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Spring 2021 Greetings
to our English-speaking friends...





from the Rachel's Vineyard Italy Mission!


With the arrival of Spring the Covid plot thickens.....
As the U.S. makes slow but real progress, with vaccination numbers steadily increasing and hospitalizations and deaths decreasing, 
 Europe is in the grip of a major 3rd wave of the pandemic with the highly contagious U.K. variant particularly prevalent in Italy and vaccination efforts faltering across the continent.
Italy is again on severe lockdown through Easter.
In Bologna (the travel hub of the country and for 10 years where we've offered our retreats), hospitals are full to the brim - presently with twice as many in the ICU as there were during the peak of the 2nd wave!).
Down south in Puglia, our own city's extra Covid wards built last Fall for overflow now have all beds full.


This ongoing nature of the pandemic obviously continues to impact Rachel's Vineyard worldwide. Our program's strongpoint has always been the in-person 3-plus-1 day retreats that have proved so effective in helping women, men and couples work through their abortion-related grief and move toward healing and new beginnings. 



Over 25 years Rachel's Vineyard has grown from its humble roots in a Philadelphia home office to its current global outreach to those seeking not just good advice, but a lived experience of connection and community as they undertake their healing journey after abortion. From the time I pioneered this ministry in the San Francisco Bay Area back in the 90's to the 10 years in which my husband and I have now led this Mission in Italy, there's been no lack of challenges that my collaborators and I have had to overcome.

Covid is a challenge like none other we've faced so far. Like schools and businesses, we are heartbroken to not be presently able to receive in person those who need us. Our dedicated team continues to companion those reaching out to us as well as using this time for ambassadorial work among clergy and mental health professionals, for ongoing training and formation.

In February, twelve team members from all over Italy participated in such a formation.
Our late March formation will include even our more peripheral collaborators. This time is well spent as we learn much from one another and from those we're companioning.

Our team psychologist is even planning to start on a theatre piece transforming the opening chapter of our foundress' book into a one-act play. She and a former participant have been invited to do a podcast on after -abortion sponsored by graduate students at a prominent arts and communications school in Torino. And another team member is beginning to write her testimony for book publication.

So this is a fruitful time, indeed!

Like most Rachel's Vineyard teams worldwide,
we are preparing to start Covid-adapted retreats again in 2021, yet  we will likely have to continue more individualized forms of companioning until Fall. We are strongly considering offering via Zoom the very rich meetings we'd started a year ago, giving women and couples the chance to get to know our team over an evening of mutual sharing, and the opportunity to experience in miniature a bit of our "method".

In short, the beginning of 2021
is filled with pregnant anticipation of an eventual return to normalcy, as well as behind-the-scenes prepararations to adapt and innovate. 


At this critical time we ask your continued prayers and faithfulness in supporting the Italy Mission!




Our fixed costs of approximately $450/month remain in force, and our early 2020 activities required investments we knew we would not recoup through program fees, yet we undertook them nonetheless, confident they will yield results down the line.

Please consider sending an Easter 2021 Gift to the Italy Mission
in recognition of our team's dedicated apostolic work, which continues even in this time of Coronavirus crisis.
The Italy Mission must still fully self-finance its activities, and our ongoing stateside relationship with the 501(c)3 organization Rachel's Vineyard of Colorado continues to facilitate your active role in helping meet that need.

Our Easter 2021 Response Form details how to make a tax-deductible Gift to the Rachel's Vineyard Italy Mission, to be sent by check to California for forwarding to our sponsor, Rachel's Vineyard of Colorado.





Seniors:

Taking retirement account withdrawals (RMD) this year or next?
We invite you to consider a Qualified Charitable Contribution to the Italy Mission!


If you are of an age to take an IRA required minimum distribution (RMD), I invite you to join a couple of our longtime donors in making a qualified charitable contribution (QCD) to the Italy Mission. In this way our ministry benefits while you can exclude that income from your tax return.

I invite you to plan ahead for 2021 and consider including the Italy Mission among the charities to which you direct a QCD from your RMD. (You can split your contributions among as many qualified charities as you wish, and for our part we will ensure that you receive an acknowledgement proper to this form of giving.)

Please contact Italy Mission director Monika Rodman at
mimmont@hotmail.com to discuss this RMD/QCD possibility.



Year 2020-21

This "10th anniversary" year 2020 started out with innovative outreach activities in Rome and Milan. (We got home on one of the last long-distance trains leaving Rome, just as Italy's first Covid-drama was rapidly unfolding and the first lockdown was imminent.) We were unable to carry out Spring programs in Venice and Bologna, and these venues will likely be among our first
in-person offerings when circumstances allow next year.

Our foundress has published Covid Protocols to be implemented at all retreats held in 2021 and I continue to consult with Rachel's Vineyard leaders around the world, as many teams are brainstorming on how to best proceed. We've already found high quality transparent masks (used with the hearing impaired) and face shields that will be used at our next in-person gatherings.  

The larger of the 2 retreat houses we've used these first 10 years is closed for rennovations, and the other retreat house is small enough that we may consider doing a first year 2021 retreat specifically for married couples. This would allow us to use the double rooms which, due to space limitations, we'd otherwise have to use as singles - a measure that would dramatically increase our costs.



