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Special Christmas Edition

December 2002 - Volume 1, Number 10

The Monthly e-Newsletter of Rachel’s Vineyard Ministries,

Rachel’s Vineyard Ministries holds weekend retreats for emotional and spiritual healing after abortion. It is a division of American Life League.


Publisher: Rachel’s Vineyard Ministries
Editor: Leslie Graves
Associate Editor: Catherine McHugh
Comments and questions:,


Special Advent Edition

1. Christmas gratitude
2. An understanding heart during the holidays
3. Retreats scheduled for January 2003


"An angel of the Lord appeared...and...said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.’" Luke 2:8



Our hearts are full of gladness during Advent, as we wait in joyful hope for Christ to come.

Many of us do remember times of great darkness.  This makes the coming of His light especially sweet.

As Placide Clappeau writes in the great carol, O Holy Night":

"O holy night, the stars are brightly shining;
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary soul rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn."

We are so grateful to everyone who reads "Vine and Branches," and to everyone who supports Rachel’s Vineyard in prayer, in word and in deed. Your kind attention and loving thoughts make a world of difference.

May God bless you greatly during Advent of 2002, and may 2003 be a year for you and your loved ones of renewal and joy in and through Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Leslie Graves, Editor

++++++++++ ++++++++++ ++++++++++


by Catherine McHugh and Leslie Graves

Much of the delight we take in Christmas comes from sharing our experience of blessing and joy with close family and friends. Yet for those who have lost a child, a holiday like Christmas can magnify the feeling of loss. It is normal for parents to want their child with them now more than ever before.

When a parent has lost a child after birth, whether recently or long ago, their family and friends know that Christmas will especially and always be a time when that person will appreciate their extra emotional support and acknowledgement.

Parents who have lost children to abortion often have no one to turn to when they experience loss, emptiness and grief during this season. Perhaps no one knows about the abortion, or those who do know about it are unable to talk about it or do not understand.

Also, because Christmas celebrates the birth of a child, and honors that child’s parents for their courage in welcoming the child under difficult circumstances, post-abortive men and women can harbor especially harsh feelings toward their own earlier actions.

The website "Silent Grief" for parents who have lost children after birth writes something to keep in mind during Christmas:

"Remember—you will never ‘get over it,’ and that’s okay. But, you will ‘get through it,’ and a day will come when you will do so with inner strength and a positive reserve of peace and joy."

This is the same message that parents who have attended a Rachel’s Vineyard weekend retreat have for other parents who have lost children to abortion. We encourage you to read those words again and think about them as they apply to you:

"Remember—you will never ‘get over it,’ and that’s okay. But, you will ‘get through it,’ and a day will come when you will do so with inner strength and a positive reserve of peace and joy."

The Rachel’s Vineyard web site has added a new feature that may be especially helpful at this time of the year for post-abortive men and women.

A group of volunteers who have attended the retreat or who are experienced in post-abortion counseling have come forward to serve as "e-mail buddies" for any man or woman who is hurting after abortion. A new section of the main Rachel’s Vineyard web page includes a biography of each such volunteer. Visitors to the web page and readers of "Vine and Branches" can read the biographies of the volunteers and decide who they feel more comfortable corresponding with through e-mail. The biographies are mainly a short paragraph explaining how that person has become involved in Rachel’s Vineyard and other personal information. Through e-mail correspondence, a man or woman who is suffering after abortion can anonymously find support, hope, comfort, friendship and a building of trust.

In this December issue of "Vine and Branches," we are including the text of this new section of the Rachel’s Vineyard web site, along with the volunteer biographies. If you are in pain after abortion, please reach out. We pray that you will open up the gift of Hope that the Christ Child has come to offer you.

The new e-mail contact page reads as follows:

Making the decision to attend a Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat can sometimes be intimidating. Fear of the unknown might be making it harder for you to reach out for help with the emotional and spiritual conflict you may be feeling after your abortion, whether your abortion was recent or decades ago. Rachel’s Vineyard has numerous volunteers who can answer any questions you may have through confidential e-mail. You can simply contact our national office, e-mail the contact person at the retreat you would like to attend or confide in our e-mail buddies, who are listed below.

Most of us are women who have walked down the same path as you and have experienced the healing power of Jesus Christ through a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat. Others are counselors trained in post-abortion healing or compassionate women who help run retreat teams. Read about us below and feel free to click on a name and e-mail anyone you feel you can share your story with or answer your questions best. We are here to offer nonjudgmental, loving support and encouragement.

Eileen ( is 39. She is a registered nurse with experience in labor and delivery and maternal/child health, and is studying to become a certified nurse-midwife. Eileen is married, with 4 adopted children, ages 20, 19, 7 and 6

2E She had an abortion 20 years ago, at the age of 19. Since 1990, she has experienced four early miscarriages. In June of 2002, she received the healing grace of God with the help of a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat, and she writes that she "is now in the process of setting up retreats in her home state of Alabama, so that other women trapped in grief and despair from a past abortion can find freedom and healing in a warm, gentle, and nurturing environment." Eileen also attended the Rachel’s Vineyard national leadership training in New Orleans in July of 2002. She enjoys reading, surfing the internet, and spending time with her children, "my gifts from God." Eileen continues to try to achieve a full term pregnancy, and has been struggling with infertility for 12 years.

