Retreats offer post-abortion healing Print E-mail
Around the Diocese
Thursday, Apr. 08, 2010 -- 12:00 AM

Susan* was just 15 the first time she became pregnant. Scared and alone, she turned to her mother for help.

“There was no discussion, there was no comforting,” Susan remembers. “She just called the abortion clinic, and she drove me to the appointment. As far as she was concerned, that was the end of it.”

Rachel’s Vineyard retreat

The next Rachel’s Vineyard retreat in Madison is April 16 to 18.

• For questions about the Madison program, call 608-821-3177 or send an e-mail to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or contact the facilitator, Mary, at 608-221-9593 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

• To learn more about the Rachel’s Vineyard retreats, visit the main Web site at or locally at

Beginning of a nightmare

But for Susan, it was only the beginning of a nightmare that would include a series of bad relationships, more abortions, and years of grieving, shame, and guilt. “I couldn’t end the cycle. I hated myself and I believed God could never forgive me for what I had done,” says Susan.

Fortunately, Susan found out about Rachel’s Vineyard, a weekend retreat for post-abortion healing.

“When I walked into that room for the first session, I could barely whisper why I was there. I was absolutely terrified and didn’t know if I could go through with the retreat,” says Susan.

“But I looked around the room and the love and concern I saw in the faces of the people around me gave me the strength to stay and the strength to start healing.”

Steps toward healing

First offered in 1995, Rachel’s Vineyard gives those struggling with the emotional and spiritual pain of abortion the opportunity to uncover and address their feelings of anger, shame, guilt, and grief. The retreat was started by Theresa Burke, PhD, and Kevin Burke, LSW, both of whom have extensive backgrounds in counseling.

Rachel’s Vineyard first came to the Diocese of Madison in 2002 under Bishop William H. Bullock and today enjoys continued support from Bishop Robert C. Morlino. The program is currently overseen by Eric Schiedermayer in the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis.

Fifteen retreats have been held in the diocese and more than 100 women and dozens of men — ranging in age from 19 to 80 — have taken important steps to healing through the process.

“We have worked with people who had an abortion very recently and those who have dealt with the pain for decades,” says Mary Mead, facilitator of Madison’s Rachel’s Vineyard program. “For many of our participants, this is the first time they’ve ever allowed themselves to face and deal with all of the emotions and loss caused by the abortion.”

Open to all touched by abortion

The program is open to anyone whose life has been touched by abortion — women, men, couples, family members, friends, and others.

While Rachel’s Vineyard has a strong foundation in Catholicism, people of all faiths are welcome. “This is designed to help everyone experience the healing love and mercy of God,” says Mead.

The retreat team includes a facilitator, a therapist, a priest, and a trained support team. All sessions are completely confidential and follow-up resources and support are provided to all participants.

“Being part of Rachel’s Vineyard helped to turn my life around,” says Susan. “I don’t know where I would be today if I hadn’t taken that step.”

* Participant’s name changed for confidentiality.

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