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April 30, 2017

Retiring Project Rachel coordinator reflects on vital ministry

Jennie Hack, Project Rachel Ministry coordinator, has announced she will be retiring after 17 years in the position, when her replacement is hired. Prior to her work with Project Rachel, Hack worked as the Natural Family Planning coordinator for 25 years. Both positions total a career of more than 42 years of service to the Diocese of Lafayette-in-Indiana. (Photo by Jesica E. Hollinger)

Jennie Hack, Project Rachel Ministry coordinator, has announced she will be retiring after 17 years in the position, when her replacement is hired. Prior to her work with Project Rachel, Hack worked as the Natural Family Planning coordinator for 25 years. Both positions total a career of more than 42 years of service to the Diocese of Lafayette-in-Indiana. (Photo by Jesica E. Hollinger)

By Jesica E. Hollinger

LAFAYETTE — There is healing after abortion. Just ask Jennie Hack.

After nearly 17 years of being a confidant and comforter to those who have been involved in abortion, Jennie is preparing to retire from her position as the Project Rachel coordinator for the Diocese of Lafayette-in-Indiana.

Early in 2000, Jennie’s life was forever changed when she met a 16-year-old girl, who shared a story about her own personal struggle after abortion — a story Jennie never forgot.

“It all started when I spoke with a young mother who had an abortion when she was 16 years old,” Hack said.

“I listened to her story as she poured out her heart with tears streaming down her face. I could feel her pain and see how the abortion had affected her life and it was in that moment that I knew I wanted to help women who were suffering from having an abortion,” she added.

The story was so powerful that it brought about a career change for Hack, who had been the Natural Family Planning (NFP) coordinator for the diocese for 25 years, prior to that. Hack had experienced the evolution of NFP, which eventually became the more widely accepted means of family planning.

“The science and technology of family planning was changing and it was affecting everything,” she said. “It was time for things and techniques to evolve — for someone new — and at this same time, along came Susan Hoefer, who became my replacement.”

With someone she trusted working in her former position, Hack felt ready to assume her new ministry, and begin assisting those in the post-abortion healing process.

“I felt called when that girl spoke to me. She was so sad, so remorseful. She needed healing, and she needed a program that could help her work through her past,” she said.

Hack said that throughout the years, she has worked with women who felt they had no reason to live, as she constantly reminds them that God is closest to those who are suffering.

“Through God’s mercy, I’ve watched them heal. That’s the most rewarding part of this work — seeing God’s work. God is merciful and he wants us to be happy, I reassure them. His greatest desire is to forgive, and all we have to do is ask.

“I remember a woman saying to me, as tears ran down her face, ‘How can God ever forgive me?’ To which I replied, ‘I think he already has.’”

Hack said self-forgiveness is the most difficult part of the healing process for those suffering post-abortion symptoms.

“I’ve never had a woman say that she wanted to have the abortion. I’ve only heard them say that they didn’t feel like they had a choice, that they felt everything was hopeless, or they didn’t know what else to do,” Hack said.

“And, some women are forced,” she added.

Mental wounds from abortion can stay buried for many years, then one day be triggered by an event or past association, like post-traumatic stress disorder.

Hack said one of her most memorable calls was from an 80-year-old woman seeking help in healing.

“She called the number and I answered. We worked together through the coming weeks,” Hack said. “As she began healing, I witnessed a transformation. Once shy and withdrawn, she’s now active in her church — a participator, and actively helping other women.”

Another unforgettable story involved a grandmother she encountered in Washington, D.C., who had aborted at the age of 38.

“Respect Life Sunday, it triggered her. She thought she was healed before she approached me at 52, when her trauma manifested with the birth of her grandchild. Initially, her granddaughter’s pregnancy unleashed a deep depression and lasted until after the child was born, as she felt detached from the child and didn’t want to hold her own grandbaby. She saw the ad for Project Rachel in The Catholic Moment and called the phone number. Now, she’s worked through the grief, and works to counsel others.”

As the diocese’s designated Project Rachel Ministry coordinator, Hack’s home is equipped with a designated phone line for referrals, which she monitors closely.

“My designated phone line is for Project Rachel only,” Hack said. “It’s that first call that is the most difficult for a person suffering from an abortion, and it needs to be answered with care.”

Hack said she has watched things change for the better over the years.

“There is more cooperation between the post-abortion ministries and the crisis pregnancy centers, now,” Hack said. “There are buses with the ultrasound machines, who go out on campuses and neighborhoods. The Spiritual Adoption program and the memorial Mass at St. Boniface are very powerful. We have 40 Days for Life, peaceful sidewalk counseling, and we openly talk about adoption. With all of these efforts, and continued prayers, abortion will come to an end.”

One of the other things that has changed over time, is the recognition of a man’s grief from an abortion, which previously wasn’t discussed.

Now, Hack said, there is help for men in the post- abortion ministries, including Rachel’s Vineyard retreats and Healing Hidden Hurts.

“We realize that men suffer this loss, too,” Hack said. “It goes against nature; the man is now grieving because he failed to protect his family, and he is grieving because his role as a father was cut short.”

Hack said the manifestations of a man’s post-abortion grief, if unaddressed, often lead to substance abuse, sexual dysfunction, risk taking and suicidal behavior.

The good news, now, is that men are opening up and recognizing their need for healing, too.

“Men are seeking counseling and also attending our special Rachel’s Vineyard retreats, alongside the women. To see their healing is most rewarding, as they go on to become loving husbands and fathers for their families.”

When asked if she could define the most rewarding aspect of her job, Hack quickly said it was seeing God’s mercy at work.

“I feel so privileged to do this work; it has to be God,” Hack said. “To witness the power of forgiveness and to see the mercy of God destroy pain — it’s an act of re-creation.”

Though she feels blessed for her many years of ministry to benefit the diocese, Hack is excited and ready to focus on her grandchildren and travel with her husband. Meanwhile, she’s devoted to her work, until her successor is appointed.

“I’m hoping someone will read this news story and be inspired to take over the phone line,” Hack said.

“I’m very thankful to God that I was able to do this work. My husband, John, has always encouraged and supported me, as well as my family and friends. For now, my family is changing and I want to have more time to be with them and relax a bit. I’m sure I will always do some pro-life work, because that is where my heart is,” she smiled.

Dr. Dora Tobar, director of the diocesan Office of Family Life and Hispanic Ministry, said she is immensely grateful for Hack’s service, which has helped so many people throughout the years.

“Jennie has committed her whole life to following a call,” Tobar said. “She is so humble, and I want all of our readers to know her story, and her silent, daily commitment to answer when a woman is calling for help — a soul calling for salvation.”

Project Rachel is the Catholic Church’s ministry to those who have been involved in abortion. It is a diocesan-based network of specially trained priests, religious, counselors and laypersons who provide a team response of care for those suffering in the aftermath of abortion.

In addition to referring for sacramental reconciliation, the ministry provides an integrated network of services, including pastoral counseling, support groups, retreats and referrals to licensed mental health professionals.

The Project Rachel Ministry was originally founded in 1984 by Vicki Thorn in Wisconsin and is in more than 140 dioceses throughout the United States.

The ministry takes its name from the verse in Jeremiah 31:15-17, “Thus says the Lord, ‘A voice is heard in Ramah, Lamenta-tion and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; She refuses to be comforted for her children, Because they are no more.’”

If you or someone you know is in need of assistance with post-abortion healing, call 877-522-3300 or 765-477-7706 or e-mail Additional questions can be addressed through the diocesan Office of Family Life and Hispanic Ministry at 765-269-4675.

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