The need of the help of the PTAA has rarely been greater than in modern society. The Association’s validity and reliability have been tested over time and in many cultures and societies. The primary aim of the Association is the promotion of sobriety and temperance. Pioneers work towards achieving these aims through faith and prayer, self-denial leading to inner freedom; setting beneficial example to others; presenting alternatives to the drinking scene, particularly to the young.
The Pioneer Total Abstinence Association of the Sacred Heart was founded by Fr James Cullen SJ in the church of Saint Francis Xavier, Gardiner Street, Dublin, Ireland on 28 December 1898. Fr James Aloysius Cullen was born in New Ross, County Wexford in 1841 and entered the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in 1881.
He was always concerned with social issues, and his motivation in setting up the Pioneer Association was to address the enormous damage that he saw excessive alcoholic consumption was doing in Ireland at the turn of the twentieth century. Many workers were heavy drinkers and this put a heavy strain on the weekly earnings of the family. Fr Cullen witnessed first-hand the destitution caused by excessive drinking, particularly on the women and children of these families, when he said:
“I felt that, as a rule, women deserved exceptional sympathy, because they were the greatest sufferers in the wreckage caused by drink – they were but too often the hidden, silent, uncomplaining victims of its cruelty and of its savagery. It was this insatiable, selfish monster of drink which robbed themselves and their little ones of housing, food, clothes, education, religion and extinguished every prospect of betterment in their lives. It was drink which condemned them to hunger, loathsome rags and squalor … In fighting for temperance they would be fighting, as no other could fight, for themselves and for their children, for earth and for heaven”.
He decided to take action, planting the seeds of his temperance movement that has grown and continues to make a positive contribution to family life today.
What is the message Fr Cullen might have for the Pioneers today? I think we find something of that answer looking forensically at the Pioneer emblem. There, we find the Heart and the Cross. The hearts of too many homes have been ruined by alcohol abuse; the Heart and the Cross are, for so many, too closely entwined. The Lord’s Heart pulsates for us with a burning love, particularly when we feel we are unlovable, when we feel left out or when we experience being forgotten.