Rosemary Medeiros came from a very Catholic family that had immigrated to America from Yucatan, Mexico. Her father was very strict and her mother took great care of their four children, of whom Medeiros is the eldest.
After arriving in the United States, Medeiros asked God to guide her and heard about a retreat offering support for post-abortion women offered by Rachel's Vineyard, a ministry that provides spiritual healing for those who have lived the experience.
Later, she attended PACE (Post-Abortion Counseling & Education), a group involved in post- abortion healing and Scripture study, which participants attend once a week for eight weeks.
"Attending these two programs was wonderful. I understood that God had forgiven me from the beginning and managed to forgive myself," she said.
Medeiros met Gloria Maldonado, who promotes these two programs under the organization First Resort, a nonprofit organization that provides information, resources and support to women who are in an unplanned pregnancy or need help after an abortion.
"The woman who experiences an abortion is a wounded soul who needs mercy and healing of Christ," Medeiros said, referring not only to spiritual but psychological problems that often come after abortion, such as depression, anxiety, problems in relationships, courage, sexual dysfunction, loneliness, divorce, drugs and alcoholism. "Many people, when they have the experience of an abortion, want nothing from anyone, want to block it and are subject to it becoming a big trauma," Maldonado said.
Maldonado and Medeiros work together with the Diocese of Oakland by contacting all parishes and use various methods of communication to promote these programs.Through Rachel's Vineyard, retreats offer healing. Counselors and licensed social workers trained in this lay ministry are available through this ministry.The PACE program is longer, with weekly meetings over a course of eight to 10 weeks.
These programs are attended not only by women, but also men and couples. They have even included grandparents who seek healing because their children have had abortions.
Mothers in crisis aided by volunteers at Birthright
Linda Easterday became a volunteer at Birthright of Concord by reading a tiny notice in The Catholic Voice seeking volunteers to help in the office back in 2001.
The group is also taking signups for its annual luncheon on March 25 at Zio Fraedo's restaurant in Pleasant Hill. Luncheon tickets are $35; raffles will also be part of the afternoon. The raffles, Easterday said, "help keep us in the black."
One main way Birthright keeps its costs low is that it is an all-volunteer organization. Right now, four or five volunteers are needed to work in the office, which is open two full days and three partial days a week, from Monday to Friday.
It would be good, Easterday said, to extend those hours to 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each day.
In addition to office staff, Birthright of Concord seeks an executive director and volunteers with fundraising experience. The organization has an annual fundraiser, a spaghetti feed hosted by St. Bonaventure Parish in Concord, in September.
A "phantom tea" is also held once a year. The donors receive a tea bag in the mail — with an invitation to brew a cup, sit back at home and enjoy it. The opportunity to support the group without leaving your home often brings in about $1,000. "Every little bit helps," Easterday said.
Easterday's background is in insurance; an early retirement resulted in her looking for volunteer opportunities. She and her husband had led pre-Cana classes in the diocese in the past. Then she saw an ad in The Catholic Voice.
"I have always been pro-life," she said, "but not in pro-life ministry."
Birthright of Concord last year served 351 women, up from 275 the year before. The women who come to Birthright are a diverse group, with most of them in their 20s and 30s, Easterday said. Spanish-speaking volunteers are available on Tuesday mornings, she said.
The care transcends language, Easterday said. "We can still understand each other and not speak the same language," she said.
"Our main focus is on the woman," she said of the clients who seek their support. "We want to help her so much."
One way they do that is by providing maternity clothes. Birthright of Concord is always happy to receive donations of maternity clothes.
Care for the mother continues well after the birth of her child. The mothers may receive diapers every three months, as well as clothing for their children until they are 2.
Pro-life events Jan. 23-24
Standing Up 4 Life Walk: Jan. 23: noon to 2 p.m., Oakland City Hall, 1 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza; Conversations 4 Life Benefit Dinner, 5:30-9 p.m., St. Margaret Mary Church, 1219 Excelsior Ave., Oakland, www.Issues4life.org.
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