Needless to say, this is not how we hoped to conclude our 
10th Anniversary year of Rachel's Vineyard Italy activity. But we are not throwing in the towel, and we pray you'll stick with us!

In short, we are persevering through this difficult and unprecedented time, discerning how to best continue to welcome and companion those who find us days, months, years or decades after their abortion experience.

Thankfully, technology permits us to still reach those in need of after-abortion support and our dedicated team members remain available to assist them with the generosity of time and spirit they have always offered.



One woman wrote starkly:
"
I've seen your site and need your help. I thought I could deal with this on my own, but I can't. Help me, because in this already difficult time of the virus, I just can't manage my own."

And another woman began her correspondence:
"I don't know if I'll be able to come to the next retreat, but I just want to thank you because knowing you're here helps me see a glimmer of light in the darkness of my existence... This is a pain I've carried inside for so long because I feel ashamed to confess it to a priest. I would so like to make this move now, to be able to return to the eucharist. My mother's recent death has brought up this pain. I helped her in her final year of life, but only with her bodily needs. I'm devastated that I wasn't able to help her spiritually because of this unresolved problem of mine..."


Through past participants and other contacts in her area, we were able to direct this woman to a welcoming priest and to offer her telephone companioning by one of our team members.

Such requests for help makes us yearn for the time when we'll again be able to welcome these women into the powerful in-person community experience of a 3-day Rachel's Vineyard Retreat.

    
Our team is adapting admirably, staying faithful to Ongoing Team Formation, which we were to do in person but have instead conducted by Skype and Zoom, as we have also long run our retreat preparation meetings. It's beautiful to see each member contribute to this learning!




I'd like to give you a window into two powerful 4-day outreach missions we were able to carry out in 2020 before Covid put the kibosh on other such events:

January's 4-day Milan Mission included a well-attended public event co-sponsored by a large parish and a Catholic women's association. Five members of our team spoke (3 were from greater Milan), and this collaboration expressed the true richness of Rachel's Vineyard, which is not just a powerful post-abortion retreat experience, but the embrace of a trusted community guided by collaborators whose blending of gifts and experiences help those we companion to finally make a breakthrough in resolving their grief.  
Several women approached us to confess their need for our services, and our newest Milan team member is already companioning them.

In Milan we also met with the new director of the Archdiocesan Family Office, we held a lovely outreach evening for those not yet sure about participating in the retreat, and we offered the "4th day" of our recently completed retreat with 9 participants. Their encouraging updates included a married couple's testimony of the first fruits of the retreat in their large family, and a 34-year old professional woman's report on a reconciliation between herself and her parents. No one in this family has practiced the Catholic faith for years, but these parents went out of their way to meet with the Franciscan friar whom their adult daughter had spoken with at length on our retreat. For the entire family last year has been very different from those lived in the ten years after an abortion facilitated by the mother, which had brought much destruction into the daughter's life.



February's 4-day Rome Mission included another outreach evening drawing a fascinating cross-section of women, along with our first-ever meeting with the new Director of the Italian Bishops' Office for Family Life, as well as participation in a 3-day Inner Healing Seminar at a well-known Rome parish, where the pastor (who's sent us several participants over the years) allowed us to present Rachel's Vineyard
The Italian Bishops' new director of Marriage and Family ministry is friends with one our clergy collaborators has been invited to participate in an upcoming retreat.

All the while, our frequently updated website quietly does its critical work of offering insight and encouragement to those who often study it over many months, and our individual team members faithfully continue companioning those who've requested such 1-on-1 assistance.



The film Unplanned was originally to come out in Italy in 2020, but that release has been postponed to 2021. Since Italians are cooped up in their homes surfing the internet, we've launched an Italian Unplanned film page on our website, with various reflections, resources for hope and healing, and 3 new YouTube videos in which Abby Johnson herself and 4 actresses in the film explain its healing intentions.



Please pray for our team as we prepare to receive the requests for help
that will inevitably arrive prompted by the film Unplanned.



Check out our Unplanned in Italy page:
Unplanned film Italia

Even if you can't read the Italian,
you can watch any of the 3 YouTube videos we've subtitled.
These inspiring interviews give you a clear picture of the film's healing and evangelizing purposes!




The year 2020 marked the 25th anniversary of Pope St. John Paul II's encyclical
Evangelium vitae, famous for its tender, encouraging words
to those who've lost a child through abortion:

St. John Paul II's "Special Word to Women":



 These words, by now well known in American Church and pro-life circles,
remain largely unknown here in Italy.
So much so that we continue to use every means possible
to make them reach those who most need to hear them.






Is the Italy Mission new to you?
We invite you to view a
1-page summary of our work (PDF)
and learn
how the Mission began




Our Mission:

In communion with the Universal Church
we strive to open doors of Mercy and Reconciliation
to all who bear the wounds of abortion.








Retreats in Italy are heavily dependent on the public transit so dramatically affected by Covid.
Travelling light and not knowing what they will encounter,
participants live this experience as true "pilgrims".
We are committed to inviting them on this journey only under safest conditions.


Italian women and men tell their abortion stories
Meet some of those we've served in these first years of the Italy Mission....


