Kevin Burke, MSS, is the co-founder of Rachel’s Vineyard and a pastoral associate with Priests for Life and the Silent No More Awareness Campaign. He is a graduate of The Bryn Mawr Graduate School of Social Work. Kevin’s presentations address the effects of abortion on men, couples and families and effective post abortion ministry for Clergy and Counselors. He is also the co-author of Redeeming A Father’s Heart-Men Share Powerful Stories of Abortion Loss and Recovery and Sharing The Heart of Christ: Safe and Effective Post Abortion Ministry for Clergy and Counselors.
Donna Gardner is the Respect Life ministry coordinator for the Diocese of Palm Beach. Donna and fellow Rachel’s Vineyard leaders from around the world participated in an internet based seminar from the Silent No More Awareness Campaign on the Shockwaves of Abortion. The Shockwaves of Abortion is an ongoing year-long initiative with a focus each month on the varied population groups impacted by the Shockwaves of Abortion; mothers and fathers, grandparents, siblings, family and friends, as well as the abortion clinic workers and abortionists themselves.
After the seminar Donna shared the information with her Diocese speaker’s bureau so they could help spread this broader vision of the impact of abortion and the healing resources available in their diocese. In 2015 Donna was invited by a parish pastor to share a message about abortion healing at all the masses offered that weekend. This particular parish has a large population of retired women and men. Given the parish demographics, Donna was inspired to draw from the Shockwaves Initiative focus in the month of March; the experience of abortion loss among grandparents.
As she began to share her message with the parishioners, Donna became aware that many in the congregation were deeply moved by the acknowledgement of their grief as grandparents; she could see their eyes filling with tears as they openly expressed their pain. She wondered if this was a coincidence that so many in the congregation were moved by her message. In the next three Masses Donna discovered the same widespread level of grief openly expressed by the large number of grandparents sitting in the church pews.
I shared my surprise with her that the parishioners felt comfortable openly sharing their grief. Donna responded:
“The pastor here has worked very hard for years to establish an engaging and positive pro life culture in his parish that includes the healing message of the Church for those wounded by abortion. This is a safe place for the parishioners to acknowledge this loss openly.”
After the services many parishioners stopped to thank Donna for acknowledging their grief and loss. One grandmother shared with deep sadness that she lost her only opportunity to have a grandchild when her daughter aborted and later chose to be surgically sterilized.
As Donna reflected on the numbers impacted in this parish, she spoke to the pastor about having a special Rachel’s Vineyard program, offered in a support group format, just for grandparents of children lost to abortion at his parish. The priest recommended also speaking to the five neighboring parishes, with similar demographics about the Shockwaves of Abortion and their impact on grandparents so they could also participate in the program. In February 2016 Donna and her team began this special Rachel’s Vineyard group for grandparents. (Once the program is complete I will interview Donna for part II of this article so she can share her experiences and insights from the group.)
The Shockwaves of Abortion are indeed destructive and far-reaching. But as this loss is brought before the healing power of Christ and his Church in programs like Rachel's Vineyard, we witness the mighty power of the Holy Spirit bearing the fruit of reconciliation and peace to individuals and families touched by abortion loss. Let’s pray for Donna and her ministry and for the Holy Spirit to continue to bless their inaugural Rachel’s Vineyard group for Grandparents.