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from the Rachel's Vineyard Italy Mission!
As we move into Spring and toward Easter, Domenico and I, along with our growing team of clergy and lay collaborators,
send you Lenten greetings filled with gratitude for your partnership in
the Rachel's Vineyard Italy Mission, and update you on these first months of the new year's apostolic activity.
March 2017 Rome seminar "The Experience of Abortion"
Italy Mission founder and director Monika Rodman Montanaro with 2 collaborators.
On March 15th a former retreat participant and one of our collaborating psychologists joined Monika on a
4-hour public event discussing "The Experience of
Abortion", sponsored by Rome's John Paul II Institute for
Marriage and Family.
Under a newly appointed president, the Institute is in a stage of
transition, so this event represented an opportunity to continue
cultivating our 5-year relationship with this graduate school that
trains clergy and laity from Italy and other countries.
Several former participants of our program attended this public event and spoke of their experience.
In February Monika was in California helping her father with medical treatments and took advantage of the opportunity to join Rachel's Vineyard foundress Dr. Theresa Burke,
who came from Philadelphia to give two talks at the Los Angeles
Religious Education Congress. The three days spent together offered a
long overdue chance to share experiences and exchange ideas.
February 2017, Anaheim, California
Dr. Theresa Burke
and Monika Rodman Montanaro meet at the Archdiocese of Los Angeles Religious Education Congress,
where Dr. Burke gave two workshops on abortion trauma and healing.
A rare quiet moment during the 3 days Dr. Burke and Monika Rodman were together at the Anaheim Convention Center.
There Dr. Burke also met with two Southern California Rachel's Vineyard retreat teams.
Year 2017 events in the Italy Mission will include not only retreats, but also:
- May 2017: Italy's annual March for Life in Rome (leafleting with a team of former retreat participants)
- June 2017: We've been asked to give a workshop at national conference on marriage sponsored by Italy's growing Mistero Grande ("Great Mystery") ministry
- Summer 2017: Mission Co-Operative Diocese of San Diego: Monika will
speak at all Masses at St. Mary, Star of the Sea in Oceanside
- September 2017: The 3-day Franciscan Festival in Bologna (we'll have an info gazebo in Bologna's central piazza thanks to our Franciscan collaborator)
Is the Italy Mission New to you?
As you consider supporting our work, click here to read the brief history of how we began!
Mini-POSTER: a 1-page summary of our work! (PDF)
As part of the Diocese of San Diego's "Mission Co-Op" program,
Year-End 2016 Update:
The Jubilee Year of Mercy allowed us to focus in 2016 on clergy outreach, and we are continuing to build up this element of our apostolate in 2017. We plan to disseminate even more widely the materials we've developed to boost
confidence in the clergy who aren't always sure of the best way to help a
penitent with the often difficult process of post-abortion recovery and
reconciliation. 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."
are encouraged by the fact that Bologna's new Bishop met with us
shortly after taking office in early 2016
and affirmed his appreciation of our
apostolate. In 2017 we hope to translate this admiration into more
active support beyond the collaboration we enjoy with
Bologna's Family Life Office. Bologna,
with its central location, remains in many ways an ideal hub for our
ministry, whose team members live in various regions of Italy. There we
offer at least three retreats a year, consisting of a 3-day experience
followed two months later with the 4th day of retreat.
After years of welcoming predominantly those who found us searching the internet, in 2016 we welcomed a higher proportion of participants via direct church referrals (a
priest in the confessional, an invitation posted on a church
bulletin board, a flyer included among materials given as part of
a diocesan marriage preparation curriculum). We're working to continue
Our fabulous all-volunteer team contines to grow! We
now have 5 past participant leaders accompanying women before, during
and after the retreat, as well as a new priest collaborator who brings youthful energy and is gifted in many areas. A newly retired psychotherapist served on our last retreat and is discerning possible longer-term collaboration with us. A nun-psychologist will serve on our February 2017 retreat. Another priest (a
Franciscan friar), who for 3 years has come for Saturday evening of
the retreat, including confessions, is ready to intensify his
collaboration after having participated in the entire 4-day process this summer.
Our 2 new priests are helping us strategize outreach events
to raise awareness of post-abortion issues and to train those in a
position to respond.
Among the connections they're making: we'll offer a workshop on abortion and marriage in June 2017 at The Marriage Course
national convention in Rome (related to the international Alpha Course
for the new evangelization) and in September 2017 we're preparing to
have a multi-day booth at the Franciscan Festival in Bologna. In short, the teamwork inherent to the Rachel's Vineyard model of care
is more and more revealing itself one of the strengths of this
In Summer 2016, Monika celebrated the Italy Mission's 6th birthday with a missionary speaking engagement in San Diego (her birthplace):
in August 2016 Italy Mission Founder Monika Rodman Montanaro
gave the reflection at all Masses at Our Lady of the Rosary church in San Diego's Little Italy:
Clergy and ushers gave Monika a warm welcome at all 5 liturgies celebrated that Sunday.
