Thanks Donald Trump for the Kick in the Teeth to Pro-Lifers in Abortion Healing Ministries

March 31st, 2016

 

Trump

A media firestorm erupted on March 30th with Donald Trump’s recent very unhelpful statement about penalties for women if abortion were once again illegal in the U.S.  Trump was clearly baited by Chris Matthews of MSNBC during a town hall event where he made those statements.  But the exchange revealed that Trump has not thought through the issues involved with unplanned pregnancy and abortion decisions, and is lacking in some essential perspective and education on the topic.

Mr. Trump and his advisors would do well to spend some time reading the testimonies on the Silent No More Awareness Campaign website to better understand the impact of abortion on women and men before talking about hypothetical penalties for women if abortion is once again an illegal activity in the united states.  Trump fails to mention any penalties for the fathers of these unborn children who in many cases play a very important role in the decision of women to have an abortion.

Those who support abortion rights and their allies in media and entertainment are fond of painting a negative caricature of pro-lifers as angry and judgmental fundamentalists.  I have been involved in abortion recovery ministry to women and men for the last 20 years.  I have been humbled and blessed to see the love and practical help that pro-life advocates share not only with pregnant women and their children  but to anyone who has participated in the death of an unborn child.

The pro-life movement has  been at the forefront of efforts to bring reconciliation and healing to those who suffer after abortion.  Fr Frank Pavone of Priests for Life has  been a leader in both pro-life activism and abortion healing as Pastoral Director of Rachel’s Vineyard Ministries.

Fr Frank shares that being pro-life means being pro-woman:

To be pro-life means to be pro-woman. It doesn’t mean that we love the babies and we forget about the mothers. What it means is very simple: Why can’t we love them both? Protect them both? Welcome and care for them both? We can and together we will.

Many women and men who have experienced abortion loss (and found reconciliation and healing) can be found volunteering to help provide the support and resources to those facing unplanned pregnancy.  They have also been pioneers in developing  recovery programs for those who have participated in the death of an unborn child.

To be fair, Mr. Trump later recanted his remarks:

If Congress were to pass legislation making abortion illegal and the federal courts upheld this legislation, or any state were permitted to ban abortion under state and federal law, the doctor or any other person performing this illegal act upon a woman would be held legally responsible, not the woman. The woman is a victim in this case as is the life in her womb…

Perhaps this unfortunate gaffe…can turn out to be a blessing and provide an opportunity for Donald Trump and the other presidential candidates to consider the following:

Please have your staff spend some time getting to know  the leaders in abortion recovery ministry. Sit down with women and men who made the decision to abort and were deeply wounded by that experience.  Hear their stories, listen to their pain and learn of the impact that the Shockwaves of Abortion had on their lives and relationships.  You won’t just hear of pain and despair.  You will witness the mercy and power of God manifest in the lives of those who like the Prodigal Son were dead but are now alive, were lost but have been found. (Luke 15:32)

 

FDA Relaxes Restrictions on Abortion Pill: What Happens to a Couple When their Home Becomes an Abortion Clinic?

March 21st, 2016

 

horror_house_3978304_lrg

Under the cover of the uproar from Donald’s Trumps recent flip-flop comments on abortion, the New York Times reported about a much more serious concern for those who care about women and their unborn children:

    The Food and Drug Administration has relaxed the guidelines for taking a   pill that induces abortion, reviving one of the most contentious issues of the abortion debate. The change allows women to use the drug further into pregnancy and with fewer visits to the doctor…The change was an unequivocal victory for abortion rights advocates who had been fighting laws in Texas, North Dakota and Ohio, among other states, that require doctors prescribing the pill to follow the directions on the F.D.A. label for using it, which had been more stringent…Medication-induced abortions have increasingly been used to terminate pregnancies in recent years…They made up as much as a quarter of all abortions in 2011, according to the most recent figures from the Guttmacher Institute… Planned Parenthood said as many as half of eligible women in its clinics requested medication-induced abortions.

This has the potential to greatly expand the use of these medications that lead to the death and expulsion of a tiny unborn child in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy.

The FDA and the Obama administration do not share the physical and emotional experience of taking this medication. Please read and share this couples experience when their home and marital bed are transformed into an abortion center:

Abortion in the Home

A self described pro-choice woman and her husband describe their RU 486 abortion experience.  She was not prepared for the excruciating pain and emotional trauma of the procedure:

Her husband got her out of the tub, and into the bed…

It was then, with her husband lying next to her, that Kay says, “I went through the worst experience of my life.”

“After two hours of this,” Kay says, “I felt a rush of blood and a large lemon-sized clot came out. I assume that was the pregnancy. I was horrified. Why hadn’t anyone told me that it would be like this?”

Her husband cleaned the blood off her, cleaned up the towels, changed the sheets, dressed her because she was too weak from the pain.  (Lifesite News)

Copious amounts of blood cover Kay and stain the sheets of their marital bed where their tiny child was likely conceived. What was formerly a place of marital pleasure and joy becomes the setting where their child is painfully expelled from its mother’s womb.

The father of the child lies next to his wife during this nightmare.  He carefully attends to her and removes the bloody sheets…and we can assume disposes of their tiny son or daughter.

What was this man thinking and feeling as his wife went through this traumatic labor?  Might he have felt a sense of shame and guilt that their “choice” led to so much physical and emotional anguish for his wife?  Did he feel helpless and powerless as he witnessed what Planned Parenthood said would be a simple process turn into an unforgettable and traumatic nightmare?

It doesn’t really matter what this couples political and moral opinions are about abortion.  There are things more powerful than ideology and politics.  The intellect can rationalize about lost pregnancies and women’s rights.  But the painful truth of the heart and soul will not be denied.

Based on our professional experience with thousands of women and men after abortion let me offer some idea of what life may be like for this couple post RU 486:

They have both clearly experienced a traumatic event.  The home, which should be a peaceful refuge, will be a place that triggers anxiety and depression.   The marital bed will remain a place of death, and an unspoken sense of loss will permeate the bedroom and relationship.  The image and memory of that tiny “pregnancy” will rest there between them as they struggle to sleep.

Ongoing physical complications are possible.  Nightmares, insomnia, anxiety and depression are likely.  Sexual relations will be confusing and challenging.  Even when they are able to assume marital intimacy, they will need to dissociate from their feelings and go through the motions.

The unresolved feelings and memories will lead them to drink more, work more…whatever it takes to get away from the pain.  The distance will grow between them.

Over time this couple will be unable to meet one another’s needs for emotional and physical intimacy.  They may look outside the marriage for support from someone who is not connected to the trauma.  Marital infidelity will begin a process of marital dissolution.

Mifepristone is a very powerful chemical.  It didn’t just end the life of their unborn child.  The drug traumatized this couple, made their home a place of death, and in time may kill their marriage.

