Father Ed : The Story of Bill W.’s Spiritual Sponsor
By: Dawn Eden Goldstein
2023 WINNER OF THE CHRISTOPHER AWARD
I’ve admired Dawn Eden Goldstein’s work for over a quarter century. From her music journalism to this fascinating account, her writing has always been marvelous: intrepidly perceptive and impeccably researched, with an unfailing eye for precise detail. You don’t have to be a “friend of Bill” to appreciate this passionate account, which touches on some of the most important developments of 20th century history and spirituality."—Glenn Kenny, film critic and author of “Made Men: The Story of ‘Goodfellas’”
"The long-awaited and much-needed biography of one of the most influential, yet most unknown, spiritual figures of modern times. Anyone who has benefited from the insights of Alcoholics Anonymous, a program that led to millions of freer lives, owes a debt of gratitude to Dawn Eden Goldstein for her carefully researched and lovingly told story of Father Ed. Highly recommended." — James Martin, SJ, author of Learning to Pray
"An important and long overdue work that fills a gap in the history of the 12-step movement, Dawn Eden Goldstein’s study of Father Ed Dowling’s life and work is a delight to read and very moving. A major new source in the evolution of the 12-step movement, her insightful biography brings to life the personality of Fr. Dowling, of whom Bill W. wrote, “He was the greatest and most gentle soul to walk this planet. I was closer to him than to any other human being on earth.” Dawn Eden Goldstein traces the origins of Fr. Dowling’s insights that were so valuable to Bill W."— Father Emmerich Vogt, OP, author of “The Freedom to Love: Recovery and the Seven Deadly Sins” and publisher of The 12-Step Review newsletter
“From the time I could recognize Father Dowling as the man who pointed out the gravesite of Dred Scott for my family, I have always admired that he cared about that and did something about it. His sense of rightness about race relations and lack of fear to engage his culture when it was not as popular to do so, speaks volumes about his moral compass. We could use a lot more Father Dowlings in the world today. ... This is an excellent treatment of his life and one long overdue.” — Lynne Jackson, Great-Great-Granddaughter of Dred Scott, President and Founder of The Dred Scott Heritage Foundation
“Father Ed tells the riveting personal history of a humble, deep-thinking priest who relentlessly cared for the suffering, including alcoholics and others falling on hard times. Readers will be delighted by Goldstein’s fascinating storytelling and perspective on the miraculous growth of Alcoholics Anonymous through the lens of Father Ed Dowling.”—Scott Weeman, founder, Catholic in Recovery, and author, The Twelve Steps and the Sacraments
"Dr Goldstein’s book is a must read for all who are interested in the history of AA. Her research Is original and sheds light on a relatively neglected guiding light of AA. She shows that Father Ed believed in the divine inspiration behind AA and how it touches its sober followers: “the fellowship’s members, whether they realized it or not, were traveling the road to perfection mapped out four hundred years prior by St. Ignatius Loyola. Once they made it through the first six steps, they had in effect completed the Exercises’ First Week.” Similarly, working the 12 steps can be viewed as a Jungian Individuation process leading alcoholics in recovery toward a Spiritual life beyond their wildest dreams! This book deserves the widest possible readership in several interrelated disciplines."— Dr. Ian Mc Cabe, clinical director of Jung Institute for Free Analysis for Children, and author, Carl Jung and Alcoholics Anonymous
“My late husband, Ernie Kurtz, [author of Not-God: A History of Alcoholics Anonymous] would be overjoyed to see and read this wonderful biography by Dawn Eden Goldstein. Father Ed: The Story of Bill W’s Spiritual Sponsor tells the life of Father Ed from his 1898 birth in St. Louis, MO, to his death in 1960. Goldstein’s study of one of Bill W’s closest friends and advisors, truly a sponsor of his, would have been a book that Ernie wished for. Her careful examination of Father Ed’s childhood and development into the man who was loved by hundreds if not thousands of people reveals the path that the Jesuit took to arrive at the place he held in history.”— Linda Farris Kurtz, professor emerita, Eastern Michigan University
"Dawn Goldstein's chronicle of Father Dowling is nothing short of tremendous. Through her meticulous research, she has brought to light never before known details of Father Dowling's life and works. This is a book I shall not only read, but treasure and pass on to my friends."— Carl B. Archivist
“What a wonderful biography this is! Dawn has captured my uncle and made him come to life. . . . I have heard the story of Bill Wilson’s first meeting before but never in such rich detail. For anyone who has suffered from chronic addiction and has found recovery through the twelve steps, this is a pivotal moment in the history of the recovery movement. She has truly done it justice. I loved reading this book and I know Uncle would have loved the book as well. He would have said, 'Dawn, you hit this one out of the ballpark!'" “— Mary Dowling, Certified addiction counselor and niece of Father Ed
"This book is ideal for readers wanting to get a bigger picture of the AA movement and its beginnings, whether they are interested in AA on a historical or a personal level. It also provides a fascinating mid-20th-century snapshot of the Jesuit order in America for those interested. But it is on the whole commendable for ordinary readers wanting to be inspired by the story of a larger-than-life priest whose fatherly care helped many people find God in the midst of their brokenness."— Sarah Negri, Acton Institute, Jan 2023
Father Ed is the first biography of Father Edward Dowling, SJ, whose guidance transformed Alcoholics Anonymous founder Bill Wilson’s life and deepened the spirituality of the twelve-step movement.
Alcoholics Anonymous co-founder Bill Wilson has one of the greatest legacies of any person of modern times. Time magazine placed him at No. 20 on its list of the most important people of the 20th century. But whenever Wilson himself had the opportunity to name the greatest human being he had ever met, he had but one answer: Father Edward Dowling, SJ
Jesuit Father Ed Dowling (1898-1960) rescued Alcoholics Anonymous co-founder Bill Wilson from debilitating depression and gave him the spiritual guidance he needed to bring AA to international prominence. Although not an alcoholic himself, he came to devote his ministry to helping people in recovery—not only alcoholics but also people in troubled marriages (as a co-founder of the Cana Conference) and those suffering from nervous disorders (as an early champion of Recovery, Inc., now known as Recovery International). But he was also a champion of civil rights and social justice, and his interests presaged Society’s post-Vatican II priorities.
Dawn Eden Goldstein is the author of four books, including The Thrill of the Chaste, My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints, Remembering God's Mercy), and Sunday Will Never Be the Same. At the age of thirty-one, Dawn underwent a dramatic conversion to Christianity that ultimately led her to enter the Catholic Church. She received her doctorate in sacred theology summa cum laude from the University of St. Mary of the Lake in 2016, becoming the first woman in the university's history to earn a canonical doctorate. She has taught at universities and Catholic seminaries in the United States, England, and India.