Participants say of Rachel's Vineyard:


"The whole experience, while in some ways extremely difficult,
was unforgettably beautiful and went far above and beyond my expectations."

- An Italian retreat participant


SHARE ON FACEBOOK
NOTE: While Facebook shares are appreciated, all communications to Italy Mission director Monika Rodman Montanaro should be sent via email to: info.vignadirachele@yahoo.it


What Pope Francis has said of "mission" work is certainly truly of the Italy Mission:



"Mission is never the fruit of a perfectly planned program or a well-organized manual.
Mission is always the fruit of a life which knows what it is to be found and healed, encountered and forgiven.
Mission is born of a constant experience of God's merciful anointing..."
- Pope Francis, 23 Sep 2015 Homily at the Canonization of Junipero Serra, father of the California missions


Ten years after launching this Mission, we remain Italy's first and only Christian post-abortion healing ministry approved by the Catholic Church. While we operate with the blessing of one of Italy's most important dioceses (that of Bologna), no Italian diocese, religious community, pro-life or other organization has yet stepped up to sponsor this Mission. We are still a very small seed planted in a field of vast need, yet we are resolved to help this seed continue to grow, with your prayers and assistance!




PRAYER for the Italy Mission
Please share with friends and family!





As we start our 11th year, we offer
11 Lessons Learned in the Italy Mission


1) As our Dominican priest collaborator Fr. Cristiano often marvels, "the method works!"
It's not just the American-style self-help program many Italians imagined when we began our activities in 2010, but an internationally tested instrument for helping deeply wounded souls - women, men and couples together - open up to the truth of their own life story and the grace of God's saving power within that story. A particular strength of this "method" is the intense collaboration of former particpants (now leaders) from various regions of Italy, who exercise a critical, complementary role alongside Domenico and me, our priests and team psychologist.




2) The Holy Spirit is working powerfully through the internet!
At least 80% of our inquiries come directly from that source. We marvel at the deep degree to which many women and men open up in email correspondence and phone appointments. Our team members are always ready to talk with someone who might express desire for a contact in his or her area or with a particular experience. (One of our team members is available particularly for those who've been through late-term "therapeutic" abortion as she has.) This is essentially a new, itinerant model of pastoral care, which makes multiple offices unnecessary and yet allows us to quite closely companion individuals all over Italy in the months before and after retreat participation. Help is offered over time even to those who haven't yet committed to a retreat.

3) Bologna, with its central location, remains in many ways an ideal hub for us.
The women and men who travel from near or far to make a Rachel's Vineyard retreat in Bologna experience the sacrifices involved in that journey as a true "pilgrimage", which is already a strong element of Italian spirituality. Cardinal Carlo Caffarra (+ 2017) more than once reaffirmed his appreciation of Rachel's Vineyard, noting in a meeting with his Clergy Council, shortly before his retirement, our apostolate's activities as one of the highlights of his years as bishop there.  We are working to earn similar trust as we cultivate a relationship with the new bishop of Bologna, who met with us in his first months in office.




4) The Rachel's Vineyard model of post-abortion care is particularly well-suited to a country like Italy, where the Church has not yet found a voice to publicly issue a reconciling invitation to Her many sons and daughters who've participated in abortion.  After 35 years of legal abortion (which the Italian populace voted for by referendum), there are still no diocesan post-abortion pastoral programs such as those active in the United States and elsewhere. Furthermore, in the States almost all clergy have long had the faculties to deal with the canon law aspects of abortion during a normal confession. In Italy, until the Jubilee Year of Mercy in 2016, abortion confessions were more strictly treated and generally reserved to the Bishop's collaborating penitenzieri (confessors in the cathedral), to the clergy in Rome, as well as the mendicant clergy (Franciscans, Dominicans, etc). Some of our participants have literally rung the doorbell at the Bishop's office, or have had their parish priest tell them to come back in a week or at the end of the month to receive absolution. Others have been "welcomed" in confession with the words, "You're very fortunate to have come to me.... this is an extremely grave sin and not all priests can absolve it."  In such a context, our patient listening over weeks and months, with an invitation to be fully reconciled through a program that carries the universal Church's blessing, is truly "GOOD NEWS"!

5) We offer an absolutely unique and highly effective service not found elsewhere in Italy. While some naysayers continue to assert that "the family" and "the confessional" remain the only appropriate places to reveal an abortion experience, those who request our assistance often say they are unable to reveal their true struggles in the family (or their effort to do so hasn't been fruitful), and that even multiple confessions haven't yielded the deeply felt sense of forgiveness and reconciliation they need. Our team's support, sometimes including local clergy or psychotherapist referrals and ideally culminating in the 3-day retreat experience, fills that gap.




6) One element of our work remains particularly challenging: the difficulty in finding mental health professionals to volunteer with our team on the 3-day retreats. The mutual alienation and prejudices (sometimes downright hostility) between "faith" and "psychology" are much stronger in Italy than what I ever encountered in the U.S. In addition, Italian socialism has thwarted the development of a vigorous spirit of unpaid volunteerism like that which is so strong in the States. Please pray for us as we search for additional mental health professionals with whom to collaborate!

