Archive for 2013

A Blessed Synergy: Rachel’s Vineyard + Forgiven and Set Free

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013


Two Time-Tested Programs Offer Unique Benefits to Those Suffering After Abortion Loss

 Synergy:   The interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects.

For approaching 20 years Rachel’s Vineyard (RV) and Forgiven and Set Free (F&SF) have proven to be very effective programs for those suffering after abortion loss.  Rachel’s Vineyard, a ministry of Priests for Life features an intensive weekend program offered Friday evening to Sunday afternoon and is offered in a Catholic and Interdenominational version.   F&SF is an Interdenominational program presented in an 11 week bible study format.

Patricia Pulliam is involved in both abortion recovery programs as well as a Pregnancy Resource Center.  I asked Patricia to share her experience in ministry using both RV and F&SF, and how both models can provide a blessed synergy for those suffering after abortion:

Patricia share with us the many hats you wear in your pro life outreach?

I serve on the Board of Directors of the Pregnancy Resource Connection in Granby, Colorado and as director of their post abortion healing program, Forgiven and Set Free. I’m the pro-life coordinator in the Catholic mission parishes in Grand and Jackson Counties in Colorado. I also serve on the Rachel’s Vineyard Team in Denver Colorado…Colorado is a second home from my husband and me.  This gives me an excellent opportunity to see both programs as very valuable resources for those I come in contact with. I can refer women and men for healing, either through the Forgiven and Set Free Bible class at the Pregnancy Center or by attending a Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat in Denver or in some cases combining them both.  Our other residence is in South Texas where I serve as Regional Coordinator for the Texas Silent No More Awareness Campaign of the Coastal Bend.  

I have had the experience of networking with different denominations and churches.  I have come to see that while we can respect one another’s differences we also share a common love for Christ and the power of His Word, and that by working together we truly bless our ministry to those suffering after abortion.  

You are a busy lady!  Can you give us a brief overview of both programs?

When I received the facilitators manual for the F&SF study I carefully studied each of the weeks lessons and saw many similarities to the Rachel’s Vineyard retreat format.  

Both retreats begin the same. There is a similar registration process and interview. I prefer in person interviews if at all possible as this can be an important first step out of shame in the direction of healing.  But in some cases the registrations need to happen by phone.

F&SF takes three weeks of various scripture readings and other simple exercises to gradually have the participants remember the details. The first class is simply called Orientation and it is the same as the first night of RV when they all meet for the first time and actually see they are not alone in their struggle. There are lots of nervous smiles and distrust as well as a wondering why they are there.

The next two weeks are studying the scriptures about who God is and who He is not.   The questions they have to answer in their workbooks are shared each week. Each class is about 2 and a half hours long. The classes are small…we had 4 the first one including me. Getting into the Bible is an awesome experience and the verses author Linda Cochran picked are truly amazing. We all take turns reading them out loud. The homework requires at least one hour and is completed by the next session.

An obvious benefit to the weekly format…time is a luxury here. We have time to learn and share and very slowly you begin to see the changes in each woman.  

The following four weeks in F&SF begin to deal with specific feelings, relief and denial, anger, the need to forgive, and depression. These middle weeks are hard as they begin to peel away layers of pent up stuff. Once again we use scripture as the underpinning.  There is time to share without any time constraint.   

In  F&SF the abortion experience is quickly replaced by the truths in scripture and the truth of how valuable every person is.  Their individual abortion stories come out during the answering of the questions in their workbooks instead of the way RV allows each woman or man to tell their story on Saturday.

Time in class each week allows for “remembering” in a different way. Many times things that had been forgotten for years are suddenly brought to the surface, even additional abortions.  The final two weeks are titled Forgiven and Set Free and Grieving the loss.

Rachel’s Vineyard uses a weekend Friday to Sunday program – how does it accomplish these important healing stages in that format?

RV has to accomplish the same type of trust, commitment and unity in a very short time, which is does very successfully as well as participants go through the process together.  There is a benefit of having no interruptions with breaking for a week between sessions.

At an RV retreat the stories are told on Saturday morning.  RV uses “Living Scripture” meditations and very effective exercises to bring home the same result, an interior letting go of lies and judgment.  There is a benefit to the concentrated work in a weekend.  The exercises and activities engage all the senses with the music, props and concrete ways the process helps participants move through the grief and trauma to embrace their children in love and find peace in the Lord.  

Just as Rachel’s Vineyard allows them to meet their children the F&SF format also brings them to a place of identifying and naming their children. This is a time of deep grief, but there is so much compassion and unity in the group by now that it is truly a community effort to help each other up the hill so to speak.

