Catholic Charities opens Women’s Recovery Program on Mechanic Street

Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis chats with Angel Bodziak, administrator of the Women’s Recovery Program, following Friday’s ribbon cutting. JOHN LOVE / SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE

LEOMINSTER — Not three seconds after Bishop Joseph McManus blessed the Catholic Charities Women’s Recovery Program on Mechanic Street, the bells at St. Cecilia’s began to ring, silencing the overflowing crowd that had gathered for the center’s grand opening on Friday.

“This here is a field hospital,” Bishop McManus had said of the center just moments prior, referencing a common refrain from Pope Francis, which calls on churches to tend directly to the sick in their community.

State Rep. Natalie Higgins speaks during Friday’s ribbon cutting for the Catholic Charities Women’s Recovery Program. JOHN LOVE / SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE

The center, which will begin accepting patients within two weeks, is the first of its kind in the area, according to Catholic Charities Executive Director Tim McMahon. There is no other facility nearby that provides longterm residential care for women experience substance use disorder, and which is also equipped to serve patients with serious mental health issues, he said.

“We are tired of losing our sisters, our daughters and our mothers,” McMahon told those gathered.

The program will run out of the old St. Cecilia’s convent, which the Diocese of Worcester sold to Catholic Charities for just $1.

In considering why, exactly, women experiencing substance use disorder and other mental health challenges are underserved in the region, McMahon said that female patients often arrive with more complicated problems than their male counterparts. Women are more likely to have children in their care, for example, he said, or else to simultaneously be experiencing domestic violence. Treating men, he said, can be seen as an easier option.

Bishop Robert McManus speaks during Friday’s ribbon cutting event.

But that will change in North Central Mass., as the program begins filling its 16 beds. McMahon said that patients will stay from three to six months, depending on their situations, and that they will be referred to the center from detox programs and jails.

“It’s a start,” he said.

Leading the program will be Angel Bodziak, who also spoke at Friday’s ribbon cutting. An energetic force at the podium, she lauded the center’s opening as a necessary and positive step in the right direction. She lamented that, for years, she was at a loss for where to send women who needed intensive addiction and mental health care, because there was no facility available.

“There was no place, but guess what, there’s a place now,” Bodziak said, to applause.

There was a buzzing sense of optimism among all those who spoke at the grand opening, including Mayor Mazzarella, who said it was the community’s responsibility to help those in need.

“We have a really simple mission,” he said. “We don’t give up on anyone.”

And according to Bodziak, that optimism extends to patients that the center will be serving.

“One last thing,” she said before concluding her remarks. “Women do recover.”