Healing finds woman 40 years after abortion

The following is the last in a series of three articles highlighting the journey of hope, healing and forgiveness three women found through Rachel’s Vineyard, a ministry of Priests for Life that provides weekend post-abortion healing retreats nationally and in the Archdiocese of Detroit, and Silent No More, a campaign to raise awareness about the devastation of abortion and healing resources available. Contact Rachel’s Vineyard at 877-HOPE-4-ME.

Denise A. Stearns | Special to the Michigan Catholic

Lake Orion — Zoe was raised by an atheist father and a non-religious mother. Consequently, she had no faith tradition, no spiritual life whatsoever.

“Trusting my atheist father’s word that this is all there is to life, at 18, I ventured from our home in Franklin, Mich., to the sensual paradise of Hawaii,” Zoe said. “I wanted nothing more than a life of leisure in the sun … it was the thing to do among my post-high school friends. We lived the excitement of the new, sexual freedoms of the 60s and felt we were on the forefront of changing times. I joined the ranks of those who were in the thick of the Woodstock generation — singing and dancing barefoot through fields of flowers.”

Zoe was having casual sex with her boyfriend, Tim, whom she described as a “Navy brat” whose father was stationed at Pearl Harbor.

“Tim supported us by dealing drugs,” Zoe said. “My days had no structure — I picked up the occasional temp job working phones for an answering service, scooping ice cream in a café, or baby-sitting on base. I lived for the moment. Not surprisingly, my birth control practice was inconsistent and I became pregnant.”


The answer: abortion

One of Zoe’s friends had recently found herself facing the same dilemma. “I knew a girl who had recently had an abortion. Tim brought me her brochures about the process,” she said.

In 1971, not only was abortion was already legal in Hawaii, but it was fully funded by the state.

“I remember the social worker offering me the adoption option, discouraging the abortion. But in my mind abortion made perfect sense. Since there was no God, no nothing, why go to the trouble of dealing with a baby? That was my amoral world,” Zoe said.

Tim took Zoe to the hospital for the procedure, where the staff was courteous and professional. “The nurse got me in the stirrups. They gave me a general anesthetic. When I woke up, Tim was there and the baby was gone. Problem solved, or so I thought,” she said.

But Zoe’s Hawaiian paradise experience quickly deteriorated after that.

“Without realizing why, my joys turned to sadness, my heart turned cold, and my closest relationship turned distant and angry,” she said. “My free-love life in paradise had become a living hell. Yet at the time, I did not see a connection between my abortion and my misery.”

Tim’s mother, an evangelical Southern Baptist, noticed the change in Zoe. She was accustomed to telling her son to change his ways and repent. “Every time my boyfriend took me to visit the family, all his mother talked about was Jesus. I tried to avoid her by staying in the car, but then she would come to the car and tell me how much Jesus loved me. She invited me to church events, gave me a myriad of Christian literature, and generally made a pest of herself,” Zoe explained. “In an effort to appease her, I agreed to read ‘Mere Christianity’ by C. S. Lewis.”


Touched by God

Zoe didn’t know that reading the book would change her life or that it would become the basis for a philosophical epiphany, a massive conversion. “The book talks about truth. It goes over basic facts about Jesus’ divinity, His love for humanity,” Zoe said. “I was so self-centered at the time, that if it had been left to me, the meaning would have passed me unnoticed. The Holy Spirit must have been at work, overtime, to break through my blindness.”

Without warning, Zoe’s worldview was completely overturned. God touched her through Lewis’ treatise, bringing about her conversion to Christ.

“One day as I walked through my house into my bedroom the thought suddenly occurred to me, ‘What if it is really true? What if all this about God and Jesus is the truth?’” she thought. “With that question, I felt like the ceiling of my room lifted and I was engulfed in a down-pouring of God’s loving presence. And in that moment the thing that came to me was the thought of my long-ago-buried abortion.

“Simultaneously I saw an image of what I believed I deserved: myself in the muddy waters of a rain-soaked highway and run over by an 18-wheeler. Instead, I experienced the unfathomable presence of God’s love. I found myself on my knees. When I arose, I was a new person. The Creator God Who made me surrounded me with His love. I was in a new, close relationship with Him and I wanted nothing more than to be with Him always.”


