here’s a really good glimpse at a problem many priests don’t like to talk about — addiction — and one effort to help clergy confront that problem in the Diocese of Brooklyn.
Msgr. Joseph Calise, pastor at the Parish of Transfiguration-St. Stanislaus Kostka, is a recovering alcoholic who has remained sober for the last 30 years.
In 1990, a priest stepped in and told him to seek help for his drinking problem that began in the 1970s. Msgr. Calise spent 90 days at Guest House, a residential treatment facility in Michigan that specializes in addiction treatment for Catholic clergy members.
According to a 2018 report by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 14.4 million adults had alcohol use disorder (AUD) — including 9.2 million men and 5.3 million women — and nearly 80 percent of whom received treatment.
On the first anniversary of his sobriety, Msgr. Calise approached the priest who had made the call, telling him, “Thank you for saving my life.” He also began Serenity Sundays — a special Mass offered at St. Stanislaus Kostka for those at different stages of recovery for various addictions.
Msgr. Calise has been helping priests in the Diocese of Brooklyn by operating the Transition House — a place for local priests to find support after completing inpatient treatment.
“I thought it would be good to have, given my experiences that I’m frankly open about,” Msgr. Calise said, noting that it received Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio’s seal of approval three years ago. “The Transition House helps me keep in touch with my own recovery journey as I’m offering and receiving help at the same time.”
According to the St. John Vianney Center, 10 percent of all clergy suffer from some form of addiction. Msgr. Calise noted that priests sometimes turn to alcohol due to isolation, loneliness, and dwindling numbers of fully housed rectories. Researchers at Georgetown University determined that the number of diocesan priests dropped from 37,272 to 24,857, between 1970 and 2019 across the country.
“The support system isn’t as built-in as it was during my time,” Msgr. Calise added. “It’s important to check in on each other because no one’s there to say, ‘You’ve had too much to drink’ or ‘Do you really need that drink?’”
Msgr. Calise was one of my teachers in formation — a good man and a wonderful priest. Kudos to him for his candor and courage.
Someone worth knowing: Venerable Matt Talbot, the unofficial patron of men and women in recovery.
A Prayer for the Addicted
God of mercy, we bless You in the name of Your Son, Jesus the Christ, Who
ministered to all who come to Him. Give Your strength to those bound by
the chains of addiction. Enfold them in Your love and restore them to the
freedom of God’s children. Lord, look with compassion on all those who
have lost their health and freedom. Restore to them the assurance of Your
unfailing mercy, and strengthen them in the work of recovery. To those
who care for them, grant patient understanding and a love that perseveres.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen