Monday, March 9, 2009

Father Martin, R.I.P.

Although their earthly lives overlapped by only eight months and had very distinct personalities and life styles, Matt Talbot and Fr. Martin were connected by their deep faith in God's mercy for alcoholics and their families.

Fr. Joseph C. Martin, S.S.

October 12, 1924 - March 9, 2009

"I'll die with a piece of chalk in my hands, talking with a bunch of drunks and addicts."

"My name is Joe Martin, and I'm an alcoholic
". Father Martin first uttered this statement in 1958, when he was in treatment for alcoholism at the Guest House, what would prove to be a refuge for him from his drinking and a turning point in his life. His personal journey in recovery prompted a celebrated career in which his only aim was to ease the suffering of individuals and families, around the world, affected by addiction.

He was born on October 12, 1924 in Baltimore, Maryland. He quickly developed a fondness for religion and faith. People fondly recall his special story-telling ability and wonderful sense of humor. In 1942, Father Martin graduated from Loyola College and entered St. Mary's seminary. He was ordained a priest in 1948 and underwent rigorous training to become a Sulpician, a highly regarded teaching society within the Catholic Church. After losing this coveted distinction as a result of his drinking, only in sobriety did he regain this title.

Father Martin taught minor seminarians and fulfilled several teaching roles within the church. It was very evident that he possessed a special ability to educate but his drinking became very troublesome and he was eventually directed to seek help at Guest House (in Michigan).. Father Martin frequently cited the tremendous impact his mentor Austin Ripley had on his journey in recovery. Many of Father Martin's teachings originated in concepts he learned while at the Guest House. His enthusiasm for sobriety coupled with his passion for teaching evolved into an unending quest to ease the suffering of individuals and families affected by addiction. In his career, spanning more than 35 years, Father Martin was catapulted into international acclaim as a prized speaker and educator on addiction and recovery thru the Twelve Steps. He founded Kelly Productions in 1972 and used it as a platform to capture the minds and hearts of millions of people.

Father Martin's message is no less relevant today than in 1972. He will continue to inspire love, service, helpfulness to others, and recovery through the use of his films, audio lectures, and books. In his last year, he shared his vision that he can be remembered so that the still suffering individual affected by addiction might benefit from his God-inspired message of hope.


Fr. Martin can be viewed speaking at

The Rev. Joseph C. Martin, Leading Authority on
Alcoholism and Addiction Treatment, Dies at 84

HAVRE DE GRACE, Md., March 9 /PRNewswire/ -- The Rev. Joseph C. Martin, S.S.,
noted authority and lecturer on alcoholism who co-founded Father Martin's
Ashley, an addiction treatment center in Havre de Grace, MD, died today at his
home in Havre de Grace. He was 84.

Best known for his lectures on alcoholism as a disease, delivered to alcoholics
and their families with his charismatic style and sense of humor, Fr. Martin is
credited with saving the lives of thousands of alcoholics and addicts. While he
retired from active management in 2003, he continued to lecture at Father
Martin's Ashley, addressing patients as recently as November 2008.

"Today, the entire treatment community mourns the loss of an icon," said the
Rev. Mark Hushen, president and chief executive officer of Father Martin's
Ashley. "The death of Father Martin marks the end of an era.

"His world renowned 'Chalk Talk on Alcohol' changed the lives of thousands of
recovering alcoholics," Hushen said. "His humor and spirituality infused his
teachings with hope. He believed in the innate dignity of the human person and
founded Father Martin's Ashley as an oasis where alcoholics and addicts could

Fr. Martin's "Chalk Talk on Alcohol" lecture, which began: "I'm Joe Martin, and
I'm an alcoholic," and more than 40 motivational films, are legendary. His
films, which have been translated into multiple languages, continue to be used
at treatment centers around the world, in hospitals, substance abuse programs,
industry, and most branches of the U.S. government. He is the author of several
publications, including Chalk Talks on Alcohol, published by Harper & Row in
1982, which is still in print.

Fr. Martin and Father Martin's Ashley co-founder Mae Abraham raised funds to buy
and renovate Oakington, the estate owned by the widow of U.S. Senator Millard
Tydings located on the Chesapeake Bay near Havre de Grace. The center, which
opened in 1983, has since provided treatment to more than 40,000 people
suffering from the disease of addiction and has provided program services to
their families. Two years after Father Martin's Ashley opened its doors, Forbes
magazine ranked it as one of the top ten addiction treatment facilities in the
country. Today, patients come from the East Coast and across the U.S. to the
85-bed facility, which has a reputation for treating alcohol and drug addiction
and relapse with respect for the dignity of each individual who enters its

In 1972, the U.S. Navy filmed Martin's "The Blackboard Talk," which they then
dubbed "The Chalk Talk." It became known throughout the U.S. military and
established Fr. Martin as a recognized leader in the addiction treatment field.

In 1991, Fr. Martin was invited by Pope John Paul II to participate in the
Vatican's International Conference on Drugs and Alcohol. He made four trips to
Russia under the auspices of the International Institute on Alcohol Education
and Training, and also traveled to Switzerland and Poland to speak to Alcoholics
Anonymous groups as well as to addiction counselors in training.

Fr. Martin's honors and awards include the Andrew White Medal from Loyola
College, Baltimore, for his contributions to the general welfare of the
citizenry of Maryland; Rutgers University's Summer School of Alcohol Studies'
Distinguished Service Award (1988); and Norman Vincent Peale Award (1992).

Born the fourth of seven children in Baltimore on October 12, 1924, Fr. Martin
graduated from Loyola High School in 1942, where he was valedictorian. He then
attended Loyola College (1942-44). He studied for the priesthood at St. Mary's
Seminary and St. Mary's Roland Park in Baltimore (1944-48), and was ordained a
priest of the Society of Saint Sulpice, whose mission is to train and educate
seminarians, in 1948.

Fr. Martin held teaching positions at St. Joseph's College in Mountain View, CA
(1948-56) and St. Charles College, Catonsville, MD (1956-59).

In 1958, Fr. Martin began his recovery from alcoholism. Following treatment, he
worked as a lecturer and educator in the Division of Alcohol Control for the
state of Maryland prior to founding Father Martin's Ashley.

"As Father Martin passes through death to life, his legacy lives on at Ashley as
we continue his mission of hope and healing," said Fr. Hushen. "Truly, the world
is a better place for his having been here."

Sample remembrances of Father Martin:

"I'm not alcoholic because God loves me less... I'm alcoholic so God can use me more."

- Art G.

“It is easy to place the name of Father Joseph Martin in the same sentence with Bill W and Doctor Bob. Over the past 3 to 4 decades, no one has meant more to so many struggling from alcoholism and addiction than Father Martin. His presence, videos and books sustain the history of our field and serve to never allow us to deviate from the principle that have lead so many along the spiritual path to recovery. There is no person in the history of the recovery movement that I love and admire more than Father.”

-Dr. Cardwell C. Nuckols

CC Nuckols is described as “one of the most influential clinical trainers in North America.” He is widely published, having authored more than 50 journal articles, 30 books and workbooks, 38 DVDs, CDs and videos, and 17 audiotape series.

Michael K. Deaver, former White House chief of staff during the Reagan administration, had been a patient and later served on Ashley's board for a decade.

"When I came to Ashley, I had been with presidents, kings, popes and prime ministers, but Father Martin was the most powerful person I had ever met," Mr. Deaver said. "You see, Father has the power to change people, to make them better, to make them whole again."