Ministry update: serving recovering alcoholics at ARCH

Sr. Mary Hlas, ND began working as a chaplain at ARCH in 1984. ARCH stands for Alcoholics Resocialization and Conditioning Help, and has two houses in Omaha for people in recovery.

Sr. Mary assists individuals in their 5th step of recovery. 

“Some people leave rather than completing these steps. They just aren’t ready. Some go back to using,” Sr. Mary said. “I know, the fourth step was difficult for me, too.”

Alcoholism is not a strange concept to Sr. Mary, who was raised in an alcoholic household. She and all of her siblings have struggles with alcohol over the years, stemming from her father. 

“I completed the 12 Steps decades ago before I started paying it forward and assisting others in their steps,” Sr. Mary said. “You have to have been through recovery yourself to help others through recovery because you know where they are. They can trust me more.”

Here is how the 12 Steps at ARCH works. After completing the first three steps, an individual writes his fourth step, which is their total life history. This includes how they hurt people, what they fear, what they resent. It is an incredibly difficult step. Sr. Mary goes over all of this with the individual and accompanies them through the guilt and shame often associated with writing down who they have hurt and how. 

Then, coming from a completely different place, she begins speaking with them about their life in recovery. 

“For example, I hear about being fired or being kicked out of their home. Now they are early for work and creating a schedule,” Sr. Mary said.

ARCH Omaha three quarters houseIn another very powerful moment at ARCH, after completing the 5th Step with Sr. Mary, everyone gathers for a ceremonial burning of all the wrongdoings they were clinging to.

“I know how good I felt after my fourth step. That emptying out of everything and burning it, is very powerful,’ she said.

As these individuals continue on their steps, Sr. Mary stays in touch. She still hears from people years after they completed their fifth step with her. She said she is blessed to see transformations in people up close. 

“People who were not spiritual or religious in any way began praying every morning and every night. I hear them praying for their children, for their parents, for their sobriety,” she said. “It touches my heart to see the victory for them to reach out to a higher power.”

This nearly 40 years of service continues to be a passion, and Sr. Mary hopes to keep paying it forward as an ARCH chaplain for some time to come.