Friday, July 12, 2024

A video message on my upcoming Father Ed talk near the Eucharistic Congress

I recorded this rooftop video today to spread the word about the talk I'm giving on Father Ed: The Story of Bill W.'s Spiritual Sponsor in Indianapolis on Thursday, July 18, near the Eucharistic Congress. See more details and register at this link. 

The free event is for anyone interested in the history of Alcoholics Anonymous and the role that a Jesuit priest played in encouraging A.A. co-founder Bill W. Coffee and cookies will be served. Please let your friends attending the Congress know the gathering, sponsored by iTHIRST and Ignatian Spirituality Project. Locals who are not attending the Congress are welcome too! 

Also, if you're based in the Indianapolis area, see my Upcoming Talks page for information on the other talks I'll be giving there, one on Wednesday, July 17, at St. Louis in Batesville, and the other on Sunday, July 21, at St. Jude in Indianapolis. Thank you and God bless you! 

Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Come hear me speak about Father Ed during the Eucharistic Congress—and help spread the word!

Four months ago, I approached an official from the 2024 National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis offering to speak on Father Ed: The Story of Bill W.'s Spiritual Sponsor, my biography of the Jesuit whose spiritual guidance changed the life of Alcoholics Anonymous co-founder Bill W. The official told me that all speaking slots for the event were filled.

I then asked if there would be a room set aside at the Eucharistic Congress for Friends of Bill W. It is common practice at large conferences and on cruise ships to designate a place for people who are in recovery programs to meet. Out of respect for the participants' anonymity, the meeting space is called the place for Friends of Bill W. rather than the "A.A. room" or some other name identifying it as a place for recovering alcoholics or addicts.

The official responded that no such room had been designated. There were no plans for any programming at the Eucharistic Congress for people in recovery, and no space for them to meet.

I found it absolutely incredible that an event promoted by the U.S. bishops that is expected to draw eighty thousand Catholics from around the country failed to make any provision whatsoever for people in recovery. Studies show that about ten percent of Americans abuse alcohol. Many more suffer from drug addiction or have family members who abuse substances. If the Eucharist is about healing, then these people should be among the first whom the Eucharistic Congress seeks to reach, not an afterthought. Certainly under no circumstances should the Catholic Church ignore them.

So I decided to step out in faith and rent an event room, coffee and cookies included, at the nicest hotel I could find within walking distance of the Eucharistic Congress, on the evening of the congress's first full day. I wanted there to be an attractive and welcoming place where people in recovery, their families, and their friends could find fellowship for an hour and a half, and could enjoy hearing me share Father Ed's story.

To my joy, two outstanding Catholic-led apostolates to people in recovery, the Ignatian Spirituality Project and iTHIRST Initiative, stepped forward to co-sponsor the event. Through their generosity and that of other kind folks who stepped up, all my costs are now covered, thanks be to God.

I am therefore delighted to invite you to hear me speak on "Father Ed: The Story of Bill W.'s Spiritual Sponsor" on Thursday, July 18, at the Theory Room at Hyatt Regency Indianapolis, One South Capitol Avenue, Indianapolis, IN, 4:00 p.m.–5:30 p.m. Registration is strongly recommended; register online at

Please, please, please spread the word. We can't wait for someone out there somewhere in the Church to do something to encourage people in recovery. We are the Church, and with the help of fellow members of the faithful such as those in the Ignatian Spirituality Project and iTHIRST Initiative, we can make a real difference in the lives of people with addictions and their families.

Thursday, May 30, 2024

Where to find Father Ed: The Story of Bill W.'s Spiritual Sponsor

Artwork for the wraparound dust jacket of the hardcover edition of Father Ed: The Story of Bill W.'s Spiritual Sponsor. Click the image to enlarge.

The publication of the paperback edition of Father Ed: The Story of Bill W.'s Spiritual Sponsor, my biography of the Jesuit Father Edward Dowling, who was a spiritual advisor to the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, has unfortunately caused the book's Amazon sale page to go haywire.

At this writing, Amazon's paperback sale page for Father Ed has disappeared into the ether. Earlier, the site had confused the book with another one published by Orbis Books, and the Father Ed paperback sale page looked like a mix-and-match of the two different books, with Father Ed's book cover and the other book's title, or vice versa. Also, Amazon's Kindle page for Father Ed has somehow become de-linked from Father Ed's hardcover page, making the Kindle difficult to find. In case prospective buyers of Father Ed are confused by the Amazon mix-ups, I'm writing this post to list the reliable places where Father Ed may be ordered.

The best place to purchase Father Ed is your local bookstore. If you do not have a bookstore near you, or if your local bookstore refuses to order Father Ed, I recommend purchasing it from, a collective of local stores, which has the paperback edition in stock. Alternatively, the paperback edition and the hardcover edition are both available directly from the publisher, Orbis Books. Other online sellers, such as Barnes & Noble, carry Father Ed as well.

If you prefer to purchase an electronic edition of Father Ed, the book is available in Kindle, Google Books, and Nook editions.

Finally, if you would like to purchase a signed copy of Father Ed, you can purchase it directly from me, in hardcover or paperback, for the list price of $30 plus $6 shipping and handling (USPS Media Mail). Write me at the email address listed on my Contacts page.

P.S. And of course, there's always your local library

Friday, May 24, 2024

Newly unearthed photo shows Father Ed shortly after his first meeting with Bill W.