They may struggle to associate any of their personal and marital problems to their chemical abortion…pro choice ideology forbid this.  But the physical, emotional and relational symptoms will cry out to them to acknowledge this loss, to face the truth of their actions…so they can repent and heal.

 

How are Children Impacted when they learn of a Parent’s Past Abortion?

March 18th, 2016

 

Sibling Grief

 

[Theresa Bonapartis is the founder of Lumina, offering hope and healing after abortion. A special area of her outreach focuses on the struggle of siblings who learn of a parent’s previous abortion and the realization they have lost a brother or sister. I asked Theresa to share about her ministry and Lumina’s upcoming Entering Canaan Healing Weekend Retreat for Siblings of Aborted babies May 20-22, 2016. –Kevin Burke, LSW]

Theresa, what led you to develop a retreat for siblings with abortion loss?

I saw the impact on my own sons, when I told them as teenagers about my abortion. Having worked through the healing process with them I saw a lot of the struggles that I never even thought of before. Before you learn more about this issue, you think of telling them in relation to what they will think about you, but the truth is, it opens a whole range of issues for them. Guilt for being alive, wondering if they were wanted, anger, fear, would they even be here if their sibling was not aborted…it goes on and on.

I also began having more and more people come to me (I am next door to a high school) suffering because of a parents abortion. The more siblings I came to know, the more I came to understand all they suffered. Like those of us who are post-abortive, they often feel so alone in their feelings. They have so many questions but do not want to question their parents because they see them suffering so much already. They carry this burden alone.

They can be very protective of their parents and anyone harshly judging their moms for what they did.  This confirms for us the importance of a prayerful and compassionate pro-life message that affirms our duty to protect the unborn and offer alternatives to abortion…but with words and actions that are always grounded in mercy and compassion…as  Fr Frank Pavone is fond of saying, it’s about loving and protecting them both (that is the mother and child.)

What are ages generally of the participants?  How do they come to awareness that this is an area that needs healing and what are some of their struggles?

The ages have varied from 20’s to 70’s. We do not take young children.

It is amazing how many of them share that they always knew someone was missing in their lives. Some were told by parents, others overheard things and their parents do not even know they know. I sense the need for healing arises because of all the issues and questions that come up for them. Think about it…here are your parents who have always loved and protected you and now you learn a sibling has died…it is all so conflicting for them.

They have questions but do not feel they can ask because they are protecting their parents. They hold the suffering and almost become the care giver with this. You have to wonder how much of it may come from wanting to be sure they are loved because a sibling has died. Of course they are loved, but with the knowledge of an aborted sibling so many questions surface.

They fear the anger they feel for their parents so they often hide it…a parent needs to be able to handle anything their kid has to voice. That is why it is so important the parent finds healing for themselves first…they need to be able to take whatever their kids dish out so that the kids do not feel like they have to protect them. They should not tell them just to ease their own burden. It is unrealistic to think it will not impact them so they need to be able to handle it.

Theresa you mentioned survivor guilt. Is this a common reaction when they learn of a parent’s abortion?

Part of them is grateful to be alive and the other feels guilty that it was their sibling and not them. They need to learn their lives are as importance as their siblings. They have dignity, importance and value and God has a plan for them. We try to help them come to see how abortion can happen, not to justify it, but to understand so they can forgive their parents and let go of the guilt to come to a peace within themselves.

It is a struggle.

What kind of feedback do you get from the participants after they have been through your program?

More than anything else, probably gratitude. Also a wonderful fruit of the retreat is the camaraderie among them that naturally develops and ongoing contact and support. This has blossomed into web sites and FB pages where they share with one another. More and more people are out there are finding them and sharing their feelings.

The dynamics between the siblings are wonderful as they come to see they are not alone and are so grateful and excited to share with one another and hear for the first time, some answers to their questions and a new way of looking at it all.

IT is wonderful, but we are just skimming the surface. There are millions and millions of them out there and many have multiple siblings lost from prior relationships of parents or within the family. Plus often it is generational.

Can you give us an overview of what takes place on one of the Entering Canaan retreats?

The weekend consists of series different conferences addressing sibling issues. It is directed by one of the Friars of the Renewal who I began the retreats with, as well as a sibling who has been through healing with us from the beginnings of EC retreats.

We address things like

Would my name be the same?

Would I even be here?

What do I do with my unanswered questions?

Various feelings they struggle with…

All in the context of conferences, time before the Blessed Sacrament and periods of sharing.

The bonding that goes on is amazing. People have attended from all over the country. One woman in her late 70’s even drove up alone from Florida…she held in her feelings for decades and was so grateful she had a place where she could finally express her pain.

How many have you offered so far.  What has been the response?

We did day retreats for 4 years before offering our first weekend last year. We found the people who wanted to come were from all over the country and so a weekend seemed more logical than a day and more conducive to healing.

We are really just beginning to be known, but the response has great. So many have been waiting for this and are so grateful for its existence.

Theresa anything you want to add in closing?

I think we would all die of broken hearts of we saw the damage to so many siblings by their parents abortions. Oftentimes people who have told their children will say things like “Oh my child was ok”, but that is totally unrealistic. As unrealistic as it is to think that abortion does not hurt the moms and dads, Abortion hurts us all, and oftentimes other children on a deep level but they do not voice it for fear of hurting their parents more. I know many like that.

I know I am grateful for things like Shockwaves which is bringing this issue more to the forefront. You have to wonder, how is this impacting our society? How many are wounded because of this and bringing that wounded ness into their relationships without even knowing it because no one is speaking of it?

How can someone who is interested learn more and register for Entering Canaan Healing Weekend Retreat for siblings of aborted babies?

They can contact me at 877 586 4621 or email lumina@post abortionhelp.org

We do have a grant available to assist people to attend so money should not keep anyone away.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

African American Victim of Rape and Molestation Says Abortion is another form of Enslavement for the Black Community

February 15th, 2016

 

Onawu Pickett

Onawu Pickett is an ordained Christian minister. She feels a special calling by God to reach out to African-Americans who are being ravaged by the Shockwaves of Abortion through public speaking and personal ministry.

In the following interview, Onawu tells her own story and shared some very important insights on how to better reach the millions of black families wounded by abortion loss:

Kevin: Onawu can you share with us some of your family background?

Onawu: My mother and father were migrant farm workers.  She married my father when she was only 16, still very much a child herself. They met in a work camp in the season of chopping cotton in the central valley of California. Mama only went to school up to the sixth grade which led to a very limited education.

I was molested at age four by a neighbor’s son who is in prison to this day for armed robbery and rape. The boy that molested me was older…not sure how much older. His mother was my baby sitter and his parents were my parent’s good friends. I never shared this with my parents. The lie told by the molester was that I would be in trouble if I did would stick with me for the rest of my life.

My father was very abusive to my mother. He was very good looking and a drifter as well as a con artist. He was also educated and up on world events. His grandmother was a slave.

