My almost 73 years as a Catholic priest have been exciting and challenging and joyous (with occasional heartbreak) but mostly filled with fun and wonder. 26+ of those years, at the invitation of Cardinal O’Connor, have been among the best – to be privileged to walk with the marvelous men and women of Courage.

I was retiring from a 20-year teaching stint at Iona College and felt there was still some kick in the old boy yet. I wanted my retirement years to count. And I was immediately struck by the beauty of these Courage people. They were ruthlessly honest about themselves. Their humility and openness were exemplary. Their friendliness was extraordinary. And their love of Jesus the Christ and the Blessed Lady was like a bolt of clarifying lightning. The grace of God was almost palpable as I saw them grow and develop into authentic human beings. To see them accept and carry their cross was an inspiration. But the deep peace they now owned signaled a priceless arrival at a “good place”. What a privilege for me coming from the calculated and fantasy world of academe.

And to be associated with two of the most holy, loving and human priests I ever knew, Father John Harvey, OSFS and Father Benedict Groeschel, CFR, was a gift I never anticipated. Both I consider uncanonized saints. Both brilliant. Both highly talented – even with a sharp sense of humor. Both with profound insights into the world of the spirit. And both able to help so many from the pit of addiction.

I thought every Catholic would be as enthusiastic as I with the help offered through this Catholic program. Courage was publicly praised by Pope St. John Paul II and Cardinal Trujillo. But I met unexpected resistance from otherwise impeccable sources. I was stunned to learn that even some priests and an occasional Bishop would criticize and denounce Courage.

I had been running several groups of another nature in my rectory and simply added the little beginning group of eight Courage members without explaining the nature of the new arrival. No one noticed. The reason for my somewhat slippery, silent behavior is that my forebears were experienced in “falling through the cracks” when facing the invincible “Big Guys”. Father Harvey had tried to establish a group in my parish which is Westside Manhattan/Lincoln Center territory. He was refused access by a Pastor, a former classmate. Time passed and “possession became 9/10 of the law”. The Courage group has flourished to the present day for 26+ years even through the COVID pandemic, using video conferencing to continue meeting.

Through these years, we have had doctors, even for a while a young resident psychiatrist, teachers, computer experts, former street prostitutes, married men, priests, religious brothers, truck drivers, Protestant clergy, one rabbi (in disguise), show people, lawyers, hairdressers, writers, salesmen… in a word, a general representation of American society as found in New York City.

There have been three conversions to the Catholic Faith for members who were Protestant. All remained stable in the Faith. We have never tried to re-do a person’s orientation but have focused on chastity – even more than on continence. We have presented chastity as an integration, a virtue bringing everything into a single focus.

We have never suggested marriage as a resolution of a person’s problems. We have had one spectacular success in a member marrying a superior woman in the Church with beautiful, happy results. This, however, is highly atypical.

This group is all men. We tried for some months to make the membership “co-ed” but for some reason it never seemed to click. The “brotherhood” dimension however has been outstanding and a potent protection from the loneliness that might otherwise plague them.

There have unhappily been some failures, but very few.

We have followed the 12-step format, with prayer, selected public reading, respectful listening to each, and a tiny meditation input from me. It has been almost a replication of the early Church with groups of Christians praising the Lord, Loving Our Lady and enjoying the inner peace that comes from the Holy Spirit.

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Fr. James B. Lloyd, CSP was born in 1921, and was ordained a priest in 1948. He describes himself as “half Russian-Jew, half Irish, and ALL Catholic!” Father has a doctorate in psychology and was the Director of the graduate division of pastoral counselling at Iona College for 20 years. He has served as a missionary in South Africa, hosted an interview show on WNBC for 15 years (interviewing Mother Teresa, Jackie Gleason, and William Buckley Jr. among many others), and he has been a Chaplain for the Courage apostolate for over 26 years.

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Father Lloyd turns 100 on April 3, 2021, the first Paulist to reach that milestone!
We give heartfelt thanks to God for the enormous gift and blessing that Father is to so many of us.
Your retirement years definitely count, Father Lloyd!