October 23, 2015
Several years ago, two laypeople approached Father John Sims Baker hoping to establish a ministry for post-abortive women and families in Nashville. For the past nine years, the trio have been working on and off to make their dream a reality. This past August, their wishes came true.
Entering Canaan, sponsored by the Sisters of Life religious order, opened a chapter in Nashville. Father Baker, pastor of St. Mary’s Church in downtown Nashville, is its chaplain.
“We looked at different programs, and thought Entering Canaan was a good fit for Nashville. It’s great to finally have it up and running,” Father Baker said.
The Sisters of Life were founded in New York City in 1991 under the direction of the late Cardinal John O’Connor. In addition to the three traditional religious vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, the Sisters take a fourth vow to uphold the dignity of human life from the point of conception to the point of natural death. Most of their ministry is centered on outreach to abortion-minded women and their children.
In 1996, with the help of Cardinal O’Connor and pro-life activist Theresa Bonopartis, the Sisters established Entering Canaan to support post-abortive women and families. The ministry is named after the Promised Land the Israelites entered after years of slavery in Egypt and wandering through the desert. It seeks to accompany post-abortive men and women on a sacramental healing journey to the heart of Jesus, and to provide them with a community of faith to give them unconditional encouragement and support.
“Many people are familiar with the Rachel’s Vineyard retreats, but we’re different,” said Rena Burns, a St. Mary’s parishioner and head of the Nashville chapter of Entering Canaan. “We offer weekend retreats, monthly meetings, and Days of Prayer and Healing. It gives those we help greater support in their journeys.
“With us, people have a greater understanding of post-abortive healing as a process,” she said. “It takes a while to heal from the trauma of abortion.”
Father Baker notes the immense need for Entering Canaan’s ministry.
“I think in our culture, where so many people think of abortion as just a choice to be made, we don’t recognize the pain and suffering that post-abortive women and families experience,” he said. “It’s something that’s hidden and swept under the rug. And we encourage people to bring that pain out into the open.”
Entering Canaan will host its first Day of Prayer and Healing in Nashville on Nov. 21. Women of all religious and non-religious backgrounds are welcome to attend. The day will include time for Adoration, discussion, opportunities to receive the sacrament of Penance, and Mass. Two of the Sisters of Life will be attending. Father Baker will be on hand to provide spiritual guidance to the attendees and to hear confessions.
He is excited to share God’s mercy with those in need of it.
“It’s a wonderful thing to see people experience God’s mercy,” Father Baker said. “It transforms people on so many levels. Obviously, it does spiritually and emotionally. But sometimes you can also sense a physical transformation. People just seem to be more relaxed and at peace. And I love to see that happen.”
To protect the confidentiality of those attending the Day of Prayer and Healing, Entering Canaan does not wish to publicly announce a time and location for this event. To learn more about attending, call (615) 415-2550 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.