Rachel’s Vineyard stresses hope and healing
Thirty-five priests and deacons gathered last Thursday at the Spalding Pastoral Center in Peoria to learn ways to be effective mediators of Christ’s love and healing for women and men who suffer from post-abortion trauma.
“Make us instruments of your peace and witnesses of your love, especially for those who carry the cross of abortion,” said Father Bill Miller, IC, chairman of the Diocesan Respect Life Board, as he led the priests and deacons in his prayer at the start of a seminar for clergy presented by the founders of Rachel’s Vineyard Ministries, Dr. Theresa Burke and her husband, Kevin.
The seminar was sponsored by the Office of Pastoral Services in the diocesan Office of Family Life. The Burkes presented a related seminar for lay counselors the following day at the Spalding Pastoral Center.
The goal of the seminars, Dr. Burke said in welcoming the priests and deacons, “is really to understand perhaps in a profound or deeper way the hurt that both women and men feel after an abortion.”
“We need to connect them with their hearts, any way we can do that,” she said. “You are an important part of doing that, by listening to them and embracing them.”
The Burkes were in the area to lead the second Rachel’s Vineyard post-abortion retreat hosted by the Diocese of Peoria. It took place at King’s House in Henry for 13 participants.
At a press conference before their Thursday presentation, the Burkes, who reside in King of Prussia, Pa., spoke of the lasting impact of abortion on both men and women, and reiterated “there is hope and healing.” They were introduced by Jeanne Whalen, director of the Office of Pastoral Services.
More than 40 percent of those attending Sunday Mass are likely to have been affected in a direct way by abortion, the Burkes said.
The goal of Rachel’s Vineyard retreats is not to “make people feel bad” by reliving past experiences, but to free them by sharing the healing of God’s mercy.
More men are attending Rachel’s Vineyard weekends, said Kevin Burke, and their presence is very healing for the women attendees as well.