I AM 19 years old; I have never touched alcohol and I never will.
So now that I have your attention, let me explain.
Firstly I would just like to make one thing clear – I have absolutely nothing against alcohol or people who drink and in no way, shape or form am I saying that alcohol is bad.
In fact if we look at the Bible we see that Jesus at the wedding of Cana, at Our Lady’s request, turned water into wine and gave it as a gift to the guests at the wedding.
The celebration would have lasted the customary seven days.
This is why being a Pioneer involves a great deal of personal sacrifice.
You probably are thinking – “What is a Pioneer?”
A Pioneer is a person who has chosen to take a pledge to abstain from alcohol either for a certain period of time, or for life.
The Pioneer Total Abstinence Association of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was founded by Jesuit Father James Cullen in the Church of St Francis Xavier, Gardiner Street, Dublin, on December 28, 1898.
Fr Cullen was always concerned with social issues, and the inspiration came to him to found the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association as a way for him to address the enormous damage that excess alcohol was doing in Ireland at that time.
Since then the PTAA has had a positive effect on the Irish community, reducing the percentage of split homes due to alcohol almost in half.
It has spread throughout many countries of the world.
For the 100th anniversary in Dublin more than 50,000 people from around the world attended the celebration.
Now that you have some background as to what a Pioneer is the next question you most likely have is “so why did you become a Pioneer?”
Well, being a Pioneer runs in the family.
I was inspired particularly by the beautiful example of my parents and grandparents and by their steadfast commitment to the pledge.
However, I have always been conscious of the fact that society seemed to have a rather unhealthy and dependent relationship with alcohol.
I knew from a young age that I too would also like to take the pledge and become a Pioneer.
And so on June 3, 2014, I took the pledge for life, offering up my sacrifice not only for all alcoholics but also for anyone who struggles with any form addiction.
I am not against alcohol but rather the abuse of alcohol, and know that my sacrifice will be redemptive.
It’s a little like offering up sacrifices throughout the season of Lent, where we give up something for the benefit of our soul and the souls of others. That too is redemptive.
I’m not going to lie – being a pioneer isn’t always the easiest thing in the world.
At times I have found myself surrounded by friends and being the only person not drinking, or always having water in a dinner setting and sometimes it honestly does feel like you are the odd one out.
But in those moments all I have to do is close my eyes and remember why I became a Pioneer.
I have a saying I always repeat in my head – “You do it for those you know, you do it for those you don’t know and you do it for those you will know”.
Almost instantly the feeling of jealousy and the sensation of being the odd one out vanishes and instead it is replaced with happiness because I know that through my prayers and sacrifice somewhere someone is being given strength from God to walk away from an addiction.
That is the beauty of being a Pioneer; you may or may not see the immediate result of your sacrifice, but when we eventually reach heaven all the people that we have helped through our sacrifice will be there to greet us.
Once you have taken the pledge it is your responsibility and your responsibility alone to keep all aspects of the pledge including the promise of saying the Heroic Offering prayer twice daily and the wearing of the badge (wearing the pin is optional).
You see, the pledge is only as strong as your word.
In the opinion of Fr Joseph Flinn, for him, prayer was the protection of the Pioneer pledge.
When anyone told Fr Flinn that they had broken their pledge, he asked one question with a wry smile – “When did you last say the prayer?”
I hope that through my actions I can somehow inspire other young people to have a healthy relationship with alcohol and to show them that it is more then just a “rite of passage” and that you can go out and have a good time without needing to get drunk.
Instead, simply know your limits and “everything in moderation” – too much of anything can be bad for you especially regarding alcohol.
After all, our bodies are a temple and we need to look after them.
So with this in mind I pray to the Sacred Heart of Jesus to continue to help me remain steadfast with my pledge for the rest of my life. Amen
By Anne-Marie Williams
Anne-Marie Williams is from a large Catholic family on the Gold Coast. She will soon be moving to Ireland to be a missionary for the National Evangelisation Team. She is the youth columnist for The Catholic Leader.