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Posts Tagged ‘Project Rachel’

By: Josephine Balsamo, Staff Spotlight

When I read DARKNESS: Abortion Seduces with Promised Sexual Freedom, published in July on Clash Daily, which is a self-described “mosh pit of breaking news, edgy opinion, lots of attitude, and a call to action for God- and country-loving patriots,” I was shocked at the author’s gross mischaracterization of women seeking abortion:

postabortion“One may argue that the sympathy for women who seek abortion is needed for one to reach out to these women. How misguided! The one who seeks an abortion feels that she is entitled to sympathy from others, because she is evil, wicked and perverse…Anyone who denies this is either deluded or depraved of all integrity…”

“It is the very sympathy that people show to women who abort their babies that not only weakens [the] pro-life stance, thus defeating its real purposing, but ridicules and blinds the people of the pro-life movement.”

Having worked one-on-one with hundreds of women who have had abortions over the last 10 years, I can tell you that post-abortive women are intensely aware that a child has been lost. It is this very realization that brings them to our doors, seeking reconciliation and healing from what many of them truly believe is an “unforgivable sin” – taking the life of their unborn child.

Perhaps the author of the blog should have consulted the Elliot Institute — a non-profit group that has conducted over 30 in-depth studies on the detrimental effects of abortion on individuals — to see some facts about abortion in America today:

  • 64% of women felt pressured or coerced by others. Coercion can escalate to violence. The No. 1 cause of death for pregnant women in this country is homicide.
  • Up to 83% of all abortions are unwanted.
  • Most felt rushed and uncertain, yet 67% had no counseling before abortion.
  • 79% were not informed about available alternatives.
  • 84% said they were not given enough information to make an informed choice.
  • 60% said: “Part of me died.”
  • 65% suffer multiple symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder directly attributed to their abortion.
  • Women are more likely to suffer from clinical depression, substance abuse, anxiety disorders, and suicidal behavior after abortion.

To add insult to injury, the abortion coalition in this country spends a great deal of money to carefully market abortion as a good. They call it healthcare, a woman’s right, choice and freedom. It is marketed so well, in fact, that most women could not know the horror of what occurs in the clinic until after it’s over. Only then is the reality of abortion revealed…in its aftermath.

The truth is that many women who find themselves in an abortion clinic don’t want to be there. Backed into a corner with nowhere to turn and no viable options, these women succumb to abortion. It is not because they are inherently evil, but because they feel they have no other choice.

56885d76-53d1-46e2-87eb-a3ac0047121aAs a pro-life community, we need to reach out to these walking wounded, and help them find reconciliation and healing through Jesus Christ, who came to save all sinners, including those who have participated in abortion.

If our response in the pro-life movement to those who have been coerced into abortion is judgment alone, we might as well give up now and declare defeat. We need to remember that there are always at least two victims in every abortion – the mother and the child — and we need to love them both to truly create a culture of life.

To learn more about abortion’s injustice to women, please visit the Elliot Institute’s Unfair Choice Campaign.

Staff Spotlight is — in an ongoing effort to get a range of content on Encourage & Teach — content from staff members within the Diocese of Arlington from contributors who do not write as a part of their day-to-day job.

Josephine Balsamo has been the Program Coordinator for Project Rachel in the Diocese of Arlington’s Family Life Office since 2004. The ministry offers post-abortion healing retreats, monthly holy hours, professional counseling, a confidential phone line, referral to priests for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and multiple other resources.

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By: Sarah LaPierre, Staff Spotlight

No sin is greater than God’s mercy.

These words can be hard to accept, but the truth is: God is waiting for us and wants to be with us. As Pope Francis recently said, “it is He who first wants to meet us, and first tries to meet us…it is He who seeks us and makes Himself discoverable, even for those who do not seek him.”

Take the first step, and turn back to God who is Love and Mercy. Read more below in this thoughtful piece from Aleteia.org about others who have accepted this invitation – and found healing after abortion.

 After My Abortion, Why Can’t I Feel God’s Forgiveness?

