Walking with Love, alternatives and responses to abortion

The assumption underlying the Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat is that it is God who is doing the work. Its dominant focus is to prepare the soil for the seed of God’s healing power to bear fruit. The Retreat embodies Dr. Theresa Burke’s words:

‘You have to empty the grief before you can receive the grace.’


For this to be done effectively in such a sensitive area, skilled leaders are mandatory. There is a facilitator together with a counselor or psycho-therapist or psychologist.

Again, there is something very powerful about the group aspect of the retreat. Perhaps for women and men affected by abortion, feelings of shame, grief or guilt have so eroded the sense of self, that they can only move towards self-acceptance and healing if they are accepted by others. ‘Seeing differently’ and the effects of divine forgiveness and healing are much deeper and broader if they are shared.

Finally, the retreat has either a Catholic form or one which is inter-denominational. In either form, a priest or minister who represents the believing community is an integral part of the process. Such a person stands for the compassion and mercy of God present in the Church. The healing process of the Retreat is summed up in the Sacrament of Reconciliation or a Rite of Healing. Fr. Peter Maher notes somewhere that he was once asked by a priest if, as God's ministers, we made sure the retreatants realized how wrong abortion was. He replied - 'we don't have to; they always tell us.'

Perhaps the Rachel's Vineyard Retreat is best summed up by the Psalmist:

"The Lord is close to the broken - hearted; those whose spirit is crushed He will save."

From Grief to Grace. Rev Dr Tom Ryan.
Originally published in the Australasian Catholic Record 86 (2009): 200-211.

“Walking with Love” is an initiative of the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference for Pastoral Life
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