By Laureen McMahon
Christ can change the lives of women caught in the enslavement of addictions, says Sharon Dobin, director of Vancouver's Sancta Maria House.
"Sancta Maria for me has the three most crucial things needed to recover: God, healing, and the 12-step program. I have been given peace and forgiveness and I can laugh again and for that I am truly grateful," said a former resident.
The Sancta Maria House residency program offers a respite from the world for those willing to change their lifestyle and habits so recovery is possible, Dobin told The B.C. Catholic.
Currently nine women are enrolled in mandatory 12-step and life skills programs.
Each receives one-on-one support from professional counsellors while a physician specializing in addictions is available for home visits.
Residents commit to staying at least six months.
"Ours is a very structured program," said Dobin.
"Those who come here are ready for recovery and ready to embrace healing as a spiritual experience.
"The spiritual component is essential because we know that, if Christ is at the centre, conversion will happen and lives will change."
Some do come with "a bit of an attitude," said Dobin with a smile.
"We find that it's usually short-lived. After being here awhile, the changes happen. As one young woman told us, 'The chip is coming off my shoulder!'"
After stabilizing, residents are encouraged to transition into an education program, find a job, or do volunteer work.
Each resident must complete their share of the chores necessary to running the house, Dobin said.
While the importance of therapy programs cannot be underestimated, the process is enhanced, she added, by the women working together to create things that are useful and beautiful.
"Our 'Creative Hands' program builds on their strengths and showcases their gifts and talents.
"For the past six years residents have created handmade greeting cards for birthdays, anniversaries, First Communion, etc., for the school and parish," said Dobin.
"The sewing and textiles course started two months ago in a lovely big room downstairs and the women are loving it," she added.
"They started slowly with making aprons and other items and are moving on to sewing quilts."
The jewellery has been a big hit with the women, Dobin explained, because the sparkly earrings, rosary bracelets, and other items are put into gift bags for working girls in the Downtown Eastside.
The bags are handed out by teams from Agape Street Ministry, which just happens to be directed by Dobin's husband Dan.
"It's wonderful for our residents to give back to others by contributing to the gift bags," said Dobin.
A close connection has existed between Sancta Maria House and the Agape Street Ministry for many years, say the couple.
In fact, both Sharon and Dan were introduced to the ministries by Agape founders Pat and Vicki Conroy before the Conroys left the archdiocese to do missionary work in Belize.
Agape and Sancta Maria House, stressed the Dobins, are both Christ-centred.
"It's important the women stay spiritually strong as they move on with their lives, so we try to continue the support.
"We are fortunate to be just a few steps from St. Augustine's Church, so the women can attend daily Mass," said Dobin.
The Dobins speculate that, since they became involved, probably more than 50 women have gone through Sancta Maria House.
She added that referrals usually come by word of mouth, detox centres, hospitals, etc
For help with addictions or to donate to the work of Sancta Maria House call 604-731-5550.