April 1, 2022

Catholic in Recovery comes to St. Simon as way to help 12-step healing

Scott Weeman, founder of Catholic in Recovery, speaks at St. Simon the Apostle Church in Indianapolis on March 13. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

Scott Weeman, founder of Catholic in Recovery, speaks at St. Simon the Apostle Church in Indianapolis on March 13. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

By Natalie Hoefer

By the grace of God—and an abundance of humility, honesty and trust—Mark was in recovery from the disease of addiction.

He was in a 12-step program, and it was helping, no doubt. In the terminology of the steps, Mark had come to believe that a “Power greater than” himself could help him.

But something was missing.

“Being a practicing Catholic, I found the term of ‘higher power’ less than appropriate,” said Mark. While some members in the program struggled with the concept of God or with God himself, he knew God was the only “higher power.”

“I did my own research on faith-based 12-step programs,” said Mark, a member of St. Simon the Apostle Parish in Indianapolis, who for anonymity will be referred to by his first name only. “Catholic in Recovery was one of the first programs I gravitated toward.”

The program “blends Catholic spirituality and sacraments with the 12-step recovery process,” with the majority of meetings open to those dealing with any kind of addiction, said founder Scott Weeman in a talk he gave on March 13 at St. Simon the Apostle Parish.

He was there to launch the parish’s Catholic in Recovery (CIR) in-person general recovery group, the first in Indiana.

During his talk, Weeman shared why he created the organization, what sets it apart from secular 12-step groups, and his hope for CIR “to share the good news that God can bring about healing and recovery, even in the most hopeless of cases.”

‘Clear to me we could be doing more’

Weeman didn’t develop Catholic in Recovery on a whim. It was created out of his own need as he worked through the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.

“I realized that as I was working through the 12 steps of addiction recovery, that in many ways I was going through the same kind of spiritual recovery, too, that in giving my life over to God I was really leaning into my baptism,” he said.

“Then confessing to God, myself and others the nature of my wrongs, I realized that was a lot like the sacrament of reconciliation.”

Some of the 12 steps are done on a daily basis, he noted, “like taking a personal inventory and staying connected to God through prayer and meditation. That seemed a lot like the Eucharist, the daily bread that we’re receiving.

“In confirmation, we’re asked to make disciples of all nations. The 12th step of addiction recovery is that, having had a spiritual awakening, we share the good news with others, much like the Church does today.”

As Weeman continued in his recovery, he also noticed there were “a lot of people turning to the Church for help and healing, and in a lot of ways the Church was delegating people to other 12-step programs—which saved my life and continues to save my life and should be part of the process.

“But it was clear to me that we could be doing more. … Shouldn’t we be accompanying these people?

“It struck me that there needed to be somewhere where people can lean into their Catholic faith while supplementing their recovery.”

Weeman created that place with the founding of CIR in 2017 in the Diocese of San Diego as a tool to enhance recovery for Catholics in 12-step programs.

‘Sacraments as they apply to recovery’

The non-profit organization “seeks to serve those suffering from addictions and unhealthy attachments,” according to its website.

In CIR, “people show up about their addiction or their loved one’s addiction, but they do so through the lens of the faith, sharing about how the sacraments, or dedication to the rosary, or the wisdom from the saints, how these faith practices are very instrumental in their recovery,” Weeman explained. “Those are things that would be out of balance with a regular 12-setp meeting.”

He noted that CIR has spread to 15 states, and that nearly 50 meetings are offered virtually and in person.

General meetings, like the one at St. Simon, welcome those with—or those affected by someone with—any form of addiction or attachment. Other meetings are addiction- and/or gender-specific, geared toward family and friends or focused on adult children of dysfunctional homes.

Catholic in Recovery meetings follow the same flow as normal 12-step programs, Mark explained. The difference is in “the sacraments as they apply to recovery, and at the beginning of every meeting we review the Scripture for the upcoming Sunday Mass and tie those to our 12-step journey.

“And we don’t hide our reliance upon God and Christ as our higher power.”

‘Called by God to give it a try’

Mark sought to establish the meeting at St. Simon in part because, while he appreciated CIR’s virtual sessions, he was tired of driving to Ohio for the closest in-person option.

“I find personal engagement to be a lot more meaningful,” he said. “So I either had the choice of moving or starting a group.”

To establish the meeting, Mark approached Father Doug Marcotte, pastor of St. Simon Parish, and explained the nature of CIR.

“I decided to support having Catholic in Recovery at St. Simon because the folks interested in leading this new ministry seem to be called by God to give it a try,” said Father Marcotte.

“In looking into Catholic in Recovery, I discovered that they have a record of success and a willingness to help new chapters get themselves up and running.

“As a priest, I am very impressed with the wedding of the 12 steps with the seven sacraments. So many have found sobriety with the 12 steps, and it is a blessing to be able to offer a program that helps folks find even more support in their Catholic faith.”

Starting a chapter was not difficult, said Mark.

“Once I knew I had the support of the parish, I began coordinating start-up details with Scott,” he said.

There were considerations that had to be addressed, such as “how to maintain privacy and how to gently offer opportunities to parishioners who need it,” Mark noted.

“But the hardest thing was just opening the door for the first time and hoping someone showed up, which thank God they did.”

Mark credits Catholic in Recovery with helping him on his path to healing.

“I’m going on close to a year of sobriety,” he said. “I’m connected to the 12 steps through God.

“Catholic in Recovery makes for a very tangible source of strength to deal with my addiction and my recovery.”

(The Catholic in Recovery general recovery group at St. Simon the Apostle Parish, 8155 Oaklandon Road, in Indianapolis, meets on Mondays at 7 p.m. in the Youth Center on the southeast corner of the parish’s campus. For more information on that meeting or on Catholic in Recovery, including in-person and virtual meetings, literature and how to start a group, go to catholicinrecovery.com.)

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