January 19, 2011 // Local

Project Rachel helps those wounded by abortion

By Ann Carey

SOUTH BEND — The tragedy of abortion has many victims in addition to the unborn child, for the child’s mother, father, grandparents and even siblings often suffer greatly in the aftermath of an abortion. For these people, a special ministry called Project Rachel is available in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend for anyone suffering from an abortion.

For a mother who chose abortion or a father, friend or parent who coerced an abortion, Project Rachel can help them find forgiveness, spiritual and psychological healing, and peace of heart. Other family members not directly involved in an abortion can be helped to deal with their grief and sense of loss.

Project Rachel was named after the Biblical Rachel in Jeremiah, who “refuses to be consoled because her children are no more.”

The healing ministry was begun in Milwaukee in 1984 by Vicki Thorn, who was moved by the experience of a friend who was intent on self-destructive behavior because of regret for her abortion. The post-abortion healing ministry has been very successful in helping post-abortive women and their families and now operates in most dioceses.

Project Rachel in this diocese is being revitalized, according to Lisa Everett, co-director of the diocesan Office of Family Life. Educational sessions for priests, counselors, campus ministers and pastoral ministers have taken place in Fort Wayne and South Bend in the past three months. Additionally a new hotline — (574) 386-8295 — has been opened to accept calls from any person who would like to receive confidential counseling from a specially-trained priest or counselor. The Family Life office also is distributing posters and business cards to get the hotline number “out there.”

Margarita Rodriguez, on the staff of the Family Life office, takes the calls at the hotline, and can converse well in Spanish and English. She has hotline experience at the Women’s Care Center, and told Today’s Catholic that it’s often very hard for post-abortive women to ask for help.
“The important thing is to show compassion, show that someone really cares for them and that they are not being judged,” Rodriguez said.

In the Jan. 12 training session in South Bend, Everett said that priests have noticed that some women will confess the same abortion multiple times because they don’t feel forgiven. Project Rachel is geared toward helping the woman come to the point where she can forgive herself and then deal with her loss in a positive way.

Everett said that the experience of grief after an abortion is “often invalidated in our culture.” She explained that post-abortion trauma can be exhibited in many ways in women and families experiencing abortion: suicide, depression, drug and alcohol abuse, low self-esteem, sleep and eating disorders, sexual promiscuity, child abuse, etc.

Sometimes the people exhibiting these behaviors might not realize that the abortion might have triggered the problems. She told the participants at the South Bend session that sometimes just listing abortion among other possible experiences like sexual abuse, drug or alcohol abuse, or childhood trauma will help the person to realize that an abortion experience may indeed be part of what is causing their problems.

Everett said that every person is different, and the sequence of steps to help the person find spiritual and emotional healing may vary, for “God leads the healing process.” However, the counselors and priests are trained to meet the person where she is, and lead her gently through the healing process she said.

“Forgiving herself is the hardest part” for a woman who has had an abortion, Everett said.

For these women or others wounded by abortion, a first but important step toward finding that forgiveness and healing begins with dialing Project Rachel at (574) 386-8295.

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