Monday, October 16, 2006

Catholic post-abortion healing program expands

While it is important to acknowledge that not all women struggle with guilt or remorse after an abortion some women do. Their voices are important as well. Rachel's Hope is expanding in direct response to women coming forward and identifying this need for healing. Hopefully this resource and others can help women come to terms with abortion experiences.

SAN DIEGO, Calif. (CNS) – For 12 years, Rachel's Hope has reached out to hundreds of women and men with its post-abortion healing and reconciliation retreats.

Though the organization is based in San Diego, its successful retreat format has been exported to regions of Mexico, the Philippines and, most recently, Ecuador. Now there is interest in bringing the retreat to San Francisco and Colombia.
Rosemary Benefield, a registered nurse who co-founded Rachel's Hope with her husband, Jim, in 1994, said the growth of the program "means that God's healing word is expanding."
This summer Mary Ann Schwab, Project Rachel coordinator for the Archdiocese of San Francisco, visited San Diego to learn more about Rachel's Hope. She was expected to send a few San Francisco-area therapists to San Diego for training as retreat leaders.
A former retreat participant who was returning to her home in Colombia told Benefield that she would try to establish the retreat in her country.
But this was not the first time the program had gone international.
In 2000, Benefield provided training to a religious sister wanting to promote the program in the Philippines. In 2004 the Trinitarians of Mary offered the first Rachel's Hope retreat in Mexico at the monastery in Tecate, after a member of the order received training from Benefield.
This year Flerida Calkins led the first Rachel's Hope retreat in her native Ecuador.
Whether offered in English or in Spanish, the retreats provide opportunities for prayer, Scripture readings, a closing Mass and activities designed to bring closure to a tragic chapter in participants' lives.
Four women, ranging in age from the mid-30s to the early 70s, participated in the retreat in Ecuador. Calkins said the women cried as they shared their stories.
The women gave names to their aborted children, making it easier to pray and offer Masses for them. Other activities included writing down their feelings of guilt, presenting these accounts to the group and then burning them to symbolize God's forgiveness. The women also wrote letters to God and their aborted children, imagining responses from each.
Although many women had registered for the retreat, Calkins said, some found it too painful to attend. But for the four who did attend, the reaction was uniformly positive, she said.
One participant told her, "Nothing I did before has helped so much," while another said, "A big burden has been lifted."
Calkins plans to return to Ecuador next year to offer another retreat and train more women as retreat leaders.


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