Paschke sobered up and moved to Dallas, where he worked as a systems analyst at an oil field supply company downtown.
Each day on his lunch break, Paschke ate at a Greek restaurant on Main Street. Afterward, he slipped into St. Jude Chapel across the street. He couldn't bring himself to go to Mass; he simply sat on the couch and smoked a cigarette. This was his routine every day for two years.
One day, a priest stopped to talk to Paschke. They bonded over their hometown of Chicago, and the priest persuaded him to go to confession. "He said the words that changed my life forever. He said, 'Welcome home,'" Paschke recalled. "I started crying."
After that, Paschke began going to church again. He convinced the bishop that the diocese needed an alcoholism ministry. He quit his job, giving up a $35,000 salary, and worked for free for the first six months.
As coordinator of the program, Paschke raised awareness about substance abuse, listened to families, and networked with organizations throughout Dallas. He referred people to recovery programs like Alcoholics Anonymous or Al-Anon.
Paschke also mentored recovering alcoholics like Dave, who asked that his last name be withheld to protect his privacy and that of others in his recovery program.
Dave said Paschke helped him reconnect with family and reminded him not to take life too seriously. "He has been able to show me and other people that, hey, this program works," Dave said. "It's not hopeless, and there is a way out."
Now, Paschke is 37 years sober. He attends St. Rita Catholic Church in North Dallas. His hair and beard have grayed, but he still has a spring in his step. Soon, he and his wife of nearly 30 years, Marty, will move to their dream home in the southern Rocky Mountains.
Looking back at his 28 years at the diocese, Paschke said his favorite days were those he spent volunteering at the Dallas County jail. He talked with inmates about spirituality and the Twelve Step program to recovery.
At the end of each session, he'd hold up a $20 bill and offer it to the inmates. Then he'd scrunch the bill up, toss it on the ground, and stomp on it. Did they still want it? They'd all raise their hands.
That's when Paschke would tell them: "It's never lost its value. And neither have any of you."
Information from: The Dallas Morning News, http://www.dallasnews.com
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