Taking it to the streets
by Joyce A. Mitchell
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Project Rachel is taking its message to the streets — with an awareness campaign featuring billboards. Signs for the post-abortion ministry went up in early January at two Kansas City sites: on Interstate 70 just west of I-35 and on I-635 near I-70.
Ron Kelsey, consultant for the archdiocesan pro-life office, said the billboards will be up for 12 weeks, then rotate to two other locations for a six-month campaign.
The signs read simply: “Hurting after abortion?” They then provide Project Rachel’s toll-free number and Web site address.
A smaller billboard featuring the Divine Mercy image will also appear soon at Johnson Drive and I-35.
The awareness campaign is really the first major effort to promote the Project Rachel ministry in the archdiocese, said Kelsey. In addition to the Web site and billboards, the ministry has developed a logo and created brochures for distribution at parishes.
The number displayed on the new billboards belongs to the project coordinator of Project Rachel, Pat Klausner, who said that anyone affected by an abortion is encouraged to call her.
Often it is a friend, recognizing the symptoms of post-abortion syndrome and wanting advice on how to approach the subject, who calls, said Klausner.
On other occasions, abortion is a “problem stewing for years and someone decides, ‘I want to work on this issue,’” said Klausner, who has worked in post-abortion support for 10 years.
After assessing the situation over the phone, Klausner arranges to meet with the caller to explore the different services available. Options include one-on-one mentoring, weekly support groups, referrals to counselors or priests, and weekend retreats.
The process helps, she said, “change negative thoughts into positive ones, which are God-centered.”
All services are offered free.
“We don’t want money to ever be a barrier,” Klausner said.
Klausner facilitates the support groups, which already meet in Topeka, Overland Park and Wyandotte County, and are starting up in the Louisburg area. These out-reaches are designed for individuals of all faiths, but provide Catholics the opportunity for the sacrament of reconciliation and a memorial Mass for aborted children at the conclusion.
For those who can’t make it to the support group meetings, there is an online healing ministry that Klausner recommends.
Klausner said she also hopes the billboard initiative will encourage those who are considering an abortion to stop and think.
What might seem like the easiest answer to an immediate problem, the billboard suggests, might not be so easy after all.
Though Project Rachel operates in almost every U.S. diocese, Kelsey said, “all still struggle to get people to come forward.”
That’s why the Project Rachel advisory board chose the billboard initiative — and in the hopes that the signs reach people outside the Catholic Church who may not be aware of the ministry.
But it might also give Protestants a different view of the Catholic Church, said Klausner.
“Sometimes they think we are very condemning,” she said, “because we are pro-life. But we’re not.”
Project Rachel is a compassionate outreach that does not condemn, but helps participants seek forgiveness.
“Our place is to bring someone to healing,” Klausner said.