Sr. Mary Ignatia Gavin, CSA Papers, Sisters of Charity of St Augustine Archive

Our Hidden Catholic Collection this week shares the papers of Sr Mary Ignatia Gavin (1889-1966), Sister of Charity of St. Augustine (CSA), an early advocate of Alcoholics Anonymous. Sr. Ignatia, as she was known, helped 15,000 patients recover and assisted 60,000 family members through the Al-Anon program during her life. The Gavin Collection, in the Archives of the Sisters of Charity of St Augustine, includes photographs, videos, awards, personal memorabilia, newspaper clippings, and books pertaining to Sr. Ignatia and Alcoholics Anonymous. You can access the finding aid online. 

In 1939, Sr. Ignatia worked in admissions at St. Thomas Hospital in Akron, OH, where she admitted the hospital’s first alcoholic patient. During a time when alcoholism was a taboo, Sr. Ignatia treated each patient with dignity, respect, and grace and came to be known as an “Angel of Hope.” She served alcoholics at both St. Thomas and St. Vincent Charity hospitals in Cleveland, where she founded Rosary Hall. She worked closely with Dr. Bob Smith and Bill Wilson, founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, to support their work until her death in 1966. 

Included in the Gavin Collection is this recording of a speech given by Sr. Ignatia at the 25th Anniversary of Alcoholics Anonymous, held in Long Beach California, in 1960, reflecting on her important work. 

Sr. Mary Denis Maher, CSA, Archivist
Marissa Ortosky, Assistant Archivist

Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine
5232 Broadview Road
Richfield, OH 44286

[email protected]
(330) 659-5100

Sr. Ignatia, Alcoholics Anonymous co-founder Bill Wilson, Fr. Otis Winchester, and Mary Vorhees.
Sr. Ignatia holding a copy of Alcoholics Anonymous by Fr Ed Dowling, SJ
Sr. Mary Ignatia Gavin, CSA, at work.