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 | By Danielle McGrew Tenbusch

Rachel’s Vineyard Retreats Offer Healing After an Abortion

It’s never too late for healing from the wound of an abortion, and it’s never too late to seek forgiveness.

Rachel’s Vineyard is a global ministry that facilitates emotional and spiritual healing after an abortion through Scripture-based retreat weekends.

“The support team … is specifically trained for this ministry,” said Lori Becker, coordinator of diocesan outreach. “It’s a ministry of walking with and leading (participants) to forgiveness, helping them to accept that they deserve forgiveness, that they deserve to forgive themselves.”

The weekend is a very specific process designed to help you experience the mercy and compassion of God. It is also an opportunity to surface and release repressed feelings of anger, shame, guilt and grief.

“It's just an incredible blessing to watch someone make that transition and know that they will receive some healing,” Lori said.

Often, when a person or couple contacts Lori, they are afraid and apprehensive about the retreat, yet feel drawn to it. All her communications with a person participating in Rachel’s Vineyard are strictly confidential, and the entire retreat is private.

As the weekend retreat progresses, participants come to realize they are in a safe and sacred environment, surrounded by gentle and respectful support.

“Their barriers finally break down, and they do finally realize that God has forgiven them,” Lori said. “Sometimes it's more difficult for them to forgive themselves than to accept God's forgiveness, so we work on that as well. But it's a profound experience for them to be able to finally let it go and be free of that chain.”

In addition to Lori, who previously served as the Diocese’s respect life coordinator, a social worker, a priest and a couple who experienced an abortion (see previous story) serve as facilitators for the weekend. The retreat includes time for the sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist, as well as Scriptural meditations, letter-writing, a memorial ceremony and other therapeutic practices.

“It's vital to go through that grieving person process, to let the feelings out, to let the stress out to talk about it. Because if we keep all of those things inside and try to squash that pain, the more it's going to hurt, and the longer it's going to hurt,” Lori said.

As a sign of the prayerful support of the Catholic community, a knitting group from Holy Spirit Parish, Shields, donated handmade prayer shawls for Rachel’s Vineyard participants. These shawls are a reminder that those receiving them are covered in prayer.

If she could talk to a person considering a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat, Lori said she would ask them to “take a step in faith." Reaching out takes courage, she said, but once someone does, their life changes.

"I would now like to say a special word to women who have had an abortion.

The Church is aware of the many factors that may have influenced your decision, and she does not doubt that in many cases it was a painful and even shattering decision. The wound in your heart may not yet have healed. Certainly, what happened was and remains terribly wrong. But do not give in to discouragement and do not lose hope.

Try rather to understand what happened and face it honestly. If you have not already done so, give yourselves over with humility and trust to repentance. The Father of Mercies is ready to give you his forgiveness and his peace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. You will come to understand that nothing is definitively lost and you will also be able to ask forgiveness from your child, who is now living in the Lord.

With the friendly and expert help and advice of other people, and as a result of your own painful experience, you can be among the most eloquent defenders of everyone's right to life. Through your commitment to life, whether by accepting the birth of other children or by welcoming and caring for those most in need of someone to be close to them, you will become promoters of a new way of looking at human life."

– Pope St. John Paul II in The Gospel of Life