The Memorial Service of F&SF is very similar to RV.  F&SF do not use dolls that represent their children as you find on the RV retreat. They invite family and their pastors to attend. Amazingly enough every pastor has attended and of course been overwhelmed at the service. They are given a lace angel that represents their children and they read a letter to their child or some kind of memorial.

The FSF study has just developed a class strictly for men. I have not seen it but was given a preliminary set of guidelines. I really like it.

You have come to see the programs as complementary even enhancing one another.  Could share about that and gives some examples?

I had told the F&SF class about my RV experience and all of them were interested but one woman knowing of the upcoming RV retreat and that I would be serving on team wanted to attend with her husband, which is a real blessing of the RV retreat which encourages couples, siblings and grandparents to attend. We had just finished week five on anger in the F&SF.  I wondered how this would work out but I prayed.

 I watched her during that retreat and we were able to share in the breaks how prepared she felt to go through RV. She had worked through some issues already and could now go into more depth in her “remembering.”  I did not tell her about the RV format as it compared to F&SF. When she and her husband got to the naming of the children, she had had two abortions but her husband was not the father, I wondered how she would react.

It was very difficult but very freeing. She finished the retreat with a deep sense of accomplishment and freedom. I told her that what she experienced during the RV retreat would also happen in the rest of our F&SF class and that she would not tell the rest of the class what was coming.

As we finished our F&SF classes she truly seemed much more aware off her deepest feelings and even allowed herself to feel even more than she did at the RV retreat.

She wrote a new letter to her children and read it at the F&SF Memorial Service. She said she felt so blessed to have been able to do both together. The second Memorial Service provided and even deeper experience for her after the natural intensity of that first service on the RV retreat.

She then stood up in front of her congregation one Sunday morning and gave her testimony about both RV and F&SF and two women came forward to take the next F&SF class. From that next class another woman went down to an RV retreat before starting our F&SF class.

How can RV and F&SF help with the necessary ongoing emotional and spiritual growth when the program ends and you “come down from the mountain?”

The other woman who did her RV first and then waited a few weeks before our F&SF class shared that many issues that were brought up at the RV retreat needed to be addressed further. The class allowed her to take the healings she received at the RV retreat and go deeper and for some issues to find true closure.

 RV teams and  F&SF (through the PRC or church it is based out of) can keep an open network of sharing when there retreats are happening and encourage the retreatants from both to keep an ongoing process of healing and recovery going. Each time I go and serve on a RV team or teach an F&SF class I receive additional healing and spiritual support.  I share this with anyone that will listen.

In our FSF classes I stress over and over that the process is just that and it will become more wonderful and cleansing as they go. They became excited about looking for ways to keep it going and still “come down the mountain” into everyday life.

In Denver I am in charge of the “aftercare gift bags” that are given out after the retreat on Sunday. They contain some unique brochures that I have found that deal with some common hurdles women and men have to face when they leave the retreat; such as how to talk about the retreat to family, children, friends, and spouses.  Included also is the location of some of the PRC that offer other abortion recovery programs.

Why is important for women and men active in pro life and especially service in Pregnancy Resource Centers to consider abortion healing programs if they have experienced abortion loss?

You cannot give what you don’t have. Unaddressed past abortion issues come out of nowhere when you are faced with a defiant and sometimes volatile client bent on abortion. You will either back away from her and not truly engage her because it causes you interior pain or you will jump in with both feet and possibly lose perspective and not be as effective as you can be… and over time burn out.

The type of healing you receive from these programs allows you to be not only a good listener but to truly understand the girl who comes in wanting answers about whether she should get an abortion.

The peace and closure you have received over the death of your own child(ren) will help you lead another on their journey of decisions and options open to her. And in the event she still chooses abortion you will be there to lead her to recovery.

Women and men who have gone through either or both of these programs offer a profound insight into the issues surrounding an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy. They are truly “Resurrection people” and it has been my experience that their sense of joy is very apparent and generously shared.

What was your personal journey that led you to Pregnancy Resource Connection and Abortion recovery ministry?

I made my Rachel’s Vineyard retreat in 2010 in Corpus Christi Texas. I later became part of the team. The following year I went to my first March for Life in Washington DC and marched with the Silent No More Awareness Campaign (SNMAC) and gave my testimony on the steps of the Supreme Court. I then became SNMAC Regional Coordinator (RC) for the Texas Coastal Bend area.

My task as RC is to contact the women and men who register their regret on the national website and contact them via phone or email and introduce myself and let them know they are not alone in their feelings. This conversation usually leads to a confession that they are in need of some kind of emotional support and spiritual healing. It is then my job to find what kind of post abortion healing resources are in their areas. At this point I knew of the Rachel’s Vineyard retreats and had only heard of the Forgiven and Set Free Bible Study by Linda Cochrane. Two of the Pregnancy Centers in the Corpus Christi area offered individual counseling and other lesser known post abortion healing programs. 

