"I will give her back her vineyards"

Like many organizations featured in this column, Rachel’s Vineyard has received grants from one of the National Catholic Community Foundation donor-advised funds. The advisor on this fund has done us a great service in introducing us to the powerful witness to compassion and hope this organization exhibits.A ministry of Priests for Life, Rachel’s Vineyard endeavors to provide inner healing and hope to women (and men) who have suffered the trauma of abortion. Even grandparents and siblings of aborted children find solace in the gentle and soothing therapy this organization offers. What began in 1986 by Dr. Theresa Karminski Burke as a therapeutic support group for post-aborted women has grown into a full-fledged Non-Profit 501(c)(3) organization which now offers weekend retreats annually in 47 states and 17 countries. Rachel’s Vineyard also provides resources and counseling for those involved in post-abortion ministry.

As the organization’s website states (www.rachelsvineyard.org), “the unhealed trauma of an abortion experience can create a living hell for those who suffer. The quest for true healing, therefore, frequently becomes a spiritual journey.” It is a journey away from the fear of pregnancy or parenting, from trouble with intimacy, from the rejection of love, and the paralysis of guilt and self-loathing. It is a journey where God’s compassion is felt at a profound level and self-respect and hope are gradually restored. Rachel’s Vineyard is therapy for the soul. Now offered by 90 teams from Australia to Portugal, the retreat program is hosted by church based ministries, counseling groups, crisis pregnancy centers, mental health professionals, and Respect for Life groups. The settings are both Catholic and interdenominational. Grief, like God’s loving response, does not discriminate.

This is a ministry that goes beyond psychological counseling for it reassures its participants of the fundamental God-given dignity of all involved including the aborted child and his parents and relatives. As important, it stresses the healing and the recuperative power of God’s love as so poignantly expressed in the quote from Hosea referenced above: “There I will give her back her vineyards, and transform her Valley of Troubles into a Door of Hope.”

Even those who have not attended any of its “retreats” benefit from the simple awareness of Rachel’s Vineyard’s compelling and comforting message of reconciliation: reconciliation with oneself, with others, with God and with future promise.

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