My grandmother struggled with mental health issues. My grandfather was a very humble man who very seldom lost his temper. He was murdered in 1963 by one of his seven daughter’s husband in a very small farming community of Fairmead, CA.

Kevin: What impact did those early experiences of violence, molestation have on you?

Onawu:   As I reflect back on my life it started out in a pretty violent and twisted environment.   With the challenges I faced in my family, I struggled with a sense of shame, not really understanding this…but also a fear of being rejected. Always looking for acceptance; yet always wanting to run away.

I use to fantasize about being adopted. I wanted a different family. My father was affectionate to me and my two sisters and brothers…but I couldn’t grasp why my mother did not say she loved us and did not show affection to us.  I did not want to be punished so I will do what was asked of me, whether it was right or wrong.

The impact caused me to be a companion to intimidation, depression, a lack of self esteem and being the victim of others that had issues to want to control others. Oh yes, rejection and bitterness kept me in bondage. All I wanted was love and security. Because of my mother’s lack of education and her youth; and my father unwilling to be a Godly man (he was atheist) I felt a deep sense of insecurity.

Kevin: You have also suffered the violence and trauma of rape.

Yes I was raped in 1972 when I was a senior in high school. I never did report the incident to the police or my parents.  I knew the identity of my rapist. He was someone that I used to date. He raped me six months after we broke-up and I became pregnant. I did not report the incident because I was afraid no one would believe me. My father wanted me to have an abortion, but I was too far along. He had a social worker come to talk to me about adoption.  My mother convinced me to keep the baby and she would help me to raise him while I went to school. I graduated from high school in June of 1973. I am glad I did not abort.  My son is a wonderful man who is serving in the army. He has done two tours in Iraq.

Kevin: Your first abortion occurred when you were a college student correct?

Onawu: My first abortion in 1974, I was 20 years old and shortly after the Roe vs. Wade decision…and yes I was attending junior college at the time. When I learned I was pregnant the young man did not want the responsibility and he was already seeing someone else as well. I was referred to Planned Parenthood by a friend.  I got involved again a year later with another man who was in the military was the same scenario, resulting in another abortion.  I was caught up in the confusing moral climate of the time, you know, love the one your with. Searching for security and love in ALL the wrong places.

Like many others of my generation. It is amazing how easy it was for me to accept the pro abortion Planned Parenthood counseling back then. I was convinced that I was not carrying a human being. I was able to believe that abortion was the answer because I needed a quick fix and a cover up for a repeated act of not being a nice girl.

I met someone and married him after my second abortion. It was a stormy relationship with infidelity on his part. We had two children. He abandoned us and got involved with another woman and we divorced after seven years together.

I met a wonderful man a couple of years later. We have been together 28 years with two children together. I thank God that I had a change of heart and HE erased my shame.

Kevin: It was many years later that decided that you needed to reach out for help from your abortion pain. What led you to take that step?

Onawu: I need to share with you some symptoms I was experiencing after my 2nd abortion. It was sometime after that I would go over overpasses or bodies of water that I actually felt that I would throw an infant over the railings into the water or over into a canyon. If I was holding a child in my lap I would hold the baby tighter. Sometime I would fight tears.

I had this fear for years up until I went to a PACE bible study program at the local Pregnancy Resource Center. I was in my fifties when the Lord brought it to my attention that constant fear and anxiety was connected to my abortions.

I faced what I had done and repented. God willingly forgave me and helped me to forgive myself. After I went through the process I wanted to share my story and tell others, especially women about God’s forgiveness and love. I gave my testimony at a local prayer group called Aglow International. It was confirmed by God that this is one major thing HE wanted me to do tell others you can be set free of your past with a major emphasis on my fellow Afro Americans.

I began to research and through this research I contacted Priest for Life. I was directed to Rachel’s Vineyard for further healing and education. I contacted the nearest retreat which would be held in Santa Rosa, CA.

Kevin: Can you share about your Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat Experience?

Onawu:   It was an intense three days. I was blessed to been able to attend the retreat. I did receive further healing. They were so loving, patient and more than willing to be at your side thru every step. The men in attendance were surprisingly open to the sessions as they began to take responsibility for there part in forcing in some instances there partners’ decision to have the abortion.   Tears began to flow, stony hearts were turned to flesh. In some instances the men had no say so in the woman’s decision and mourned the loss of his child. Some of the men came without a partner.

It was obviously difficult going thru the process but we all made it thru…individuals, couples and some grandparents were there as well. I heard testimonies how through the retreat lives were being changed, knowing that they were on the road to healing.

Kevin: Onawu we know that minority women face higher rates of sexual abuse, violence and rape. Do you see these things as making African American women more vulnerable to unplanned pregnancy and also seeing abortion as the best option?

Onawu:  Yes.  When the slaves were taken from our homeland, many women who were pregnant with child would throw themselves overboard and drown so as not to bring their children into slavery. Some women would drown themselves and their live children. I know that abortion is a form of bondage as well.

I believe that we have been conditioned to believe giving up life will make it all better for mother and child. For the child it would not have to face a cruel world and not wanted by its parents or society. Being a single mother would keep us down, and from pursuing an education and no one would want you or your kid. In other words a child out of wed lock will keep us from the pursuit of happiness…so the lie says. The woman could not carry a baby for nine months and give it up to adoption; this would be an added burden psychologically. Another mind set is why bring a child in the world and suffer the same tragedies as the mother.

Kevin: What are some of the obstacles you see in getting a message of awareness and healing to our African American Christian churches? How can we open doors to healing our families and communities?

Onawu:   Some of the obstacles are trying to convey awareness to our church leaders to convince them that some of our women and men are tragic victims of abortion. Some of our leaders don’t understand the mental anguish of the consequences of abortions for mothers and fathers. Lack of knowledge is damaging, the truth shall make us free.

Some of our politicians and Christian ministers and leaders need healing as well…of their own participation in abortion and by encouraging others to abort.   I believe lack of education and perhaps the ability to face their own past lead them to put up defensive walls. Maybe our church leaders would consider part of the confession of St. Augustine, “For thou has made us for thyself and restless is our heart until it comes to rest in thee.” Let us love what God love and hate what God hates

I believe more of us need to share our testimonies not only in our churches but in government halls. Unfortunately we do a lot of sweeping hurtful issues under the rug and throw accountability out the window. Healing comes with love, compassion and forgiveness at least in my case God’s love swept away my shame.

God also helped me to forgive myself. I would love to see some celebrities hearts be touched to share their testimony I pray someone brave in the entertainment industry would stand up and come along side those who have testified about the hurt of abortion in their life. I am talking about those who our young folk took to.

We must be examples of hope and life for generations to come. My prayer is that we no longer be enslaved to poverty and violence; especially in the womb; not only for African Americans but for human beings as a whole.

Kevin: Please touch on what we discussed about abortion being a trap, exploiting women.  Touch on the importance of healing in the black family.

