The Catholic University of America

 Final Examination of

Kathleen Kelley

for the degree of

Doctor of Ministry


A Catechetical Program for Roman Catholics

in Twelve Step Recovery

Director: Msgr. Stephen Rossetti, D.Min., Ph.D.

 Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) and other Twelve Step programs are based on the belief that recovery from addictions is inherently spiritual.  These programs are careful to distinguish themselves as spiritual and not religious so as to make clear that they are not affiliated in any way with any particular belief system.  Twelve Step based addiction treatment programs further support this by advancing the idea that “religious” refers to the doctrinal and ritualistic practices of organized religion and “spiritual” refers to the personal pursuit of our own conception of God, higher power and even to that which signifies ultimate meaning and purpose.  While this is not inaccurate it does tend to form too much of a distinction between the two as there is a rich spirituality inherent in many religions and particular to this project in Catholicism.

This project sought to address this distinction for Catholics in recovery who may have questions about how to understand the spiritual dimension of addiction and recovery by taking some of the key concepts in Twelve Step spirituality and recasting them in light of some fundamental aspects of Catholic faith and practice.  To accomplish this, I led a catechetical program aimed at improving the participant’s knowledge and understanding of the Liturgy, the Sacraments and prayer and their relevance to recovery spirituality.

Upon completion of the program, participants were asked to complete a post program questionnaire which assessed improvements in their knowledge and changes in the likelihood of engaging in religious based spiritual practices in recovery.  The results support a conclusion that the program did effect some quantifiable change in both knowledge and in the likelihood of integrating Catholic faith with Twelve Step spirituality for all participants.  A particular contribution of this program is that it facilitated a renewed interest for several participants who previously lacked meaningful connection to the Church during this time of significant change.


More about Kelley

Kathleen M. Kelley was born and raised in Shreveport, LA and attended high school in south Florida.  She graduated from St. Thomas University in Miami FL in 1994 with a major in Psychology and a minor in Religion.  Seeking to integrate the two in her graduate study she moved to Washington, D.C. to pursue a Masters of Divinity with a concentration in pastoral counseling at the Catholic University of America, graduating in 1998.  She was accepted into the Doctor of Ministry program at the Catholic University of America again concentrating her study in pastoral counseling.  Additionally, she attended a post graduate training program in marriage and family therapy and in psychoanalysis at the Blanton Peale Institute in New York City.  She is a licensed psychotherapist in private practice and resides in New York City.