Peace & Justice

This is the blog of the Commission on Peace and Justice for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, New York.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

An award for Fr. Peter Young

The Elfenworks Foundation has given its Harmony with Hope Award to Fr. Peter Young, for his lifetime work with addicts. From the news release announcing the award:
A simple three-legged stool is the symbol of Father Peter Young's lifetime of work. He uses it to explain his successful model for rehabilitating addicts: his three program requirements (treatment, housing and employment) are akin to the stool's three legs. Missing one leg, the stool cannot stand.

Father Young came to this understanding through his half century of work with the disenfranchised of his Albany parish. The parish he was assigned to was in what was called the "combat zone." He spent the first 18 years of his ministry giving his all—quite literally. By 1976, he was near bankruptcy. He had racked up a personal debt of more than $200,000 trying to lift up his parishioners. And he was fast becoming an expert on overcoming addiction.

His financial salvation came in the guise of a full-time job as chaplain of the state-run McGregor Correctional Facility. Added to the 18 years he'd already spent ministering to the needs of local inmates at the county jail, his 15-year tenure at McGregor gave Father Young a seasoned perspective on addiction, crime, and recovery.

He didn't need to have the statistics recited to him—70% of inmates owe their incarcerations to substance abuse problems—he witnessed it first-hand. Father Young chose to address the problems he saw within the existing framework, but without accepting the status quo. His approach has been to work with the state to promote legislative and regulatory change that makes a difference. His first coup, shortly after he started at St. John's, was to introduce legislation that removed public intoxication from the penal code.

Father Young also learned the value of good contacts: with the help of then-Governor Rockefeller, Young developed the state's first alcohol crisis center and extended care facility.

Not resting on his laurels, Father Young worked with the New York State Department of Corrections to create the first Alcohol and Substance Abuse Treatment program. The program relies on the principles of Father Young's stool: full recovery is only possible in concert with housing and employment.

We at the Commission on Peace and Justice would like to congratulate Father Young on this well-deserved award. We suggest you read the entire news release here.