Onawu: We need to regain our dignity. The fact of the matter is we have lost self respect. We have been conditioned to believe that we have no future unless we remain dependent of the county and state. We have patterned ourselves by allowing The Margret Sangers of the world to cheat us of our dignity and the right to life and family.

The Proclamation of Emancipation was signed into affect January 1, 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln…but we are still in bondage to think we will never be any better. We must know that the abortion industry was designed to eradicate black people as a race. Without our children we have no future. We are erasing our scientist, doctors, teachers, leaders and so forth. Healing brings on the continuing of love, hope and success in our communities to share with other races as well.

We need very much to return to respecting the wisdom of our elders and embrace them with respect; for they were our guides that kept us on track with prayer and experience. We can have laws changed but without a change of heart the laws will be hard to enforce. Someone must lay their lives down as Dr. King did for human rights, whether they are still in the matrix or born into this world. A quote from the bible says it best: “Open your mouth for the speechless, in the cause of all who are appointed to die. Open your mouth, judge righteously and plead the cause of the poor and needy.” (Proverbs 31:8-9) NKJ bible.

 

 

 

 

True or False? The Divisive Subject of Abortion Should Never be Addressed at Sunday Worship Services

January 27th, 2016

 

Black Woman Praying

I was recently at a party where the topic of religion and abortion came up.  A Christian minister overheard the discussion and abruptly interjected:

“Abortion is a private and sensitive issue. Whatever your position on abortion, Sunday services are not the place to talk about the subject. We can’t let politics get in the way of preaching the Gospel.”

Maybe you agree with this minister.

The Shockwaves of Abortion

There have been nearly 60 million abortions since 1973.

Does the silence of the church communicate compassion  to those who experienced an abortion?  Is it sensitive and respectful to avoid addressing this issue with the countless fathers, grandparents, family and friends that are intimately part of many abortion decisions?

Or does this silence reinforce denial and ignore the deep pain and grief of those who desperately need to hear a message of healing and reconciliation?

Leslie suffered for many years with periods of depression, anxiety and nightmares connected to her two abortions at age 16 and 19. Leslie medicated her pain with alcohol, and later when she married, she was involved in a number of shameful and secret extramarital affairs. Later she was given prescription drugs prescribed by her family doctor to treat depression, anxiety and insomnia. None of the therapist or medical professionals she went to for help asked if there were any abortions in her history.

But what really hurt and angered Leslie was the failure of her spiritual leaders to recognize this hidden pain:

“If I had heard a compassionate and hope-filled message from my minister talking about how abortion can hurt some women and men and their relationships and families…if I heard after my first abortion that there were healing programs available for people like me…I may have been able to prevent the death of my second child and get the help  I needed much earlier in my life. I may have been able to save my husband and my children from living for years with the symptoms of this wound that was festering in my heart and soul. That pain led me to do things and try to cope in ways that hurt not only me and my relationship with God, but those I loved the most.  

Maybe hearing about women like me would help others understand that - yes an unplanned pregnancy is a life changing event that can be filled with fear and uncertainty – but abortion also changes your life in a powerful way.  For me, it brought years of pain and suffering…it was only later that I learned how the symptoms I suffered were rooted in the deep grief  from those two abortions…a grief I kept buried for many years. 

Good News from Ireland

To be fair, our church leaders struggle with the same thing many of us do in our families, workplaces and churches:

- How do we address this sensitive topic in a way that does not hurt or alienate those that have been part of abortion decisions – especially those that have experienced the procedure and lost a child to abortion…yet does not compromise the moral truth that abortion is a grave sin against God and the dignity of the human person?

Is this even possible?

Fr. Pat Scanlan P.P. has been serving in Parish ministry since his ordination in 1977 for the Diocese of Cloyne, Ireland and has been a member of the Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat team in Cork since 2003.

The following interview with Fr. Pat is an excerpt from the book Sharing the Heart of Christ:

Fr. Pat, how long have you been involved in post abortion ministry?

Since my ordination to the priesthood in June 1977, I have met with many women and some men who have been wounded by abortion. Almost invariably they were crying out for forgiveness and healing. In my experience the celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation marks a decisive step in their journey towards recovery. Yet I have always felt that they needed something more. What that something was, I was not so sure. Yes the sin had been forgiven, but they had a deep need for healing and restoration.

How did you get involved with Rachel’s Vineyard?

In the summer of 2003, I had a phone call from a good friend Bernadette Goulding who shared with me her excitement at having discovered a movement called Rachel’s Vineyard…

Can you share from your experience serving as a member of the Retreat Team?

Being involved in these weekends certainly ranks among the most rewarding experiences of my priesthood….

It is not an exaggeration to say that on each weekend we experience miracles of grace. The participants usually arrive bowed down by too many years of grief and self –loathing. Slowly, gradually as they enter into the process of the weekend they get in touch with, express, release and reconcile deep painful post abortive emotions…As they leave to return home on Sunday afternoon, many of them will have experienced the Mercy of the Lord at a very deep level. A grace that is truly amazing has touched wounded hearts and made of them beloved disciples who will in turn become instruments of his compassion to others…

How has your work in post abortion healing impacted your preaching?

Prior to my involvement in Rachel’s Vineyard I often felt a bit scared at the prospect of preaching the Gospel of Life. I was conscious that in any congregation there may be one or more who had experienced abortion, and I was never sure how to effectively proclaim the truth while at the same time witnessing to compassion.

The truth without compassion is a lethal weapon particularly for wounded souls. Compassion without the truth is a cruel deception.

Now I actually enjoy preaching the Gospel of Life. I know from my experience of Rachel’s Vineyard that the Gospel is truly Good News…I usually tell my congregation that what I want to share is what I have learned from women and men, who have had abortions and how the Good Shepherd is waiting to embrace, heal and forgive them. I share in a gentle compassionate way that abortion wounds the lives of mothers and fathers. I know that if there are women and men present who have had abortion they will identify, and realize that the church wants to help them.

I have had people come to me afterwards to find out more about Rachel’s Vineyard.  For the remainder of the congregation, when I then proceed to present the church’s teaching on the right to life of the unborn it is but an obvious and positive conclusion to be embraced, once they have heard a little about post abortion suffering.

The Harvest is Plentiful!

You can see in Fr. Pat’s feedback the awesome possibilities for ministry and evangelization if we can extend a message or reconciliation and healing in our churches for all those impacted by the Shockwaves of Abortion. Sharing the Heart of Christ is a great resource for Priests, Deacons, Counselors and Laity in ministry to those suffering after abortion. The book provides a brief overview of some key issues in ministry to those with abortion loss, but also pastoral concerns and sample homilies to assist in preaching about this topic with truth, sensitivity and mercy.