7) There is NO substitute for the precious collaboration of our former participants now become leaders. The offer personalized "companioning" to those who contact us for help. Email and phone support are simple but powerful apostolic tools that empower those in need take one step at a time toward healing and renewal, as they finally discover they are not alone in this journey that ideally leads to retreat participation.

8) For many women and men we serve, particularly those who are still single, an important part of the healing process we offer is our willingness to propose Christian chastity as a positive and liveable decision, as well as the only sure way to prevent further abortions. Please pray for our entire team in this matter, which can involve courage and discernment, and which calls us all to live with the same integrity to which we invite others.

9) In 2019 we saw in the increased number of married couples requesting help the critical importance of reaching out to those who work to help couples in crisis. Though they often arrive on the brink of separation, the couples who heal their abortion experience with us often experience a powerful re-birth of their relationship. And those in fertile age may go on to conceive another child. So we are constantly building on the connections made with Marriage and Family Ministry offices.  Other marriage ministries such as Retrouvaille and Mistero Grande remain natural sources of publicity and collaboration.

10) Two other Italian after-abortion services here in Italy de-activated in 2019. This sad fact confirmed our ongoing sense of how challenging the financial and organization aspects of this work are. Both ecclesial and secular culture largely remain quite impervious to the needs of those we serve, but we are more motivated than discouraged by this fact. We are resolved, with the help of our Stateside supporters, to crown our first 10 years of ministry by looking ahead to, and planning for, our next 10 years!

11) The adage "Necessity is the mother of invention" is true of this Covid crisis, as well! Our team is strategizing novel ways to reach those whom we can't invite on a full 3-plus-1 day residential retreat. In conversation with other teams worldwide, we're looking at Zoom possibilities, possibly reviving ad adapted version of the original weekly support group format (to avoid the challenges of overnight residential gatherings), and we're considering other formats combining day-long meetings that would sandwich weekly Zoom gatherings. Our team's precious, hidden work companioning those who reach out to us continues unabated.


Clergy collaboration: A precious treasure!


An Italian priest in his 50's wrote to us: "I'd like to take part in your retreat to better be able to help the many women who confess this sin, this wound, this problem. With the Pope's authorization many people are deciding to confess it - here at our church (NB: a Marian pilgrimage site in N. Italy) we are seeing greatly increased numbers, including penitents who aborted 50 years ago and those who'd never confessed this before. I realize confession alone isn't sufficient, though. And I feel I don't know how to really help them because I see they need something more, something deeper that I can't offer them."



Milan
Our Dominican priest collaborator Fr. Cristiano is from Brasil but has served in Italy for over 25 years.
Despite having been transferred from Bologna, he continues his work with us.

Please read of one of the fruits of Fr. Cristiano's work:


Elena's Story:
the power of one priest ready to respond


Before moving to Bergamo (Italy's hardest hit city affected by Covid19),
Fr. Cristiano served at Milan's famous church, the Basilica of Santa Maria delle Grazie.
It's most well known for being the home of Leonardo DaVinci's painting, The Last Supper,
so many people think of this church as a tourist destination,
but it's also a vibrant Christian community in one of Milan's nicest neighborhoods.

Stumbling into a confessional at this very church on a hot summer's dayElena met Fr. Cristiano
and discovered the Rachel's Vineyard Italy Mission. At age 53, but still mother to a young child,
she was at the end of her rope trying to deal with a decades-delayed reaction to the trauma of an abortion
undergone at age 16 plus the realization that the Spanish fertility clinic
that had more than once used donated eggs to produce her 5 year-old daughter had also discarded multiple embryos.
A breast cancer diagnosis and 2 years of treatment had lead her to reflect on all this in a new light.


Elena hadn't practiced the faith since her teen years.
Her husband of 10 years was nearing the end of his patience with her emotional outbursts and psychological fragility,
so Elena's only hope was to return to her psychotherapist (which we certainly didn't discourage).


She recalls:
"I entered Father Cristiano's church totally at the end of my rope.
I was a wreck and I thought they were going to take my daughter from me.
My husband didn't know how to help me -
he was losing his patience for my yelling and other erratic behaviors.
We were both exhausted and didn't know where to turn."


Fr. Cristiano spoke at length with Elena and told her about Rachel's Vineyard.
She called us immediately and we had several lengthy phone conversations during the summer.
Another team member, who's also dealt with infertility, companioned her, as well.


One month after participating in the Fall 3-day retreat with her husband,
Elena wrote:

"The days in Bologna were a marvelous grace
that has given me a new way of looking at my entire life.

If the Lord has taken me by the hand and brought me to to point
of being able to meet all of you,  it means that maybe I deserve another chance
and I want with all my heart to seize it.

Alfredo and I feel very close and it seems to me
we're finally looking in a common direction.

It's so beautiful to go to Mass on Sunday with our daughter,
who, we've discovered, goes there with joy!

She also asks us to pray with her before bedtime..."

Two months later the couple participated in the 4th day of their retreat and continued to reap the blessings of hope restored.
Despite work that has taken the family abroad at times, Elena and her husband remain in contact with us and with other women from her retreat. The go out of their way to come to our events in Milan. The family continues their practice of the Christian faith.
Elena's husband has more than once told us:
"We will always be grateful to you!"





It's been your prayers and financial support, together with the remarkable commitment by our Italy retreat team
(priests and past-participants) that have allowed us to reach those like Elena.