I went in person to each of these centers and told them my story and introduced Silent No More and Rachel’s Vineyard. Both centers really embraced the fact that there was an organized movement for post abortion healing. The brochures were then placed in their offices along with my card.

When we began to live more full time up in the mountains of Colorado I noticed that there was not any information on post abortion healing in any of the small mission parishes.

I also noticed a particular Pregnancy Center that sat directly next to a Planned Parenthood on Main Street. It is the Pregnancy Resource Connection in Granby Colorado.

It was eerie to say the least to walk up to the center’s door and just opposite was the door to a Planned Parenthood office. Planned Parenthood and I have HISTORY.  Literally there is a door for life and a door for death.  I felt an urgent sense of determination as I stood there. Was I to stand and pray at this site or was I supposed to continue trying to spread the word about the availability of healing after an abortion?

 I turned and walked through the doors of the Pregnancy Resource Connection.

It was like a match made in Heaven…literally I believe. Through a series of events where God opened doors I came to offer the F&SF at PRC and serve on the RV Team in Colorado.

 I hope and pray that others might consider how both these programs could provide a comprehensive outreach to the many women and men who have experienced abortion loss.  This can occur with one ministry offering both programs or like in our case by networking between different organizations or churches. 

The Spiritual Starvation of Contemporary Culture: Feeding the Hunger for Eternal Beauty

Friday, October 11th, 2013


This is such a rich post from Rod Dreher’s blog at American Conservative.

Part one is the article in First Things.  In Part two of the blog, Rod shares a reflection by Catholic Bishop James Conley. While a student at the University of Kansas, the Bishop came into the Catholic Church deeply influenced by teacher John Senior.  As Rod writes, “The Bishop reflects on how being introduced to beauty opened his mind and his soul, and transformed them both.”

After reading the blog and links I  reflected on my recent post on Pope Francis and how this relates to how others encounter Christ, how we evangelize in this dynamic, complex, at times corrupt and ever changing world we live in.   Bishop Conley’s reflection struck me as saying something very similar to what Pope Francis has been communicating concerning how we encounter those that are in desperate need of the compassion, love and truth of Christ and His Church:

My godfather loved beauty—not for its own sake, but for the sake of Jesus Christ, the creator and redeemer of beauty. Senior saw the beauty of this world in the light of eternity, and he helped others to acquire the same transcendent vision.

The Bishop reveals that in the contemporary culture which shapes our youth, you often cannot engage them with lofty theological concepts or doctrine before engaging them on a deeper personal level with the source of these religious truths:

Our lives had largely been shaped by the crass appeals of the mass media, and the passing fads of popular culture. There was a lack of truth in our lives, certainly; but there was also a profound lack of beauty. Our souls were starving for both, and we did not even know it. (my emphasis)…students had to encounter beauty, and have their hearts and imaginations captured first by beauty, before they could pursue truth and goodness in a serious and worthy manner. 

Perhaps this is what the Pope is saying on an interpersonal and pastoral level.  When we encounter the woman or man after abortion, the person struggling with same-sex-attraction, the traumatized veteran, our first encounter is not one where we dispense moral and theological truth…as indispensable as they will be for an ongoing conversion and recovery.

But it is essential that they experience in our eyes, in our words, in our spirit something of this Eternal Beauty.  It is really a challenge to open ourselves up in a more radical way to the beauty, power and truth of the God’s Word, the Sacraments, and through them to an intimate encounter with Christ.  It is in this ongoing transformation by the Way, the Truth and the Life (which by necessity will at times be painful,) that we can become the most effective instruments of the new evangelization.

When you encounter someone like John Senior in your life, there is something special that is beyond words that engages you.  Our gifts are different, so the Lord will transform you in a unique way, and you will evangelize this beauty and truth in your own time, place and station in life.

As the Bishop Conley writes, believers need the Church and it’s leaders to understand the primacy of preserving and in many cases restoring the beauty found in the Mass as an integral part of transforming each of us and in turn our culture:

To renew Catholic culture, and evangelize our contemporaries, we must restore beauty to the sacred liturgy. If we cannot restore beauty and holiness to our sanctuaries, we will not be able to restore it anywhere else.

Read the Bishops full reflection  and feast on this rich post at Rod Dreher’s blog (and others like it found there.)

(I will be blogging soon about St Maximillian Kolbe and how his love for the Immaculata transformed his entire being, and touched everyone he encountered.)


Don’t Believe the Media Hype Pro Lifers: Pope Francis Has Your Back!