There is a beautiful Eucharist Prayer in the Roman Missal that says this: “God of love and mercy, You are always ready to forgive, we are sinners and You invite us to trust in Your mercy.” He does not force us. He invites us. He tells us that his mercy is there for us, and it is up to us to  accept his invitation. Mary had been to confession multiple times before she came to our “Entering Canaan” post-abortion ministry retreat. She often shared, “I have confessed my abortion so many times, but I just do not feel forgiven.” Because of various circumstances in her life, Mary had not been able to trustingly accept the mercy of God.

sadness raul lieberwirthIt is not unusual for someone who has been involved in an abortion to voice those feelings despite having received the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Many do not “feel” that they’ve been forgiven. In fact, in my experience, most Catholics who have lost a child in an abortion will confess this sin again and again. So much of what we believe as human beings is based on our feelings or past experiences. But feelings and experiences are not reliable guides to the truth.

Being forgiven and “feeling” forgiven are two very different things.

Part of the problem is that most of us can point to few genuine examples of forgiveness in our personal life. All too often, people dispense forgiveness in grudging, calibrated doses. The right words are said, but the heart nurses its hurt. It can’t let go and be free with acceptance and love.

Another part of the problem is being unable to forgive yourself. This is usually the second greatest obstacle to healing after abortion, and sometimes it is an even greater challenge than believing in God’s forgiveness.

Many also find it hard to believe that anyone could be forgiven for their involvement in abortion by the simple acts of walking into a confessional, telling a priest about it, and fulfilling a penance of three, or three thousand, Hail Mary’s. How can this ever equate to, how can it ever cancel out,  participating in the death of your own child? It just seems way too easy. Thankfully, it is that easy.

We can never make up for our abortions, and three or three thousand Hail Mary’s will never be enough. Neither is speaking out publicly or working in ministry or praying in front of clinics.  All of these are good activities in and of themselves. But no one has to “atone” for abortion by doing these. They are not required for forgiveness or salvation. And no one should feel obligated to take part in them unless they do so out of love for God and neighbor.

There is only one thing that atones for the sin of abortion (or for that matter, any sin): the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The healing we receive is  through his freely and generously given gift of mercy, not through anything we do, apart from making a worthy Confession.

Mary Ellen put it this way:

At first “mercy” was just a word, an idea, which in my mind was vaguely synonymous with compassion and forgiveness. I heard it in the prayers and blessings at the gatherings I attended. But, I heard it constantly. Every piece of writing from the “Entering Canaan” post-abortion ministry echoed the word Mercy. Over the years, without my knowing it, the word Mercy became for me a kind of mantra, something to hold onto in the dark. It began to work on me without my knowing it.

“Something to hold onto in the dark,” not a feeling. A knowing, while still in the darkness of self-recrimination! A choosing to believe in this mercy in which we’ve been invited to trust.

Believing that our “feelings” are somehow a gauge of our forgiveness can be misleading. Kathy had gone on a weekend retreat and left feeling totally healed and forgiven. She was experiencing a spiritual high. However, as the days went by and the old familiar refrains of self-hatred and despair begin to play again in her head, the “stinking thinking of abortion” once again told her she was not forgiven or healed. “He healed everyone else on that weekend but not me,” she thought, “My sin must be worse. He loves and forgave the others, but not me.”

Kathy reacted the same way Mary did to an absence of positive feelings. Both believed that forgiveness would bring permanent feelings of joy and peace—the opposite of how they felt after their abortion. Here is the truth: if you go Confession and receive absolution, you are forgiven, no matter what the sin or circumstances around it or how you feel afterward!

Healing from abortion is multifaceted. In addition to Confession and growth in one’s relationship with God, it’s important to understand the dynamics of the abortion and explore the reasons it happened. Also key to the healing process is identifying personal abortion connectors (i.e., people, places, sounds, odors or other things that subconsciously trigger vivid memories of the abortion experience). Often one needs to delve into other issues in one’s life that became manifest before or after the abortion, such as  abuse, addiction, or psychological disorders that need to be addressed for healing.

