By Olivia Gans Turner, American Victims of Abortion
This week a great lady with a huge heart passed away very suddenly. Her generous heart just stopped! So, on this Easter week, Vicki Thorn, founder of Project Rachel, received her heavenly reward.
Vicki was the loving wife of Dr. William Thorn, a college professor at Marquette University, the mother of six children and grandmother of many more, a faithful woman, and a devoted servant of her church.
She was a friend, a consoler, and a voice of hope when none seemed possible. Vicki was an anchor for so many women and men who had suffered untold grief because they aborted their own children. Her early efforts in the 1980’s and 1990’s to urge churches to establish formal postabortion healing programs was a gift that is still giving to individuals in pain all over the USA and in other countries.
I was fortunate to know and work alongside Vicky in over 40 cities across America. We worked together to establish Project Rachel, a healing programs for mothers and fathers of aborted children. These efforts were primarily connected to Catholic dioceses, and other pro-life Churches, including Missouri and Wisconsin Synod Lutherans, and pro-life Anglican Churches. These were among the very first organized outreach efforts to help those who had been wounded by abortion to find real mercy and healing from the devastation that an abortion had caused in their lives.
I met Vicki in 1984 at one of the very first post abortion conferences to ever be held in America, Healing Visions II. I had been working to help start Women Exploited by Abortion, the first national peer-to-peer support program created by women for women who had had abortions,
She was already working as the Respect Life Director of the Diocese of Milwaukee to establish Project Rachel. The inspiration for the program came from the Bible verse from the Book of Jeremiah: “In Ramah is heard the sound of sobbing, bitter weeping! Rachel mourns for her children, she refuses to be consoled for her children — they are no more!” (Jer. 31:15).
In the beginning the need to educate pro-life people and members of churches that women are in need of real help and healing as well as mercy after abortion was a challenge. As surprising as it may be now, some seemed to think that Project Rachel would make it easier for women to have abortions because if church leaders forgave women, it made abortion less tragic.
However, it soon became clear that Vicki was doing something very new and important! We are a very damaged society and abortions are leaving women, men, and families deeply wounded. The program rapidly expanded through the 1980s and 90s. Vicki has even brought it to other countries.
It was my good fortune to be included during those years in training sessions for clergy and lay members of support teams for Project Rachel projects in cities and dioceses across the USA. Vicky had created a simple yet powerful structure for how to organize an effective outreach to those in pain.
Now programs to help mothers and fathers and families hurt by abortion experiences exist in almost every American Catholic diocese. Sometimes, at those events, we even witnessed healing among those who would do the work of care as well. The brokenness of abortion has hit every heart and home!
Vicki opened the hearts and minds of many in the pro-life movement and our country and others to recognize that the people who were participants in every abortion were also “killed” in their daily lives and souls; they were desperately in need of healing and forgiveness. Project Rachel was the manifestation of her deep and real commitment to see the face of the Creator in every face: the babies, the mothers, the fathers, families, and even the people who performed abortions too!
Vicki was certainly a pioneer in this important work. She deserves all the awards she has been given, including the 2009 U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ “People of Life Award” and the 2021 “Evangelium Vitae” award from the University of Notre Dame. She was a corresponding member of the Pontifical Academy for Life. having been re-appointed there in 2017 by Pope Francis.
Still, for many of us who have known the devastation and pain caused by our dreadful decisions to abort our own children her legacy will be that thanks to Project Rachel we found mercy, hope and love to restore our lives to what they are intended to be by the same force that gave us live to begin with. Thank you Vicki, may you rest in peace.