Here’s what Bishop Robert Vasa had to say about Sharing the Heart of Christ:

Sharing the Heart of Christ provides an assurance of hope for genuine healing and peace for those afflicted with many manifestations of unresolved post-abortive guilt, grief and shame. This work helps us further understand the nature of the abortion trauma, the reason for its persistence and the possibility of healing. It is a book filled with hope. Here we learn how the healing power of God’s grace coupled with sound psychiatric principles can and does, in the midst of a Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat, produce an abundant harvest of healing and peace. I had the privilege of participating in a Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat several years ago. The power of the experience continues to have an impact upon me. May God bless and reward your good work. - Robert F. Vasa, Bishop of Santa Rosa, California

Share this blog with your minister, priest or pastor today…better yet get them a copy of Sharing the Heart of Christ.

 

I’ve Confessed My Abortion Sin…Why Can’t I Forgive Myself? Fr Ben Cameron Shares a Message of Hope and Healing

January 11th, 2016

 

Divine Mercy

Have you or someone you care about received the Sacrament of Reconciliation from a priest or confessed to their minister/pastor the sin of abortion…yet still struggle to forgive themselves? Some will confess multiple times hoping to find freedom from the guilt and pain, anxiety, addictions and other symptoms.

This is a common problem. Many women and men will benefit by a more intensive grieving and processing of their abortion loss in an abortion recovery program, so they can find the deeper emotional and spiritual healing they hunger for.

The grace of confession and the forgiveness of Christ and the Church are certainly a great comfort and healing for countless women and men hurting after abortion. But it is important to keep in mind that abortion can be a very deep and intimate emotional and spiritual wound. Often there is a need to build on the grace of that confession which can serve as a kind of tilling of the soil in one’s hearts and soul. This creates the conditions for additional healing and recovery work that has been a blessing to so many who have made that rewarding journey.

Fr. Ben Cameron, CPM is the Assistant General of the Father’s of Mercy and through his preaching and pastoral ministry reaches out to those suffering after abortion loss. Fr Ben serves as the spiritual director at Relevant Radio and on a recent radio program spoke on this important issue.

Fr Ben shares a beautiful message of healing and holiness and touches on this issue of forgiving oneself and the benefit of an abortion recovery program. Fr. Ben reveals how God wants to reach out in this Jubilee Year of Mercy with his forgiveness to those impacted by the Shockwaves of Abortion.   You will also hear in this program a number of callers, women and men who have experienced abortion loss that address some key issues in the healing and recovery journey.

Here’s a link to the program

I invite you to also consider the book Sharing the Heart of Christ which offers an easy to read overview of some key issues in recovery after abortion such as repeat confessions and self forgiveness. The book is an excellent resource with preaching and counseling information and tools to help clergy, ministers, and counselors and lay people to reach out more effectively to the millions of women and men impacted by the Shockwaves of Abortion.

 

 

The Spiritual Epicenter of Abortion Recovery – Healing in the Churches

January 7th, 2016

 

Jesus Walks Water

Hard to believe, but with the rapid passing of 2015 we begin year two of our Shockwaves Initiative.

Why is it important that Shockwaves is an ongoing effort and not a one year project?

This Initiative can be best understood as a developing wave of awareness and healing. We know that on open water, it is the consistent power of a driving wind that over time builds large and powerful waves.  The waves we are building in the Shockwaves Initiative are driven by the power of prayer, awareness and healing.

The first year of Shockwaves saw the launch of a successful foundation and we have seen the ripples of awareness and healing begin to reach the many groups impacted by abortion.

If you have partnered with us in the last year and had an opportunity to publicly share about the Shockwaves vision, you likely experienced this common reaction to your presentation:

- I never thought of abortion this way.

- I never realized how far reaching the Shockwaves of abortion are and how they have impacted our families, communities and nation.

- I can now see the widespread need for awareness and healing in our society.

In January we return to the spiritual epicenter where awareness and healing can produce the most powerful fruits – the local churches. It is time to continue our effort with renewed zeal, and help our clergy and ministers, and all church leaders to understand that abortion is more than a contentious and polarizing political issue in our society (as was slavery for many years.)

Every person sitting in their congregation has been touched in some way by abortion loss.

In 2015 Donna Gardner of the Diocese of Palm Beach was invited by a parish pastor to share a message about abortion healing at all the masses offered that weekend. She learned earlier that year about Shockwaves after participating in a webinar on the initiative for counselors and ministry leaders. Given the parish demographics, Donna was inspired to draw from the Shockwaves Initiative and focus in a special way on the experience of abortion loss among grandparents (a special focus in the month of March.)

As she began to share her message with the parishioners, Donna could clearly see that many were deeply moved by the acknowledgement of their grief as grandparents; she could see their eyes filling with tears as they openly expressed their pain.  She wondered if this was a coincidence that so many in the congregation were moved by her message. In the next 3 masses Donna discovered the same widespread level of grief openly expressed by the large numbers of grandparents sitting in the church pews.

A Spiritual Tsunami

Donnas experience reveals there are countless women and men sitting in Sunday services each week who long to hear a message that gently affirms a loss that is already known to their heart and soul – but is often deeply repressed, and rarely acknowledged. They are the parents, grandparents, siblings, pro-life advocates and friends and family members all touched in different ways by abortion loss. The Shockwaves initiative with the blogs, articles, research and especially prayers and preaching aids, can help our spiritual leaders reach out to their congregations with a message of hope and healing.

There is a spiritual tsunami that is just beginning to build. Those of you involved in post abortion healing ministries have seen the spiritual fruits of abortion recovery programs.  If we can pray and work together with Christians of every denomination to share the Shockwaves Vision with their congregations, we will see a powerful outpouring of the Holy Spirit that will transform our nation and the world.

Who would have thought that 2000 years ago an instrument of gruesome torture and shame would become an international symbol of God’s passionate love for mankind, and his healing and saving power? God never wills that one of his sons or daughters participate in the death of an unborn child.  But perhaps one day we will look at abortion as the instrument God used to bring about a spiritual revolution that would bring millions of wounded souls to the merciful Heart of Christ.

The Cross Above the Manger: Coping with Grief and Loss Over the Holidays

December 23rd, 2015

Manger 2

Christmas can be a magical time, especially when enjoying the season through the eyes of children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews.  However alongside the lights and festivities, the joy and wonder of this special time, many can quietly struggle with a sense of grief and loss.

You don’t have to be an Ebenezer Scrooge to recognize that the expectations for an idealized Hallmark Card Christmas by the fireplace fail to match up to the complex realities, the uncertainty and fear that are part of many of our lives.  Death of a friend or family member, loved ones serving in the military, illness and unemployment can cast a long shadow on our holiday celebrations.   Holidays can magnify any painful experiences of family dysfunction in the past and may linger and impact current family celebrations.

