Kelly Lang attended the March for Life in Washington, D.C. for the first time last year. She walked at the head of the March as part of the delegation from the Silent No More Awareness Campaign, a group of women and men who speak publically about their experience with abortion and the pain and suffering they’ve felt because of it.
“It was cold. Literally snow is sitting on my shoulders,” Lang recalled.
Standing in front of the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court building, organizers asked Lang to be one of several women to share their stories with the hundreds of thousands of people who had gathered for the March, marking the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision legalizing abortion.
As she looked out over the crowd she saw a banner held by students from St. Cecilia Academy in Nashville. “To speak before the hometown group at the steps of the Supreme Court … it’s indescribable,” said Lang.
Her journey to the Supreme Court building began in 2010 when she attended a weekend retreat in the Diocese of Nashville for people who have been affected by abortion – women, men, married couples, abortion industry workers – sponsored by the Rachel’s Vineyard organization.
“I had such a fear of people knowing I had an abortion,” said Lang, particularly Father John Sims Baker, her spiritual director. But Father Baker, who works with Rachel’s Vineyard, suggested she might have a heart for the ministry.
“I started to cry,” Lang said. “The one person I didn’t want to know about my abortion led me to healing.”
During the weekend retreat, the people whose lives have been touched by abortion, primarily women, but also some men mourning their lost fatherhood, talk about their experience, the guilt they feel and the harmful emotional and physical impact they’ve felt, all done in a confidential and supportive setting.
“We are wounded by our abortion. It’s that wound that becomes so painful,” Lang said. “Often it’s the first time some people ever tell their story.”
But during the weekend, they experience “no judgment, no condemnation, just pure love,” Lang said. “There is a blessing that takes place.”
“Only after the Rachel’s Vineyard retreat did I feel I could accept God’s forgiveness,” Lang said.
After completing the weekend retreat, Lang started volunteering with the organization and joined the team leading the retreats. She volunteered to help with outreach efforts, “not knowing what my calling is,” Lang said. “It’s a rare calling. Just because you go through RV doesn’t mean you have to speak about your abortion.”
She now serves as the publicity and outreach chair for Rachel’s Vineyard in the Diocese of Nashville. As part of her work with the organization, she visits churches and other groups to talk about her abortion and the help she found through Rachel’s Vineyard.
“The hardest part is after any Mass I’ve ever spoken at or any group I’ve talked to, somebody always waits until the area is cleared and they tell me their story,” Lang said. “I’ve held as many men in my arms as I have women.”
Lang’s own story began when she was 17, unmarried and pregnant. She had an abortion, but immediately regretted it.
In a talk she prepared for the youth group at St. Rose of Lima Church in Murfreesboro as they get ready to head to Washington for this year’s March for Life on Jan. 22, Lang said she was convinced no one would love her if they knew about her abortion. And she stayed away from her faith because she thought God was angry.
She later married and had two children, but she still missed her unborn child, Lang said. She tried to fill the void with food, binging and purging.
At one time, she told a priest about her abortion in confession. He forgave her, but she couldn’t forgive herself, Lang said.
She finally asked for Jesus’ forgiveness, and a few weeks later saw a brochure for Rachel’s Vineyard. She thought she might go someday.
Her marriage eventually ended and her children went off to college. That’s when Father Baker suggested she get involved with Rachel’s Vineyard. At the weekend retreat, Lang said, she “breathed in the word of God” and released the pain.
Since becoming involved at Rachel’s Vineyard, Lang has joined those who pray outside abortion clinics. “It’s a wonderful ministry. It’s all about saving the baby,” she said. “But the moment the abortion takes place, another ministry needs to step in. Not only the soul of the baby needs to be saved, but the soul of the mom and dad and all those who have been touched by abortion.”
In the Diocese of Nashville, Rachel’s Vineyard sponsors one weekend retreat a year, but other retreats are held in neighboring dioceses and states that are open to anyone interested in attending, Lang said.
For more information about Rachel’s Vineyard and the retreats, contact Lang at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her at (615) 613-3196. People can also visit the organization’s Facebook page, rachelsvineyardnashville.