The following Monday Monika joined missioners from Nigeria,
India and Mexico for lunch at the diocesan Missions Office, under the
leadership of Fr. Joe Miller, SVD.
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
Our active participation in the Year of Mercy concluded with a November speaking engagement at Rome's John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family:
Nov. 2016 ROMA: Mons. John Cihak is a priest from the Archdiocese of
who has worked in Rome for the past 8 years. His extensive experience in post-abortion pastoral care
included participation in numerous Rachel's Vineyard retreats in Oregon.
annually invited to join him
in speaking to Italian and international clergy
doing ongoing formation in family life ministry.
Nov. 2016 MILANO: Monika and Domenico visit one of their collaborating priests, Dominican fra Cristiano, op.
That weekend we 3 all participated in the marriage liturgy of a former retreat participant, who
persevered in a 2-year journey from a cohabitating
relationship to sacramental marriage.
In a confessional at this very church, in July fra Cristiano met another woman we are presently companioning:
a 53 year-old penitent dealing with the trauma of
an abortion at age 16 plus the realization that the fertility
clinic (in Spain) that had more than once used donated eggs to
produce her 5
year-old daughter had also discarded multiple embryos. Now a breast
cancer diagnosis and 2 years of treatment was leading her to reflect on
all this in a new light.
"The days in Bologna were a marvelous grace that has given me a new way of looking at my entire life.
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
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."
Fra Cristiano spoke at length with Elena and told her about Rachel's
Vineyard. She called us immediately and I had several lengthy
phone conversations with her during the summer. Another post-abortive
team member, who's also dealt with infertility, companioned her as well.
One month after participating in the retreat with her husband, Elena wrote:
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!
We'll soon try to figure out in what parish we feel most at home."
Shortly before Christmas 2016 Monika was interviewed by Vatican Radio and by the Italian Bishops' newspaper
- both fabulous occasions to illustrate our work as an expression of
the universal Church's call to pastorally care for those who are hurting after abortion.
Why the media interest? 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 changes practically
nothing in pastoral practice, but Francis' move is 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.
Monika is also helping mentor a new retreat site, the first in Slovenia
the former Yugoslavia, next to Croatia and Austria, near Italy's
northwest border). Our relationship with Slovenia begain 3 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 already spent many hours consulting by Skype. This
mentoring relationship will require
further Slovenian program and team development before a 2nd retreat
will be held.
NOTE: While Facebook
shares are appreciated, all communications to Italy Mission
director Monika Rodman Montanaro should be sent via email to:
Six years after the launching of 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
seed planted in a field of vast need, yet we are
resolved to help this seed continue to grow, with your prayers and
PRAYER for the Italy Mission
Please share with friends and family!
NEW! Europe's Down Syndrome "Thought Police"
2016 we've had numerous 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.
NEW! Choosing forgiveness, even when it comes to abortion
A mother recalls being a senior in college, pregnant and tempted to abort her now 8 year-old child. Written in light of Pope Francis' permanent expansion of priestly faculties to life any abortion excommunication
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
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.
more articles on present-day Italy below....
The Year 2017 Response Form details how to make a tax-deductible Gift to the Rachel's Vineyard Italy Mission any time this year, to be sent by check to my father, who will forward all gifts to Colorado. (PLEASE NOTE THIS CHANGE:
My stateside assistant these past years, Tara Somerday, has recently
moved from Fremont, CA to Texas and is presently unable to process our
gifts, so my father has graciously agreed to do so at present.)
Those who wish to make a credit card donation (and our few English-speaking friends here in Europe) may instead make a (non-tax-deductible) donation to the Italy Mission by PayPal. Such a gift will be deposited in Euros directly into our Italian account dedicated exclusively to this apostolate.
In short, I hope that as the Year of Grace 2017 unfolds you will renew - or begin - your partnership
Vineyard Italy Mission!
The 2 courageous women
who shared testimonies are:
(Story not translated here
in an Italian Catholic family life magazine)
6 Things We've Learned these
first 6 Years:
1) As our faithful
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
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
over time even to those who haven't yet committed to a retreat.
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
involved in that journey as a true
"pilgrimage", which is already a strong element of
Recently retired bishop Cardinal Carlo Caffarra more than once
appreciation of Rachel's
Vineyard, noting in a meeting with
his Clergy Council our
apostolate's activities as one of the highlights of his years as bishop
We will work to earn similar trust, as
well as the
beginnings of some local financial support, as we cultivate a
relationship with the new bishop.
