Abortion strikes someone on such a personal level that it’s only natural that those seeking healing would want to express their grief and pain in their first language. That’s what Donna Gardner realized when her Rachel's Vineyard team began encountering men and women whose first language is Spanish. Gardner coordinates the apostolate's rereats for Catholic Charities of Palm Beach, and she explained that “The English speaking team kept encountering Hispanic men and women hurt by abortion. As I was preparing them for the retreats, they would start to tell their stories in English. However, as their anxiety and trauma remembrances heightened, they started to speak in their native tongue. It didn't take very long for us to realize we needed a Hispanic ministry here,” she said. What started as outreach to native Spanish speakers in Florida has now turned into an international endeavor with post-abortive healing retreats being held across Central and South America, including in Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Panama, and Colombia. When they realized they needed to create a Spanish-language ministry, Gardner and her team of 60 began praying that God would send the right person to lead it. Eight years later, a woman named Emily, who was born in Chicago but raised in Puerto Rico, proved to be the answer to their prayers. With Gardner’s support, Emily has created a thriving retreat outreach initiative for Hispanics that now hosts two retreats a year along with counseling and clergy support. “It is hard for these women and men to open up, to trust,” Emily said. “They long for God’s forgiveness, but they struggle to forgive themselves.” Her background in a ministry formation program for laity helped her not only with planning and running retreats, but also with making contacts with priests from Central and South America. These international retreats require Emily and her team to raise funds for their own airfare and retreat materials. Additionally, her team must commit to running the first few retreats while mentoring the local team. In 2011, the first Rachel’s Vineyard Hispanic retreat was held in Panama — where prostitution is still legal. Since then many men and women have received healing and reconciliation and have had the chance to grieve and honor their aborted children. Fr. Rafael Payon, a priest from Nicaragua who came to the May 2015 Rachel’s Vineyard retreat in Palm Beach, said, “I’m totally in love with this ministry and believe each parish should have its own Rachel’s Vineyard.” A retreat is now planned in his home country in 2016.
Catholic News Agency was founded in 2004, in response to Pope St. John Paul II’s call for a “New Evangelization." It is an apostolate of EWTN News.