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New Project Rachel outreach aims to help others hurt by abortion

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By John Stegeman
The Catholic Telegraph 

Project Rachel, an outreach ministry of the archdiocesan Family and Respect Life Office, has been ministering to post-abortive women in this archdiocese for nearly 20 years. Its retreats have helped many women return to their faith by sharing with them the message of God’s mercy and forgiveness. 

Now, realizing that abortion harms more than just mother and child, Project Rachel plans to host a day of reflection for anyone hurt by an abortion.

“If you have participated in any way in an abortion as a relative, friend or partner and now feel alienated from the church, God and your community in Christ, don’t despair,” reads a brochure promoting the event. “The church invites you to heal from the pain and alienation and to accept God’s love and forgive yourself.”

The new day of reflection for others touched by abortion is planned for 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 19 at Transfiguration Center in Ludlow Falls. It will include a healing service, witness, music, prayer and Confession. There is no cost to attend, but a free will offering will be accepted. A second day of reflection is planned in the Cincinnati area for the spring of 2014. To register, contact farlocincinnati@catholiccincinnati.org.

While Project Rachel is an outreach of the Family and Respect Life Office, many who don’t work in the central office play a role in the ministry. Among those involved in reaching out to this new demographic are Joy Blau and Judy Beck of St. Peter Parish in Huber Heights. Blau, the school’s director of religious education, has been involved in Project Rachel since co-writing its support group program back in the early 1990s. Beck is a parishioner who’s experiences helped lead to the new day of reflection event.

“Over the years we have found that there are also men who’s partners or spouses were post-abortive and they suffered from the effects of abortion,” Blau said. “About a year or two ago we realized that there was a real need for anybody who was involved in an abortion besides the post-abortive woman. Because there was a need we would go ahead, not with a retreat, but a full day of reflection. It is for others touched by an abortion loss, and that means anybody. It could be a daughter-in-law, father-in-law, a mother.”

Beck personified the need for the new ministry. While not a post-abortive woman herself, her daughter had an abortion. She eventually attended a Project Rachel retreat, but the content was designed more for women who had undergone an abortion, not for someone in her case.

“My story is my daughter had an abortion,” Beck said. “She was 17-years-old. I just never really got over that. It was one of the worst times of my life.

“I get in there and lo and behold I’m not sure if I’m supposed to be there because this was for post-abortive women, and I was a mother,” Beck said. “I attended that and I walked out after the retreat thinking I don’t want to go home, because I’d found something that was going to help me, and maybe I could help them in return… I thought, maybe God is telling me I ought to stick around and help with this, and here I am. I am going and telling my story and hoping that I can help other people.”

Planning for the event began in April, and the finer points of the agenda are still being hammered out. Blau said she doesn’t know what particular group of people, or how many, may attend the day of reflection, but she does know that there is a need for healing that this ministry can meet.

“We do know that more people than the post-abortive women are involved in abortion,” Blau said. “The other thing that was very clear, whenever any of the post-abortive women talk at church, people will come up to them who were not post-abortive but were involved. That has been clear that there is potentially a need out there.”

Blau added that Project Rachel’s ministry is about meeting people where they are with a response of compassion and healing, reminding them of God’s unconditional love and mercy.

“That’s the most important part of these programs,” she said. “Forgiveness is available, healing is available. Judy and I were just talking. It is a process when somebody dies. Abortion is no different. You grieve that child.”

For more information, or for help in dealing with the effects of an abortion, call the Project Rachel confidential helpline at 513-784-0531.

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