Thursday, October 10th, 2013


The interview with Pope Francis published in the Italian Jesuit Journal La Civiltà Cattolica caused a firestorm of reaction.  Media and entertainment outlets cranked up their spin machines to proclaim a fundamental shift in the Church’s emphasis concerning the hot button issues of contraception, abortion, and same sex marriage.  Some of the faithful, after battling for years in the pro-life/pro-family trenches felt confused and discouraged by some of the Pope’s quotes as highlighted in the media.

But the media has a very short attention span and quickly moved on to the next big story.  So now we can take a deep breath, and take a closer prayerful reading of this interview.  Perhaps you will find as I did that there is much that affirms the evolution of pro life ministry over the last 40yrs and the movement as a whole.

First let’s look at some key excerpts.

Ongoing Repentance and Conversion in Christ

Pope Francis reminds us that our ministry to build a culture of life and heal a culture of death, always begins with a deep awareness of our own spiritual poverty and the generous gift of salvation.

Pope Francis reflects on the painting of The Calling of St. Matthew, by Caravaggio:

 That finger of Jesus, pointing at Matthew. That’s me. I feel like him. Like Matthew.” Here the pope becomes determined, as if he had finally found the image he was looking for: “It is the gesture of Matthew that strikes me: he holds on to his money as if to say, ‘No, not me! No, this money is mine.’ Here, this is me, a sinner on whom the Lord has turned his gaze.

 The Lord understands well Matthew’s struggle to let go of his worldly concerns, while calling him to embrace a treasure that moth and rust cannot destroy (Matthew 6, 19-21.)   Worldly concerns are not always bad things, like Matthews attachment to money.  We can be tempted to see the necessary business of our apostolate as more important than sacraments, prayer, contemplation, and devotions such as daily rosary, Eucharistic adoration and study of God’s Word.

Ongoing repentance, conversion and communion with Christ are the foundations of our pro life vocation.

 Closer to the Heart

There is a strong emphasis from this Pope, in this interview and in other sources that sees the mission of the Church, not as an imposition of truth from above, but initially an intimate respectful encounter with each unique human person, especially those wounded by poverty, violence and neglect.

“I see clearly,” the pope continues, “that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity.”

 When asked about those who struggle with same-sex-attraction, the Pope did not contradict in any way the fundamental teaching of the Church when he expressed that our initial encounter with those who struggle with this burden and other complex human problems, is not the righteousness and truth of our cause, but an intimate relationship of mercy:

We must always consider the person. Here we enter into the mystery of the human being. In life, God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation. It is necessary to accompany them with mercy.

The Church as Field Hospital – Pro Life Good Samaritans

I see the church as a field hospital after battle.  “How are we treating the people of God? I dream of a church that is a mother and shepherdess. The church’s ministers must be merciful, take responsibility for the people and accompany them like the Good Samaritan, who washes, cleans and raises up his neighbor.

The pro-abortion forces and their allies like to portray pro lifers as mean spirited, narrow minded, and obsessed with saving the unborn at the expense of other victims of social injustice.  Sadly this prejudice has crept inside the Church at times in the unnecessary division between social justice and respect life ministries.

Pro Life and abortion healing ministries work daily with people ravaged by the consequences of sexual freedom and the promotion of “reproductive rights.”  Unplanned pregnancy, single parenthood, abortion while impacting all of us, have in a special way attacked the most vulnerable in our society, the poor and minorities.  (Six out of 10 African American children conceived in New York City are aborted.)

I have been involved as a social worker in pro life and abortion healing efforts in the Church now for 25 years.  I have travelled across the United States and around the world.  The overwhelming majority of pro life people I encounter are clearly Good Samaritans that the pope speaks of.  They embody in their outreach the personal humility and a merciful love for each person they serve…unborn and born.  They are moved by decency and justice, a love for the unborn, love for the mothers and fathers of those threatened with abortion and those who suffer after abortion.  I have had a similar experience in my relationships with those working in the arena of law or politics to try and end this evil.

Many of these pro-life good Samaritans can be found at the local Pregnancy Resource Centers where women in crisis find not judgment and condemnation, but love and practical assistance.   Leading the annual March for Life in Washington you will find women and men from the Silent No More Awareness Campaign, who intimately understand the cost of “reproductive choice.”  They carry signs that publicly acknowledge regret of their abortions, and later before the Supreme Court they share riveting stories of suffering and redemption from the Paschal mystery of their lives.    Where did they find the courage and strength for this very public witness?  It is the love, compassion and accompaniment of pro life people and after abortion healing programs where they found freedom from shame, and confidence to proclaim their truth in Christ.

