At Catholic Charities, our mission is to provide for the needs of our community through selfless service under the sign of love. “Under the sign of love for all people” is personally important to me because my hope is that we can share our love and support for those who are silently suffering in our community. I admire the strength of a woman who chooses life under the most dire of circumstances, but also those who seek peace when they made a very different decision.
This is especially the case with Project Rachel. Project Rachel, a program through Catholic Charities, accompanies anyone who wants to begin the journey of healing after an abortion into the merciful heart of Jesus.
The church is aware of the varying circumstances that influence a woman to make this decision. Project Rachel was created in the Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life activities issued by the U.S. bishops which called for a ministry of healing following an abortion. Through a network of specially trained priests, mental health professionals, and a team of retreat facilitators, confidential care is provided to women and men who have a range of emotional needs following the grief.
Women and men who experience shame, guilt, and mourning come to us seeking peace and reconciliation as they take their first courageous steps towards healing by attending a day retreat. During the retreat, those in attendance are given the opportunity to experience the loving mercy of God in a safe and sacred space so they may begin to heal. Retreatants write letters to their unborn child and attend adoration, scripture reflections, and mass to guide them into a beautiful journey of restoration. It is our prayer that these women ultimately allow God into their heart so that he may lift their pain from the abortion and begin his healing work. And we are here to walk alongside them providing support, love, and compassion as they embark on this journey.
Our role in our community is to welcome and embrace the women so they gain comfort and strength in our church. Recently, our outreach assisted someone who had carried guilt and shame from their abortion for over 40 years. The decision to terminate affected their whole world from their relationship with the Lord to their personal relationships causing them to feel alone and isolated. When they were ready, they came to us seeking healing; healing not only in their heart, but also in their faith. As Catholics, it should be our mission to welcome women with open arms and practice the fruits of the Spirit as part of their healing.
Catholic Charities’ Project Rachel offers a confidential phone line at (210) 342-4673 and email at firstname.lastname@example.org for us to accompany anyone affected by abortion into consolation.
J. Antonio Fernández is president/CEO of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of San Antonio.