MEXICO CITY — The founder of Project Rachel says she is extremely pleased by the U.S. bishops’ decision to create a full-time staff position to work with the post-abortion healing ministry.
“To oversee the ministry and keep on top of things that need to be done, you really need a full-time person,” Vicki Thorn told CNA. “I’m just delighted that they’re going to have one.”
“This is an important ministry of the Church,” she said, “and it is really key to the evangelization of our times.”
Thorn founded Project Rachel in 1984 as a healing ministry for those who have suffered the devastating consequences of abortion. The program is present in the majority of Catholic dioceses in the United States.
By a vote of 225-9, the U.S. bishops at their recent fall assembly in Baltimore approved the creation of a new full-time position to work with the ministry. The new staff person, who will be funded by the Knights of Columbus, will serve as a resource for diocesan directors who offer retreats, support groups, models and training resources for priests.
Project Rachel has always had a very “open” relationship with the bishops, Thorn said, explaining that it is designed to be a diocesan program, under the authority of a local bishop.
Post-abortion healing is vital, she said, pointing out that it was one of the major elements in the first Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities issued by the bishops’ conference in 1975.
“The bishops had called for education on the sanctity of all human life, getting people involved in the legislative process and pastoral care — first for those facing a crisis pregnancy and, secondly, a call for a ministry to help those who have had abortions,” she said.
Those who tend to be the strongest advocates for healing after abortion are bishops and priests “who are confessors,” because they have seen so much of the pain that comes with abortion, she added.
In addition to openly professing how harmful abortion is to men, women and children, pro-lifers must also work to make healing possible for those who have been wounded, Thorn said.
“Many women leave the Church or are away from the Church and have an abortion and don’t know they can come home,” she said. “And when they do, there’s this incredible experience of God’s mercy.”
The Church must work to facilitate this healing, she explained, and Project Rachel helps to do that.
Thorn noted that Blessed John Paul II accurately predicted the devastating aftermath of abortion in his 1960 work, Love and Responsibility.
Pope Benedict XVI later took these ideas one step further, she said, by admonishing the Church to fulfill its obligation to be a Good Samaritan and to “go and find the wounded and bring them to the Church for care.”
Now, Thorn reflected, Pope Francis’ image of the Church working like a field hospital “really applies to this ministry.”
She said, “We’re taking care of the walking wounded and enabling them to come to a new spiritual relationship with God to really encounter his mercy."