A Pro-Life Day all across Canada, preferably on a Sunday, will make people more aware of the pro-life cause, says Father Vincent Heffernan, founder of Second Chance which is counseling women who have had an abortion.
“I would like to see in archdiocese and all across Canada a Pro-Life Day on a Sunday. All the homilies will be about pro-life, chastity, abortion, and so on and informational materials will be put at the back of the churches. If the bishops were to do that then the priests would follow. They would say, okay, we are supposed to speak on this today. More people will become conscious of it,” Father Heffernan said.
“There is a lot of education that has to be done,” he added.
Second Chance wants to reach more women who need healing. They advertise the counseling service in the parishes and letters are sent to all pastors in the archdiocese once a year with a request that it be put in the parish bulletin. The pastors are requested to repeat the notice in their bulletins so as to save time and resources in sending further mailings.
“I tell the pastors that I’ll come and speak at all the Masses about pro-life if they want it. It is very rewarding to see the women get healed. It is frustrating when they had come only a few times and they don’t come back and you know they need more. There is a good number of them that do get healed and get their relationship with God on track and they start praying and go to church,” he said.
Second Chance was founded in 1990. Second Chance helps women who had an abortion to recover and get over their guilt feelings and get their life straightened out, start praying and get back into good relationship with God. Guilt is the main thing and they feel depressed, some feel suicidal. But generally they all feel guilty and upset and that God won’t forgive them, can’t forgive them, that they have done something terrible. Some women will come for a while and then they stop.
A woman can come for counseling any time during the week, but group meetings are held on Thursday nights. In a group, women share their stories with each other and help each other. It is self-help.
“Some don’t want to come to the group. Men are welcome. Men don’t seem to be touched as deeply by abortion, although it can make them feel guilty because they oftentimes encourage their girlfriend or their wife to go for an abortion,” Father Heffernan said.
A Mass is held at the end of the session, about two or three times, at Christmas, Easter, or June. In that Mass, the women offer their child to God. “That’s a very healing and emotional thing for them, and sometimes they feel that they do not need anything more. Some will come back after that.”
“God is the one who heals, they have to pray, they have to be open to God and ask God to heal them,” the Scarborough Foreign Mission priest said.
“Sometimes when I tell people what I’m doing, about counseling women who had an abortion, they say, ‘why are you doing that, isn’t the church against abortion?’ Then I have to explain to them, yes we are against abortion, but just because a woman had an abortion, are we going to abandon her? We have to help her,” the Second Chance founder said.
People read the notices about Second Chance in the parish bulletins, they hear about it and other groups like Birthright refer people it.
Angela Steenstra works with Fr. Heffernan. Angela had an abortion years ago herself, and has been through a healing process. “Some women only want to talk to her. They would rather talk to a woman than to a man. Some will talk to them about God and encourage them to pray, that they may pray the Rosary, and if they are open to it I will pray for them while they are here.”
“But they have to come a number of times, we figure maybe 12 to 15 sessions per abortion. If they had more abortions they probably need more help,” he said.