Addiction does not discriminate. If it can affect a nun, it can affect anybody!
Why did she do it? Sister Mary Anne, a nun for 50 years, needed the money so that she could continue to play the slots at casinos in western New York.
How did she do it? Sister Mary Anne was in charge of managing the donations from patrons at two churches in Orleans County – St. Mary’s in Holley, New York and St. Mark’s in Kendall, New York.
How did she finally get caught? The two houses of worship were taken over by Father Mark Noonan in 2010. Part of his ideas for restructuring a seemingly financially burdened church was to conduct an audit of all money coming into the churches and all money being spent by each church. Apparently discrepancies were discovered, and Sister Rapp was arrested in November of 2012.
Sister Mary Anne Rapp now faces up to 6 months in jail and she will be responsible for paying back a portion of the money she stole (amount to be determined); her sentencing is set for July 1, 2013. The future nun abilities of this sister will be in the hands of her order, the Sisters of St. Francis of Penance and Christian Charity.
What would lead a nun, a supposedly “chosen one” to steal this much money from the community she chose to dedicate her life to serving? Quite simply: addiction.
Sadly, what may have started as a hobby that provided fun and a sense of excitement to Sister Mary Anne, may have quickly become a habit she could no longer control or stop. When she spent her own money to play the slot machines, she was partaking in an activity that she could financially support, but when a pattern of use leads anyone to the point of dishonest, uncharacteristic, or even illegal behaviors, there is a problem.
Gambling addiction can take over someone’s life. Addiction is a progressive disease that only gets worse when left untreated. Many programs exist for those struggling to end the behaviors that are leading to life-altering financial, interpersonal, social, emotional, and legal consequences.
Someone like Sister Mary Anne Rapp could have really benefited from a behavioral intervention before her patterns of gambling became an addiction that lead her to steal from her own job, and to put her own whole life’s work in jeopardy. She could have talked to someone, anyone, when she first began taking money from the church donations. If action is taken early on, and the symptoms can be treated, the person’s situation can be treated and prevented from progression to an addiction.
Unfortunately, the guilt and shame that can surround an addiction can keep people from seeking rehab services. For a number of reasons, people feel unable to admit to a problem with gambling, substances, eating, or other behavioral addictions like sex, fame, or online activities.
Intensive outpatient services are extremely advantageous for those battling an addiction, and especially gambling addiction. As is true for drug and alcohol addicts, the ability to abstain from the substance, or behavior, is a big part of recovery. If an individual can continue working his or her normal schedule, and then attend an outpatient program in the evening, for example, this may fill the time in which gambling is most likely to occur.
Learning how to cope with difficult situations and emotions, how to deal with times when cravings arise, and useful tools to handle events that trigger your reasons for use are all important in recovering from any addiction.