For many years now the abortion recovery program Rachel’s Vineyard has welcomed men, as well as women, on their weekend retreats. The presence of men has proven to be a great blessing for the fathers who need to grieve their abortion loss and find reconciliation and healing, but also for the women who attend.
Many of the symptoms women and men struggle with after abortion touch on the areas of sexuality, intimacy, communication, and trust. The Rachel’s Vineyard retreat provides many opportunities for wounded mothers and fathers to reach beyond that anger and hurt and discover a renewed compassion and respect for one another as they grieve their children lost to abortion.
Yet there are many men who will not be open to a group experience of women and men – at least not in the initial stages of their recovery.
A Rachel’s Vineyard site in the Diocese of Dallas has created a dynamic response to reach out to men in need of the healing of Christ and His Church.
An Engineer of God’s Mercy
Eileen Kuhlmann was a chemical engineer and a full-time mom when she received a calling to serve in the Catholic Pro-Life Committee, the Respect Life Ministry of the Diocese of Dallas. Part of the mission of the Respect Life Ministry is outreach to those hurting after abortion.
As she accompanied men and women on their Rachel’s Vineyard weekends in the Diocese she saw the great blessing and additional opportunities for healing when men are present on the retreat.
But she also learned of the unique suffering of men as fathers and considered the benefit of continued healing after the retreat in a group specially designed for fathers of aborted children. A men’s group would also provide an additional resource for fathers who may not consider a mixed-sex program. Some fathers of aborted children find a men’s group the most effective setting for their recovery.
The Holy Spirit would now open the doors to help Eileen take the next steps.
Project Joseph is Born
Eileen felt called to make St Joseph the spiritual father of their outreach to men. The ‘silence of St. Joseph’ was the image that kept returning to her as she prayed about the abortion grief of men. St. Joseph provided a great model for wounded men; how he lived, his quiet obedience, and giving life to his adopted son Jesus.
Eileen saw in Saint Joseph the perfect model for their program.
Eileen, with the assistance of a deacon, male therapist, and a writer developed the Project Joseph Manual. The ‘Prodigal Son’ theme is an important aspect of the program.
“We all abort God’s will at different times of our lives; sadly and willfully often saying ‘no’ to God. Like the Father, we need to offer them a confidential and safe way in which they can receive forgiveness and help them to forgive themselves…”
As Eileen continued to discern a program for fathers, she invited all male graduates of their Rachel Vineyard program to experience Project Joseph.
The first retreat was held in fall 2014. Two retreats were offered that year (in English and Spanish,) and one was filled to capacity. This confirmed to Eileen and the Catholic Pro-Life Committee in Dallas that Project Joseph was needed.
One of the Rachel’s Vineyard alumni who attended that first Project Joseph retreat was Reg Platt.
Responding to God’s Call
Reg Platt was active in the Dallas area pro-life movement for years. At a closing rally of the 40 Days for Life Campaign, Reg shared about his abortion loss with those gathered for the event.
Reg was invited to attend a Rachel’s Vineyard weekend to experience a deeper healing.
Reg had always thought his involvement in pro-life activities was sufficient to share his regret and reach out to others facing an unplanned pregnancy. Fortunately, he responded to the invitation to experience Rachel’s Vineyard.
Reg discovered great healing and peace from the weekend program. He continued to reflect on the unique way abortion hurts men and the need for ongoing healing for fathers after the retreat.
Reg went through the Project Joseph retreat and later served on the team. He is now the facilitator of the retreats and a speaker promoting the Project Joseph outreach.
“Until recently, men have not felt that they even had the permission to grieve an abortion loss…much less heal. It is much harder for men to identify how those past decisions have hurt them. Men tend to stuff their pain and grief deep down, but it surfaces in other destructive ways in our lives. Men often do not understand that their anger, depression, substance abuse, and relationship problems may be connected to past abortion decisions.”
Restoring Men in Christ
Project Joseph alumni share their experience:
— “I had been held captive by this lie of abortion and the culture of death. I was a prisoner. I needed to speak it out, to tell others what I had done; I needed to be accepted, to be healed. To be openly released from this sin. The LORD sent me Project Joseph. I was lifted, healed, released, vindicated, and at long last comforted.”
— “No one thinks the man is affected at all. He’s not pregnant. He doesn’t undergo the procedure… No one thinks he feels any pain at all… except any other man who’s been through it…Regrets and grief were finally allowed to surface, where I could acknowledge and deal with them. The old wound was able to heal after all these years.”
Project Joseph also offers training and can help anyone interested in starting a Project Joseph program in their area. For more information or to contact Eileen, visit www.projectjosephdallas.org or email Eileen at email@example.com.
Reg Platt is available for presentations and talks to groups seeking to help those wounded by the tragedy of abortion. He can be reached at 214-392-4098 or firstname.lastname@example.org
[Thanks to Now is the Hour and their feature in their June/July 2017 issue on Project Joseph for assistance with this article.]