Testimonies

iStock_000020196042Medium_handsMine is a story of the great compassion, forgiveness and healing I have received through the Catholic Church.  For those who say that the Catholic Church is waging a war on women, I say, “read on.”

I am a Catholic woman. My husband and I have four children.  I go to mass daily, to confession twice a month, and I am very active in my parish.  I also had an abortion.

Abortion is the secret shame carried by a great number of Catholic women.  If we are to believe the statistics, three of every ten women sitting in the pews with us have had an abortion.  That was a shocking statistic to me when I learned of it.

My abortion was thirty years ago.  The circumstances were not unusual: failed birth control, no family support, very low income, no spiritual support, and a newcomer to the area.  I frankly didn’t see any other way out.  I also didn’t know that my decision to have the abortion would affect me for the rest of my life.

I told absolutely no one what I had done.  Only my boyfriend (now my husband) and I knew.  While I was attending mass at the time, I was not going to confession.  After we landed at a church in the Diocese of Arlington, a good friend took me to make my first confession in 25 years. I confessed the abortion, felt pretty good about doing that, and then went on with my life. However, I still carried my secret shame around with me, and not a day went by when I didn’t think about what I had done.  I felt like such a fraud, living this great Catholic life, but with this horrible sin in my past. I cannot fully describe the depth of the shame I felt.  The day of the March for Life and Mothers’ Day were always the worst days of the year for me.

It wasn’t until we had a parish priest who organized healing services that the thought ever occurred to me to talk to anyone about it.  The priest was my regular confessor, and he was already working with me on healing some of the wounds from my childhood.  It was after he prayed over me in a healing service that the Holy Spirit placed it on my heart that I should to talk to him about it.  It took every ounce of my courage, and it was a very painful conversation, but we met and I told him about it.  I was pretty sure he was not only going to throw me out of his office, but out of the Church.  I had read all those examinations of conscience about abortion being a sin that results in excommunication.

That wasn’t what happened.  My priest was incredibly kind, gentle, and most compassionate.  I wasn’t condemned or judged.  He was relieved that I had confessed the sin some years ago.  Then he suggested I go on a Project Rachel retreat.  Was he crazy?  Show up on a retreat for post-abortive women?  Then everyone would know about my secret shame!

I think my priest continued to pray very hard for me, because about a year and a half later, I did go on a Project Rachel retreat.  It was one of the best decisions of my life.  If you are a post-abortive woman, I cannot recommend one of these retreats more highly.  There were eight women on my retreat, and they were of all ages and walks of life. Not only were we not judged or condemned, we were treated like royalty! From the warm greeting at the door of the retreat center, to the many gifts lavished upon us, to the warmth and kindness of the priest staffing the retreat, it was a wonderful experience.  With the help of the Project Rachel team, I took great strides on my healing journey, and I am now more at peace than I have been in years.  And through it all, my confidentiality was assured, and even now, no one knows I went on the retreat except for the Project Rachel team and my confessor.

I hope sharing my story encourages other women to pick up the phone and call Jo at the Project Rachel office (1-888-456-HOPE) or email projectrachel@arlingtondiocese.org and register for one of these retreats.  You will receive healing, forgiveness, and hope through this ministry of the Catholic Church.

submitted from Virginia

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“Going through the motions” is the only way to  describe my life prior to a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat. I attended Mass,  but did not feel “worthy” enough to be there. I prayed, but felt that  God had turned His back on me and I miscarried some pregnancies,  believing that was my “punishment” for my two abortions.

Was I ever wrong! I went to the retreat and, as scared and nervous as I was, found healing, love and profound  forgiveness. Of all the three words I just used, healing was probably  the most prevalent in my mind. You do go back – you do recall things – but you get a sense of love and warmth from the staff and helpers and  you feel so protected by them.

I will never forget what I went through with my abortions, and although I sometimes still cry for my babies, I feel  worthy of God’s love and forgiveness as I sit with my head held high at  Mass on Sunday believing that I deserve to be there.

