Project Rachel: Voices of hope and healing -- My personal journey of healing

During the month of October, the Church celebrates "Respect Life Month." Beginning this week, The Pilot will present a series of five reflections offered by women who have found healing from the pain of abortion through the post-abortion ministry, Project Rachel.

These women have offered to write about their experiences in hope that other women and men who are living in the often secret pain of abortion will come to know the same peace and healing of God's divine and tender mercy. Due to the nature of the subject, the names of the authors have been withheld.

My personal journey of healing began after six long years of the most deafeningly silent pain. Six years of the heaviest regret. Just as profound as my deep need to turn back the clock was my triumphant return to who I once was, thanks solely to Project Rachel.

I remember during those dark years, I would wake up each morning, and for a few brief seconds, all was well. Then I would remember what I had done. The grief was all-consuming. But, like so many other women, I kept it locked inside. I had accepted my fate. I was unforgiveable. The enormity of what I had done actually made my steps heavier. Even my shoulders hung lower. I cried alone almost daily. For brief periods I could take my mind off of it. Sometimes I would even forget long enough to try and enjoy a comedy at the movies, but then mid-laughter I'd remember and my laughing would stop because, well, I didn't deserve to laugh.

Growing up in a Catholic family that attended Mass every Sunday, I never expected that I, of all people, would be in this situation. I convinced myself that I had committed an unforgiveable act. I felt utterly alone. I desperately needed to connect with other women who were suffering as I was, and I longed to be the woman I used to be. And then one fateful Sunday morning during Mass, my husband handed me a church bulletin, pointing out the words on the back: "Project Rachel -- a program for post-abortion healing through the archdiocese." I couldn't believe my eyes.

It took me several months to muster up the nerve to call. I had done a fine job of beating myself up for years and I certainly didn't need the person on the other end of the phone to make me feel any worse. But, when I finally called, it was not like that at all. The voice on the other end was warm and full of hope for me. My journey of healing began on that day that I made that phone call.

Thanks to Project Rachel, I am me again. The retreat allowed me the opportunity to experience God's love and forgiveness -- something I had decided I was not worthy of. Little did I know that God was there, all along, offering me his love.

Project Rachel literally lit the path for me. From the moment I arrived at the retreat house, the warmth of God's love engulfed me. Furthermore, I was able to connect with other women who knew the despair that I knew, and we were able to experience the joy of receiving the gifts of hope and healing together. I actually feel lighter. The power of forgiveness is life altering. I am happy again, and the people whom I love sense that. I will always regret my decision, and I will continue to carry my quiet secret with me. It has become a part of who I am, but it no longer defines who I am.

In the Archdiocese of Boston, Project Rachel offers a confidential network of counselors and specially trained priests available for sacramental Reconciliation. Project Rachel conducts six one-day retreats through the year and has on ongoing support group for participants. For more information including an explanatory video, visit the Project Rachel website at www.ProjectRachelBoston.com or call 508-651-3100. All calls are confidential.

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