Finding the Creator

Following this incredible gift, Zoe’s life changed. She returned home and began to seek the God “Whose loving presence I knew,” by exploring various Christian denominations. She joined the interdenominational Charismatic Renewal in Ann Arbor. It wasn’t until she attended the Easter Vigil Mass at Christ the King Catholic Church that she recognized the Christian God Who had introduced Himself to her in Hawaii.

She recognized His presence on the altar during the consecration and knew Him as “the same loving, Creator God that surrounded me with His love that day in Hawaii. From that moment I saw the mystery of God’s hand in my life, His call for me to be Catholic, and I didn’t want to go anywhere else,” she said.

Zoe enrolled in RCIA and joined the Church the following Easter. She learned about the many “riches and treasures of the Catholic Church, through homilies and reading, but primarily from the catechesis offered on WDEO Catholic radio, 990 AM.”

As Zoe studied the Church, she heard about social programs for post-abortive women, and eventually attended Rachel’s Vineyard nearly 40 years after her abortion.

“It is very difficult, but still important even now to open that part of ourselves and revisit the sorrow of the abortion while being surrounded by the love of Christ,” she said. “I take that memory from the shelf of my soul and go over it lovingly while being held in the mystical arms of Christ. I bring it to God. I let His light and love shine on it and help me heal while His arms hold me in His truth and love. It is the only way to face the true grief of the abortion.”


Helping others to heal

A year has passed since Zoe attended her Rachel’s Vineyard weekend. This summer she will begin leading a support group for the post-abortive women who seek to continue what began on their Rachel’s Vineyard weekend. Zoe has a master’s degree in infant mental health as well as a master’s in fine arts. Her artwork is sought by prominent collectors throughout the Midwest. Though she remains single, she became a parent and the head of her biracial family when she adopted two high-risk, African-American infants.


Denise Ann Stearns is a freelance writer/graphic artist living in Lake Orion. Her company, LIFESTAR SERVICES, provides publication support and print management services to pro-life organizations. Email her at [email protected]


Project Rachel
healing Mass

A post-abortion healing Mass sponsored by Project Rachel, another post-abortion healing ministry in the Archdiocese of Detroit, will be held at 11 a.m. June 23 at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament, 9844 Woodward, Detroit. Msgr. Michael LeFevre will be the celebrant, and all are welcome to attend.


Rachel’s Vineyard Ministries

Rachel’s Vineyard Ministries is an organization offering weekend retreats for women who have had abortions as well as others who have been wounded or hurt by abortion. Women, men, couples, grandparents and former abortion providers are welcome. The Rachel’s Vineyard program provides an opportunity for women to examine their experience with abortion and identify ways that the loss caused by abortion has impacted them in the past and present.

Rachel’s Vineyard is a ministry of Priests for Life and has a broadly Roman Catholic ethos with a Catholic Mass celebrated as an integral part of the retreat, but the organization offers non-denominational retreats for non-Catholics. Rachel’s Vineyard offers 196 retreat sites in 41 countries and is available in 19 languages.

Visit the website at www.rachelsvineyard.org or call the 24/7 phone help line at 1-877-HOPE-4-ME.


Upcoming Rachel’s Vineyard weekends

Ann Arbor area

June 14-16

Beth Bauer: (734) 369-3470

[email protected]

Metro Detroit area

Sept. 6-8

Chris Elwart: (248) 494-6363

[email protected]


Grand Rapids area

Oct. 25-27

Maggie Walsh: (616) 340-1824 or (800) 800-8284

[email protected]

Manistique (Upper Peninsula) area

June 21-23

Lori Hardwick: (906) 644-2771

[email protected]

Saginaw area

Aug. 16-18

Sandy Buza: (989) 797-6652 or (800) 453-2081 ext. 652

[email protected]

Traverse City area

Lynette Knapp: (231) 941-6550

[email protected]

Pam Mills: (231) 590-5099

[email protected]