Project Rachel Offers Healing, Hope After Abortion
By John Stegeman
It’s well known that the Catholic Church is one of the strongest advocates for a child’s right to life, with various organizations dedicated to overturning the landmark Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision.
While the victims of abortion are well memorialized in “Field of Innocents” displays around the nation, less focus is given to the other people who suffer — the women who have had abortions.
That’s where Project Rachel comes in. Project Rachel is the Catholic Church’s post-abortion ministry, taking its name from Jeremiah 31:15-17. “In Ramah is heard the sound of moaning, of bitter weeping! Rachel mourns her children, she refuses to be consoled because her children are no more. Thus says the Lord: Cease your cries of mourning, wipe the tears from your eyes. The sorrow you have shown shall have its reward… There is hope for your future.”
Project Rachel began in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee in 1984 and has been active in Cincinnati since 1994.
Mary Anne Boyd, director of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati’s Project Rachel, said the core message of the ministry is to let women who have had abortions know that they are not ostracized or banished from the community of faithful, but rather that the Church invites them to forgiveness.
“It is an opportunity for the women to come together,” Boyd said. “The women’s comments are things like ‘Let us love you until you can love yourself again.’ That’s what happens much of the time is women will tell us they can’t forgive themselves.”
Working with priests and counselors, Project Rachel provides women the opportunities for healing, confession and spiritual direction. One of the ways Project Rachel does this is with a yearly retreat. This year’s retreat will take place March 9-10 at the Bergamo Center in Dayton.
“The retreat is just about the love that is shared on the weekend, Boyd said. “The caring and love from one woman to another… It is an opportunity for women to know they’re not alone, and that the church invites them to healing and reconciliation.
“It’s a big invitation,” she added. “Many times they feel like it is the unforgivable sin. We always say we hope that when they leave (the retreat) they believe and understand the holy person that they are that God created.”
Project Rachel’s retreat and the brochures and other information about the ministry were designed with input from the women who have been a part of the program. They worked to create materials that women could feel comfortable picking up from a table without feeling stigmatized.
In addition to healing, Project Rachel is also an evangelization opportunity. The retreat is open to people of all faiths and Boyd said about a third of local participants are non-Catholic Christians.
The ministry focuses on the hope and mercy of God, teaching the women to trust in God’s loving care of the lost child and learning to grieve.
“They all grieve, but they cannot outwardly mourn because they never talk about the abortion unless they’re at something like the retreat,” Boyd said. “I don’t think people realize the impact abortion has. Not only the loss of the child. Many times it’s only the woman, but sometimes also the man, experiences the loss. I don’t think people realize the impact that has on a relationship, on a family. Some of the stories are pretty powerful.”
To learn more about Project Rachel on the national level, visit www.hopeafterabortion.com. For more local information or to register for the retreat call (513) 784-0531 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.