Project Rachel retreat offers peace to women wounded by abortion

‘God had already forgiven me. I needed to forgive myself’


By Valerie Schmalz

Will I ever be free of the pain?

That question is asked by many women who have had abortions.

The pain may never completely disappear, but it is possible to let go of the debilitating grief and to experience the Divine Mercy of Jesus, says Father Vito Perrone, Contemplative of St. Joseph, who leads the Project Rachel Ministry and will lead the June 14-16 Women’s Retreat for Healing After Abortion in the Archdiocese of San Francisco.  

“These retreats help to bring about an understanding of God’s incredible Divine Mercy towards those who have fallen in this way, stumbled in this way,” said Father Vito. “They are now coming to receive the healing, the forgiveness, and the opportunity to heal and move forward.”

“The woman who comes on this retreat meets the merciful Christ who has actively called her to this retreat,” said Father Vito, who urges each woman who feels the urge to attend the retreat to answer this call from her Savior.

Comments from women who experienced earlier retreats tell the story.

“This retreat has been a wonderful experience for me. I felt the love and mercy God offers me. No matter what the sin, he will forgive us,” said one woman who attended a past retreat.

“This retreat helped me to have faith and to always believe God loves us. Forgives us,” said one woman. Another said: “This retreat helped me a lot to heal, reflect and be open with everyone.”

“It is good because I spoke after a long time suffering alone,” said one woman. “It was extremely intense, challenging and emotionally draining, yet healing,” said another.

Several retreats are held each year and are offered without charge by the Archdiocese of San Francisco. Follow-up one-day retreat days are also available to retreatants after the weekend retreat.

Father Vito Perrone, COSJ, outside Mater Dolorosa Church. (Photo by Debra Greenblat)

The retreats are held in a quiet woodland setting, with delicious meals and restful individual rooms for each retreatant. The retreats are completely confidential. They begin on Friday afternoon and end around noon Sunday. The retreat includes talks, Mass, Eucharistic adoration, opportunities for confession, and individual conversations with therapists, sisters and priests.

The June 14-16 retreat will be offered primarily in English with Spanish translations and a Spanish speaking priest, religious sister and therapist available for individuals. A Spanish language retreat is planned for later in the summer or fall but a date has not yet been set.

The retreat gives a respite away from the world’s troubles to work through or begin to work through the aftermath of abortion, whether it happened this year or decades earlier.

 “I was able to spend quiet time to do a lot of reflection and hear God speak to me through the priests, sisters and therapists,” noted one retreatant. The retreat has helped me in letting go,” said another. “Accepting God as my Savior. He showed me the mercy of his love.”

“I was scared and ashamed when I arrived, but I leave this wonderful retreat feeling unafraid, God loves me, and God has granted me his forgiveness. God’s mercy is infinite.”

The program is organized through the Archdiocese of San Francisco’s Office of Human Life & Dignity’s Respect Life Ministry. To learn more or to register for the June 14-16 retreat,, call 415-614-5567, or email [email protected].

–Saul Perez, Office of Human Life & Dignity coordinator for Social Action/Digital Media, contributed.

Project Rachel