Monday, February 25, 2019 - Updated: 12:32 pm
Father Michael Decewicz recalled the tears in his eyes and the dryness of his throat when he spoke his truth more 15 years ago. He was shaking during the moment he admitted he was an alcoholic.
“It is for me, the moment that God touched me,” he said Feb. 10 at St. Paul Cathedral in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood. He was homilist for the Mass for Healing from Addiction, which served as the official launch date for the diocesan Addiction Recovery Ministry. Bishop David Zubik was the principal celebrant, and other priests and deacons from around the diocese joined them at the altar.
“This Mass is particularly important that we pray for two things: we offer this Mass for all people who have lost their lives because of addiction,” Bishop Zubik said. “And we pray for their loved ones who hurt so much because of that loss. We also pray with hope to the Lord for people who are struggling, that they may know that they are not alone. We stand with you in the name of Jesus.”
Several hundred people gathered for the Mass. More than 40 answered the invitation from Bishop Zubik to come forward to receive a blessing calling forth the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit. They were anointed with the oil of the sick on their foreheads, praying that the Lord’s love and mercy will help through the grace of the Holy Spirit. Then the oil was placed in the palms of their hands so that the Lord may free them from sin and raise them up.
In his homily, Father Decewicz said that recovery and healing from addiction can only begin when the sufferer is confronted with the truth. He referred to the day’s first reading when Isaiah cried out, “Woe to me. I am ruined. For I am a man of unclean lips.” Father Decewicz acknowledged Peter’s reaction in the day’s Gospel reading to being confronted by Jesus and filled with great sorrow and distress.
“We see God is calling them in their fear and brokenness,” Father Decewicz said.
He noted that addicts can be called to grace in this moment, too. Only when a person knows they are sick can they seek recovery. Recovery is the action of grace. Because addiction is a progressive, fatal disease it cannot be cured, but it can be treated. Receiving the anointing of the sick, Father Decewicz said, allows the Lord to join addicts in their suffering, desperation, brokenness and sin, “so you can advance on your journey in the wonder and mystery of recovery. That’s what this sacrament is all about. It is the Lord coming to you, touching you, loving you, healing you.”
A similar Mass of remembrance and healing was held in February 2018 at the cathedral as Father Decewicz delivered an impassioned homily detailing the struggles with his addiction. He is leading the Addiction Recovery Ministry to provide support, encouragement and education by bringing the love of God to all those struggling with addiction and recovery, and those loved ones who have been affected in any way.
“Your courage and conviction not only encourages the hearts of those who struggle, but you are an inspiration to all of us,” Bishop Zubik said to Father Decewicz.
The Addiction Recovery Ministry, based at the John Paul I Center, 201 Ninth St. in Sharpsburg, consists of Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Al-Anon and Nar-Anon meetings on a ongoing basis.
The ministry supports the 12-step recovery groups, and Father Decewicz pointed out that Step 12 calls for a spiritual awakening.
“Do not be afraid as you and I drink from the waters of embrace,” he said. “In order for us to practice these principles, it must be shared.”
Father Decewicz thanked Bishop Zubik for his support, as well as Anna Torrance, diocesan secretary for external affairs, and Rosemarie Haas, secretary of St. Juan Diego Parish and the Lower Allegheny Valley grouping, where Father Decewicz is a senior parochial vicar.
The Addiction Recovery Ministry is sponsoring several upcoming events, including a murder mystery dinner Feb. 22 and Mother’s Day high tea May 4. Beginning March 18, the ministry will have a monthly speaker series.
Anyone in need of assistance with addiction can call the ministry at 412-218-5410. The website is www.addictionrecoveryministrypittsburgh.org.