What a wonderful opportunity and one I hope to have repeated at my seminary.
(SVOTS) - Five of us from St. Vladimir's—Dn. Timothy Yates, Monk James Stevens, Seminarian Adam Horstman, Hierodeacon Herman Majkrzak, and myself, Dn. David Wooten—recently traveled to nearby St. Joseph's Seminary (aka "Dunwoodie"), a Roman Catholic seminary in Yonkers, to take advantage of a post-abortion counseling training seminar. St. Joseph's was hosting "Lumina Ministries," the post-abortion counseling ministry of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, and had graciously invited all clergy and seminarians to attend, free of charge, these sessions that sought to help church leaders provide help for all victims of abortion—not only the unborn but also the mother, father, and family of the unborn child.
Theresa Bonapartis, head of Lumina Ministries, delivered the afternoon sessions (seminarians from St. Vladimir's were unable to attend the morning sessions due to class requirements), in which she detailed the hurt and confusion that the would-be parents or siblings experience in the aftermath of abortion. Accompanying her in her presentations was Fr. Mariusz Koch, CFR, Vicar of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. Together, they outlined common emotional responses and spiritual dilemmas that these living victims of abortion often suffer through. Theresa spoke from her own experience as a post-abortive woman, while Fr. Koch provided anecdotes of how these responses usually manifest themselves in confessional or parochial settings.
The sessions were oriented specifically towards training priests, and Theresa spoke of her own soul's healing, effected by a priest who was sensitive to the trauma of abortion: he not only acknowledged her pain over a sin that had damaged her soul but also declared to her that, yes, God is merciful, and that there is no sin that our heavenly Father cannot forgive, no wound He is unwilling to make whole.
We trainees were told over and over that these two attributes of truth and compassion—affirming the sinfulness of abortion, and declaring the mercy and forgiveness of God—were always to be presented together in order to effectively and rightly minister to men and women who are confused and hurt in the wake of their ordeal. The clarity this approach provides serves as a remedy for the lies many women tell themselves and for the lies that family, friends, and even clergymen may tell them. From serial confession ("God couldn't possibly have forgiven me last time, or ever!") to presumption and false compassion ("Well, since God forgives and the baby's in heaven instead of in a hard life on earth, abortion is technically OK.") and all points in between, these ways of dealing with emotional and spiritual wounds were addressed and diagnosed.