By Craig S. Semon
Telegram & Gazette Staff
WEBSTER – Downtown Webster’s new sober home, Reconciliation House, officially opened its doors Saturday with a blessing and dedication ceremony.
And if you listened to the Rev. Janice C. Ford’s inspiring words very closely, you would swear that it sounded like the doorman and security guard for the new recovery resort is none other than Almighty God himself.
Rev. Ford, the rector of Episcopal Church of the Reconciliation, came up with the idea to convert the 146-year-old church office space into a safe, supportive and semistructured living environment for six former inmates from the Worcester County House of Correction who have completed an intensive alcohol and drug rehabilitation program.
“This miracle called Reconciliation House happened exactly when it should,” Rev. Ford said during her sermon. “God put us in the path of those who would help us. God moved their hearts. God showed us the way. And now, God is filling the hearts and minds of those men who will come to live here to find healing, wholeness and a new life.”
Celebrating “the miracle of grace and healing through recovery,” Rev. Ford led the congregation in prayer.
“O blessed Lord, you ministered to all who came to you,” Rev. Ford said. “Look with compassion upon all who through addiction have lost their health and freedom; restore to them the assurance of your unfailing mercy; remove from them the fears that beset them; strengthen them in the work of their recovery, and to those who care from them, give patient understanding and preserving love.”
Mark C. Rogers, who is head of the vestry and executive director of Reconciliation House, said more than $70,000 was raised in less than a year toward the cause. In that period, the house has been renovated and earned certification from the Massachusetts Association of Sober Homes.
Getting out of the Worcester House of Correction on Tuesday, Richard Smith said he is grateful for Rev. Ford and his new home.
“I get another chance at life,” said Mr. Smith, a recovering crack addict, the son of an alcoholic and Reconciliation House’s first resident. “I done the STOP program and I got a lot of support here now. They’re wonderful people. It’s a beautiful home … I enjoy being here. And I want to be here.”
Clean for nine months after a 25-year history of wrestling with addiction and seeing his share of jail time, Mr. Smith, who was born in Waltham and raised in Watertown, confessed that his addiction was “out of control” and that he struggles with the dangers of relapsing every day.
But you wouldn’t know about his past unless he let you in on it. Personable and healthy looking, Mr. Smith appears happy to embrace life and the teachings of the Lord.
While Reconciliation House hopes to build a foundation of success stories, its construction comes with plenty of sadness and sorrows of souls who lost their battles with addiction, including Christopher W. Hobbs.
Mr. Hobbs, 28, of Winooski, Vermont, formerly of Athol, lost his battle with addiction in May. He is being memorialized with a plaque inside the sober house, with the inscription: “I found my way to heaven. Shed no more tears for me. My pain and fear are gone, replaced with perfect peace. Although my time was cut too short and I found it hard to leave, my heart is now rejoicing, my soul has been set free.”
Rev. Ford also acknowledged Mr. Hobbs, as well as his parents, who attended Saturday’s opening. She said Mr. Hobbs’ friends and family generously donated a heavy amount to the establishment of Reconciliation House.
Worcester County Sheriff Lewis G. Evangelidis; Judge Timothy M. Bibaud, first justice of Dudley District Court; parishioner Peter Kosciusko, the director of the STOP substance abuse treatment program at the House of Correction in West Boylston; and, via voice message played on the speaker, state Rep. Joseph D. McKenna, R-Webster, all gave praise for the program and Rev. Ford’s efforts to make it happen.