Healing the Shockwaves of Abortion: An interview with Fr Ben Cameron of the Fathers of Mercy
Kevin: Fr Ben can you share about your own call to priesthood and the Fathers of Mercy?
Fr Ben: I grew up in a Catholic family in Kokomo, Indiana, that was not especially strong in the Faith during my early years. Through the influence of a Catholic friend, my Mom began praying the rosary for my Dad to return to the sacraments (he hadn’t been to the sacraments in around 12 years) — and he did return to the sacraments within about a year’s time. Later, we began praying the family rosary every night, which provided an anchor for our family in a spiritual sense.
I attended a Baptist high school where my Catholic Faith was attacked on about a daily basis, which led me to embrace and study it much more. This led me to decide to attend Christendom College, where I began to really learn my Faith and to deepen my relationship with God through daily Mass and involvement with a lay apostolate called the Legion of Mary. Through all of this, God was preparing my heart for my vocation to the holy priesthood.
After I finished college, I began to actively discern what God’s will was for my life, and I kept being drawn toward the priesthood, and toward being a religious order priest in particular. So when I looked at various religious communities, I was very attracted to the Fathers of Mercy because of our emphasis on the Mercy of God, on preaching the Truth of our Catholic Faith through parish missions and retreats, and our emphasis on serving in rural and/or neglected areas. I joined the Fathers of Mercy in 1992, and was ordained a priest on May 31, 1997.
Kevin: When did you come to see post abortion outreach as having a special role in your priestly ministry?
Fr Ben: Through my mission work, I began to see just how many people are wounded by abortion, and I knew that I wanted to be able to help them better than I could at that time. This realization led me to ask my superior for permission to attend a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat — just to learn more about it…or so I thought!
I made my Rachel’s Vineyard retreat in Philadelphia in October 2004. God began working on my heart about the ministry. I knew that women and men in our area (Western Kentucky) would have to drive around 5 hours to Atlanta to make a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat, so I prayed about it, and then asked my superior if I could start Rachel’s Vineyard in our area. With his blessing, and the permission of the Bishop of Owensboro, I started the Rachel’s Vineyard site and team in Western Kentucky, and we have been holding the retreats there since 2006.
In the meantime, I attended the Leadership Conference in California in 2005, and gave a couple talks there, and then I was asked to speak and serve as chaplain at the Rachel’s Vineyard Leadership Conferences in 2007, 2009 and 2011 as well. I have also had the honor of helping to revise the Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat Manual, and of giving assistance to the formation of other RV teams in the South as well.
Kevin: Can you share what are the special challenges and blessings of ministering to those with abortion loss?
Fr Ben: One of the biggest challenges for me is to be able to give the work of Rachel’s Vineyard as much time as I would like to. I am a full-time mission preacher and retreat master, and have administrative duties in the Fathers of Mercy as well (at this time, I am the Assistant General and Mission Director of the community). The blessings are abundant: I have the great privilege of witnessing the power of Our Lord’s Merciful Love in healing those women and men who have been wounded both spiritually and emotionally by abortion. Every time that I serve on a retreat, it is an honor for me to do so, and I wish that every priest would make the time to attend a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat — he would receive some form of healing in his own life, and he would see the power of the Lord Jesus to heal in an up-close and personal way
Kevin: Fr Ben you are founder and spiritual director of the Confraternity of our Lady of Mercy for those seeing to continue to grow spiritually after attending an abortion recovery program. Can you explain to our readers what a confraternity is and what inspired you to create the Confraternity of our Lady of Mercy for this purpose? Why is this important to those who have experienced abortion loss?
Fr Ben: A Confraternity is a spiritual family. The word comes from “Con” (In/With) and “Fraternity” (Brotherhood), so it means that we are in brotherhood with one another. In the Church, there are many confraternities, all formed around special purposes. From my experience working with Rachel’s Vineyard, I felt like there was a need for something more for the people after they made their retreats. I kept praying about it, and the idea of the Confraternity of Our Lady of Mercy literally hit me like a bolt of lightning one day during Eucharistic Adoration.
After further discernment with some of my spiritual fathers and mothers, we discerned that this idea really was something that Our Blessed Lord wanted me to carry through, and so the Confraternity was founded in 2010. The main idea of the Confraternity of Our Lady of Mercy is that while God wants to forgive the sin of abortion (in the Sacrament of Penance), and calls us to a deeper healing of those wounds caused by abortion (Rachel’s Vineyard and other post-abortion healing programs)…God has an even bigger goal he calls us to. God is calling each and every one of us to the perfection of love — to holiness — and it is through the holy ones, the saints, that God always changes the world for the better.
Who better for Our Lord Jesus to use to transform our society, to bring about victory over our modern “Culture of Death” than women and men who were once in the grip of that culture? God wants women and men who have had abortions in the past to become Saints! It is important for each post-abortive person to embrace that call from God, and the Confraternity exists to help them to do so.
Kevin: What has the response been like to the Confraternity and what are your reflections on the role of the Confraternity in the ongoing healing and recovery after abortion? Please share about the group’s spirituality and practices.
The Confraternity had a slow start, but our first four and a half years we have grown to about 150 members worldwide. Our members come from about a dozen countries thus far. A number of the members have given me great feedback about how the Confraternity has helped them to embrace their call to holiness and to be more intentional about daily prayer, regular confession, Eucharistic Adoration, daily Mass attendance, etc. I think that post-abortion healing and recovery is, ultimately, a life-long journey with Christ Jesus our Lord, and my hope is that the Confraternity of Our Lady of Mercy will help many women and men as they make that important journey.
As far as our spirituality: it is really just the perennial spirituality of the Church, applied to our particular situation. We have a strong focus on the Holy Eucharist and the Mercy of God, and we try to live those realities more intentionally in our daily lives, and to share the Mercy of God with others by the way that we live.
Our members make a commitment (which is free-will and does not, in any way, bind under sin) to spend 15 minutes in prayer each day through either the Holy Rosary or Lectio Divina (slow, meditative reading of Sacred Scripture). On a weekly basis, they strive to attend one extra Mass, to spend one hour in Eucharistic Adoration, and to pray one Chaplet of Divine Mercy for those who have had abortions, but have not made their peace with God yet. Our members also strive to use the Sacrament of Confession on a monthly basis, and to make a short retreat once each year. Again, failure in any of these practices does not involve sin — but it does give us a “baseline” to strive for as we embrace our personal call to total transformation in Christ Jesus, which is holiness.
Kevin: What are the requirements to join the Confraternity and how can someone who is interested learn more? Is it only for mothers and fathers of aborted children or can grandparents and siblings be considered as well who have been through a program like Rachel’s Vineyard to mourn the loss of their grandchild or siblings.
Fr Ben: To join the Confraternity of Our Lady of Mercy, all that is required is to be willing to try to follow our “plan of life” (regarding prayer and the sacraments), and to enroll through the “Membership” page on our website (ConfraternityofOurLadyofMercy.org).
Membership is open to anyone who has been in any way touched by abortion: mothers, fathers, grandparents, uncles, aunts, siblings of aborted children; doctors, nurses and others who have participated in or encouraged abortions. Membership is also open to those who have not been touched by abortion, but who wish to join with us spiritually and by prayers and sacramental life to be a support to our post-abortive members.
We have over 20 communities of cloistered nuns and active sisters who are “Special Prayer Partners” of the Confraternity — including all of our members in their daily lives of prayer and sacrifice as women dedicated to God by religious vows!