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
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
in the United States and elsewhere. Furthermore, in the States
almost all clergy have
the faculties to deal with the canon law aspects
of abortion during a normal confession. In Italy the matter is
treated and generally reserved to the Bishop and his
in the cathedral), to the clergy in Rome, as well as the mendicant
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
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
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) 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 encountered in the U.S. In addition,
Italian socialism has thwarted the development of a vigorous spirit of
unpaid volunteerism like that which is still strong in the States. Here,
the psychologist who collaborated with us in our first 6 years is
getting married this summer and has decided to step away from retreat
service for at least a year as she transitions into marriage. Please pray for us as we search for another mental health professional with whom to collaborate!
It's been your prayers
financial support, together with the remarkable commitment by our Italy
retreat team (priests and past-participants) that have allowed us to
pioneer this ministry!
We are so very grateful to those of you who have
been able to count the Italy
Mission among those worthy initiatives that benefit from your
charitable giving. We must still fully
self-finance our 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.
To make a donation to the
Vineyard Italy Mission, simply click on the Response Form and
mail your check to my stateside collaborator who records and forwards all gifts to our
Or to Donate by credit
card click below:
(NOTE: Transaction will be executed in Euros and is not
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 distribute a lovely postcard designed
posting on bulletin boards at parishes and hospital chapels.
I encourage you to check
out the YouTube
channel we pioneered in 2014 and continue to build.
It now includes 25 videos including Italy's first-ever testimonies
of abortion hurt and healing, together with videos (ranging in length
from 1 to 30 minutes) by clergy
and psychotherapists who explain the abortion wound, invite those
affected to reach out for help, and encourage steps toward recovery and
Additional reading for Italy aficionados:
is a "dying country" (13 February 2015, The Guardian)
articles on Italy's demographic crisis below...
Italian Women are Choosing to Have No Children
(22 April 2014, Wall
While this article
on economic forces leading to the choice of childlessness, we
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
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
Photo by lapresse.it
May 2014 and 2015
Rome Mission: March for
The "Nonna" State
(15 June 2012, Wall
beaten-down economies of Italy and Spain, the force to reckon with is
the army of grandparents who form an invisible safety net helping young
people make ends meet.
Why We Should Welcome Abortion
Narratives (30 April 2014, First Things)
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
to know the recent history of the Italy Mission:
Spring 2014 Mission Update: Reaching out
to ecclesial and pro-life leaders (Easter 2014)
Thanksgiving 2013 Mission update: Meet our team!
Spring 2013 Mission Update:
Francis and Mission in the 21st Century (Pentecost 2013).
Vineyard Italy Mission founders Monika
Rodman Montanaro (California, USA) and Domenico Montanaro
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
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
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!
compounds the grief of many women who now carry with them deep physical
and spiritual wounds after succumbing to the pressures of a secular
devalues God’s gift of sexuality and the right to life of the
Pope Francis, 25 April 2014, ad
limina visit from Southern Africa's bishops
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
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
Columbus, the Italian Catholic
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.??
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
or telling others about our work.
Rachel's Vineyard site, including ours, must be financially
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
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 five
years of activity.
We receive NO
from Rachel's Vineyard of Colorado, nor from Rachel's Vineyard
headquarters in Philadelphia, nor from Rachel's Vineyard's parent
organization Priests for Life.
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.
From 2012 through 2015 our American
family of financial
supporters averaged an annual total of 23 households and two Knights of
Columbus Councils (Council 5300 Goleta Valley, CA and Council 6143,
Our goal for 2017 is to grow our number
of American supporters to 35
families. We 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 2017 we also hope to add 2 new
(including at least one new Knights of
Columbus Council) to our family of supporters.
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 2017?
To make a donation to the
Vineyard Italy Mission, simply click on the Response Form and
mail your financial gift to Tara, my stateside collaborator (and former
Oakland RV team member) who records and forwards all gifts to our
Please email Italy Mission coordinator Monika Rodman Montanaro at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rachel's Vineyard site, including ours, must be financially
self-sustaining. It is your financial support that
makes our apostolate possible!
make a tax-deductible
donation through our Stateside sponsor,
the registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization "Rachel's Vineyard of
Colorado", click here.
American and friends and those from other countries may instead
make a (non-tax-deductible) donation to the Italy Mission by PayPal.
Such a gift will be deposited in Euros
directly into our Italian account dedicated exclusively
to this apostolate.
To receive a copy of our current Business Plan, entitled
New Evangelization in Italy through Post-abortion
Healing," email Monika Rodman Montanaro at email@example.com.
Thank you for your prayers and partnership in the Italy
© 2009-2017 Monika Rodman, Vigna di Rachele/Rachel's Vineyard
Ministries™. Tutti i diritti riservati.