Father Edward Dowling, SJ, November 18, 1940, as pictured in the Springfield Daily News

When I was writing Father Ed: The Story of Bill W.'s Spiritual Sponsor, I spent a good deal of time reflecting on how Father Edward Dowling, SJ, would have appeared when he met Alcoholics Anonymous co-founder Bill W. on November 16, 1940, in an encounter that would change Bill's life. Today, with the help of, I found a photograph of Father Ed taken just two days after that historic meeting—or, rather, less than two days, since the Jesuit and Bill conversed into the wee hours. 

It is truly amazing to see Father Ed almost as Bill saw him on that historic evening. Dowling's hair is no doubt better combed in the photo than it was when he arrived at the A.A. clubhouse late at night after more than three hours on a train. But he is wearing the same clerics and is holding the same cane, and he has the same posture (reflecting the crippling disease he suffered, ankylosing spondylitis) that he would have had upon meeting Bill. 

Most of all, although the image of his face is marred by a black spot (which I would love for some reader skilled in Photoshop to remove), Father Ed's expression reflects his eager engagement in a conversation. There is more than a hint of the warm and even numinous presence that Bill described whenever he recounted that fateful first meeting.

UPDATE, 5/27/24: Here's a touched-up version corrected by Nick DeBenedetto. I love it!

Looking to learn more about Father Ed? Listen to my podcast interviews or watch my most recent lecture on that great-souled Jesuit.

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Father Ed and Bill W.'s story comes to New Orleans! Watch my talk at Holy Name of Jesus Parish

It is always a special joy to speak about Father Ed: The Story of Bill W.’s Spiritual Sponsor, my biography of Father Edward Dowling, SJ, at a Jesuit parish, and even more so when the parish in question is one that Dowling himself would have visited. I had that joy last week when Father Mark Thibodeaux, SJ, an accomplished author in his own right, hosted me for a Father Ed talk at Holy Name of Jesus, the parish on the campus of Loyola University New Orleans (which also was the home parish of the subject of my next biography, Father Louis J. Twomey, SJ).

The video above captures nearly all my talk; it just misses the very first line, where I say that I'm honored to speak about Father Ed even though he would have called me "underprivileged." And then I explain who the underprivileged were to Dowling: they were those who lacked the good fortune of being members of Alcoholics Anonymous. To Father Ed (himself underprivileged), the A.A.'s were truly privileged people.

Talking in Memphis: Video of my Father Ed lecture at the Cathedral

On April 3, it was my great joy to speak on Father Ed: The Story of Bill W.'s Spiritual Sponsor before an audience of five hundred at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Memphis to mark the sixty-fourth anniversary of Father Ed's death in that very city. I am grateful to share this video of my talk, courtesy of the Catholic Diocese of Memphis. Many thanks to Bishop David Talley; Joe Birch of Action News, who acted as MC, and everyone who made this extraordinary event possible. It was one of the great experiences of my life to connect with so many people who were eager to learn about Father Edward Dowling, SJ, and honor him on what perhaps might someday become known as his feast day.

Sunday, May 5, 2024

Big Easy does it! I'm bringing Father Ed's story to the Crescent City

Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church can be seen in the background of this photo by Infrogmation of New Orleans, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

I am thrilled to be speaking on my biography of Father Edward Dowling, S.J.—Father Ed: The Story of Bill W.'s Spiritual Sponsor—on May 15, 6:30 p.m., at Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church, the historic Jesuit parish at Loyola University New Orleans. Although I have spoken at private gatherings in New Orleans, this will be my first time speaking publicly there. I am hoping very much that my longtime readers as well as new ones will hear about it and come on down.

New Orleans is a particularly special place to speak on Father Ed, as Dowling visited Loyola University New Orleans many times to speak at the Summer School of Catholic Action. And it's a special place for me in another way as well, because civil-rights pioneer Father Louis J. Twomey, S.J., the subject of my next biography (whom I recently profiled in America magazine), spent nearly all his working life at Loyola.

Speaking of Father Twomey, I am grateful to be sharing his story with the members of New Orleans's Round Table Club while I am in town. But that's a private event, so if you'd like to see me in the Crescent City, come to Holy Name—and please spread the word!

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Flying to Flint! Michigan is the next stop on my Father Ed book tour

After having an amazing time speaking about Father Ed: The Story of Bill W.'s Spiritual Sponsor in Memphis and New Jersey, I am now preparing to leave for Michigan to speak this Saturday at St. Michael's Conference Center in Flint. I love meeting readers of Father Ed and especially folks in the recovery community, so please see my Appearances page for details of my upcoming talks and tell your friends.

Thanks to Kathe Carson of the Church of St. Elizabeth in Wyckoff, NJ, for taking the photo at left as I signed books there two nights ago. I hope soon to be able to share video of my talk at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Memphis on April 3, where five hundred Father Ed fans came to hear me speak about him on the sixty-fourth anniversary of his death in that very city.

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Meet me in Memphis!

With the paperback edition of Father Ed now available, I'm delighted to have speaking appearances lined up in Memphis; northern New Jersey; Flint, Michigan; and New Orleans. The Memphis appearance is particularly special, as Bishop David Talley invited me to speak at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on the sixty-fourth anniversary of Father Ed's death in that very city. Visit my Appearances page for the latest details of my upcoming talks.