Your gift at the end of our 10th Anniversary Year 2020 will help us continue to both
help individual women and offer marriage-saving help to families like Elena's!


You will help us crown our first 10 years of activity with your Easter 2021 Gift to the Italy Mission in recognition of our team's dedicated apostolic work, which continues even in this time of Coronavirus crisis. The Italy Mission must still fully self-finance its activities, and our ongoing stateside relationship with the 501(c)3 organization Rachel's Vineyard of Colorado continues to facilitate your active role in helping meet that need.

Again, our Easter 2021 Response Form details how to make a tax-deductible Gift to the Rachel's Vineyard Italy Mission, to be sent by check to California for forwarding to our sponsor, Rachel's Vineyard of Colorado.


Reaching "Rachel" in Italy: The Cultural Context





 Further reading:

The men who feel left out of U.S. abortion debate
28 August 2019, BBC News

Rachel's Vineyard and other after-abortion outreaches are mentioned
in this secular but fairly written article.... BBC's second such article this summer (see below).

Crescendo - 15 min. short film
Eduardo Verastegui and Metanoia Films tell the story of Beethoven (German with English subtitles)

My burden lifted forever

Laura Keynes, December 3, 2015, Catholic Herald (U.K.)
Released in Advent 2015, this post-abortion conversion story is by a British author with a doctorate in philosophy from Oxford. Her story also points to the need of so many women and men to continue a journey of inner healing even after celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation.



 Europe's Down Syndrome "Thought Police"
LifeSiteNews, November 29, 2016
In recent years we've had increasing requests for help from women and couples who aborted a child with health problems, most often Down Syndrome. It's truly "open season" on these children, ironically in a time when "disability rights" are gaining visibility everywhere but in the womb. This news report shows how far Europe will go to censor any message that might touch on the post-abortion trauma many of these moms and dads carry inside.


After Abortion Why Can't I Feel Forgiveness?
Theresa Bonapartis, July 14, 2014, Aleteia
A spiritual challenge common to many women and men...
 

What Happens When People Share Their Abortion Stories

Cullen Herout, June 9, 2016
The Federalist
Written by a mental health professional who for 5 years has served in Rachel's Vineyard



I wish I could have prevented my girlfriend's abortion
The Telegraph of London, 12 Sep 2014
A story of abortion's effect on men that also points to the importance
of challenging singles and couples with the value of chastity.


Why We Should Welcome Abortion Narratives (30 April 2014, First Things)
A society growing toward greater maternal support and respect for the dignity of all human life needs these narratives,
even the ones that do not end in remorse.
By giving women narrative, they are empowered in precisely the way their pregnancies left them feeling powerless.
And they encourage those of us in the pro-life movement to view the woman with full sympathy.

They called my baby biowaste - it broke my heart in pieces (30 June 2019, BBC News)
Clearly inspired by a similar practice in Japan, Victoria (British Columbia, Canada)
opens "The Little Spirits Garden" dedicated to the memory of children lost during pregnancy.



IVF exploitation alleged by British journalist (29 June 2019, BioEdge)
Commentary on an article appearing in the UK Independent, written by a freelance journalist who reflects on her personal experience
in the desperate attempt to have a child. More and more of the couples and single women who arrive in the Italy Mission
have been through (or are considering resorting to) the treadmill of treatments proposed by the fertility industry.
Few have any idea of what they will face in this attempt to become biological parents.
Some of these women have an abortion history, while others face decisions such as "selective reduction" of multiple embryos.


"Every girl I knew was on it": Why Some Women are Questioning Hormonal Birth Control
(17 June 2019, The Cut, New York Magazine)

The author reflects on her own decision to abandon the Pill as she also explores why so many young women
are questioning and often quitting hormonal contraceptives.



 

For Italy aficionados:

Must-read!  Reaching "Rachel" in Italy: The Cultural Context

Gucci makes abortion rights statement with 2020 collection
Associated Press (May 29, 2019)
&
Gucci debuts abortion-themed fashion collection
Live Action News (June 3, 2019)
To get an idea of typical Italian "progressive" thought with a clear anarchical bent,
link to the Women's Wear Daily interview found within the LiveAction story
 
Births and Religious Marriages Collapse in Italy. After Two Synods on the Family
Sandro Magister, L'Espresso (December 3, 2018)

Meet the Italian Boy with Down Syndrome who Saved a Girl from Drowning
Aleteia (Aug, 22, 2017)

Italy: First in the Historic Reversal of Populations
Joseph Chamie, former Director of the U.N. Population Division (August 9, 2016)

In 1995 Italy became the world's 1st country with fewer children than elderly in the population.


2015: the year when Italy's demographic malaise become apparent
(26 February 2016, MercatorNet.com from Australia)

Italy is a "dying country"
(13 February 2015, The Guardian)

More Italian Women are Choosing to Have No Children
(22 April 2014, Wall Street Journal)
While this article naturally focuses on economic forces leading to the choice of childlessness, we hear the very personal stories of past abortions contributing to a sense of unworthiness to become a mother. Imagine the pain as women hit age 45 realizing they aborted the only child they will ever carry. And imagine the family wound as others approach 35 or 40 still living with the mother who years ago encouraged them to abort and now continually asks when they will produce a grandchild. One of our women reponded to such a mother, who'd twice convinced her (at age 24 and 26) she was "too young" to have a child: "I gave you two grandchildren but you sent them away."

