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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 Bishop Paul S. Loverde 

 

The Pope takes an annual retreat during Lent each year.

 

Were you aware that for a short time each year, the week following Ash Wednesday, Pope Benedict XVI suspends all of his meetings so that he can participate in a retreat? Yes, the Pope steps away from daily activity, valuing silence and time for meditative prayer. His time of retreat is not just another vacation, but rather a time to bring his intentions and his vocation before the Lord. Considering that the Pope, as the Vicar of Christ, is the shepherd of the universal Church, it is a great blessing for all of us that he sets aside this time each year to sincerely ask for grace and guidance. 

During my summer vacation, I will also be taking time for prayer and reflection in my own annual retreat: an eight-day, all-silent directed retreat with a group of my brother bishops. I am thankful for this opportunity to follow the example of the Holy Father; saints such as Ignatius Loyola, who spent many hours in prayerful retreat; and Christ Himself, Who spent forty days in the desert before beginning His public ministry. 

Each year in this special way, I bring my intentions, especially those concerning our diocesan Church, before the Lord. Recognizing that the Christ is the source of our joy and of the truth, I look forward to this time of discernment and spiritual rejuvenation. In those days of silent prayer and reflection, I hear the Lord in a way that is unlike the rest of the year. I come away from my retreat with a renewed understanding of my vocation and often with a clearer sense of direction and purpose for the coming year. 

Bishop Loverde blesses San Damiano Spiritual Life Center, which opened this year.

 

The purpose of a retreat is not so much to solve our problems, but rather to submit our joys, our sorrows, our cares and concerns to Our Creator in order to discern His will for us at that time. Spending time with the Lord never fails to bring about spiritual fruit in our lives and the lives of those dear to us. At the conclusion of my retreat each year, I write a brief prayer which I pray every morning through the rest of the year, thus always keeping before myself what the Lord had brought to my attention during the retreat. 

 I encourage you to consider planning a time of retreat, whether for a week, a weekend, or even part of a day. While all of us are busy, time with the Lord is always very beneficial. I know that each of you has responsibilities, concerns and intentions to bring before the Lord. While it is true that our busy schedules will be waiting for us when we return, the grace that comes from time spent in prayer gives us the wisdom and fortitude to live our vocations daily more realistically and faithfully. 

As I pray and reflect, I humbly ask for your prayers both for me and for our diocesan Church. Please know that I pray for all of you throughout the year, but especially during this grace-filled time of retreat. 

Encourage and Teach Note: If you are planning a retreat, don’t forget the newly-opened, first-ever diocesan retreat center, San Damiano. Located in White Post, VA, San Damiano is located on over 100 acres of land has room for over 100 daytime guests or 50 overnight guests. Call 540-868-9220 or email sandamiano@arlingtondiocese.org for more information.  

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Fr. Sam Vaccarella, T.O.R, is the director of San Damiano

 

By: The Office of Communications 

You’ve been meaning to take some time for the Lord: just you and Him. Why not be one of the first people to visit the San Damiano Spiritual Life Center in White Post, the new (and only) diocesan retreat center? 

The center was purchased in 2006 as part of the Rooted in Faith ~ Forward in Hope capital campaign. Here is the history of the building: 

“Prior to the diocesan purchase, the structure, built in 1960, served as both a novitiate for the Third Order Regular of St. Francis’ Sacred Heart of Jesus Province as well as a full-time retreat center. In the early 1990s, the building was converted into a home for the order’s older friars.” 

 So, it’s appropriate that Bishop Loverde announced Father Sam Vacarella, TOR,
(a Franciscan) to serve as the Center’s first director. 

 Here are some of the features of San Damiano

Peace and quiet is easy to find at overnight retreats

 

  • Chapel
  • Library
  • Dining Facilities
  • 105 acres of land
  • Room for over 100 daytime guests or about 50 overnight guests

 Bishop Loverde and the staff at the Spiritual Life Center hope that this will be a “place set apart” for 

groups or individuals seeking spiritual growth. 

 In late December, diocesan seminarians were the very  first to enter the doors of San Damiano as retreatants, why don’t you check it out as well? Call 540-868-9220 or e-mail sandamiano@arlingtondiocese.org.

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