WelCom News
A newspaper for the Wellington and Palmerston North Catholic Dioceses

Tenth Rachel’s Vineyard retreat


Suzanne O’Rourke

There is hope for your future. (Jer 31:15-17)

The last weekend in March saw the 10th Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat weekend held in this country.

The fact that this milestone in New Zealand’s social history came and went practically unnoticed is a good illustration of what this work of post-abortion healing is all about: quiet, so quiet.

Rachel’s Vineyard Retreats are a whisper against the rage of grief that an experience of abortion sets in motion.

We have learnt much in 10 retreats. No amount of clinical knowledge can prepare you for the simplicity of grief. No two stories are the same and no one can tell from the outside what is really going on inside. There have been single women, couples, married and those in Church ministry.

This work is not a ‘numbers game’. There may well be more than 17,000 lives ended in abortion in this country every year, but this is a pittance when compared with those affected.

Against all this, each Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat can take up to six participants, with the support of a team of five and perhaps a handful of helpers who manage transport and food.

It is easy to say the work is its own reward. The fact is, it is work that takes its toll and the costs are frequently borne by those closest. If ever there was a place for prayer, this is it.

This task of accompanying another as they ‘step into the light’ is, however, a particular privilege. It is extraordinary to see the Holy Spirit at work and completely humbling to experience being ‘passed over’ while someone else becomes the instrument of God’s grace.

Ten retreats have also taught us not to agonise about this being a Catholic ministry. Few are drawn to a retreat because the Catholic sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist are part of the weekend.

People come in their own faith and usually with a simple hope: they want to move on from where they are.

In this respect, it isn’t complicated. Everyone has a soul and anyone can be reached by the Holy Spirit.

Unconditional love is, after all, unconditional.