Those ministering in the abortion healing ministries know that this time of year, the focus on the Christ Child and the joy of children at Christmas can surface feelings of regret and sadness about a past abortion loss (or losses.)  We remember the son/daughter, grandchild, or a brother or sister who will never share in the wonder of the season.  This repressed and unrecognized grief associated with abortion and other losses can be expressed in substance abuse, depression, melancholy and a hunger to remain distracted and busy amidst the hustle and bustle of the season.  Often there is great fear to face that deeper grief and the often complicated feelings and painful memories that can accompany such losses.

If we can slow down the Holiday rush for a few minutes, we may discover something important in the deeper meaning in this great feast.  As the mystery of the incarnation of Jesus unfolds, before the choir of angels sings to the Shepherds in the fields, we see the first reaction of Mary and Joseph upon learning of their unique vocation and calling from God:

As the Angel Gabriel encounters Mary, he responds to the anxiety in her heart:

“Do not be afraid Mary…”

Joseph is sick at heart and very confused after learning of his beloved fiancé’s unplanned pregnancy; the Angel proclaims:

“Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife…”

Of course they were both confused and afraid.

We think of the Christmas story in the context of cozy and warm family gatherings, with the smell of cookies baking in the oven.   But in the real Christmas story, the lives of Mary and Joseph are in the process of being turned upside down!  They will face even more fear and uncertainty as their vocations unfold.

Joseph and Mary, and the life of their newborn child will soon be threatened with terror and death from a demonically inspired Herod. They face dangerous travel and exile from their hometowns for years to come.  Joseph and Mary surely were challenged in many ways that the stories do not recount.  Their faith and trust in God were forged in the fires of these trials, testing and temptation that are part of all of our stories.  We can imagine that Joseph had other moments of doubt and confusion and in prayer would remember the Angel’s reassuring message:

“Don’t be afraid Joseph; God is with you, keep moving ahead…trust in Him.”

Fr. Bernhard Speringer shares:

  …the Cross above the Manger is more than a mere decoration…The birth and death of Jesus Christ, the Manger and the Cross, belong together indissolubly. God became man in order to die for us as man. God was born in Bethlehem in order to be able to lay down his life on Golgotha out of love for men!  Thus the Manger and the Cross form a union. Both the Manger and the Cross are for us the revelation of God’s love.

Emmanuel – God with Us

With the help of the Holy Spirit, this feast can be time of abundant grace and new opportunities for spiritual growth, healing and joy – even when the Holiday time is far from ideal.  In fact, just as with the Holy Family, suffering can lead us to a deeper encounter with our Christian vocation:

  • The movie Inside Out very beautifully illustrated how grieving can help us to move beyond the denial manifest in hyperactivity, addiction and numbness. As the story of Riley in the story reveals, healthy expressions of grief can help us treasure what has been lost, more deeply embrace those we love, and empower us with new energy to embrace the future. Make time to be with friends, family or see a priest/minister or counselor who you can share your heart with.
  • If you have a friend or relative who is going through a tough time or had a rough year, make some time to be with them. Acknowledge their loss and invite them to share their heart with you. If a relative is missing a loved one, offer them the greatest gift of sharing their dearest memories and feelings.
  • If you know a friend loved one who was impacted by an abortion and they have shared this with you in the past, share a pamphlet or contact information for an abortion healing program in your area. If they want to share about their experience, receive what they are ready to share from their story, and offer the good news that this is a perfect time in the upcoming New Year to bring this suffering to the Lord, and attend a program for spiritual and emotional healing after abortion.
  • Sometimes it can seem like life is giving you the short end of the bargain. You can struggle with anger at God and others for various trials and challenges. Try to remember that the anger, bitterness or sadness from your life wounds are a potent spiritual reservoir of grace when united with the suffering of Christ. Jesus offered the perfect sacrifice to our Heavenly Father. We can unite our imperfect sacrifice (some of that pain may be the fruit of our own sin or the sin of others) to the re-presentation of the sacrifice of Calvary on the altar at each mass.
  • Receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation frequently. Confess from the heart any bitterness, resentment arising from those areas of sin and darkness that are part of your life story and may be especially painful this time of year. There is powerful grace and peace when we open our heart to Christ through the Priest, and with God’s grace move to grieve our losses, let go of what is out of our control, and experience a new freedom and peace. Cry out to God for His mercy and peace. This sacrament is especially fruitful in times of suffering and temptation.
  • Exercise daily if your health allows. It’s the best medicine in the world for anxiety and depression. Just a brisk walk in the woods or by the water can lift your heart from the depths and help you see the sky, sun and the hope of new beginnings.
  • Make a resolution to get involved in service in your local church. Reach out of your own pain, and offer the love of Christ to the homebound, prisoners, the homeless and children in need.

Surviving Family Celebrations

Celebrate and rejoice in and through the pain.  Things were far from perfect for the Holy Family.  It’s ok that your marriage, family and holiday celebrations are far from idyllic.  Lower the heavy expectations you place on your shoulders to provide the perfect holiday.  It’s more important to take more time for mass, adoration, and prayers such as the rosary.

At Holiday gatherings, avoid those conversation topics and encounters that will feed into conflict and stress you out; ask the Holy Spirit to give you the strength to avoid getting pulled into any toxic dynamics and exchanges and let the peace of the Christ Child reign in your heart.  Give yourself permission, especially if you are struggling with your own grief and loss, to avoid or at least limit certain situations that will drain you emotionally and spiritually.

If you are fortunate to enjoy the company of friends and family in sharing the joy of the season, praise God and treasure this great gift.

If sorrow and pain are part of your journey and at times darken your Holiday celebrations…you have not been abandoned.  You have been called, and Jesus would say, blessed to share in the suffering of the Holy Family:

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are the meek: for they shall possess the land.  Blessed are they who mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill.  Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.  Blessed are the clean of heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.   (Matthew 5, 3-10)

Imagine: The Impact on Modern Music If Abortion Was Legal in 1940’s England

December 10th, 2015

Rock and Roll

By Kevin Burke, MSS

Let’s imagine that abortion was legal in March of 1945 in the United Kingdom. A 16yr old girl named Patricia takes the bus to her local Planned Parenthood center for a pregnancy test and discovers she is pregnant. Patricia explains to the counselor that she was impregnated from a torrid affair with Edward, a married soldier who will be ending his time of service in the next few months. Edward will be returning to his wife in Canada prior to the expected due date of the baby. Patricia is afraid, embarrassed, and does not want to parent this child.

If you are in favor of abortion rights, you would likely agree with the Planned Parenthood Counselor that the only rational and compassionate solution to this young woman’s pregnancy would be termination of the fetus.

You just aborted blues/rock guitar virtuoso Eric Clapton.

Let’s imagine another scenario: It’s Wartime Britain in 1940 and German bombs are reigning terror on the civilian population. A young woman named Julia is pregnant by Alfred, a merchant seaman who by nature of his profession will have little time to father his son and support his wife. The pregnant mother is a creative and free-spirited woman unprepared for the responsibilities of motherhood with a partner away at sea. Julia’s sister would very soon have to assume the parenting of any child she birthed as the county social services would consider Julia unfit to provide sufficient care and protection of children.

