By Kevin Burke, LSW
Many of us have spent years in front line prolife outreach. Yet Sunday after Sunday we wait for a drop of water in the desert; for one sermon that touches upon what is the greatest human rights, and spiritual issues of our day.
Many clergy are in parishes where a large percentage of the parishioners are Democrat Party Catholics. Such clergy are usually more comfortable with either the standard milquetoast sermon or something that connects the readings of the day with a social justice message (sadly not seeing the prolife cause as the preeminent social justice issue.)
I was invited to speak after communion at all the masses by the Respect Life Committee of a large parish in the heart of Joe Biden country – a Democrat Catholic stronghold. (You will find the text of that message at the close of this article.)
How did I slip through the normal obstacles to such a presentation?
I made sure to be sensitive to the concerns of my host (reflecting those of her pastor) that my 5 minute message would not be in any way politically partisan or divisive in any way; it would be a message of sharing my personal involvement with an unplanned pregnancy and an overall message of reconciliation and healing in Christ.
Let me first emphasize that in this election year, as Fr Frank Pavone has made very clear, given the radical pro-abortion position of the Democratic Party and Joe Biden, the Church cannot go on with business as usual.
Clergy should be directly challenging their parishioners to let the Democratic Party know that they cannot continue to count on the “Catholic vote” while they viciously attack our faith and the innocent children in the womb.
But tragically, while we pray some will be emboldened to speak out…we know that many clergy will remain silent.
But some of these same clergy might be open to a message of healing.
Reaching the Lukewarm Catholic
And a message of healing can have a powerful impact on those Catholics we desperately need to reach; not radically pro-abortion – but not prolife.
After each of my post communion talks I offered in that liberal parish, the parishioners applauded. Some spoke to me after and said they almost walked out when I was introduced, but they were glad they stayed.
A few quietly shared their loss of grandchildren to abortion, and asked how they can reach out to their adult children they know have been hurt by their abortion experience.
Many others did not speak directly with me after the mass but still shared a nod or brief eye contact as they exited the church. Hopefully seeds were planted that will bear fruit in God’s time.
If you are in the Philadelphia area or a regional Pennsylvania Diocese such as Harrisburg, Allentown, or Scranton, I would be happy to travel to your parish and share this message. I would also be ready to share a more in depth presentation at a separate parish gathering about the impact of abortion on women and men, grandparents, family and friends, and the Good News of healing in Christ. (You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 610 354 0555.)
Have someone from your parish prolife committee stand in for me and read my message. Just make sure to connect with me so I can equip you with some healing pamphlets and other materials to share after the presentation (with the permission of your pastor.)
Here’s my after-communion presentation:
Post Communion Talk by Kevin Burke, LSW Co-Founder of Rachel’s Vineyard Ministries
I had the beginning of a religious awakening in my college years but the abortion issue was not on my radar. I was not pro-life or pro-abortion at the time.
As I was about to begin my first year of graduate studies to become a social work counselor, an extended family member I was very close to approached me about her unplanned pregnancy.
I told her “I will respect and support you whatever you decide.”
If she was open to parenting or adoption, I could connect her with someone from catholic charities who could help.
I was unable to provide her the help that she desperately needed from me at that time.
I failed to tell her that I understand her natural anxiety and fears of this unplanned pregnancy; but the pregnancy and her child were an “unexpected blessing.”
I should have told her she is already a mother to that child in her womb, she will be great mom, and while she would face challenges and have some difficult days she will also share many moments of joy and wonder – and in the end, she will not regret having this child.
I could have made an appointment with a pregnancy counselor and accompanied her to show her that I was going to be an ongoing source of support to her in her decision to give life to this child.
At that time I suppose I had absorbed the professional value of the counseling profession to maintain a neutral objectivity and allow her to make her own decision.
I also did not want her to resent me later if she felt burdened with a child and blame me for advocating strongly for her not to abort.
She decided to have the procedure.
Years later when I learned more about how abortion hurts women and men, I came to understand how the abortion impacted her, and I could see the clear symptoms in her life and later in her failed marriage. It broke my heart.
I attended a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat for reconciliation and healing of my role in this child’s death and the wounding of the mother.
I later shared with her my apologies and regret and information on Rachel’s Vineyard for her to consider… I will share more about Rachel’s Vineyard in a minute.
I hope that others will reflect and pray about their own role in the abortion decisions of friends and relatives, and if they have played some part in the death of the unborn.
Perhaps you are a man or woman with this loss in your past, and sometimes there’s a nagging sense of guilt and shame – sometimes you think of that child that was never born.
You may be a grandparent that lost grandchildren to abortion – you may struggle with your role in your son or daughters decision – you may have been powerless to prevent the abortion and this has wounded you.
Rachel’s Vineyard is for you.
You may have, like me been part of a friend, a sister, cousin’s abortion decision; helped pay for the procedure; drove them to the abortion center; advised them abortion was the sensible and best solution to their unplanned pregnancy…maybe you stayed silent. Rachel’s Vineyard is for you as well.
Sometimes a woman or man will attend the weekend with their spouse, who may or may not be the father/mother of the child. This can be a beautiful experience of healing for their relationship.
The past abortion of a spouse can impact marital life, communication, trust and intimacy. Healing can help open the door to building a healthier relationship. Couples are welcome on Rachel’s Vineyard.
The Rachel’s Vineyard weekend is a beautiful and powerful experience of the mercy and forgiveness of God in a process that is specially designed to help you safely open up this wound, to journey with others who understand your loss.
Jesus knows we are afraid to open up this dark area of our past – he knows we need his peace but we often recoil from the light, from his invitation to healing.
The RV weekend features special scripture meditations and exercises that go to the heart of this wound, and bring the light and peace of Christ. The sacraments of reconciliation and Eucharist are part of the weekend journey.
Each retreat team has a priest and counselor as well as women and men who have experienced abortion and are there to offer support and encouragement.
You can read more about us and find retreats in your area, in this region, across the US and around the world at www.rachelsvineyard.org
Here’s a testimony that is typical of those that attend the weekend:
A woman shares:
“This weekend I met other women and men who suffered for many years as I have, and I don’t feel so alone anymore with this part of my past. The healing I experienced as the weekend unfolded was amazing…and still ongoing.”
A man shares:
“I went to the weekend not really sure how the abortion had impacted my life, but open to learning more and felt like it was a time in my life to take a leap of faith. As the weekend progressed, we shared the story of our abortion (and some of us had multiple abortions.) And I realized just how intimately that experience hurt me as a man, emotionally, spiritually, in my relationship with those I love. I have such a deep peace now in that place of hurt, and can see many blessings unfolding in my life now a year after the retreat.”
If your heart has been touched today, if the Holy Spirit is awakening a hunger for this type of healing of your past, consider a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat.
In closing, let me share that I am so grateful for your Pastor’s kindness in allowing me to speak with you today. May the love and peace of Jesus Christ be with you today and always.