The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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October 5, 2001 Issue
Special Section:
Respect Life Month

Post abortion healing needed by college coeds

New program offers tips, hope to college students

By Sarah Malcore
Compass Correspondent

The scenario: A young woman in college has her entire life ahead of her. She dreams of a career. Maybe a husband and kids one day, but not anytime soon, because she has other goals.

Then... the unthinkable happens. She finds out she is pregnant. This is something that happens to other girls; not girls like her, in college with a bright future ahead of them.

She faces a choice; give up her dream of a career, or an abortion. She opts for the abortion, and hopes to put the experience behind her.

She struggles on with college unable to focus on her work, feeling alone, unable to share her anguish with anyone because they may accuse her of being a murderer.

Too common

This scenario is too common on today's college campuses. What does a young woman do with the aftermath of hurt, guilt, anger and sadness after an abortion? A new option for help is "Rachel Goes to College," a program the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops have developed out of Project Rachel, post-abortion healing program.

Project Rachel was created in 1985 by Vicki Thorn at the Archdiocese in Milwaukee, and is currently active in over 100 dioceses in the U.S. and worldwide. The Green Bay Diocese coordinates Project Rachel through counselors at Catholic Charities. Vicky Gossens, clinical social worker, coordinates the program locally.

"Project Rachel is a program available to all victims of abortion, including women, men, grandparents, or anyone else who has been impacted by the grief abortion may cause," Gossens said. "Project Rachel provides counseling which incorporates spiritual healing. Individuals may be referred to a member of the clergy for pastoral support and the Sacrament of Reconciliation if the person chooses."

Increasing need

Abortion affects people of all ages, but the college age group is the fastest growing group impacted by abortion. That's why Rachel Goes to College was developed, to make this option more visible for those on college campuses who are dealing with abortion. It includes radio and newspaper ads, brochures and posters distributed to campus ministry programs.

Four different posters contain quotes from different young women dealing with the pain of her abortion. "It has burned a hole in my soul and changed me forever," says Margo on one poster. "I let you convince me there was nothing good about having the baby," says Beth in another.

Each poster and ad contains the web address for Project Rachel, to direct students to more information.

"We have been receiving an increased number of inquiries about Project Rachel from the college age group," said Gossens. "Many people are afraid to be judged and so they are reluctant to seek help, but Project Rachel reaches out in love and compassion as Jesus would to heal the emotional and spiritual pain. We help individuals understand that they will never forget their abortion experience, but we can help them to feel better about themselves and God."

Afraid to ask

Some people are afraid to come forward and ask for help because they fear that the church will condemn them for what they have done, but that is not the case.

"It is known that the Catholic Church opposes abortion and that causes many to be fearful of coming forward, but Project Rachel's goal is to offer nonjudgmental healing after the fact," said Gossens. "Some people handle their abortion fine and move on, but for most, that is not the case, and it may take ten or more years for emotional reactions to set in. One of our clients is an 80 year old woman dealing with the grief from her abortion over half a century ago."

Project Rachel is not only helpful for people who have gone through an abortion, but also for friends of those who've had abortions. The Rachel Goes to College package includes a brochure, "How to Talk to a Friend" to help friends. It outlines suggestions on how to help someone deal with the pain such as good listening techniques, suggestions on what to say and how to refer someone to further help.

The first step in seeking help from Project Rachel is a prescreening session. From there, one may decide on individual counseling, an 11-week-long group session, or a retreat weekend in Appleton. A Tuesday even-ing group session started Sept. 18. A retreat weekend will be held on Oct. 19 to 21.

For more information, contact Vicky Gossens or Janet Flood at Catholic Charities in the Fox Valley at 920-725-3066, or toll-free at 1-877-500-3580.

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