ORLANDO | Thanks to “the prompting of the Holy Spirit” and a clear need within the Diocese of Orlando, Catholic Charities of Central Florida’s Culture of Life Office will soon offer help to post-abortive women and men through Project Rachel. This is a ministry of the Catholic Church in the U.S. to those who have been impacted by abortion. It is a diocesan-based network of specially trained priests, religious, counselors, and laypersons who provide a team response of care for those suffering in the aftermath of abortion.
While advocating that Catholic participants seek God’s Peace from Sacramental Reconciliation, the ministry provides an integrated network of services, including pastoral counseling, support groups, Rachel’s Vineyard Retreats, and referrals to licensed mental health professionals. It is open to all! People of all faiths or no faith.
Gary Tester, president of Catholic Charities of Central Florida, said with support from Bishop Noonan, Chief Operating Officer/Chancellor Carol Brinati, and the Culture of Life staff at Catholic Charites, the hope is “to broaden our scope of ministry in the support of families and the different issues that they face.”
Director of the Culture of Life Office, Leidy Rivas, noted dialogue with clergy and crisis pregnancy center staff in the area made clear the need for such a ministry. In the past, they have had to resort to neighboring dioceses for post-abortive healing ministries.
Tester noted, “We know that the world is full of pressures and challenges that impact every person. By impacting every individual, it impacts the family. We recognize that since Roe v. Wade passed, the number of abortions has been significant. We realize that abortion causes a physical loss, and tremendous mental and emotional pain, as well as spiritual damage. Our conversations have been about what else we can do as we try to minister materially to people through housing, clothing, food, etcetera.” He emphasized, “We cannot neglect the soul.” His desire is that the programs can help heal the wounds of the “soul and the psyche”.
Rivas said, “I think it’s one of the most important assignments of what I have been called to do. Something that I personally know is going to present a lot of challenges ahead because I know the enemy is there trying not to bring this to fulfillment. But already hearing the stories from a number of women and the pain and struggle they have and how they suffer in silence, I, as a Christian, just want to do whatever I can to help them know that there is healing through Christ. That He is there and we will walk with them.”
The re-launching of these ministries has been in the works for more than a year. Rivas attended training by United States Conference of Catholic Bishops staff in Washington D.C. last February (2020) after being designated by Bishop John Noonan as the ministry’s coordinator for the Diocese of Orlando. Her office will oversee these ministries.
“It would seem to me that at a time when we recognize more and more the hurt that is caused on multiple fronts through abortion, it’s a wonderful opportunity to promote healing through the launch of these ministries,” Tester said. “We’re grateful that, starting with the Mass for Life (Jan. 21), the diocese is allowing us the opportunity to provide this ministry to folks who have been impacted, some for decades, by this issue.”
Bishop John Noonan noted the power of redemptive love to heal. Quoting Pope Francis in his recent encyclical, Fratelli Tutti (Brothers All), he said, “I invite everyone to renewed hope, for hope ‘speaks to us of something deeply rooted in every human heart, independently of our circumstances and historical conditioning. Hope speaks to us of a thirst, an aspiration, a longing for a life of fulfillment, a desire to achieve great things, things that fill our heart and lift our spirit to lofty realities like truth, goodness and beauty, justice and love…Let us continue, then, to advance along the paths of hope.’ The ministries of Project Rachel and Rachel’s Vineyard profoundly welcome those who are suffering to the body of Christ, instilling within each one God’s desire for goodness, His redemptive love.”
The confidential, non-judgmental helpline will be available in late March. For now, if you or someone you know is suffering after abortion you may email email@example.com for more information.
By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic, January 27, 2021