By Celine Klosterman
In hopes of helping people suffering after an abortion, the Diocese of Davenport is working to restart Project Rachel in southeast Iowa.
The diocesan social action office has so far netted $135 for the hotline that people may call in search of healing and counseling. Callers will be referred to priests who are trained in post-abortion ministry and can offer the sacrament of reconciliation.
The cost of bringing in trainers from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and running the hotline for a year is about $1,500, said Kent Ferris, diocesan director of social action. Five priests from the Diocese of Davenport have so far expressed interest in the training.
Project Rachel “is one of those basic outreach efforts that we, at the diocesan level, have a responsibility to provide,” he said.
It’s been years since the ministry was active in the diocese. Msgr. James Parizek, pastor of Our Lady of Victory Parish in Davenport, recalled participating in the 1980s. “The diocese established a special phone number for a phone located, as I recall, in the social action office,” he said. “That phone number was publicized with Project Rachel leaflets that could be found in churches, counseling offices, etc. If that phone rang it was known to be a Project Rachel caller.”
Msgr. Parizek was connected with some of the callers and met with a few per year at their request. Most of those he saw were post-abortive women suffering from a sense of guilt and loss; one was a grieving father of an unborn child, and another was a grandparent. “I listened attentively to their stories, and made frequent reference to the mercy of God and his forgiving love, sharing that there is no sin so great that God will not forgive. We prayed together, and I think they found comfort in knowing that a ‘church person’ was not condemning them, nor excusing them, but forgiving them in the name of Christ.”
Father Ed O’Melia, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Davenport, said he was also called on occasionally for Project Rachel. “The few interviews I had were people who really needed to just talk and process feelings of guilt. Where they were Catholic, it involved the sacrament of reconciliation and prayer for healing.
“If they weren’t Catholic, I listened and then prayed for healing. Some think abortion is the ‘unforgiveable’ sin — they need to understand that God forgives all sin. I think those who came were helped.”
Project Rachel has a national hotline at (888) 456-HOPE, but Ferris said he’d like to have a local number for people to call.
To raise funds for the ministry, the diocese has sold Humble Angel honey at the chancery and at the pro-life Black & White Gala on Aug. 23 at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Bettendorf. The honey comes from an Omaha-based Christian organization that aims to help groups raise money for pro-life causes.
To help sell honey or to donate to Project Rachel, contact Ferris at (563) 888-4211 or firstname.lastname@example.org.