Now, if this mother were to enter a Planned Parenthood or other abortion provider today, what course of action would the counselor most likely advise? Based on the thousands of testimonies of women after abortion, she would have been strongly counseled to abort.

Julia’s son was born and soon raised by his aunt Mimi after Julia relinquished the child. As a teenager, her son would form a band that would launch a seismic revolution in culture and music in the 1960’s. This boy later wrote a very moving and beautiful song for his mother, Julia:

… Julia, ocean child, calls me
Julia, seashell eyes, windy smile, calls me
So I sing a song of love, Julia

Her hair of floating sky is shimmering, glimmering
In the sun
Julia, sleeping sand, silent cloud, touch me
So I sing a song of love, Julia

If abortion were a common, socially validated and readily available choice for women in 1940, the world would have never heard the innovative and beautiful music of John Lennon and the Beatles. John would have likely perished in his mother’s womb.

The Paradox of Abortion Support in the Creative Arts

Each child lost to abortion reflects the great diversity and endless possibilities of every life that comes into this world. Many of their stories would have featured the combination of triumph and tragedy, joy and sorrow that marks many of our lives; simple lives of love, life, routine and family.  Some, like John Lennon and Eric Clapton would impact an entire generation and change the course of culture and music.  Many of these men and women would have shared their own creative gifts as writers, artists, musicians, actors and poets.

As we learn more and more about the complex and dynamic creative process that begins with the conception of each person, we see that God is the consummate creative artists. What amazing diversity, wonder and beauty are reflected in all of nature from the farthest reaches of the cosmos to the genetic complexity of the fertilized zygote.

This creative power is also shared in a special way with those who are born with and develop those gifts we find in the creative arts. The musical artist has the capacity to take the normal experiences of desire and love and touch us deeply with the power of song and lyrics.

Consider Eric Clapton’s aching love song for the lovely Pattie Boyd, Bell Bottom Blues:

Bell bottom blues, you made me cry.
I don’t want to lose this feeling.
And if I could choose a place to die
It would be in your arms.

The music of the Beatles and Clapton, the thrill of a theatrical production, and the power of story in song, books and movies brings such richness and joy to life. It holds the power to deeply move and even change us and the world we live in.

Across the Universe

There have been nearly 60 million abortions in the U.S. alone since 1973. Consider for a moment how many amazing artists were lost.

Yet most women and men in entertainment, music, art, and theater embrace what they see as the progressive and compassionate position of supporting and promoting abortion rights.

It is time for the artistic community to rethink the promotion of abortion as a human right and social good.

This world and the entire universe are the great majestic canvas of our Creator. Let’s return the providence over life and death to the One who from nothing, unleashed the multitude of galaxies and stars, the diversity of life on this planet, and his crowning achievement, the human family. While God loves all of his creation, he shared his Divine life with human beings alone; offering us the great gift of sharing in His eternal nature.

This is what draws us to an artist like John Lennon. With all of his success and fame, faults and failings, Lennon had that very special God-given talent to touch our hearts and souls with his words and music:

Across the Universe
By John Lennon
Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup
They slither wildly as they slip away across the universe
Pools of sorrow, waves of joy are drifting through my opened mind
Possessing and caressing me…

Images of broken light which dance before me like a million eyes
They call me on and on across the universe
Thoughts meander like a restless wind inside a letter box
They tumble blindly as they make their way across the universe…

Sounds of laughter, shades of life are ringing through my open ears
Inciting and inviting me
Limitless undying love which shines around me like a million suns
It calls me on and on, across the universe

.

.

25 Years After Two Abortions Woman Finds Healing After Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat

December 2nd, 2015

 

Monstronce

By Jen ReedThe Catholic Witness

Twenty-five years of utter grief and guilt from two abortions before the age of 16 was more than Becky Biter could stand.

So relentless was her anguish that she planned to take her own life.

“I started searching for a tree to slam my truck into, because I couldn’t take it anymore,” she recalls.

The tears come fast as she recounts the lowest points of her life, with her husband, Shawn, sitting close at her side.

“Abortion changed my life forever. You cannot take death back. I cannot get my children back,” she cried, striking at the heart of the issue. “It brought me to my knees many, many times, and there just wasn’t relief. There was so much pain and weeping; terrible feelings that I couldn’t let go of.”

Becky endured a tough childhood. Her father was an alcoholic and a gambler who often left his family to fend for themselves, leaving her mother very bitter to the point where the atmosphere at home was even more unstable and full of anguish. By the time Becky turned 13, her life turned upside down when her family became homeless. Refuge was finally found in two local motel rooms because her parents separated once again; one parent living upstairs, the other downstairs, and Becky back and forth, being forced to decide on whom she loved more. No longer able to deal with her parents, she left one night and went to live with a childhood friend.

Searching to fill the void for love that she couldn’t find from her family, Becky entered a physical relationship with a boy when she entered high school.

When she became pregnant, the boy told her she had to have an abortion. He dropped her off at a clinic and drove away.

At the time, Becky didn’t know what abortion was, so when the lady at the clinic offered to pay for it with her own money, she accepted. She was 15 years old.

The abortion procedure proved unsuccessful, and Becky had to return to the clinic to endure it again. She was offered no counseling or follow-up. No one asked her about her situation. She was given birth control and sent home.

She continued her relationship with the same boyfriend, and became pregnant a second time, so she walked herself to the clinic once again, had another abortion, and went to her after-school job at the local hospital.

“I never gave it any thought,” she told The Catholic Witness. “To me, it was the obvious answer.”

Life went on. Becky continued with school and worked at the hospital in the evenings, first in the dietary department and then in the pathology department.

On the first day of Becky’s job in the pathology department, a courier showed up, delivering what are known as POCs (products of conception).

“My job was to sort through the fetal remains and pick out certain items necessary to confirm a successful abortion,” Becky recalled, the weight of the memory evident in her sobs. “I cried over those babies. I would hold their tiny hands between my thumb and index finger, and just caress them and weep. My eyes were opened to what I had done; my eyes were opened to the horrors of abortion.”

To escape her past, Becky entered the Air Force after high school. “I just needed to get away. I buried everything in order to even function, and I kept my abortions a secret for 25 years,” she said.

A Safe Place for Healing

Becky and Shawn met during the Gulf War, and they married on Sept. 14, 1991. Yet, even as a wife and mother in a caring and committed family, and a convert to the Church, Becky found herself in the grips of despair, desperate for a lifeline.

“I was begging God to forgive me, but I couldn’t even forgive myself,’ she said.

She found that long-desired mercy and healing during a Rachel’s Vineyard weekend.

The worldwide ministry offers healing for people who have suffered because of abortion – including mothers, fathers and family members of aborted children, as well as people who have been involved in the industry.

