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Archives Father Reilly and Father Stitt to lead healing minstry

Oct. 31, 2018

By Colleen Miner
Staff Writer

Our diocese is fortunate to have two priests trained for Rachel’s Vineyard Ministry, Father Bryan D. Stitt, pastorReilly and Stitt of St. Mary’s Church in Canton and Father Mark R. Reilly, pastor of St. Peter’s Parish in Massena.

The pastors are part of the after-abortion healing retreat team and serve the whole weekend, offering Mass, the Sacrament of Reconciliation and Eucharistic Adoration. It’s a blessing that many retreat locations do not have.
Father Reilly said he got involved in the ministry, which began in our diocese 11 years ago, because it “seemed like something necessary, if we are to be credible and convincing.”

“That is, if we want to be heard as witnesses to the value of life in the womb, we need to also demonstrate the value of the life of those who have been hurt by the tragic choice of abortion as well,” Father Reilly said. “The healing mercy of Christ, I’m convinced, must be proclaimed hand-in-hand with our firm and clear rejection of abortion.”

“In a world where sound bites beat out conversations nine times out of 10, Rachel’s Vineyard offers the whole story,” added Father Stitt. “We don’t do so to make excuses or to pretend that something devastating didn’t happen, but to respect the dignity of every person that comes to us, we share our stories and give a warm and loving setting in which others can share theirs. That’s great all by itself, but anyone who unplugs for a weekend can do that. We do it with Christ, His Word and His Sacraments. We invite Christ into the stories of these women’s and men’s lives and rediscover that He has always been a part of ours.”

The Diocese of Ogdensburg offers two Rachel’s Vineyard healing retreats each year - spring and fall. Both are held at the Guggenheim Lodge in Saranac Lake, which serves as a beautiful and confidential location. Men and women who have experienced abortion or miscarriage loss are welcome to participate in the weekend which begins Friday evening and ends Sunday afternoon.

“Every person needs the mercy of God - none of us are exempt from that,” Father Reilly said. “What I find to be the case, so often, is that women who have had an abortion, or women and men who have participated in abortion in other ways, feel as though they committed ‘the unforgivable sin.’ They have a devastating sense that they went beyond the reach of God’s mercy, forgiveness, and healing. I have found Rachel’s Vineyard to be incredibly helpful in bringing someone along the path toward re-claiming a sense that she or he is loved, is valued, and is offered a ‘new life’ again in Christ - no matter where they have been or what they have done. Any time we help someone come to a place in their spiritual lives where they can realize and embark on a new relationship with God and others (including their children lost to abortion and/or miscarriage), we have taken another big step in the work of building up and healing the Church, the Body of Christ.”

International Rachel’s Vineyard holds periodic training conferences for those who minister in the vineyard. In September, the Diocese of Ogdensburg Rachel’s Vineyard team members were able to attend. It was Father Reilly’s first Leadership Conference.

“I found the conference to have been helpful in some practical ways,” he said. “We had the benefit of hearing from a wide variety of experts in various fields, from psychology, to spiritual direction, to substance abuse counseling, and so on. It was almost an ‘embarrassment of riches’ when we had so many different options to choose from in the breakout sessions.”

When asked if he had a chance to chat with other clergy involved in Rachel’s Vineyard and if they shared similar insights, Father Reilly said, “I did speak with other priests and a few deacons while there. We didn’t get too specific on things, except to compare notes a bit with particular problems and how they were handled on RV retreats, and some ‘best practices’ when dealing with the unique issues that can come with this kind of ministry. It was encouraging and uplifting, really, talking with them. I was particularly impressed with a few priests who were there from Kamloops, a city out west in British Columbia. They’re ministering in a much more rural locale than ours – and that’s saying something – and they were really great to talk with.”

When asked why he sees Rachel’s Vineyard as a valuable ministry, Father Stitt said, “to be able to share the revolutionary Good News is the desire of every priest. We long to share Christ in Word and Sacrament with a people that hungers for Him. That’s what happens at RV retreats. People don’t cross the threshold because they’ve got it all together – for some there has been a lot of healing before they come to us, and for others there is a lot of raw emotion still at the surface. They come to us because they are hungering for hope, healing, and (if they can put a name to it), for Christ Himself. To be a part of sharing that is a distinct honor and even a joy. Rachel’s Vineyard retreats are about healing from a loss, it’s true. But they’re also about acknowledging a hunger that has always been there in each of our lives."

When asked what Father Mark Reilly would say to someone suffering after an abortion, he said, “You’re worth it. You’re worth the time and attention that you’d receive at a Rachel’s Vineyard – given without any judgement or condemnation – because you are worth it to Jesus, the Good Shepherd. He gave himself up for you, just as much as for anyone else. He wants you to receive mercy, healing, new life. You are worth it! You may feel overwhelmed, or numb, right now - what God wants for you is to let him shoulder that burden with you, to walk with you, to save you and give you a new life going forward. You’re worth it!”

The next Rachel’s Vineyard retreat will be held in our diocese Spring 2019. Registration is online through the Respect Life Office www.rcdony.org/prolife. For more information or to find a location outside of our diocese, please visit www.rachelsvineyard.org . Don’t suffer alone. Help and healing is available.


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