When Pope Francis speaks of accompanying the poor, marginalized and so many that have lost their way in our modern world with love and mercy, he is affirming the pro life movement in the United States and around the world.

Who’s Really Obsessed Here?

This provides a good opportunity to turn our gaze to the one excerpt from this interview that has received the greatest attention and media spin:

“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the timeThe dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.  

The obsession with the issues of abortion, same sex marriage and contraception are pervasive in media and entertainment promoting an agenda that is clearly at odds with Church teaching.   This obsession flows from a distorted understanding of the human person and like other well intentioned social movements, is capable of tremendous evil and destruction in the name of corrupted concepts of freedom, rights and personal liberty.

Perhaps the Pope is saying to us, we cannot let the secular agenda, which is truly “obsessed” with the issues of same sex marriage, abortion and contraception to dictate the Church’s overall message and compromise our primary mission to present the Gospel in all its beauty and splendor.  It is not necessary as the Pope said, to “talk about these issues all the time.”

This is no way contradicts the prophetic call of his predecessor, Blessed John Paul II in Evangelium Vitae.  It is very necessary, especially in a nation with over 50 million abortions since 1973 to proclaim the Gospel of Life to a culture of death.

Again the Pope offers an important caveat:

The proclamation of the saving love of God comes before moral and religious imperatives. 

Our pro life/pro-family efforts, the moral and religious imperatives, are rooted in the mystery of the incarnation of God in the womb of a humble virgin facing an unplanned pregnancy.  With God’s help, Mary was able reach beyond her natural anxiety and fear to embrace the call of the Father to become the Mother of His Son, who embraced our sin and death and transformed it into the power of resurrection.

With that said, the Pope’s use of the word imperative (moral and religious imperatives) is instructive concerning the urgency of our cause:

Imperativesomething that demands attention or action; an unavoidable obligation or requirement; necessity

 The primacy of the Gospel proclamation in no way diminishes the urgency of our cause.  In fact, as Evangelium Vitae reveals, they are intimately connected.

 Pope Francis in this interview is reminding us that our work for social justice flows not from a myopic focus or obsession on the particular evil we fight at the expense of a loving encounter with those we serve.  Our marching orders are not from any political party or ideology.   We proclaim the Good News of the salvation of God, and his saving love for each person, no matter what their history, sin struggles and wounds.    This foundation will bring us to an encounter with individuals that respects the unique dignity of each person, and is willing to accompany them in their sorrows and struggle.

Pope Francis is very clear in other preaching and speaking concerning the evil of abortion and the need for healing for all who have participated in the death of the unborn.   You can read an excellent presentation on this important topic by Fr Frank Pavone in the National Catholic Register.  Fr Frank touches on the special affirmation by the Pope on the ministry of healing for those that have experienced abortion loss:

The Pope is not criticizing the Church’s focus on abortion. He is actually protecting it. He is protecting it from being seen just as a “rule” or a “directive,” detached from the fundamental teachings of the faith that make us Christian in the first place and detached from the compassion and mercy that Christ extends to those who have had abortions.

Regarding that latter point, the Pope made a special point to encourage me in my work as pastoral director of Rachel’s Vineyard Ministries throughout the world. The Pope, who came to know of the ministry in Argentina, said to me, “Rachel’s Vineyard is very good; it is an excellent work! Go forward with that!”

The reason he is particularly affirmative of Rachel’s Vineyard, and of the Church’s overall work of healing after abortion, comes out in the recent interview that made headlines. He made it clear that, in dealing with abortion, we have to extend mercy to those who have committed this sin. We who reject abortion do not reject those who have had abortions. Rather, we embrace them with forgiveness and peace.

Healing the Troops in the Trenches

Finally, in our reflection on the Pope’s interview we have focused much on the wounds of those we serve in our pro life and abortion healing outreach.  But it is important to remember that the leaders and troops serving on the front lines are intimately connected by virtue of their ministry, to the death of the innocent unborn…and over time this can take its toll.

Think of those praying at abortion centers, reaching out in love to the mothers and father…yet many still choose death.   Consider the ultrasound technician who reveals an image to a mother of her unborn child in all its wonder and beauty…yet the mother still chooses abortion.  Think of the scars and wounds of those that battle in secular politics and in the legal arena to defend the unborn and those injured by abortion and face continual attacks from pro abortion forces.  We know that many who have experienced abortion loss and come to regret that decision, become involved in Pregnancy Resource Center outreach to help other mothers avoid that tragic decision.  Pro life leaders and those serving in this ministry also need healing and restoration in Christ.

That is why we can receive the Pope’s words with consolation and as a gentle reminder…not as the media would present as a scolding to back off from our efforts.

