The following tribute to the inspiring life and legacy of
the Rev. William Tracy, who passed away on April 12, 2018, was written one year
ago by Ann Hauprich.
The Rev. William
By Ann Hauprich
As a Roman Catholic school student half a century ago, I learned about St.
Martin of Tours.
In those days, St. Martin was heralded as a “Patron Saint of reformed
drunkards.” In today’s vernacular, he is revered as a “Patron Saint of
The ministries of Saint Monica, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Jude and the
Venerable Matt Talbot also brought light into the darkness of alcoholics of
bygone eras – and continue to inspire those seeking to recover from addictions
today. But in no book have I encountered a “Patron Saint of Recovering Alcoholic
Then it dawned on me that whether or not such a title has ever been — or will
ever be – bestowed upon a mortal, the Rev. William Tracy has, by word and deed,
exemplified what it is to be the latter.
“Hey, Ma! I just found a priest who
The announcement by Brazilian exchange student
in the summer of 1972
that he’d bumped into a Roman Catholic missionary from South America on the
streets of Ballston Spa, NY certainly got host mother Audrey Hauprich’s
attention. And since Mrs. Hauprich is my mother, it simultaneously got mine.
Had that chance encounter between the teen and the padre
not occurred, I might
never have been blessed with the opportunity to share the padre’s
story inside the covers of The Prayer Lines Behind the Bylines
It was in the mid-1980s that the Rev. William Tracy, CSSR confessed in what
would be the first of our many interviews that he’d had been carrying an
invisible – but exceedingly heavy — cross when he met
on that fateful
long ago day.
“At the time, I carried with me everywhere I went the shame of being an
alcoholic priest,” reflects Father Tracy, who since 1981 has devoted his life to
saving members of the clergy from addiction agonies at a pioneering treatment
center that leads participants to sobriety through daily therapy and prayer.
In the early days, Father Tracy was timid about discussing the journey that led
him to establish Associação
Comunidade Vida Nova
(New Life Community) in
That changed when the now 87-year-old padre realized that he could not expect
people in his hometown to care about his foreign mission unless he came clean
about the reasons he decided to make it his life’s work.
“When I celebrated my first Mass on the altar of
St. Mary’s Church in Ballston
the summer of 1955, I never dreamed that my life’s work would one day
include saving the lives – and souls — of priests who, like myself, had become
addicted to alcohol,” muses Father Tracy.
“If a businessman who is encouraged to wine and dine his clients has a hard time
admitting he has a drinking problem, imagine the anguish of a respected priest
who has become a slave to alcohol,” notes Father Tracy, who studied theology,
philosophy and psychology after graduating with the Ballston Spa High School
Class of 1946.
“The feelings of shame and humiliation experienced by an alcoholic priest are so
great that the initial reaction is to strongly deny that there is a problem. To
be an alcoholic priest is to go against everything a priest is supposed to be.
It’s a heavy cross to carry and the road to recovery is a long one. I was blind
for 20 years – never able to see clearly that alcohol was ruining my life and
taking the joy out of my priesthood and my life in Christ,” observes Father
The Redemptorist priest, who took the first steps to sobriety in 1978 following
an intervention by the Rev. Francis Sullivan
, Associate Pastor of
in Saratoga Springs, said the New Life Community
has thus far helped more
than 500 members of the clergy (seminarians and nuns as well as priests) plus
about 500 lay individuals.
Modeled on “Guest House” near Detroit, Father Tracy’s program is truly a
pioneering endeavor because prior to its establishment there had not been any
adequate treatment program for ANY alcoholic in Brazil – much less for priests
and nuns! Father Tracy hopes sharing his story will help illustrate “how the
good Lord prepared me for this mission by allowing me to suffer for 20 years the
anguish and despair of my own alcoholism. I didn’t know it then, but the seeds
of my new life – a life of sobriety – would be sown when God sent a good and
gentle friend to beg me to go for treatment for the disease of alcoholism.”
multi-tiered treatment center overseen by Father Tracy in conjunction with
Sister Irma Terezinha de Jesus Dias, DM, includes a chapel with a view of the
beautiful city park, an office, a dining room, and six spacious dormitories with
five beds each. Assisting the American priest and South American nun are
additional psychologists, physicians, some former patients and volunteers from
Father Tracy is eternally grateful to his late sister, Mary Lou Tracy
willed the family homestead on McLean Street to him knowing it would ultimately
aid his missionary work abroad. Proceeds from the sale of the village property
made it possible for a much-needed addition to be built onto the treatment
facility in Brazil just over a decade ago.
“Mary Lou willed the property to me knowing the proceeds would be put into the
New Life Community. In some ways, New Life is a monument to my sister’s memory.
Our biggest challenge now is maintaining sufficient funds to keep the facility
going after I’m out of the picture. It’s 30 hours from door-to-door each time I
come home, as I do each summer, but mow that I’m an octogenarian, I must also be
realistic,” says Father Tracy, who underwent cancer treatments during a return
visit several years ago.
Father Tracy is grateful to the Knights of Columbus
in Saratoga Springs and
others from New York’s Capital Region for supporting the New Life Community
have been deeply moved by the generosity of humble people who have made
contributions to the cause. Small donations add up and we are very appreciative
of all help, no matter how large or small the amount,” says Father Tracy.
Past Saratoga Grand Knight Stephen R. Toussaint
says Father Tracy “has long been
an inspiration and support to others, not only in his priestly ministry, but
also in his founding and sustained direction of a recovery program for priests
and other religious persons in their fight against substance addiction in
Brazil. Father Bill is a special priest to the Knights of Columbus Council 246
for the untiring efforts he has made but also because he is a Ballston Spa
native and member of the Redemptorist (CSsR) Order which provides staff for
St. Clement’s Parish
Adds Toussaint: “Father Bill is a role model to us all. His personal brand of
kindness, sense of humor, positive outlook and most importantly his faith
provide all with a sense of the importance of caring for the well-being of
others. We are encouraged by his determination and his spirit of hope in the
face of many obstacles of daily life. We consider it an honor to give him our
Fellow Past Grand Knight Rich Gorman
considers it a special honor to welcome
Father Tracy home to upstate New York each summer.
Like Marcio Melo, Gorman was a teenager when he first met the Redemptorist padre
in Ballston Spa. “I used to work as a groundskeeper at the village cemetery
during my summer vacations and would see Father when he came to say a prayer at
his parents’ graves. Father Bill impressed me because he would always take a
moment to say a kind word before he left to attend to his priestly duties
elsewhere,” recalls Gorman.
It has been an honor for Gorman – and legions of others -- to bear witness to
the fact that he still does.
While celebrating the 60th anniversary of his
ordination in 2015,
Father William Tracy shared he was drawn to the order because of its belief
“that the saving love of God touches the whole person and calls for the
transformation of social injustice into respect for the dignity of all men and
are involved in a broad spectrum of social problems and justice
issues around the world, explained Father Tracy. He noted others in his order
tackle issues ranging from immigration and refugees to homelessness, poverty,
unemployment, workers’ rights, women’s issues, exploitation of child labor,
racism, genocide, indigenous peoples, the environment, war and violence, weapons
of war and human trafficking.