History of the Matt Talbot Movement

Jim O’R related the following account. Though he has related the history of the movement to various men over the years, the following was taped at the 1999 spring retreat of Men’s group #8. Jim O’R is a member of that retreat group and was also one of the original members of the “gang in the kitchen at Loyola” (paragraph three).

“As I understand it, in 1941, three alcoholics, AA members from up around Ridgewood, NJ made a Laymen’s retreat up at Loyola Retreat House in Morristown, NJ. They liked it so much that they returned the following year with eleven men. Those eleven men liked it so much that they decided to try to get a retreat group of their own.

And so, in 1943, they made an arrangement with the officials of the retreat house to have a certain weekend set aside especially for this group of Alcoholics Anonymous — it was only men in those days. The man in charge of the retreat, Tom P., had 76 retreatants who all agreed to show up and make the retreat a success. However, when it came time for the actual retreat, they only had 27 men.

It was on that retreat that Horace P. (a non-Catholic who was a very prominent and active member of AA) was talking to some of the gang in the kitchen at Loyola. He said, ‘You Catholic fellows are very fortunate because you always carry a medallion or a rosary and when you get angry or upset or in a tough spot, you can always turn to this little medal or medallion to sort of give you solace and strength.’ And that was the beginning of our medallion.

The man who was the treasurer at the time, John O’C. from the Bronx, had been reading about the life of Matt Talbot during the retreat. He suggested using the name “Matt Talbot” for the retreats.

Father Collins, one of the Jesuits stationed at Loyola, designed the medallion. In 1944, during the war, member Al C. from Yonkers furnished the material for the medallions. Al was in the precious metals business and he got the sterling silver for the medallions.

And from that small beginning of 27 men and one group, I now understand that we have 190 groups of men and women in the US and Canada. The last membership figure I heard was several years ago when our national secretary told us that there were 44,000 men and women who have made these retreats.* I think that is remarkable when you realize that there has been no publicity at all. When or where have you ever seen anything on TV, radio, newspaper, magazine about the Matt Talbot Retreat Movement? I’ve only seen one newspaper from New England and our secretary sent that down to me. But otherwise it’s been all by word of mouth, which I think is fantastic.

That’s about the story of the Matt Talbot Retreat Movement as I understand it to date. It’s functioning well; it’s alive and vital. God willing, it will keep on being alive and vital.”

That is the end of the story as told by Jim O’R. Once again, a chance group of people with varying areas of knowledge and expertise and an urgent desire to stay sober helped to create an enormously valuable tool for all of us to use.

* In the year 2000, there were approximately 190 groups and 67,000 members.