California Native Takes Rachel's Vineyard to the Old World
(Elizabeth Lev,
Oct. 22, 2010, Zenit - original title "Healing Abortion Survivors")







 Italy Mission Archives
2019:


With Rachel's Vineyard foundress Dr. Burke
at Central European formation in Slovenia (Oct. 2019)

In October 2019 the Slovenian Rachel's Vineyard site which Monika mentored years earlier
hosted an international training with foundress Dr. Theresa Burke, PhD.
Italy team members participated together with teams from 6 other countries.

It is a joy to see a site we mentored come into its own and provide leadership for Central and Eastern Europe!

                                       


Rachel's Vineyard Italy is recognized as a  "Work of Peace" (Sept. 2019)


"Thank you" to the Diocese of San Diego Missions office
which for several years selected Rachel's Vineyard Italy
as a Mission with a story worthy of sharing at a San Diego parish.
In 2021
we will again approach San Diego and other diocesan Missions offices,
hoping to once more take part in this "Mission Co-Op" outreach
which has greatly helped meet our financial needs!



Mission Talk at a San Diego Catholic parish
 The presiding priest congratulated us on our work, and
 a gentleman leaving Mass said this was the best Missions talk he'd ever heard!

       
With San Diego's diocesan Mens & Womens Post-abortion ministry leaders       A longtime collaborator from AbortionChangesYou.com at the Mission talk.



Diocesan Missions Talk Summary



Monika with fellow missioners and staff at San Diego's diocesan Missions Office

In August 2019 we again made the Italy Mission known through a missionary speaking engagement in San Diego. Thanks to my ongoing relationships with colleagues in the States, this 4th  annual invitation to participate in the diocesan Mission Cooperation Plan was again an occasion to also promote San Diego's own long-active post-abortion healing ministry.






Rome witness 2019
Our signs, in various lovely styles, use color and beauty to convey our message of hope.



Dominican friends at the pro-life March in Rome were happy to carry a message of hope and healing:
"Abortion harms. Jesus heals."
(In Italian, the message rhymes!)




Spring 2019 Family Life Event with children's "Plant a Flower" activity.
While Monika happily worked to dirty kids' hands while teaching the marvels of Springtime,
our collaborators spoke with the many adults who viewed our info table and took home information.



In Milan during Summer 2019 we met for the first time in over 5 years with the married couple that directs the Archdiocesan Family Life Office. By renewing and cultivating these ties we expect our dialogue to lead to increased clergy awareness of our apostolate's readiness to collaborate with them, as well as to increased awareness of the importance of touching on pregnancy loss during marriage preparation.

With our most veteran collaborator in Milan preparing to complete her psychotherapy licensure, and with the renewed commitment of our Domenican priest collaborator in that region, we are strategizing how to make vital inroads in this city which is Italy's economic hub and can most aptly be compared to New York City.




Spring 2019 Rome Marriage and Family Event
When blustery weather destroyed the exhibit gazebos,
instead of calling it quits we took our outreach directly to the Main Conference Room,,
utilizing every break time for face-to-face approach with individuals and couples.
3 of our Rome retreat alumnae were the force behind this day-long event!


2018:

As many of your know, in 2018 we suffered the loss of one of the Italy Mission's greatest fans, my father, Ray:                                                                 

     
Ray Wilbur Rodman
15 April 1932 - 18 May 2018
May the Lord support us all the day long,
till the shades lengthen and the evening comes,
 and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done.
Then in His Mercy may He give us a safe lodging,
 and a holy rest and peace at the last.
   
-  Cardinal John Henry Newman

Ray was in many ways not only a supporter of the Italy Mission, but a source of the vision that inspired it:

Dad passed on to me (Monika) the precious treasure of our Catholic Christian faith, living a quiet trust in the Lord Who penetrates suffering with grace and brings life out of death. Daily shared prayer, a simple lifting of the heart to our Source and Summit with few words but deep intention, was one of the exquisite gifts we shared from the time I was small to his final waking hours.

Dad taught me perseverance in tackling challenges of every sort, a love for life, especially for preborn children and their mothers, fidelity to family ties despite the cost, and an unfailing willingness to practice Mercy.

Ray loved and served his country through his Navy service and aeronautical engineering career. He knew, as the son of illiterate immigrants from a country that later went communist (Yugoslavia), that the United States has unique gifts to offer the world. He was so happy when he heard of my work a few years ago to help bring Rachel's Vineyard to Slovenia, the part of Yugoslavia very near to the area from which my grandparents had emigrated.

Dad had hoped I might go into another field of work, but took pride in my service to the Church. And He accepted with few complaints the Mission which marriage brought me, despite the personal sacrifice which that Mission required of him, as it took his only child from California to Southern Italy for the last decade of  his life. He understood our Mission of post-abortion hope and healing to be a seed God sowed first in the U.S. Church so that it might be planted throughout the Church universal, and dad was proud we could bring this work to the heart of the Church and to "Old World" Europe which is in dire need of a New Evangelization.




