Rachel’s Vineyard hopes CSAF will increase retreat’s reach

| February 8, 2018 | 0 Comments

Rachel’s Vineyard Executive Director Nancy Blom has seen abortion impact the lives of mothers, fathers, grandparents and young people in her work.

Blom, who had been involved in pro-life work as a young adult, felt a calling to help people looking for post-abortion healing after a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. She likened the work of Rachel’s Vineyard to the story of the men lowering a sick man through the roof of a house to Jesus for healing.

“That’s what we do on the weekend retreat,” said Blom, a parishioner of St. Alphonsus in Brooklyn Center.

This year, the Catholic Services Appeal Foundation added Rachel’s Vineyard to the ministries it funds in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Blom hopes that the additional CSA funding will help expand the availability of the retreat and widen people’s awareness of it.

Rachel’s Vineyard offers retreats for “all impacted by abortion loss,” Blom said. The retreat can help both women and men, young and old, address the spiritual trauma caused by abortion.

Theresa Burke, a psychologist and founder of Rachel’s Vineyard, had researched abortion’s effects on women and men, finding that it often causes grief, shame and depression. Blom said it causes symptoms similar to post-traumatic stress disorder and can take decades or a lifetime to heal.

The Twin Cities’ location is one of 350 Rachel’s Vineyard sites worldwide. The ministry offered its first retreat in Minnesota in 1999. Since then, more than 500 people have attended, honoring the memory of about 890 aborted babies. The retreat is offered three times per year at the Franciscan Retreats and Spirituality Center in Prior Lake.

Retreatants are invited into a healing process following the “pattern of Jesus,” as Blom described it. The retreat begins on Friday with a focus on the crucifixion. On Saturday, the focus is on Jesus in the tomb and Sunday’s focus is the resurrection. Retreatants participate in guided mediation on sacred Scripture and group discussion. Priests offer confession and celebrate Mass, but the retreat is open to Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

Still grappling decades after participating in his then-girlfriend’s decision to abort, Bob Reynolds of Hudson, Wisconsin, went on the retreat in the early 2010s at the recommendation of a psychologist. He found that accepting God’s forgiveness and developing a spiritual bond with the baby made difference.

Reynolds, a member of Bethel Lutheran in Hudson, said he now prays nearly daily for the intercession of the baby.

“We had a memorial for her. She’s a huge part of my life now,” he said.

Lisa Bursey, a board member of Rachel’s Vineyard, also experienced a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat as healing. She went in 2008 and found mercy and forgiveness in the experience.

“I went more because I was in need of going to confession, and I really hadn’t gone to confession yet with regards to the whole experience,” said Bursey, a parishioner of St. Michael in St. Michael. “I found that there was a lot more deeper, underlying issues that I didn’t even realize and [was] able to work through those. That was the biggest challenge — being able to forgive myself for choices I made.”

Bursey since has volunteered as a team member for the retreats before becoming a board member. Rachel’s Vineyard provides resources for retreatants’ ongoing healing, she said.

Blom hopes that CSAF funding will help make the retreat, which costs $180 to attend, more affordable to anyone who comes. That cost also doesn’t cover the full expense of the retreats. The ministry relies on donations, and Blom, who works multiple jobs, makes only a small salary for her work.

However, “we don’t deny anyone,” Bursey said.

Correction: An earlier version of this story included an incorrect cost of the retreat. The story has been corrected.

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