Q: “I had an abortion and now I feel lost. I feel too ashamed to go to Church and as much as I confess it to my priest, I still don’t feel worthy of forgiveness. What can I do?”
A: Dear sister in Christ, know that you are not alone. Countless women have shared the pain you are experiencing and the feeling of being unworthy of forgiveness. The pain can be especially intense after the holidays. But there is hope.
First of all, consider the year we have just celebrated in the Church – the Year of Mercy. God’s mercy is infinite, and you have already received that mercy through confession.
Yet, as you say, the pain still lingers and can sometimes feel overwhelming. It is for this reason that various post-abortion healing ministries have grown up around the country. For links to some of the best, visit the diocesan website at www.diolc.org/respectlife and select “Post Abortion Help” or even “Pregnancy Help” (because many of the pregnancy care centers provide, or refer for, post-abortion counseling).
My top recommendation would be for you to make a connection with Rachel’s Vineyard, an extraordinarily effective healing ministry for women and men suffering from post-abortion heartache. They offer weekend retreats at locations throughout the U.S. and the world.
I am especially happy to tell you that we have a Rachel’s Vineyard location in Stevens Point, with a retreat coming up the weekend of Jan. 20-22, 2017. For more information, contact Lisa Sommers at firstname.lastname@example.org or 715-204-9561. Lisa is gifted and compassionate, with a great heart for this ministry, and your confidentiality will be entirely respected.
You can read wonderful testimonials about the healing power of the Rachel’s Vineyard retreats at www.rachelsvineyard.org. Here are just two samples:
“For 12 years after my abortion I suffered in silence, grieving the loss of my child. My life became a living hell, and I didn’t care if I lived or died. In October of 1997 all that changed. I attended a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat and began my journey of healing. Not only did God remove my fear, He has also allowed me to have tremendous love and support from my family and friends. I am now able to carry the message of hope and healing to others who have suffered after abortion.”
“Words could never be enough to explain the gratitude that I feel for having the opportunity to attend a Rachel’s Vineyard weekend. For the first time in years, it feels good to be ME. I have a huge sense of peace and happiness with myself and also with Jesus. I met such lovely people who had the same experience as me, and who did not judge me. When I went back to work people told me that I looked different. I looked so at peace with myself. Rachel’s Vineyard has saved my life.”
As much as I esteem Rachel’s Vineyard, I don’t want to leave you with the impression that other post-abortion healing initiatives somehow fall short. Project Rachel (www.hopeafterabortion.com) is another excellent one and is in fact a sponsored ministry of the U.S. Bishops’ Conference (the USCCB).
But there is just something especially powerful about the Rachel’s Vineyard weekend retreat environment, in which a group of women (and sometimes men), all sharing the same pain, experience healing together. Not only does the individual find emotional and spiritual healing, but a deep bond often forms with others through the process.
In conclusion, dear friend, know that you are loved and that you needn’t carry this burden alone any longer! Explore the various options for healing and choose the one that seems right for you. May God bless you and hold you in his merciful embrace – for his mercy is everlasting!
Director of the Office for Ministries and Social Concerns