As people move through this process and confront other painful experiences and actions they regret, it may often seem to them that they are moving backwards. So it is crucial that they make an act of the will to trust God’s mercy no matter what. As they grow in their relationship with God, they are able to look honestly at their lives, knowing they are unconditionally loved regardless of what they’ve done. Having the support of others—through ministry, professional counseling, or spiritual direction—is essential in this process.

As Mary Ellen says so well:

I am learning Mercy, because it is a process and a journey into the kind of deep love and forgiveness of myself—and others—that I can only begin to grasp. From my first, almost neutral experience with Mercy as a simple word, it has evolved in my life experience as a tangible and effective tool, an action verb that I have learned can, more quickly than I ever imagined, bring a swift conclusion to the obsessive dark voice that would grind my spirit with self-recrimination and unbelief.  Be gone Satan!

Mercy is a way of life, and it is life-changing.  Now whenever darkness calls, I choose Mercy and life.

How about you? Will you choose Mercy?

Theresa Bonopartis is the director of the post-abortion healing program Lumina and co-developer of the “Entering Canaan” post abortion ministry model. This article was originally published at http://www.aleteia.org, and was used with permission from Aleteia; all other rights are strictly reserved. 

For confidential inquiries, please contact Project Rachel at 888-456-HOPE or info@helpafterabortion.org to talk to someone today.

Staff Spotlight is — in an ongoing effort to get a range of content on Encourage & Teach — content from staff members within the Diocese of Arlington from contributors who do not write as a part of their day-to-day job.

Sarah LaPierre is the Program Director of Project Rachel and Gabriel Project.

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By: Josephine Balsamo, Staff Spotlight

“You are not judged on the height you have risen but from the depth which you have climbed.” ~Frederick Douglass, 1881~

This quote brought to mind the many people who have called us for help. They are wounded and they are in pain. Many believe they are beyond the mercy of God and are not worthy of anything good in their lives – after all, they think they deserve this misery.

But here’s what happens when they finally have the courage to pick up the phone and call: they are met exactly where they are – much like Jesus’ response to the many people he encountered illustrated in the Gospels, such as the woman with the hemorrhage. Similarly those who call the post-abortion helpline are met with unconditional love, and perhaps for the first time, they are able to articulate some of the unspeakable trauma they have suffered because of their past mistakes.

What a life changing moment it is when they feel the love and acceptance of Christ and dare to let a spark of hope ignite within their souls.

say_hello_2_heavenThis is the gift that each of us can share with them – hope in the mercy of God and his power to heal. Each of you working to bring others to the love of God makes it possible for them to see the love of God through you. In turn, they instinctively recognize that love and realize that they want some of what they see reflected in you. And this is the beginning of the long journey home.

Someone once told me that the road to heaven is simply one long line of people who have found the way reaching back and taking the hand of someone else searching for the way. I think this is how we get to heaven – reaching back for one another, one soul at a time. You may never know this side of heaven how many souls you have touched, but I am quite sure that once you get there, you will be amazed.

Thank you for your support and for sharing the precious gift of yourselves and your faith with others. You are making a difference in their lives – both earthly and eternal.

We are one, our cause is one, and we must help each other; if we are to succeed.” ~Frederick Douglas, 1847~

Staff Spotlight is — in an ongoing effort to get a range of content on Encourage & Teach — content from staff members within the Diocese of Arlington from contributors who do not write as a part of their day-to-day job.

Josephine Balsamo works for Project Rachel, a ministry of healing and hope for post-abortive parents. The next day of Prayer and Healing will take place on July 27th. For more information, visit the Project Rachel website.

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I had an abortion in 1995. The next several years of my life seemed to be a series of one awful thing after the other, it became overwhelming. So many terrible things happened, I felt like I was going to have a nervous breakdown.

At first I wondered if God was punishing me. Then I realized I could blame God, or I could take responsibility for what I did. It was MY DECISION. God had nothing to do with it, nor did He “punish” me for what I had done. I was punishing myself!!

I had no idea I could be forgiven for such a grave sin. Even though I went to church, it seemed like the priest only talked about “respect for life”, and never spoke about being able to be forgiven after having an abortion. The guilt I felt on Mother’s Day and March for Life weekend at church was incredibly painful.

