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Church offers ministries for post-abortion healing

By Mary Ann Wyand
The Criterion
Archdiocese of Indianapolis
February 28, 200

First of three parts

Abortion is a decision that a woman must live with for the rest of her life.

The painful knowledge that she has chosen to kill her unborn child causes post-abortion stress, which includes feelings of loss, guilt, shame, anxiety, depression, loneliness, alienation from self or others, and fear of being separated from God. Denial, sleep disturbances, addictive behaviors and low self-esteem are other symptoms.

Servants of the Gospel of Life Sister Diane Carollo, director of the archdiocesan Office of Pro-Life Activities in Indianapolis, ministers to women who are suffering from the aftermath of abortion.

Sister Diane said the Catholic Church's confidential Project Rachel and Rachel's Companions ministries, which encourage women to turn to God for healing, have helped many women recover mentally, emotionally and spiritually after experiencing abortion.

"The wounds of abortion go very deep, to the very depths of the soul, and only Christ can heal these women," Sister Diane said. "It's Christ's healing grace that brings a woman beyond the tragedy of abortion. I'm totally convinced that Catholic women cannot find true healing without the sacraments and without deepening their faith."

The next Rachel's Companions support group will begin meeting weekly on March 1 for three months at an undisclosed location in central Indiana, she said, and women are invited to call her for more information about this post-abortion ministry.

"When a woman calls, I tell her that God does not want her to be trapped in discouragement, misery or self-deprecation," Sister Diane said. "He doesn't want her to despise herself because of what she did, even though it is wrong. He loves her unconditionally despite what she did, and he is moving her to a new point in her life and in her relationship with him."

Sister Diane said she encourages women to seek reconciliation with God through the sacrament of penance, and she refers them to one of a number of priests in the archdiocese with Project Rachel training.

"If she needs therapeutic intervention, I refer her to specific counselors in the archdiocese that are sensitive to abortion-related problems," Sister Diane said. "If she is a Catholic woman who is struggling with the aftermath of abortion, I suggest that she join Rachel's Companions, a confidential spiritual support group, for three months. The women who are facilitators of the group lead them in dialogue and prayer to help them discover healing, peace and reconciliation in and through Christ and the Church."

Many women who had an abortion years ago still are haunted by the experience, she said. "The experience of abortion influences them in the present in negative ways. They're looking for peace and forgiveness, and have a hard time forgiving themselves."

Often, Sister Diane said, a woman will tell her, 'I had an abortion several years ago and I think I'm pretty much healed.' Then, as we continue the conversation, she will break down and cry as she becomes overwhelmed by the painful memories and discovers that there are still issues surrounding the abortion that need to be dealt with."

An abortion claims at least two victims-the child who is killed and the mother who is scarred by the experiences well as family members, Sister Diane said. "Rachel's Companions recognizes that the woman is a victim as well, and helps bring her beyond being a victim to being someone who is redeemed and loved and treasured by God. It can be a turning point in a woman's life as she is surrounded by other women who are journeying with her after experiencing abortion."

Sister Diane said the archdiocesan Office of Pro-Life Activities also is planning confidential healing Masses this spring and summer for women who have had abortions and for family members who also are experiencing the aftermath of abortion.

These abortion reconciliation ministries sponsored by the Church extend the healing power of the sacraments to hurting women and families, she said, and encourage them to turn away from despair and place their hope in God:

In his encyclical, "The Gospel of Life," Pope John Paul II encourages women suffering from the pain of abortion to seek help and healing.

"Certainly what happened was and remains terribly wrong," the pope wrote, "but do not get into discouragement and do not lose hope. Try, rather, to understand what happened and face it honestly . ... Give yourselves over with humility and trust to repentance. The Father of mercies is ready to give you his forgiveness and his peace in the sacrament of reconciliation. You will come to understand that nothing is definitively lost, and you will also be able to ask forgiveness from your child, who is now living in the Lord."

(For information about Project Rachel, Rachel's Companions or the healing Masses, call Servants of the Gospel of Life Sister Diane Carollo at 317-236-1521 or 800-382-9836, ext 1521. All calls are confidential.)



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