Accepting Forgiveness and Forgiving Myself

“Twenty-two years ago, at the age of 16, I had an abortion.  For many years following my abortion I suffered greatly.  I struggled with drug and alcohol abuse, troubled relationships, among many other things.  The greatest struggle was being able to accept God’s forgiveness and forgiving myself for what I had done.

ClarissaI turned to my Church for help by contacting Project Rachel, and it changed my life.  After completing a recovery program, I felt God’s call to share my testimony and minister to the post-abortive.  Since then, I have shared my testimony at high schools, colleges, pregnancy centers and other pro-life events and groups.  I have also volunteered at Heartbeat of Toledo where I helped guide post abortive women through a Scripture-based recovery program.  After going through the healing process, I have gone on to have a wonderful marriage of 18 years, 5 children and a life of freedom through Christ Jesus.

On the day I called the Project Rachel Help Line, I was at my lowest point in my life. I had remembered seeing information throughout my life in different parish bulletins, and because of this, I knew my Church was here to help. Many men and women have said it took them years to finally make that call.

If you are hurting after an abortion, I invite you to reach out for help by contacting us at Project Rachel. You will have the opportunity to talk with post-abortive women and to be guided through the healing process.  Please call our local confidential help line at 1-888-456-HOPE or email projectrachel@toledodiocese.org.”

~ Clarissa Lapinski, Project Rachel Coordinator

 

Community members keep Helping Hands equipped to serve hot meals

With the help of food and financial donations, Helping Hands of St. Louis feeds hundreds of people each day at the soup kitchen and food pantry in East Toledo.

In recent years, the number of clients served at Helping Hands steadily increased due to economic decline.  At the same time, government funding for food assistance dramatically decreased.  But thanks to the generosity of the local community, we remained stocked with meat, bread and vegetables for daily hot meals.

The staff at Helping Hands couldn’t have been more pleased with the extra help from our community.  But the center was soon faced with a new problem.

“There was no place to put donations, and we were getting overwhelmed with frozen meat and vegetables,” says Helping Hands Director, Paul Cook.  “We didn’t want to give it all away because of the need for daily meals.”

Freezer space was not the only problem Helping Hands ran into.  The outreach center’s van needed to be replaced.  Without it, the staff were left without a way to pick up donated food from local grocery stores.

But Helping Hands didn’t have to wait long for assistance.  As has happened so many times before, generous people stepped forward provide what was needed.

With the financial help of Jim Meads and others, Helping Hands of St. Louis expanded their freezer space from 10 x 8 feet to a larger 10 x 22 foot walk-in freezer.

About the same time, Helping Hands received word from Paul Krause and his wife, Carol, that they would be willing to donate their used van.

“Our daughter Gretchen volunteers at Helping Hands, and she became aware of the need for transportation,” Mr. Krause says.

Thanks to the love and care of our “angels,” Helping Hands can continue to be an asset to the East Toledo Community and our clients.

“They have good hearts, and we’re blessed to have their support,” Paul Cook says.  “With their help, we can keep serving 300 to 400 meals a day.”

In the town of Lima, you can’t help but look at the massive buildings that sit behind the snowy fields. Most of these buildings are state correctional facilities that have housed thousands of inmates over the years.

The brick building, known as Allen Correctional Institution, is where Sue Bishop and her team of 40 volunteers go about four times a year to minister to the inmates behind these prison doors.

“We want our inmates to walk away knowing that God loves them and that there are people out there who care,” Sue says.

Giving God a Chance

From Friday to Sunday, the inmates and volunteers join together to pray, share stories and participate in activities. They end the weekend with Sunday Mass.

“We have a turnout of about 100 inmates,” says another volunteer, Leanne Kerschner. “At Mass in the prison, everybody’s participating, everybody’s praying, everybody’s singing. It’s just a really great atmosphere. It’s wonderful.”

Greg participated in several retreats during his time at Allen Correctional from 1988 to 2007.

“I was wandering aimlessly. I thought I’d just do my time and get out and go home,” he says. “I’d been away from church for a while. Then the light came on.”

The prison chaplain suggested Greg give God a chance and attend the retreats. Hearing the volunteers talk about their own experience of overcoming problems helped Greg take a fresh look at his life.

“You can be humbled to realize you have so much when you feel like you don’t have anything,” he says.

After going on more retreats, he found a new sense of purpose. He was confirmed in his childhood Catholic faith by Auxiliary Bishop Robert Donnelly while still in prison. With a new direction in life, he spent his free time at Allen Correctional studying tax law and taking college classes. He graduated with a financial degree from Ohio University while still incarcerated.

He credits Sue and her team for helping him get to where he is now – a faithful church member and owner of his own business. He also reaches out to those just released from prison to help them reintegrate into society.

Whoever is Forgiven Much

“We minster to a lot of guys who just made bad choices,” Sue says. “The faith of some of these guys is amazing.”

Leanne agrees: “I think it goes back to the Bible verse that says whoever is forgiven much, loves much. Knowing that they are forgiven from something big makes them love more.”

Sue remembers an inmate who had strong hopes of getting parole but was denied. “I was crushed,” she says. “We got there and I said, ‘I don’t even know what to say.’ ”

She pauses again and with a soft tone in her voice says, “He turned to me and said ‘It’s ok … God has something else planned for me.’”

Greg thanks the team for making a difference in his life.

“They have their struggles in life, but they still found time for us,” he says. “It put me in the right direction, and let me know God’s always there.”

“A friend told me about La Posada. I came and I was surprised because it doesn’t look like a shelter. It looks just like a home. I was so glad when they told me we could stay. They’ve been so good to me. Honestly, none of this would be happening if I hadn’t been here. They’ve helped me so much.” – Marquita, La Posada resident

Our Mission

Catholic Charities makes real the love God has for each individual regardless of faith or background, by serving the poor, speaking for and assisting the neglected and forgotten, respecting and promoting life from beginning to end, and nurturing and supporting individuals and families.

Catholic Charities Northwest Ohio

 

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