Rachel’s Vineyard is an American organization offering weekend retreats for both women and men who have had abortions and others who believe that they have been hurt by abortion. It is named after Rachel in the Bible, who weeps “for her lost children.” The program that Rachel’s Vineyard offers is an opportunity for women to examine their experience with abortion from a pro-life perspective, and identify the ways that abortion has affected them.
Rachel’s Vineyard is funded by Priests for Life. Rachel’s Vineyard has a broadly Roman Catholic ethos with a Catholic Mass celebrated as an integral part of the retreat, but also runs non-denominational retreats for non-Catholics.
In 1996, Theresa Karminski Burke started one of the first therapeutic support groups for women who had had abortions. Later, she founded Rachel’s Vineyard, together with her husband, Kevin Burke. Burke’s Rachel’s Vineyard: A Psychological and Spiritual Journey for Post Abortion Healing (written with Barbara Cullen) was published in 1994 as a support group model for counselors helping women with post abortion grief. Four Rachel’s Vineyard retreats were conducted in 1995 and by the end of 2002 over 130 had been held. In 2003, Rachel’s Vineyard was reorganised and became a ministry of Priests for Life, with Frank Pavone as the Pastoral Director. A retreat is generally designed for about a dozen clients and a priest and a licensed therapist are typically present.
In June 2002, Burke and David Reardon published a book titled Forbidden Grief, a review of Burke’s experience in counseling women for abortion-related emotional problems. Here she discussed what she saw as the pressure and coercion faced by many women before abortion, the ordeal of the abortion itself, and the obstacles to resolving post abortion problems.
In 2003, Bernadette Goulding founded the Irish chapter of Rachel’s Vineyard, a similar organisation with more focus on Roman Catholicism., and in 2011 founded Women Hurt, a similar organisation, with less focus on Catholicism.
In 2014, Rachel’s Vineyard will hold 1000+ retreats annually, in 48 US states and 70 countries. The Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat Manual has been translated into 10 languages.
The Burkes have lectured and trained professionals on the subject of post-abortion trauma and healing. Rachel’s Vineyard Ministries offers an annual Leadership Training Conference designed for those who use the Rachel’s Vineyard program.
The Rachel’s Vineyard ministry offers weekend retreats which it says are a chance to get away from the daily pressures of work and family and focus on emotional support and the search for healing. According to the group, its retreats are intended to provide the opportunity to deeply enter the grieving process and identify the ways that abortion may have affected the individual. Rachel’s Vineyard retreats are hosted by church based ministries, counseling outreach programs, Project Rachel offices, Respect Life groups, and crisis pregnancy centers. They are offered in both Catholic and interdenominational settings.