Report on Rachel’s Vineyard Leadership Conference – Nov. 13-18, 2005
Report on Rachel’s Vineyard Leadership Conference – Nov. 13-18, 2005
San Damiano Retreat Center – Danville (Oakland), California

By Caryn Stevens, Director – Abortion AfterCare-Healing Ministry

The International Rachel’s Vineyard Leadership Conference this year was an incredibly spiritual and enriching event! The Conference was held in Northern California, high up in the Diablo Mountains, at the San Damiano Retreat House – named after a tiny Italian church near Assisi, where St. Francis began the Franciscan tradition. There were about 150 representatives, both Catholic and Protestant, from all over the United States and the world! Some came as far away as China, Hong Kong, Ireland, Japan, Africa and Australia! There were 3 other Texas cities represented including teams from Corpus Christi, Lubbock and Amarillo. And, speaking of Amarillo, Father Mark Clarke from the Missionaries of the Gospel of Life (or MEV) was also present for the entire week. Of course, Theresa Burke, founder and Executive Director of Rachel’s Vineyard, was there and lead some incredible classes as well as spiritual gatherings. Finally, as long as I’m name-dropping, our fabulous and fearless Father Frank Pavone was there on Sunday for Mass and a rousing talk!

The week was a much needed time for fellowship, learning and re-charging for another year of ministry and outreach. Sharon Martyn, my new assistant and Joan Wehman, a licensed counselor who works on our retreats, attended the Conference with me. We attended clinical-based workshops, personal growth events and off-campus activities. We also participated in a lot of praise and worship every morning with the help of Greg Magirescu, a terrific musical talent and recording artist from Canada, who played the piano and helped lift us up in spirit and renew our commitment to “building up the broken body of Christ.”

We received a lot of great information on a range of topics including team work, aftercare issues, problem-solving on retreats, and many other topics related to post-abortion work. Each of the guest speakers and presenters was extremely knowledgeable and offered so much information vital to this ministry. I brought home a lot of information and ideas to implement here in Dallas! An especially wonderful treat was the concert we attended at St. Isidore parish down the mountain from the retreat house. Michael John Poirier, renowned Christian recording artist, performed for us, just for us, singing songs from his CD “Healing After The Choice,” a special musical arrangement written especially for men and women who are suffering from the heartbreak of abortion.

According to Theresa Burke, Rachel’s Vineyard is growing and spreading like wildfire across the globe. In 2006, RV anticipates over 350 RV weekends for healing. The ministry itself continues to expand at a 40% growth rate. Priests for Life, who has partnered with Rachel’s Vineyard, helps with this rapid growth by assisting Rachel’s Vineyard in spreading the word about hope and healing throughout the world.

I felt especially close to God through the incredible mountain scenery and beautiful landscape of flowers and trees at the retreat center. Deer and other wildlife came within feet of me and I was amazed at God’s beauty. Among all the splendor and majesty, I really felt like a speck in this great big universe – and yet, God picked me and the rest of mankind as His chosen ones, His precious children. St. Francis has always been one of my most favorite and beloved of all the saints, so it was especially profound being in this beautiful place of serenity and solitude, honoring this great Saint and renewing my relentless pursuit at living out my discernment and following God’s will for my life.

Most High, glorious God,
enlighten the darkness of my heart.
Give me true faith, certain hope
and perfect charity, sense and
knowledge that I may carry out
Your Holy and true command.

- Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi to discern God's will

Submitted by Caryn Stevens
November 15, 2005