Milwaukee, Wis., Sep 26, 2014 / 03:04 am
After 30 years of providing post-abortion healing and support across the United States, Project Rachel is hoping to take its ministry abroad.
"The aftermath of abortion is a universal phenomenon," founder Vicki Thorn said in a recent interview with CNA. "The symptoms are basically the same across cultures; this is a woman who has lost her child in a traumatic and unnatural fashion."
Founded in 1984 as a response to the Roe v. Wade decision that allowed widespread abortion in the U.S., Project Rachel is a diocesan-based healing ministry for those who have suffered the devastating consequences of abortion.
The ministry boasts a network of clergy, mental health professionals, and spiritual directors who provide one-on-one, confidential care for those affected by abortion. Care includes counseling, support groups and retreats.
Project Rachel has always had a very open relationship with the bishops and is designed to be a diocesan program, under the authority of a local bishop.
Since its founding 30 years ago, Project Rachel has spread to at least 165 dioceses across the United States. Now, Thorn has her eyes set on farther horizons.
Thorn has traveled to more than two dozen countries over the past several years to talk about Project Rachel's work. She said there was incredible interest and need in Eastern Europe.
During a trip to Romania, Thorn met with a group of doctors and seminarians. They told her about a woman who had had 70 abortions. Thorn said she initially was in disbelief. Then she begin hearing about other women who had had a similar number of abortions.
"That was all of Eastern Europe," Thorn said, adding that the average woman in Eastern Europe and Russia has had at least nine abortions.
"How does the Church deal with this? We don't know how. It's not on our radar. But, it needs to be."
Thorn said she has already made connections with several priests in Poland, as well as Orthodox and Byzantine bishops in Romania. Her short-term goal is to schedule an Eastern Europe training session for Project Rachel in Poland.
"It's just a question of God's timing," she said. "The need is so profound."
She said she experienced a similar need for a healing ministry like Project Rachel in Japan and Taiwan, where it is believed that abortion ends the cycle of reincarnation. Thorn said locals try to appease the spirits by burning money, clothing and food so those who are aborted can continue the journey of reincarnation.
In China, Thorn said she met several religious sisters who had performed abortions as midwives because they did not have the formation to know that abortion is morally wrong.
"This awareness of the wound (of abortion) is there in corners we don't even think about," Thorn reflected. "What varies from culture to culture is how to explain the problem."
Thorn said her goal is to work with local religious communities who are open to taking on Project Rachel as a charism, or special emphasis in their outreach.
"Because the problem with second and third-world countries is they don't have access to mental health professionals," Thorn explained. "There is no way that, if I am poor, I can get to a psychologist. It's not going to happen."