Many pro life veterans are well aware of the need to step back from the battle so we are not consumed or obsessed by the very evil we are fighting.  One who is obsessed is not filled with peace and joy…and cannot share the compassion, mercy and love of Christ with one who is wounded and in crisis.  Perhaps there is more we can do as a movement to minister to the leaders and troops on the front lines and provide opportunities for healing, restoration and refreshment so we emerge renewed.

Don’t believe the media hype pro lifers.  The Pope’s message in this interview and elsewhere is clearly one of affirmation and support with some always welcome spiritual direction.  The primacy of our cause remains as an imperative flowing from the Annunciation and incarnation of Christ our savior in the womb of our Blessed Mother Mary.

The Pope and the Church have your back.











Avanti! Pope Francis Enthusiastic Support of Rachel’s Vineyard and Healing After Abortion

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013


Fr Frank Pavone, Pastoral Director of Rachel’s Vineyard Ministries, shares the following enthusiastic support of the world’s largest outreach to those suffering after abortion loss:

You have probably heard this by now, but I wanted to encourage you once again by passing along to you the personal encouragement of Pope Francis for Rachel’s Vineyard. On the first of  September, I was in a private audience with him, and had the chance to give him the greetings of our entire Priests for Life family, including Rachel’s Vineyard Ministries around the world.

Here is what he said to me, in a very animated voice: “Rachel’s Vineyard is very good; it is an excellent work!         Go forward with that!”

He was aware of Rachel’s Vineyard from Argentina, where the dedicated work of our RV team there caught the attention of the local bishops, who then made the other bishops aware of it.

Friends, the word the Pope used in speaking to me is the Italian word “Avanti!” It is a word of vigor, courage, and determined, forward-looking progress. May we all encourage one another in that spirit, and let’s pass along to everyone who knows  about Rachel’s Vineyard the encouraging words of the Pope.

Fr Frank Pavone 

Pastoral Director – Rachel’s Vineyard Ministries

National Director – Priests For Life

Priests For Life Newsletter Article on Fatherhood Forever

Monday, September 30th, 2013


Check out the latest Priests For Life Newsletter with a feature on the Fatherhood Forever Section of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign (SNMAC) website for men who have suffered abortion loss.  Read the inspirational story of the man who lost a child to abortion, nearly lost his life, and later developed the Fatherhood Forever site .

[In the picture above PFL Executive Director, Janet Morana, was chosen to greet the Pope after the Mass on the Day of Life (June 16). She updated him about the work of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign and Rachel’s Vineyard.  Pope Francis spoke to her about his awareness of and appreciation for this work, including in Argentina.]




Comedian Louis CK: The Eternal Rewards of Unplugging from Technology and Facing the Existential Void

Monday, September 23rd, 2013


Emmy winning Comedian Louis CK had a great bit on Conan where he talked about kids glued to their smart phones and how we use technology/entertainment to run away from the darker things we struggle to face (like grief.)

Louis CK shared a personal experience about taking a break from technology and taking the risk to enter his personal “existential void.”

“You need to build an ability to just be yourself and not be doing something, that’s what the phones are taking away — the ability to just sit there…”

The comedian recalled a recent time in which he heard the Bruce Springsteen song “Jungleland” while driving and he was deeply moved:

“I started to get that sad feeling and reached for my phone, but I thought ‘don’t’ — just be sad, let it hit you like a truck…I pulled over and I just cried…I was grateful to feel sad and then I met it with true, profound happiness.”

As Louis Ck points out, it’s so easy to remain connected, numb and distracted – continually attached to our devices.

To be fair, this is an inevitable part of trying to manage personal and professional responsibilities in a 24/7 society.  But this continual connection to ever present technology does have the capacity to change our sense of reality and our relationship to others, as well as a connection to our deeper selves.

There can be a high price to pay for all that distraction, especially when there is some important stuff to sort out, to feel and grieve, new soil in our hearts and souls that we are being called to cultivate.

For some, the immersion in entertainment, media, and for many, pornography, have become addictions.  These obsessions and addictions can keep us cut off from areas of our lives that need attention and healing.

When we allow ourselves to be still, to put away the smart phone for a few hours…are we afraid of the silence?  That great emptiness Louis CK spoke of can lead us to contemplation of the deeper meaning of our lives.

I believe there is a great longing today, perhaps unconscious and unspoken, but a hunger to quiet all the hyper-activity and at least for a time let go of the gadget obsession.  People want to give a voice to the deeper desire in their souls for reconciliation of past losses, to finally stop running from the pain and allow a healthy expression of the feelings and memories.

One very important caveat that Louis CK did not mention:

If you are going inward, and you encounter some complicated and painful areas of loss, such as abortion or abuse, please don’t try to go it alone.