Jeanne ( is 47 and single (never married). She’s had two abortions, at the ages of 27 and 30, and one miscarriage. She is a sales manager for a midwest manufacturer. Jeanne is part of a retreat team in the Minneapolis area. She has a background in television production and is helping to create a video on post-abortion trauma and healing. Jeanne likes to cook and is writing a low-carbohydrate cookbook. Her hobbies are hockey, reading, watching The Sopranos on HBO and helping others, particularly homeless families through a church program. Jeanne says, "I was into the New Age movement and finally let God find me in 1993. I am now a happy Catholic. I went to Medjugorje in 1996 for a month and it changed my life. I suffered from depression, agoraphobia and panic attacks after the abortions. I had a profound healing after my Rachel’s Vineyard retreat and along with the help of my therapist now have minimal panic attacks and no longer suffer from depression — actually, the depression went away after the retreat."

Catherine (, 41, lives in Knoxville, Tennessee with her husband, three kids (4, 6 and 9) a pound dog, and a stray cat. A former middle school English teacher, she spends her time driving all day to dentist’s appointments, flag football games and Girl Scouts. She had an abortion at the age of 24 and rarely spoke of it again until she attended a Rachel’s Vineyard weekend. Catherine attended the Rachel’s Vineyard Leadership Conference training this past summer and has helped bring the first RV retreat to Tennessee. When not spending time with her kids, she volunteers at Catholic Charities’ Pregnancy Help Center and is the Project Rachel program coordinator. Besides her husband, kids and Rachel’s Vineyard, she’s passionate about scrapbooking, reading (Anne Tyler books), music (Stevie Nicks) and professional football, especially Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers.

Jill ( is 44 years old. She is married with three children ages 23, 20 and 10. She lives in Texas and is working with the Rachel’s Vineyard retreat team. She helped on a retreat many years ago and has recently returned when she could no longer deny God’s calling. Jill has an accounting background but is currently an at-home mom. She volunteers many hours at her son’s school and for his gymnastics team. In her spare time she likes to cook, read and do crossword puzzlesading (especially Jane Austen) and ice hockey (watching, not playing!).

Shelley ( is 47. She and her husband of 22 years have four children and four grandchildren. Shelley works full-time as a registered nurse and volunteers with Pregnancy Helpline. She had two abortions, at ages 17 and 21. Shelley has attended the Rachel’s Vineyard national leadership conference and is now a retreat team facilitator. "My favorite thing to do is spend time with my children and grandchildren. I relax with needlepoint, ceramics, books, and a beautiful view of the mountains." She recommends "The Greatest Miracle in the World" by Og Mandino, "Entertaining Angels" (the movie based on the life of Dorothy Day), the Divine Mercy chaplet, and is devoted to Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Kathryn ( is a doula — a person who attends births to support the laboring mother. She is also a certified labor doula trainer and a certified postpartum doula trainer. Her special interest and experience is in supporting women through high risk pregnancies. Kathryn has lost children through abortion, miscarriage and premature birth. She and her husband are licensed ministers and attend Covenant Bible Church in North Carolina. Kathryn also designs jewelry, writes, composes, sings, and loves cooking dinner for friends. Kathryn has attended the Rachel’s Vineyard retreat weekend, and the Rachel’s Vineyard national leadership training.

Beth ( is in her early 40s, a wife, and mother of three children (4, 8 and 12). She is the director of Project Rachel for the Diocese of Gaylord, Michigan and has just experienced a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat in the hopes of facilitating them in Michigan. She has had 21 years of experience as a volunteer on a crisis phone line and with walk-in emergency counseling. Beth has worked with infants, young children, adolescents, young adults, adults and the elderly and is a vocal advocate for social justice issues. Hobbies of interest include quilting, pencil drawing, baking and being outdoors in the beauty of God’s creation. Faith is the foundation of her life and Beth is strengthened for life’s journey by her relationship with God and prayer.



January 10–12, 2003

Linden, New Jersey; Contact: Michelle Krystofik (732) 388-8211

January 17–19, 2003

Fresno, California; Contact: Jennifer (559) 277-9771
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Contact: Susan Lepak (405) 721-5651, ext. 107
Atlanta, Georgia; Local host: Post Abortion Treatment and Healing; Contact: Mary Ann McNeal (770) 396-5718
Mobile, Alabama; Contact: Elizabeth Burgess (251) 471-6936
Warrenville, Illinois; Interdenominational retreat; Contact: Catherine Rennert (815) 968-1157

January 24–26, 2003

Auburn, California; Contact: Christine (916) 733-0140
Kansas City, Kansas; Contact: Kathleen Ames-Oliver (785) 760-0617
Portland, Oregon; Contact: Paula Lang (503) 239-5196, ext. 226 or (800) 249-8074
Uniondale, New York; Contact: Frank and Lorraine Gariboldi (516) 523-0586
Monroe, Connecticut; Contact: Mary Hayden (203) 882-1326
Lisbon, Portugal; Contact: Claudia Muller 91 735-4602

January 31–February 2, 2003

Calgary, Alberta; Contact: Julie Kohler (403) 218-5506
San Fernando, California; Contact: Christine Lowe (866) 2 RACHEL
Fairfield County, Connecticut; Contact: Clarissa Cincotta (203) 372-4301, ext. 314


Questions or comments about Vine & Branches may be directed to the Editor, Leslie Graves, at


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Priests for Life
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Tel. 321-500-1000, Toll Free 888-735-3448 •