For many years I wanted to confess my sin, but was afraid … I would not even tell my cousin who is a priest.

Then one day (17 years later), I was in a restroom at a church I was visiting when I saw a paper that read “help after abortion.” As I went on reading the piece of paper that was taped to the wall, it said there is healing and forgiveness after abortion. Even after reading it I thought “Forgiveness??? Really???” At the bottom of the page were tabs to pull off and a phone number to call. I pulled one off, and even then, I was hesitant to call.

After a week or so, I called and spoke with Jo at the Diocese of Arlington. She was so supportive and positive. She told me about Rachel’s Vineyard [our diocesan retreat]. It sounded too good to be true. I signed up to attend the upcoming retreat.

That retreat turned my life around!!

I feel so blessed to have experienced the forgiveness of God, and my retreat was on Divine Mercy weekend. It was amazing. The priest we had at our retreat was a Father of Mercy, and he was such an empathetic, kind man. He was not the priest that was scheduled to be at our retreat, but God sent him to us, and he will stay in my heart forever. What a wonderful man.

The women I met there know more about me than friends I’ve known for years. We stay in touch and we all went to Mass together last month and had a luncheon. We are planning a get together around the Christmas holidays and there is a true bond between us. It’s absolutely wonderful.

I pray that more people who need healing and forgiveness learn about Project Rachel and attend a retreat. It will be the beginning of the rest of your life. You can be forgiven and you can heal. Just let God in. I realized God never meant for me to hurt for all those years, He never did anything to punish me. He loves us. We are His children. Remember, He said: “Come to me, all who are weary.”

Please go to Him if you are weary and He will give you peace. God Bless You.

Note: There is a Project Rachel retreat occurring in Northern Virginia, November 2-4. There are still open spaces if you or someone you know is in search of healing after an abortion.

Diocesan Post-Abortion Ministry provides referral to specially trained priests and/or professional counselors, healing retreats and written materials. For confidential assistance please call 1-888-456-HOPE (4673) or email info@helpafterabortion.org.

 

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By: Susan Gibbs, Office of Communications

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations. (Jeremiah 1:5)

Yesterday’s Washington Post ran a sympathetic profile of late-term abortionist LeRoy Carhart. Although he lives in Nebraska, Carhart decided to open shop in neighboring Maryland last year, as the state has virtually no restrictions on abortion.

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations. (Jeremiah 1:5)

 The article is chilling. We learn that 60 unborn children are aborted every month, six to 10 of them late in pregnancy. He performs abortions up to 32 weeks, which is seven months into a pregnancy. Many children are born that early so why not just help a woman deliver her child? Because he is a man on a mission, a gruesome mission that he has brought to our community. As he tells a reporter, these children have “anomalies,” which is why he aborts them.

 That’s right: he aborts children because they are not perfect. But then again, who of us is?

 How imperfect does a child need to be? He gives an example of one child he aborted who would have been paralyzed from the waist down if allowed to live. Apparently, it is better off to be dead than to be in a wheelchair.

This is the horrific reality of abortion. It is not an easy slogan about “choice.” Abortion is a child who is dead, a mother who is devastated and a world in which people with disabilities are sent the message that their lives are worthless.

 It can be hard to step into the abortion debate, but as people of faith, we must. Not only is it a matter of life and death for the child, it’s also a matter of spiritual death for all those who partake in abortion.

 As Pope Benedict XVI said earlier this year, “It is necessary that the whole of society defend the right to life of the conceived and the true good of the woman, who never, under any circumstance, will be fulfilled in the choice of abortion. In the same way it is necessary … to provide the necessary help to women who sadly have already taken recourse to abortion, and who now experience all its moral and existential tragedy.”

 Please join us as we pray, act and support parents who are in difficult circumstances.