Once you recognize that a painful experience like abortion has left a deep wound on your heart and soul, reach out for the help you need.  This is especially true for men with abortion loss who may struggle to reach out for support.

As Louis CK points out, our bodies and souls will reward us if we can safely do that grief work because along with the necessary pain and grief are good for the body, and will cultivate life-giving emotions, new insight and understanding.

Best of all, when we safely open up deep parts of our hearts and souls that have been long ignored, numb and lifeless…this freshly tilled soil provides an excellent place for God to sow new seeds of faith, hope and love.

We can come to know in a deeper and intimate way the God who created us – and embrace him as our Heavenly Father.





A Father Attacks Mother of His Aborted Child: “Do You Realize How Badly You Hurt Me?”

Sunday, September 15th, 2013

Road Rage

Those familiar with my writing and speaking know that I often focus on men and abortion loss with a special emphasis on those fathers who are powerless to stop their partner/wife/girlfriend from aborting their unborn child.  This unleashes powerful emotions in men…and without healing this can lead to some really bad outcomes.

Check out the following excerpts from this woman’s abortion story:

Every day for two weeks prior to the abortion, Jace would plead with me.

“We can get married and I will get another job; we can be a family and make this work” he would say to me over and over again.

I was angry and I wanted someone to blame. I refused to speak with him about it, and he eventually gave up. My mind was made up and there was nothing he could do or say to change that.

January 2014 will mark 5 years since my abortion. I recently came into contact with the Father of my aborted child, whom I had not seen or barely spoken to in years.

I agreed to see him…and he attacked me.

            He pinned me to the seat of his truck and told me that he had to get even with me for the abortion. I cried and screamed and fought him. He said that hurting me was the only way we could make things ‘right’ between us.

“Do you realize how badly you hurt me?” he kept yelling. When I begged him to stop, he said “you know what is funny about that Annie, I begged YOU to stop, I begged YOU not to have an abortion, but you did it anyway, you let someone rip our child from your body”.

 After a half hour struggle, I was finally able to escape from him and run for help. The police were called and he is now facing assault charges.

This father will have to face the legal consequences for his actions and there is never an excuse for violence against women.   But his powerful feelings and actions powerfully proclaim that men like Jace desperately need to know about healing programs for recovery from abortion loss…especially traumatic abortion loss.

  The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders defines a traumatic event as    follows:

1. The person experienced, witnessed, or was confronted with an event or events that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others. 2. The person’s response involved intense fear, helplessness, or horror.

Jace was clearly traumatized by his partner’s abortion and wrongly took out his helplessness, powerlessness and rage on the mother of the child.

I recently shared in my blog about a prison inmate who linked his life of crime and other immorality to his participation in 2 abortions.  Police, prison administrators and chaplains, mental health professional and all of us need to understand that whatever their role in an abortion, men are profoundly affected and need to hear about resources for recovery after abortion. 

Fortunately for this mother, her story did not end in death and despair.  She writes:

In March 2011, 2 years after my abortion, I had reached another breaking point. One day I just had a complete melt down. That’s when I decided to seek spiritual help. I attended a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat.   My family did not agree with my decision to attend this retreat, but I knew that I had to do it if I wanted to heal. I thank God every day for the women at Rachel’s Vineyard. That weekend truly changed my life. I was able to make peace with God about my abortion, and I didn’t have to do it alone.

Let’s pray the father of her child also learns about healing resources and reaches out for the help he desperately needs.  Jace needs the support of others who understand his loss, and a healing process where he can safely express his painful emotions and encounter the power of God.  Jace will find that the end of his story is not Calvary, but an empty tomb, and a spiritual relationship with his precious child.

This is the only path away from violence, despair and death…to peace, recovery and new life.  Let’s pray for all fathers of children lost to abortion, that they discover this path of healing.

–        And He who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new!”  

(Revelation 21)

To Learn more about  Men and Abortion Loss:



Life After Aerosmith’s StevenTyler: Julia Holcomb Shares Her Abortion Story With High School Students

Sunday, September 15th, 2013

La Crosse Tribune

Steven TylerÕs ex-fiancŽe, Julia Holcomb, gave a moving testimony relating her abortion experience with the American Idol judge and rock star.  Holcomb spoke on the steps of the United States Supreme Court building as part of the Silent No More Awareness

Julia Holcomb spoke at Luther High School in Onalaska, Wisconsin, Tuesday as part of the school’s annual Life Week.  She told students about her life with
Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler, her abortion, and abortion’s aftermath.

Read Article

You can read Julia’s amazing story in this Lifesite News article The Light of the World: The Steven Tyler and Julia Holcomb Story .

