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.