2017:


June 2017, Rome
Italy Mission leaders Monika and Domenico with priest Fr. Rito (blue shirt) and former participants,
a married couple, after our workshop given at the "Mistero Grande"
Marriage Preparation and Enrichment National Conference

A couple attending the workshop that day, thanks to their priest's invitation,
participated in our July retreat after a late-term "therapeutic" abortion,
and our November retreat included another married couple who learned of us through the same conference.




 
Italy Mission founder and director Monika Rodman Montanaro with our Franciscan collaborator, fra Daniele
September 2017




"We have been called to heal wounds, to unite what has fallen apart,
and to bring home those who have lost their way."

- St. Francis of Assisi



 
Our 4-day Franciscan Festival exhibit (twice this size on a highly visible corner) offered not only printed materials
but also a chance to be cared for with a drop of handcream or a spray of rosewater.

Our team of ambassadors (all former participants) often ended up speaking at length with passers-by,
who on numerous occasions were stunned that our volunteers had been through the abortion experience themselves
and were now willing to talk about it in such a way that might bring hope to others.
              


Monika and Domenico with past-participant ambassadors at Bologna's Franciscan Festival
(individuals, 2 married couples and a father-daughter team)
September 2017





Monika and Domenico before the July retreat at the Poor Clares convent in downtown Bologna
The sisters are cloistered but by no means cut off from the world!
They helped sponsor our outreach at the Franciscan Festival.
"Grazie, sorelle!"



Mons. John Cihak from the Archdiocese of Portland,
a priest with extensive experience in post-abortion pastoral care who served in Rome for 8 years,
annually invited Monika to join him in speaking to Italian and international clergy
doing ongoing formation at the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family.
We look forward to continuing our relationship with this university.



                   

Our annual Mission trips to Rome for a day of outreach at Italy's March for Life have undoubtedly been a success! Most recently, religious sisters (two of whom have also participated in our retreat) joined past participants in distributing materials before, during and after the walk. One of our former participants (in above photo), whom we'd not seen for 6 months, remarked that in the year since the retreat her personal physician, whom she used to visit frequently with various problems, had run into her and joked she must have changed doctors because he'd not seen her for so long! Such can be the amazing effects of releasing and resolving old hurts such as abortion wounds, and we rejoice to hear such stories! Having finally made peace with God, herself, and her never-born child, this former participant now radiates joy and tranquillity and is continuing with diligence the spiritual path on which she's embarked.

 
Ever wonder why??
You may notice we post very few photos
of our team members and participants. 

We'd love to publish more, but we are extremely respectful of people's privacy and
only publish photos if all subjects have agreed for their image to appear on the internet.
Even some of our most dedicated team members understandably prefer to retain their anonymity.
While some past  participants feel called to later speak publicly of their abortion experience and healing,
we never push such a move, but encourage prudent discernment of any such decision.



March 2017 Rome seminar "The Experience of Abortion"
Italy Mission founder and director Monika Rodman Montanaro with 2 collaborators.
Several former participants of our program attended this public event and spoke of their experience.





2016: Jubilee Year of Mercy
You may recall that the Jubilee Year of Mercy included Pope Francis' conferring to all clergy of the world the priestly faculties to deal with any abortion excommunication and absolve this sin "in one sitting". (Formerly it was Franciscan, Dominican, Carmelite and other mendicant order clergy who had that authority, together with Jesuits and the bishops' penitenzieri, i.e. priests hearing confessions at cathedrals.)

On November 21, 2016 Francis extended his new policy permanently. In the United States this changed practically nothing in pastoral practice, but Francis' move was truly big news for post-abortion pastoral care in countries like Italy, where longstanding restrictive policies had created a tremendous silence and led many to perceive a miserliness in the invitation to seek God's Mercy after abortion. At least some clergy sometimes found themselves preoccupied about how to proceed with a penitent confessing abortion. That preoccupation has had a chilling effect on the Italian Church's ability to respond pastorally to this tragedy which has touched so many individuals, couples and families. We're delighted to help Italy move into a new era in this regard.

In the Jubilee Year Monika has began mentoring a new retreat site, the first in Slovenia (in the former Yugoslavia, next to Croatia and Austria, near Italy's northwest border). Our relationship with Slovenia begain 4 years ago when we welcomed on our retreat a participant from there. She then returned and over time found a Jesuit priest with whom to collaborate, with whom Monika has spent many hours consulting by Skype. 


Rome Testimonies
(given May 2015, Rome March for Life)

                                                            
      Pina                        Brother Evagrio                 Daniela
                                                     






Rachel's Vineyard Italy Mission founders Monika Rodman Montanaro (California, USA) and Domenico Montanaro (Puglia, Italy)

The Origins of the Rachel's Vineyard Italy Mission

In 2007 Monika Rodman, former coordinator of Respect Life Ministry and Post-abortion Healing Ministry in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland, CA, married her Italian husband Domenico Montanaro and moved to Italy. It was Domenico's encouragement that led the couple in 2010 to pioneer Italy's first Christian ministry for healing after abortion, a ministry active since the 1980's in the United States (both in Catholic and other Christian communities) but truly a novelty in Italy.


