Davenport Diocese prepares for Project Rachel


Training to minister to post-abortive individuals begins in June

By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

Longtime pro-life advocate Jeanne Wonio of Davenport knows women who have undergone abortions and the anguish they experience, sometimes years afterwards. She believes they need the healing ministry of Project Rachel, which will resume in the Davenport Diocese through her initiative as the diocese’s Respect Life Pro-Life coordinator.

From June 17-19, six Project Rachel trainers will be in Davenport to provide training to priests, mental health counselors and lay people committed to serving post-abortive individuals, said Kent Ferris, the diocese’s director of Social Action and Catholic Charities.


Project Rachel is highly recommended by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), which oversees the ministry. It operates at a diocesan level through the collaborative efforts of trained priests, religious, counselors and lay people. The ministry provides an integrated network of services including a post-abortion helpline, pastoral counseling, support groups, Bible studies and referrals to licensed mental health professionals. The sacrament of reconciliation is an important component of this ministry.

Previously offered in the Davenport Diocese some years ago, Project Rachel didn’t have sufficient support to continue then. “Over the past couple of years at the prompting of Jeanne Wonio, we reviewed and made a commitment to restarting the ministry,” Ferris said. “Jeanne has continued to stay engaged in pro-life efforts on a national level and brought back information on how we could obtain the services of national trainers.”

Wonio said she had received training from Vicki Thorn, who founded Project Rachel in 1984 in the Milwaukee Archdiocese. Through that training, “I knew how important it was to offer this ministry. I found out the USCCB is strongly advising every diocese to bring the program to their diocese.”

Bishop Martin Amos corresponded with Cardinal Sean O’Malley, asking him to send trainers from the USCCB to the Davenport Diocese to train clergy and laity in the Project Rachel ministry. “One of the missions of Jesus was to bring healing to people,” Bishop Amos said. “The start of Project Rachel is a significant ministry in bringing about healing.”

This outreach ministry does not duplicate services offered elsewhere in the diocese or in the greater community and is available to anybody who has experienced the effects of an abortion — woman, man, Catholic, Protestant or someone with no formal faith group.

“It’s a program that’s all about forgiveness, compassion, mercy,” Wonio said. “It’s all about bringing people back to the Lord. Women figure out the emptiness and sadness that abortion brings; who better to extend love and compassion to them than the Catholic Church?”

In conjunction with the diocesan training, Mass will be celebrated June 18 at 7 p.m. at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport, with Bishop Amos presiding. Afterward, an hour-long program will describe the ministry and ways people can support it.

“There are a multitude of volunteer opportunities which include being part of prayer groups for the success of the ministry to helping answer calls on the helpline to leading Bible studies to providing ongoing financial support,” Ferris noted.

The training is intended for three specific groups:

• Priests, who would be available if someone calls the helpline and would like to meet with a priest.

“There are priests who have been involved in this ministry before in our diocese and are willing to help again. They have already answered the call and will join Bishop Amos in the training for clergy,” Ferris said.

• Mental health counselors who would be available for referrals after an individual has met with a priest and it has been determined that ongoing counseling or therapy would be beneficial. “The Diocese of Davenport’s Catholic Charities does not employ mental health counselors. So we need to contact those who are part of our parish communities to let them know this training is available if they have interest,” Ferris added.

• Core team volunteers — individuals responsible for the most direct contact with people seeking support from the ministry.

If you are interested in future volunteer opportunities with Project Rachel, contact Esmeralda Guerrero, administrative assistant, Social Action and Catholic Charities by phone at (563) 888-4210 or email: guerrero@davenportdiocese.org.

For more information about Project Rachel visit the website: www.hopeafterabortion.com.

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