Mine is a story of the great compassion, forgiveness and healing I have received through the Catholic Church. For those who say that the Catholic Church is waging a war on women, I say, “read on.”
I am a Catholic woman. My husband and I have four children. I go to mass daily, to confession twice a month, and I am very active in my parish. I also had an abortion.
Abortion is the secret shame carried by a great number of Catholic women. If we are to believe the statistics, three of every ten women sitting in the pews with us have had an abortion. That was a shocking statistic to me when I learned of it.
My abortion was thirty years ago. The circumstances were not unusual: failed birth control, no family support, very low income, no spiritual support, and a newcomer to the area. I frankly didn’t see any other way out. I also didn’t know that my decision to have the abortion would affect me for the rest of my life.
I told absolutely no one what I had done. Only my boyfriend (now my husband) and I knew. While I was attending mass at the time, I was not going to confession. After we landed at a church in the Diocese of Arlington, a good friend took me to make my first confession in 25 years. I confessed the abortion, felt pretty good about doing that, and then went on with my life. However, I still carried my secret shame around with me, and not a day went by when I didn’t think about what I had done. I felt like such a fraud, living this great Catholic life, but with this horrible sin in my past. I cannot fully describe the depth of the shame I felt. The day of the March for Life and Mothers’ Day were always the worst days of the year for me.
It wasn’t until we had a parish priest who organized healing services that the thought ever occurred to me to talk to anyone about it. The priest was my regular confessor, and he was already working with me on healing some of the wounds from my childhood. It was after he prayed over me in a healing service that the Holy Spirit placed it on my heart that I should to talk to him about it. It took every ounce of my courage, and it was a very painful conversation, but we met and I told him about it. I was pretty sure he was not only going to throw me out of his office, but out of the Church. I had read all those examinations of conscience about abortion being a sin that results in excommunication.
That wasn’t what happened. My priest was incredibly kind, gentle, and most compassionate. I wasn’t condemned or judged. He was relieved that I had confessed the sin some years ago. Then he suggested I go on a Project Rachel retreat. Was he crazy? Show up on a retreat for post-abortive women? Then everyone would know about my secret shame!
I think my priest continued to pray very hard for me, because about a year and a half later, I did go on a Project Rachel retreat. It was one of the best decisions of my life. If you are a post-abortive woman, I cannot recommend one of these retreats more highly. There were eight women on my retreat, and they were of all ages and walks of life. Not only were we not judged or condemned, we were treated like royalty! From the warm greeting at the door of the retreat center, to the many gifts lavished upon us, to the warmth and kindness of the priest staffing the retreat, it was a wonderful experience. With the help of the Project Rachel team, I took great strides on my healing journey, and I am now more at peace than I have been in years. And through it all, my confidentiality was assured, and even now, no one knows I went on the retreat except for the Project Rachel team and my confessor.
I hope sharing my story encourages other women to pick up the phone and call Jo at the Project Rachel office (1-888-456-HOPE; firstname.lastname@example.org) and register for one of these retreats. You will receive healing, forgiveness, and hope through this ministry of the Catholic Church.
submitted from Virginia