On a trip to Mexico, her parents’ homeland, Rosemary was visiting a chapel for adoration when she heard a voice say, “I have forgiven you; now forgive yourself.”
“I walked out shocked,” she said. “I knew in my heart it was the abortion I’d had 33 years earlier.”
When she was just out of high school and still living with her parents, Rosemary had become pregnant the first time she slept with her now husband, Joey. Ashamed and terrified that her father would throw her out, she and Joey had gone to a clinic for an abortion.
“I walked out of there feeling so empty,” she said. “It changed everything about me.”
After her experience in Mexico and back in the United States, Rosemary started listening to Catholic Radio. There she heard about Rachel’s Vineyard, a nationwide ministry that runs weekend retreats for women and men who seek healing after abortion.
She asked Joey to join her for the Friday-through-Sunday retreat in Sonoma County, north of San Francisco.
“Initially, I thought, ‘That’s so far in the past, why do we have to revisit it?’ ” Joey said. “But I wanted to support her, so I went. And it was a very healing experience. I was able to absorb and feel what had happened. Until then, I didn’t know how to deal with the hurt.”
The secret the two of them had shared for decades was now out in the open: They told their four grown children. And Rosemary began telling her story to help After the Choice, a ministry of the Oakland, Calif., diocese, spread the word about healing after abortion. After the Choice connects women and men suffering from post-abortion guilt and regret with spiritual healing, mostly at Rachel’s Vineyard weekend retreats.
Rachel’s Vineyard began in 1986 with a post-abortion support group. Now a ministry of Priests for Life, it is a nonprofit offering more than 1,000 retreats annually around the world. The retreat costs about $130 per attendee, depending on the location, though scholarships are available.