The program gives retreat participants an opportunity to examine their experience, identify its impact on their lives, and acknowledge unresolved emotions.

Rachel’s Vineyard retreats are Scripture-based, strictly confidential and non-judgmental.

“The best way I can describe a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat is that it’s a safe place,” Becky said. “No one judges you. There is only love, and you get a true understanding of God’s love, mercy and forgiveness.”

She admits that she initially fought the idea of attending a retreat when she first learned of the program, for fear of shame and opening up old wounds.

While working at the Priests’ Retirement Residence in Harrisburg, cooking breakfast and doing laundry for the priests there, she was talking with Father Clarence Olszewski about his plans for the weekend. He said he was preparing to minister at a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat.

Becky hadn’t known about the program, so she looked it up online, but wasn’t convinced right away to attend. Soon, it surfaced again, this time when she found a Rachel’s Vineyard information card in the ladies’ room at a hospital.

“I realized it could be what I needed, but I didn’t call the number because I was ashamed and I didn’t want Father Olszewski to be there and see me,” she said.

She continued to suppress her emotions, and the Biters struggled in their marriage. Although Shawn was aware of Becky’s abortions, neither recognized that those experiences were the cause of the stress in their relationship.

“We were active in the Church. We taught CCD for 17 years. Becky was baptized into the Church at the time when her infant son was baptized. We sat up front in church, raised our children in the faith,” Shawn said. “We were doing everything right, so why would our lives be such a mess?”

Becky was jealous of Shawn’s friendships, mistrusted him, battled depression, and considered suicide.

“I was thinking, ‘I killed my children. My husband hates me. My kids don’t love me.’ Thoughts like that are poisonous,” Becky said.

A visit with her parish’s pro-life group to pray at the Hillcrest clinic in Harrisburg began to unravel all the bottled up emotions.

“Everything came back to me there outside of Hillcrest,” she said. “The wounds opened up, and I started crying right there.”

“Then at my lowest point, I dropped to my knees and begged Jesus to drown me in the sea of His mercy, and He embraced my soul and pulled me from the pit.”

She confided in a friend, who offered a sympathetic ear and suggested that Becky attend a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat. Before long, she was on the phone with Joy Crimmins, the local Rachel’s Vineyard coordinator in the Diocese of Harrisburg.

On March 28, 2014, Becky and Shawn began their weekend retreat experience together.

“One thing that men need to know is that they need healing, too,” Shawn remarked. “I had no involvement in her abortions; I didn’t even know her then. But right before the retreat, Becky asked me to spiritually adopt those children. And now, because she is my wife and because I’ve adopted the children, I’m invested too. Rachel’s Vineyard is not just for women who have had an abortion. It’s for anyone affected by abortion – husbands, boyfriends, family members.”

“When you arrive for the weekend, everyone is nervous, scared; blank faces with looks of despair. But as you get further along on the weekend, you find that the people there are probably the only people you’ve trusted, even though they’re complete strangers. And then you become very close friends,” he said. “By the end of the weekend, you don’t want it to end; you don’t want to leave the safety of it. It’s a sanctuary of love and protection.”

The Biters, members of Our Lady of the Visitation Parish in Shippensburg, are now team members for Rachel’s Vineyard retreats, helping other women and men to work through their grief and guilt and find healing. They’ve also found genuine love and a renewed marriage.

“The Holy Spirit is at work at a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat,” Becky said.

“I had never felt true joy before in my life,” she remarked. “Yes, when my children were born, I was happy. But I never experienced true joy knowing that God loved me. I couldn’t fully laugh, didn’t want to experience happiness because I hated myself. I built a wall and didn’t want to share good times. But after the retreat, it’s amazing the burden that is lifted.”

Love Conquers Abortion

One in three women will be a victim of abortion by the age of 45 – a staggering statistic that crosses all cultural, economic and religious backgrounds.

You can’t tell who they are just by looking at them. But they’re in our lives – in our families, our workplaces and our churches.

This is why Becky willingly shares her story, and why she offers her time and efforts to bring awareness of Rachel’s Vineyard to women and men leaving the Hillcrest clinic in Harrisburg.

“I don’t want them to have an abortion, and, if they do, I don’t want them to have to carry the burden for 25 years like I did,” Becky said. “We want them to know that God loves them very much and that a healing retreat is available to them, even if they feel that they don’t need it.”

The “prayer warriors” and “alley counselors” at Hillcrest and at Planned Parenthood in York find sanctuary in the “Undefeated Courage” houses near the clinics. The pro-life contingencies who give prayerful witness there made efforts to lease the houses, where silent prayer, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and Holy Mass are routine. The houses also offer a safe haven for women and men seeking counsel or resources when they reconsider their decision to abort.

“Some people are receptive to our presence, some lash out at us, some completely ignore us,” Becky said. “We know we’re meeting them at a very difficult time in their lives. Women don’t just wake up one day and want to kill their children…what we know is that abortion is a symptom of other trauma, and when they show up at an abortion clinic, they’re already broken and suffering. We are ‘alley triage,’ and our goal is to connect them to the resources they need in order to choose life. Our intent is to win a woman’s heart and the baby will come along with her.  She is our focus; she is the one in crisis because she is the one who is rejecting the precious gift that God is trying to give her. Women need to know that their child has a destiny and a purpose just like she does. We empower her and lift her up: ‘You are beautiful, you are special, you are loved!’ Seeing the ultrasound image and hearing the heartbeat of her child is essential and heart-changing.

“I know that not everyone is going to be receptive to us, but I want to be a lifeline for those who need it,” Becky continued. “I know that if someone would have intervened or tried to help me when I entered the clinic, I would have broken down and accepted their help. But there was no one there for me.”

The Biters stressed the importance of being acutely aware of the words they use in counseling near clinics, serving at the retreats and talking about abortion.

“We all need to be aware that in speaking against abortion or talking about healing and forgiveness, we need to refrain from judgment, name-calling or harsh words,” Shawn said. “Look around. It’s likely that someone near you has experienced an abortion or knows someone who has – a mother, a daughter, a sister or a friend. Harmful words can do even more damage to them.”

“The prayer warriors at Undefeated Courage are the hands and feet of Christ who reach out in love to those who seek abortion. This is the only way we will change hearts and foster healing,” Becky said. “I’ve walked down that road, I’m still on the journey, and that’s why I want to help others.”

“I want to be for women today the person I wish was present for me when I entered the abortion clinic.

“For Mary Grace and Joseph Michael, my precious babies in heaven, I do this so that others may live. Love conquers abortion,” she said.

(For information on Rachel’s Vineyard, contact Joy Crimmins, director and facilitator for Central Pennsylvania and Maryland, at 717-788-4959 or rvpamd@gmail.com. All inquiries are confidential. You can also find additional information online at http://www.hbgdiocese.org/respectlife/respect-life-rachels-vineyard/ or www.rachelsvineyard.org.)

By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness