Catholic Planet
 an online Catholic Christian magazine 
[ main page | contact info | submit an article | search ]

Rachel's Vineyard: Anguish and Healing

"The abortion that I have had has caused me to shut out all emotional contact with both men and women. I am so afraid of opening myself up to a relationship for fear of getting hurt. I feel like I have done the worst kind of evil in this world - murder - and to think that I did not even know then that it was murder. I knew but I didnít feel. How could I have been so unaware, uncaring, insensitive, stupid?"

"My abortion has left me with a empty place in my heart and life. My family feels somewhat incomplete, when we are all home together, I get the sense that someone is so definitely missing. I have felt a great deal of sorrow and regret over the effect this has had on all of us. As a mother, I struggle with the reality that I destroyed my child."

Rachel's Vineyard is a Catholic ministry that provides hope and healing to those wounded by abortion.

Developed by psychotherapist Dr. Theresa Karminski Burke, along with Barbara Cullen, the Rachel's Vineyard weekend retreat for healing after abortion was first offered in 1996.

Since then, this retreat model has spread throughout the country, where about 45 different Rachel's Vineyard ministry teams offer the retreat from one to four times a year. It is also being offered in Australia, Canada, Mexico, and Portugal. Thousands have been directly reached by the ministry, and about twenty new ministry teams are currently in development.

As Father Benedict J. Groeschel, CFR Psychologist and well-known spiritual writer has commented, "I cannot think of another work of this kind so well done. A most difficult and painful human problem is engaged with faith, psychological insight and trust."

The psychological and spiritual wounds of abortion can be sharp, deep and crippling, ranging from severe depression, including suicidal thoughts and behavior, spiritual despair, marital breakdown, and significant emotional withdrawal from other children and loved ones. The wounds can also be less disabling and last for many years, with intermittent feelings of shame, guilt, alienation from God, inability to forgive, repressed anger, self-contempt, feeling unworthy to be a mother or father of one's children, and so on.

A Rachelís Vineyard weekend retreat is a chance to get away from the daily pressures of work and family and focus on this painful time in the life of those who are hurting following one or more abortion experiences in a supportive and non-judgmental process. The time away provides the retreatants an opportunity to deeply enter the grieving process and identify all the ways they may have been effected by the abortion or abortions. This pain and suffering is then transformed through a spiritual process utilizing Living Scripture meditations, the sacraments of reconciliation and healing, a memorial service and Mass of Resurrection.

The results of participating in the retreat are perhaps best described by those who have been through it:

"I have been through 14 years of therapy and anti-depressants. I've confessed my abortion a hundred times. Just when I thought I could take the pain no longer, I found Rachel's Vineyard. This weekend literally saved my life."

"At the end of the retreat, I felt RELIEF AND HOPE! Release from the feeling of terrible unworthiness and hopelessness. It was incredible to see that so many others felt the same way and gathered their courage to come on the retreat."

"The retreat is a life saving, sustaining, renewing, and reinforcing. It is an occasion to meet a particular need for possibly desperate situations, or those in lingering, growing pain who cannot find any other answer or source of consolation. These needs are met here in most effective ways."

"Rachel's Vineyard is a gift, directly, in every detail, personalized from Father God, Jesus my Lord and at last, indwelling of the Holy Spirit. I feel his presence within me now for the first time in my life, actually. This retreat provides the ultimate opportunity for the Holy Spirit to at last be personally real. A great healing has come to me spiritually, physically, and emotionally."

-- by Leslie Graves

Leslie Graves is post-abortive, and works with Rachel's Vineyard ministry teams in Illinois and Wisconsin. She can be reached at For information about Rachel's Vineyard, contact or call toll-free 1-877-HOPE-4-ME. For information about developing a ministry team through a diocese, parish or Crisis Pregnancy Center, contact

 Return to Catholic Planet main page.