 Pray

  • The Diocese of Arlington’s Office for Family Life’s Project Rachel Ministry has initiated a 30-day prayer campaign for the intention of healing all those who have participated in abortion. The official novena began on July 16 (Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel) and goes until Aug. 15 (Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary). The Project Rachel Office encourages you to choose your favorite Marian prayer, the rosary or the chaplet of divine mercy and pray it each day through Aug. 15.
  • Join the Archdiocese of Washington and the Archdiocese of Baltimore, who are cosponsoring the “Summer of Mercy 2.0,” a peaceful, prayerful presence for life July 30-Aug. 7 in Germantown, Md., and Washington, D.C.

 Act

  • Make sure you know what is happening in Virginia. If there are any public policy issues to weigh in on, the Virginia Catholic Conference will get the word out. Simply sign up for the VCC Advocacy Network.
  • Consider helping to spread the message of  love and mercy to all those on the road by ordering magnetic bumper stickers from the Arlington Diocesan Office for Family Life’s Project Rachel Ministry. The bumper stickers read, “Help After Abortion, 888-456-HOPE.”  Order online, at projectrachel@arlingtondiocese.orgor (703) 841-2755.

    Bumper sticker from the Arlington Diocesan Office for Family Life’s Project Rachel Ministry.

 Support

Parents facing difficult pregnancies need to know we care, and women and men who have been involved in abortions need to know that God loves them and has unending mercy.

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By: Therese Bermpohl

Allow me to share with you a heartfelt note of thanks from a mother who was the recipient of your generous donations to the Office for Family Life’s Gabriel Project (outreach to pregnant women). I am reprinting it here with “Ellen”’s permission.

A new mother welcomes her baby into the world.

Dear Gabriel Project,

I’m Ellen. I’m writing this letter to you because I wanted to thank you for what you and the Project did for me. Thanks to you and your support every time I called you; I made it.

You helped me a lot with everything. It was really hard for me to become a mother. My life wasn’t on the right path to have a baby. But when I got to know about the Project and the way you guys helped me, it let me see that God exists and that there are people who work for Him to help people like me. I don’t know how to explain with words how thankful I am. I’m always going to remember you and I will never forget what you told me: “God never forgets about us.” Your words are big and I thank God for making a person like you, and the ones who work in the Gabriel Project.

Now my life is better than before. I’m glad to be a mother. My son’s name is Shaun Jesus. He is already one month old and when he grows I’m going to let him know about the angels who work in the Gabriel Project who make it possible that he lives. Thank you so much for everything that you did for me. God is going to keep blessing you for what you did for me. Thanks for not letting me fall and always being there for me.

Sincerely,

Ellen

Blog note: Gabriel Project Arlington helps pregnant women with long- or short-term needs by offering assistance at the parish level. It involves a network of churches, volunteers, crisis pregnancy centers and other agencies working together to assist the mother with physical, material, spiritual and emotional support. To find out ways to help this important ministry, visit here.  Thank you for giving the GIFT FOR LIFE.

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By Jeff Caruso, Director of the Virginia Catholic Conference

As you may remember from my previous post, the Virginia General Assembly will be voting on amendments to the state budget on April 21. For many years, Virginia has funded abortions for reasons that go well beyond what federal laws and state statutes require.  Since the last time I posted, Governor McDonnell has proposed a budget amendment to ban state funding of these abortions.

It is crucial for the citizens of Virginia to contact their state legislators before Wednesday, April 21, in support of Governor McDonnell’s proposal. This is a concrete action that we can take to defend and protect life in our government!  Let your representatives know that you want them to ratify the Governor’s amendment to save countless lives and eliminate state spending on the vast majority of abortions currently funded with taxpayer dollars.

At www.vacatholic.org you can follow easy steps (at the top of the page) to send an e-mail to your legislators. I urge you to take a moment to let your voice be heard on this very important issue. Share this news with others who are interested in saving countless lives – according to state statistics, over 100 a year!

 Please join me in action and prayer as we seek to protect the dignity of life.  Along with this important initiative, you are invited to participate in other pro-life initiatives here in the Diocese of Arlington such as Respect Life Masses and Rosary, the Gabriel Project and Project Rachel. As a Church and as citizens of the state of Virginia, each one of us can do our part to defend the lives of the unborn.

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