I love this picture of Julia below because it reveals that while her story is important to share for what it reveals about the culture of death…her life speaks much more eloquently about the mercy and power of Christ.  Jesus saved Julia’s life  leading her to embrace the vocations of wife, mother and to nurture her gift as a very talented artist  painting powerful and moving religious icons.



A Father Discovers Freedom From His Abortion Pain… In A Prison Chapel

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

The following is an article written by “TJ” an inmate at a Florida Correctional Institution.   The institution is a level 6 maximum security prison… a high percentage of the inmates will call this home for the rest of their lives. 

TJ shares how abortion impacted his life and of his participation in a Rachel’s Vineyard (RV) after abortion program specially adapted for use in prison by the local RV site leader Donna Gardner and Tom Lawlor, Director of Prison Ministry for the Diocese of Palm BeachTJ is half way through his facilitator training and will be part of the Rachel’s Vineyard Team in the prison. 

Over 50 men have participated in this prison outreach bringing reconciliation and peace to those in darkness and a number of Rachel’s Vineyard leaders have emerged from the prison population.  Here’s TJ’s story:   –Kevin Burke, LSW

 Healing a Father’s Heart


 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor.   He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.”  (Luke, 4:18)

Rachel’s Vineyard is a ten-week seminar offered here at the Correctional Institution on Wednesday mornings in the Chapel.  The service it provides for those who attend is immeasurable.  However, few really know what it is about.  In order to understand what this program offers, one must first become aware of the scourge of abortion.

I’m writing this article…to share with you a real-life experience that kept me in the deepest and darkest misery for twenty-seven years.  My hope is, if you were involved in a similar situation, that you may find help.

Twenty-seven years ago, as a teenager, I was involved in two abortions because I lived as an irresponsible, arrogant, prideful, selfish, self-centered human being.  Those abortions lead me down a road of drugs, alcohol, irresponsible sex, crime and so many other destructive things.

How could abortion lead to all that? Because it produces guilt, whether the person realizes it or not, which turns to bad decisions, self-hatred, anger towards others, violence and all kinds of other messed up emotions.  While these are taking place the person is in denial, refusing to recognize there is a problem.  Or, if he or she does admit to a problem, they don’t know that it is rooted in an abortion that may have taken place years ago.  At the time of my abortion experiences I knew none of this.

I was told that an abortion is simply getting rid of a glob of cells or tissue, that it was not killing a baby.

Let’s look at some facts.  Day one: the sperm fertilizes the egg in the fallopian tube; forty-six chromosomes combine which predetermines all of the person’s characteristics.  By day eighteen there is a heartbeat.  At eight weeks all the body systems are present.  The baby is rapidly growing.  The genital organs are clearly differentiated in sixteen weeks and the baby grasps with hands, kicks, and turns.  This is not a blob of tissue, but clearly a little human being.

Abortion has been a divisive topic long before the 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade made it legal.  Two of the biggest arguing points are a mother’s “right to choose” and the baby’s “right to life.”  Rarely does the father even get a say in the argument even though twenty-three of those chromosomes are his and the rest of his life is affected by the decision.

Every day 4,300 babies are killed by abortion.  It is said that one in every three adults has been involved in an abortion.  If you’re one of them, and if you’re like I was, maybe you hate yourself or your spouse or girlfriend or even your parents.  Perhaps you’re mad at the doctor or God or experiencing every messed up emotion that could entangle a person’s life.  I was.

Humans are not designed to carry burdens alone, and we don’t have to.  There is hope, and there is help to heal from the brutality of abortion.  That’s what Rachel’s Vineyard does.  It is led by Donna Gardner and Tom Lawlor, two of the most awesome people I’ve ever met.  They have love and a great passion for what they do and for the men and women inside and outside who have experienced the devastating tragedy of abortion.  They can help mend the affects of years of wrong choices and destructive behavior.

Even if you don’t fully understand some of what I’ve said and how an abortion years ago could be responsible for so much destructive behavior – come and check it out and learn.  Take a step forward and give yourself a new beginning.  Sign up now by sending a request to the chapel.  It will be a life changing experience for the good.


Donna Gardner M.S. is the Coordinator of the Healing Ministries Rachel’s Vineyard/Lifeforce  for Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Palm Beach 100 West 20th Street Riviera Beach, Florida 33404






Jason Baier – Pioneer In Outreach to Men After Abortion

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

Fatherhood Forever

Jason Baier is featured in one of the chapters of my book on men and abortion entitled Redeeming a Father’s Heart. Jason’s story is a harrowing account of his experience of learning the exciting news that his longtime partner was pregnant… Read more…