Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders build in vain. ~ Psalm 127:1
When the first woman called Bethesda, The House of Mercy for help in October of 1990, I prayed, “Oh, Lord, we’re not ready!!!” So many unfinished items remained on our “to do” lists. So many loose ends. We hadn’t decided upon a place for the ministry, and yet here she was, our first call for healing. She had been found by our Good Shepherd who hears the cries of every wounded heart. Thirteen years later, I still sit with many unfinished items scribbled on my “to do” list, surrounded by stacks of paper and books on my desk. (And even on my floor!!!) Looking back to the days of our founding, I realize that from the very beginning our Lord was teaching us that Bethesda is His ministry, His house, His work of healing. The Lord would not act according to our timetables, our own “good ideas”, or our carefully laid plans. By patiently growing us in the ways of His Spirit, our Lord constantly reminds us that we are merely His instruments -flawed, weak and limited- and yet chosen by Him to minister His perfect love in His strength with His immeasurable grace. With a gentle leading of His grace, our Lord built the House of Mercy, directing us ever closer to His heart of Love, not only as a ministry, but as a community of women committed to seeking the face of God with one another.
Many mental health professionals perceive abortion as a compassionate solution to women in crisis while producing few emotional complications; however, many studies have proven otherwise. Dr. Vincent Rue, Director of the Institute for Abortion Recovery and Research in New Hampshire, Dr. Anne Catherine Speckhard at Family Systems Center in Arlington, Virginia, Terry Selby, ACSW, the former clinical director of Counseling Associates of Bemidji, Inc., among others, have revealed that abortion does create short-term and long-term dysfunction not only in women who have experienced abortion, but also in men, family members and other significant persons involved in an abortion.
Even without this research and documentation, post-abortion trauma was first recognized by the Christian community when women impacted by abortion quietly sought healing and reconciliation with God through supportive relationships with one another. One of these women was Nancy Jo Mann, the founder of WEBA, the first peer–to-peer post-abortion ministry. Although abortion promised liberation, these courageous women acknowledged that they discovered too late that abortion results in grief, shame, violation, and feelings of alienation from God, loved ones and themselves. From these women, we learned that post-abortion trauma is more than a psychological or behavioral condition, but a spiritual manifestation of our estrangement from Divine Love. As one woman aptly described, “It’s my soul that hurts.” These prophetic women, who gathered together in the early 1980’s, were the first to give voice to the emotional and spiritual wounds caused by abortion and the first to express the healing process that the Lord had provided. Since then, post-abortion ministries and programs have blossomed all across United States and throughout the international community.
When Bethesda was founded in 1990 by Sister Patricia Maloney, RGS, and a small team of women in cooperation with the Pro-Life Office of the Diocese of Cleveland, our vision was to provide a peer-to-peer ministry located in a private, peaceful setting where anyone hurting from abortion could come for healing, prayer, and support. As the ministry grew over the years, we realized that God had built not only a place of healing, but a community of women committed to proclaiming the Good News of Christ’s mercy to anyone suffering after abortion. Promising one another to seek always for the face of God, the women of Bethesda support each other in the journey of faith. Through a life of prayer, devotion to the Eucharist, devotion to God’s Word in the Holy Scriptures, a love of Mary, our Blessed Mother and all the Saints, and faithfulness to the Holy Father and the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, we minister the same healing and compassion of Jesus that we graciously received during our own healing journey. We are a family drawn by the Spirit of God who desires to share the healing intimacy of our Lord’s love with all the persons He sends, whether they contact us only once, visit us for one or two sessions, or complete their healing journey at Bethesda. So many persons suffering after abortion feel isolated and alone. They long for someone to listen to their story and understand their pain. Bethesda is a community of women who have opened the doors of their hearts to receive every wounded soul with the love of Christ.