Project Rachel, the post-abortion reconciliation program in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, offers hope and healing for those suffering from the pain of abortion and its aftermath. And with the Year of Mercy declared by Pope Francis in full swing, the faithful in this ministry are committed to being the face of God’s mercy and forgiveness for those in need.
The diocesan ministry offers a confidential dedicated toll free number and email contact with trained priests, counselors and volunteer companions dedicated to working one-to-one with those seeking help as well as connecting women to the apostolates “Divine Mercy Ministry” in Fort Wayne or “A Haven for Healing” in South Bend that offer healing in a support group setting. Allison Sturm, ministry specialist, has three goals in her service to the ministry: “To help someone who has been part of an abortion decision find healing, pass on what I’ve learned from the people I’ve encountered through the ministry about how to be pro-life and compassionate, in hopes that God will use us as His instruments of truth and charity to help someone facing an unplanned pregnancy choose life.”
One of the things she has heard from many post-abortive mothers and fathers is how difficult it is for them to pass by the crosses exhibited at parishes and schools that bear the message “In memory of the unborn.” She shares that these women and men don’t want to hide the truth of abortion but she advocates posting another sign on the cross that simply says “Please pray for all wounded by abortion.”
As Sturm fielded calls from the confidential toll free number and email she recognized a common theme to the grief she explored with each caller: “They didn’t have anyone close to them they felt they could go to,” said Sturm, adding that she heard the women say “they felt alone.”
“More than half said they would have kept the baby if they had had someone to support them,” Sturm noted.
Mary Glowaski, Secretariat for the Office of Evangelization added, “Part of this ministry is to lean into their pain and story. … Companion means ‘walking with.’ We don’t try to fix it or tell them how they should feel or what to do. We help them discover where God reveals Himself in their story. We help them to realize God is there and hasn’t abandoned them — and that changes the story.”
Sturm is grateful that the pro-life movement has begun to shift their platform and with the help of participants of the Silent No More campaign in which women and men share their stories of hope and healing after an abortion, awareness has led to changing hearts and compassionate outreach. Sturm is present at many of the diocesan and public events to those who wish to share their post abortion story or simply to remind others supporting the pro-life cause that kindness and compassion must extend to those seeking healing and forgivenenss as well.
In the Catholic high schools Sturm has been working to inform and encourage staff and other personnel to meet students in need with a pastoral response. “Meet them where they are and help them see the other side,” she said, adding, “We speak the truth of the tragedy of abortion but we speak about the people involved with charity.” She will address the Bishop Luers High School staff on Jan. 19 on this important issue and is open to any requests by the principals or teachers to visit their schools. “We’re here to help,” she added.
“We have a wonderful opportunity to share the love and mercy of God. … We never know how what we say can change someone else’s heart,” she said, adding, “This Year of Mercy is no different from any other year in wanting to spread this message.”
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