Father Joseph C. Martin is widely known as a pioneer in the addiction treatment field
Before his noteworthy “chalk talks” or embarking on a journey with Mae Ashley Abraham to open a treatment facility, Father Joseph C. Martin was born in 1924 in Baltimore, Maryland where he lived a modest life with his mother, father, and six siblings.
During high school, Father Martin began working at St. Mary’s Seminary under the guidance of the Sulpician Fathers — a group of diocesan priests dedicated to the education of future priests. A few years later, he began his training for the priesthood. The commitment was quite the sacrifice, often lonely and challenging, but would set the course for his life’s work helping others.
When the journey became most difficult, Father Martin remembered wisdom from a priest at St. Mary’s: “We insult the young by never asking of them the gigantic sacrifices of which they are capable.”
Sharing his story
On May 22, 1948 — what he described as the best day of his life — Father Martin officially became an ordained priest for the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
Throughout his early priesthood, Father Martin drank moderately. Unfortunately, his modest drinking became much worse. In 1958, Father Martin sought out help for his alcoholism at Guest House in Lake Orion, Michigan, a treatment and center for Catholic clergy. There he met Dr. Walter Green, whose lectures inspired Father Martin’s talks, and Austin Ripley, the founder of Guest House. When Father Martin was sober and returned to Baltimore, he began speaking about his recovery during his Chalk Talks at Johns Hopkins University and for the U.S. Navy. He started these talks by saying, “My name is Joe Martin, and I’m an alcoholic.”
At one of those talks, Father Martin met Mae Ashley Abraham, marking the beginning of a long and close friendship. She would later propose that the two open a recovery facility similar to Guest House to help others suffering from substance use disorder. After years of fundraising and setbacks, Father Martin’s Ashley opened its doors on January 17, 1983, in Havre De Grace, Maryland.
Changing lives for the better
Father Martin became a national leader in the fight against the disease of addiction and alcoholism. And his and Mae’s presence at Ashley made the recovery center stand out among others. They both served as examples of sobriety and lifelong recovery to Ashley’s patients. Father Martin died on March 9, 2009, at 84 years old. But because of his passion and belief in the dignity of every human being, Father Martin’s profound legacy has lived on to help more than 50,000 patients and more than 100,000 family members live healthier, happier lives.