For anyone  contemplating a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat, I can only say what the Nike  slogan says: Just do it. You will never regret your decision and will  come out of it a better, more whole person inside.

-Anne
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Rachel’s Vineyard retreat (RVR) weekend played a key role in my post-abortive healing process. I was very nervous and  apprehensive about attending a RVR weekend mainly because I knew I would be dealing with very painful, suppressed feelings and memories. I was  afraid of sharing my experience with complete strangers! All my  pre-retreat worries and apprehensions quickly dissolved very early on in the retreat. I felt nothing but love and acceptance from the RVR team,  other retreatants, and above all, Jesus, during the entire retreat  weekend.

I was given the  option to share my story in a group setting and found it very  therapeutic as it was the first time I could talk about my experiences  with a group who understood what I went through, because they went  through it as well. I was actually able to grieve for the first time and focus on continuing the healing process. The RVR weekend was one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself! I feel like a huge weight has  been lifted off my shoulder and now I can finally (after 10 years) start moving on with my life! My healing process is not over but I’m sure  heading in the right direction!

-Amy
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To My Precious Little Ones

If only I had known back then the things I know today
I would have never let you go, or taken your life away
I thought that it would be better for you if I took the road I chose
Twenty years have taught me things and only heaven knows
The sorrow that lives within my soul and never goes away
Oh how I wish I’d had the strength to be with you today

Through all this pain and sorrow, I finally see God’s light
He has taken care of you while I have lived this plight
I’ve prayed to Him every day to forgive this sin so deep
And having heard my daily prayers, your souls for me he keeps
So now the time has come to finally hold my lost babies near
To tell you that I love you so and then return you to His care

I wish that I had had the strength to make a better choice
I wish that I had had the faith to hear my inner voice
I ask you for forgiveness as I’ve asked our Lord above
And through His perfect mercy he’s filled my heart with love
Please know my little babies all my love & hope remain
With you my precious little ones until we’re joined again

Love,
Mommy

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So many of us who have had abortions have  struggled for years as to where we can go with all the hurt and hell we  have been left with. We never thought that one tragic act could ever  result in the tremendous loneliness and sorrow that was placed in our  arms. We should have been bouncing them on our knees, and diapering  them, and enjoying the scent of their freshly bathed bodies.

We never could have imagined how hard it would  be without them. They never told you that. They tell you to go to the  emergency room if you begin to bleed heavy, or it’s only a mass of  tissue, or that will be $300 please. And so begins the lie.

But for awhile, we feel relieved. It’s over. We can get on with our lives. And so we do. And then one day something  sets it off. It could be the sight of a pregnant woman, children going  off to school, your sister’s birth of her second son and then KABOOM!  Something breaks from deep inside and begins to seep into every fiber of your being. It is the moment we were separated, the moment they took  them from us. The horror rushes in, the terror takes over. We want to  tell someone. We try to tell someone.

We get answers we try to make sense of. “You  didn’t do anything wrong”, “It wasn’t really a baby”, “Maybe you need to be on antidepressants”, “My sister had one last week and she is fine”, “Maybe you’re crazy.”

…For me the Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat was a  chance to connect with other women… I  struggled with the idea of not going on the week-end retreat. Good thing I was given the right words to get me to the retreat. I had no idea what to expect, I only felt  relieved that I could say what I wanted to about something I was never  allowed to speak about…. The place was inspiring. God’s presence was definitely there. The food was delicious although it was hard to eat for many of us.

We wanted to be healed. We wanted to go  further. We wanted to undo what we had done so many years ago. We never  could undo the catastrophe, but we could be healed, we could go further… our priest was brilliant… He took us beyond the tears to life and wholeness.

I can’t even begin to tell you all the healing  things we did that week-end… I will always  remember the total relief and ability to be who I truly am in an  atmosphere of support and common ground. For me, Rachel’s Vineyard was  the “Place to Heal”…

-Diana