John Bosco, Priest and Samuel Shoemaker, Priest and Evangelist
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Photograph of John Bosco

John Bosco (16 August 1815 31 January 1888), born Giovanni Melchiorre Bosco, also called Don Bosco, was an Italian Catholic priest and educator, who put into practice the dogma of his religion, employing teaching methods based on love rather than punishment. He placed his works under the protection of Francis de Sales, thus his followers styled themselves the Salesian Society.

Don Bosco succeeded in establishing a network of centers to carry on his work. In recognition of his work with disadvantaged youth, he was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1934.

Today, we also remember Samuel Shoemaker, priest and evangelist.

Sam Shoemaker, DD, STD (1893-1963), was an Episcopal priest who was instrumental in the Oxford Group and founding principles of Alcoholics Anonymous. Dr. Samuel Moor Shoemaker was the rector of the Calvary Church in New York City, which was the United States headquarters of the Oxford Group. Bill Wilson attended Oxford Group meetings at the Calvary Church and Sam was instrumental in assisting Bill Wilson with the writing of the book Alcoholics Anonymous (nickname: The Big Book). Bill acknowledged this linkage when he wrote in the book, A.A. Comes of Age (page 39):

In 1917, Sam Shoemaker had been sent to China to start a branch of the YMCA and to teach at the Princeton-in-China Program. There, in 1918, feeling discouraged, he first met Frank Buchman who told him of the four absolutes, honesty, purity and unselfishness and love. Later, Shoemaker would speak of the meeting as a major influence for the start of his ministry, that being the time when he decided to let go of self and let God guide his life

Bill Wilson, in 1955, would later give credit to Sam Shoemaker whom he referred to as a co-founder of AA.

" It was from Sam Shoemaker, that we absorbed most of the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, steps that express the heart of AA's way of life. Dr. Silkworth gave us the needed knowledge of our illness, but Sam Shoemaker had given us the concrete knowledge of what we could do about it, he passed on the spiritual keys by which we were liberated. The early AA got its ideas of self-examination, acknowledgement of character defects, restitution for harm done, and working with others straight from the Oxford Group and directly from Sam Shoemaker, their former leader in America, and from nowhere else."

Rev. Shoemaker wrote over thirty books, at least half of which were circulating before A.A.s 12 Steps were first published in the Big Book in 1939.

Books by Shoemaker:

Shoemaker's contributions and service to Alcoholics Anonymous and as a minister of the Anglican Communion and Episcopal Church of America have had a worldwide effect. The philosophy that Shoemaker codified, in conjunction with Bill Wilson, is used in almost every country around the world to treat alcoholism.

After leaving New York, Dr. Shoemaker served Calvary Church, Pittsburgh, for ten years before retiring in 1961. He was known as one of the foremost preachers of his day, with a regularly-scheduled radio program. He was also instrumental in the rebirth of small group ministries in the United States, which led to (among other things) the Pittsburgh Experiment, and Faith at Work, both interdenominational program designed to bring Christianity into normal daily activities. Finally, he was involved in the beginnings of the Anglican Fellowship of Prayer, actually started by his wife Helen in the 1950's.


Compassionate God, you called Juan Bosco to be a teacher and father to the young: Fill us with love like his, that we may give ourselves completely to your service and to the salvation of all. Holy God, we also thank you for the vision of Samuel Shoemaker, priest and co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous; and we pray that we may follow the examples of these men to help others find salvation through knowledge and love of Jesus Christ our Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.