Culture of Life
A Light on the Path
BY JOSEPH PRONECHEN
November 1-7, 2009 Issue | Posted 10/26/09 at 2:08 AM
It was while working with Good Counsel crisis-pregnancy homes that Christopher Bell — founder of Good Counsel — spotted another pressing need: He saw post-abortive parents who were hurting. They needed help, hope and healing.
In 2001, to meet this need, he launched a Good Counsel program called Lumina. Seven years ago he named Theresa Bonopartis Lumina’s director. She is also co-developer of the Entering Canaan post-abortion ministry with the Sisters of Life. She recognized that abortion hurts not only the woman, but anyone connected with it in any way. There’s even a program in the works for siblings of aborted children.
“There’s a dead baby and a ton of people wounded by it, as well,” says Bonopartis plainly.
Lumina, which is located in the Bronx but receives calls from all over the country, serves as a post-abortion referral network linking people to various post-abortion ministries, counselors and priests. It also runs retreats and group sessions. Lumina trains and educates, too.
Three years ago Lumina began groups for men. In mixed groups, men don’t share as openly with women as they do with other men, according to Bonopartis and Lumina’s longtime spiritual director, speaker and confessor for days of healing, Father Mariusz Koch of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal.
“It’s painful for men in a different way,” says Father Koch, who also works in post-abortion ministry with the Sisters of Life. Men, he says, often hold in their feelings of guilt, anger, grief and pain. Lumina gives them a chance to air these out with other men in a comfortably masculine setting.
Complicity varies. Some men forced wives or girlfriends to abort, some didn’t know until after the abortion, and some were indifferent when the woman wanted support for the pregnancy. Some wanted the child but had no say. Others unknowingly married post-abortive women.
In every case, the emphasis is two things, says Father Koch. “One, the truth of the abortion: the reality of the sinfulness and responsibility. And second, the truth of God’s mercy — and this is where healing takes place.”
There’s no glossing over what the men and women know to be wrong, yet they find hope in God’s mercy being infinite. “Certainly, the Holy Spirit runs the retreat,” he emphasizes. There’s witnessing, Mass, confession, exposition and prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, and a healing procession with the Blessed Sacrament carried among the men.
A man named Thomas (who asked that his last name be withheld) credits Lumina with setting him on the right road in life. He had never told anyone his daughter was aborted more than 30 years ago. On the sad day’s 25th anniversary, he began to sink into depression. Then he was hospitalized with a minor ailment that turned serious. It was there, he recalls, that “I got to think about dying and meeting my child. I was terrified.”
A lot of men out there are in a similar situation, Thomas explains. “Lumina is a safe place where you can talk about it and eventually start the healing.” After participating, he repaired a wounded relationship with his child and told his wife about his earlier mistake. He recognized that she, too, needed healing.
Veronica had an abortion as a teen, and then suffered more than 25 years with guilt and shame. She tried to stay in denial. She called Lumina after attending a retreat led by the Friars of the Renewal in Texas, where a friar gave her a tape by Bonopartis — who is post-abortive herself.
“Through Lumina I have been able to understand how merciful God is and be able to believe and accept that,” Veronica told the Register. “The retreats have helped me build a relationship with Jesus I felt I could never have before. I was able to forgive myself and heal definitely through Bonopartis and Lumina and the Sisters of Life working with them.”
Veronica not only makes an annual Lumina retreat — she also works with other women going through healing.
Father Koch finds the witnesses often become devout in their practice of the Catholic faith. Some become highly active advocates for the pro-life cause. “This is going to be the wave,” he says, “that’s going to change the mentality of the country.”
Two years ago Bonopartis, with Father Koch, started a group for married couples who wanted their child but were talked or coerced into abortions after a poor prenatal diagnosis.
Bell stresses that many of these have been misdiagnosed. “I personally know dozens of couples, family, friends of family, told [to abort for medical reasons], and the baby was born perfectly healthy,” he says.
Even if the baby will live only days or hours, parents can baptize the baby and celebrate every minute of the child’s life, he adds.
These cases are very difficult, often late-term — and increasing in frequency, explains Bonopartis. “This is a growing issue,” she says. “There’s such pressure from the medical community and many others to abort these babies.”
“Not only do these parents have to deal with the grief over the death of their unborn child,” she continues, “but also, once they have thawed out from the trauma, they also have to deal with the anger and betrayal they feel toward the medical community and others they trusted” — professional people who “tried to make it seem like this completely abnormal act was normal.”
Brothers and Sisters
Lumina is venturing into another area of post-abortion healing with its first retreat for siblings in March 2010. Bonopartis explains that, during talks, teens tell her they’ve learned that their mother is post-abortive. A lot have survivor’s guilt or anger they don’t want to express because they feel sympathy for their mother.
In short, surviving siblings are both wounded and conflicted. And, after 50 million abortions, an entire generation shares this pain. Abortion, says Bonopartis, is “impacting our society — especially youth — on a very large scale.”
“They always know something’s up,” she adds. Kids tell her: “I always felt like something was missing. I always had a sense somebody was supposed to be here who wasn’t.”
Father Koch speaks of one young man who was jealous of friends with older brothers. He wished he had one. The void finally made sense when his parents told him he’d had a sibling whom they’d aborted.
“More and more clearly,” says Father Koch, “the effect of abortion is not just on the person, the woman or the man, but on the whole family.”
Lumina’s sibling retreats will help members of this generation work through the process of forgiving their parents and, at the same time, develop a prayerful relationship with the aborted child living in the Lord. Through young people’s healing and witness, says Bonopartis, whole families will be healed.
Staff writer Joseph Pronechen
is based in Trumbull, Connecticut.
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