Together with our Italian collaborators, we labor in this Mission in the spirit of the New Evangelization called for by St. John Paul II, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and now Pope Francis.  However you discovered the Italy Mission, we welcome you!



"Abortion compounds the grief of many women who now carry with them deep physical and spiritual wounds after succumbing to the pressures of a secular culture which devalues God’s gift of sexuality and the right to life of the unborn.”

- Pope Francis, 25 April 2014, ad limina visit from Southern Africa's bishops




Italy... DID YOU KNOW??



Maybe you recently visited Italy and took home our Prayer Cards from the U.S. Bishops Visitors Office in Rome.

Perhaps you have a heart for proclaiming in a non-traditional missionary context the Good News of God's saving Mercy. Post-Christian Europe is certainly one such mission land and the experience of abortion is a wound that often leads to what our women and men often call a "spiritual divorce" from God and from the Christian community.

You may be of Italian heritage and are pained to learn that marriage, traditional family life and practice of the Christian faith are quickly dying out in this, Europe's most rapidly aging nation, where single child families have become the norm.

Perhaps you have a strong commitment to human life, and a deep desire to offer healing balm to those carrying the pain of motherhood lost and fatherhood aborted. It may be through 
the Knights of Columbus, the Italian Catholic Federation or another Italian-American association that you learned of our Mission. We would be so very grateful to welcome you as partners!

And some of you have personally benefitted from Rachel's Vineyard, having found there your own deep healing after the experience of abortion.  In learning how unique the Church's post-abortion healing ministries are to the United States, you now desire to extend the same healing opportunity to women and men in a post-abortion Mission country.



Looking for a Rachel's Vineyard Retreat in the U.S.??
Click here!






Your Partnership in the Italy Mission

Whatever has led to you to this Italy Mission, know that we are grateful for your interest in our apostolate. We hope you will become a fellow gardener in this Vineyard, whether through prayer, a financial gift or telling others about our work.


Each Rachel's Vineyard site, including ours, must be financially self-sustaining. Your donations make our work possible as they help defray infrastructure costs we are not yet able to cover through program fees and Italian donations. While the outgoing Cardinal of Bologna (where we offer the retreats) has personally reaffirmed his blessing of our ministry, that blessing has not yet included any form of financial support. Those Italians who do financially support this ministry are most all former participants joined by a few clergy.

Since 2009 Rachel's Vineyard of Colorado, while not directing any of its own funds to the Italy Mission, has graciously assisted us by facilitating our friends' restricted giving for this Italy Mission. It has been the sacrificial gifts of individuals, families and Knights of Columbus Councils that have helped make possibile our first years of activity. 

To clarify: We receive NO FUNDING from Rachel's Vineyard of Colorado, nor from Rachel's Vineyard international headquarters in Philadelphia.

We would be honored to have you join our family of supporters! To make a tax-deductible donation in the United States, through the registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization "Rachel's Vineyard of Colorado", click here.

In 2020 our American family of financial supporters included a total of 24 households and two Knights of Columbus Councils in California.




Our goal for 2021 is to grow our number of American supporters to 35 familiesWe would welcome your personal participation to help us reach this goal. Our family of supporters, while predominantly Catholic, includes Christian believers of various denominations, and we are grateful for those mission partners who, like us, believe Christ is honored when His Body, the Church, reaches out ecumenically with the Good News.

In 2021 we also hope to add 2 new organizations (including at least one new Knights of Columbus Council) to our family of supporters. 


Our hoped-for partnership with one or more Italian-American organizations has thus far remained elusive. If you are involved in the Italian American community, might you be able to help us form one such partnership in 2021?

To make a donation to the Rachel's Vineyard Italy Mission, simply click on the Response Form and mail your financial gift to my stateside collaborator who records and forwards all gifts to our sponsor agency in Colorado.

Questions?
Please email Italy Mission coordinator Monika Rodman Montanaro at info.vignadirachele@yahoo.it.

Thank you for your prayers for and partnership in the Italy Mission!







Prayers
:
 
Good Shepherd Prayer for the Rachel's Vineyard Italy Mission
 
Prodigal Prayer for the Rachel's Vineyard Italy Mission




Inspiration:



Saint John Paul II's "Special Word to Women" who have had abortions (from Evangelium vitae, 1995)





Click here for:

Knights of Columbus information

Italian-Americans interested in this Mission




Blessing of Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino,

President Emeritus, Vatican Congregation for Justice and Peace:

Cardinal Martino's Italian letter

English translation of Cardinal Martino's endorsement

Personal recommendation of Monika and the Italy Mission
addressed in 2007 to the Italian Bishops by
Most Reverend Allen H. Vigneron, presently Archbishop of Detroit

(Bishop Vigneron was pastor of the Diocese of Oakland, CA during the final years of Monika Rodman's 12-year full-time tenure there)

Archives

 Spring 2014 Mission Update: Reaching out to ecclesial and pro-life leaders (Easter 2014)

Thanksgiving 2013 Mission update: Meet our team! (November 2013)

Spring 2013 Mission Update: Pope Francis and Mission in the 21st Century (Pentecost 2013)








© 2009-2021 Monika Rodman, Vigna di Rachele/Rachel's Vineyard Ministries™. Tutti i diritti riservati.