MILWAUKEE (CNS) – Archbishop of Milwaukee Jerome E. Listecki said the life and work of Project Rachel Founder Vicki Thorn, who died suddenly on April 20, stands “as a living testimony to an unwavering and unconditional defense of life at all stages, and of the mercy of God’s love.”
Thorn was 72 years old. The Catholic Herald, Milwaukee’s archdiocesan newspaper, reported that she died of a massive heart attack. Funeral arrangements were pending.
As the founder of the post-abortion healing ministry Project Rachel, she single-handedly created a post-abortion healing ministry at a time when none existed. She maintained an office at the Pastoral Center of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee for 37 years.
During this time, his ministry expanded across the United States and around the world. Now overseen by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Project Rachel is a diocesan network of specially trained confessor priests, mental health professionals, spiritual directors, and others who provide confidential post-abortion care and continuous.
In an April 20 statement, Bishop Listecki said he and the staff at the pastoral center offered “our deepest condolences” to Thorn’s husband of 50 years, William, and the couple’s six children.
William Thorn is Associate Professor Emeritus of Journalism and Media Studies/Catholic Media Institute at Diederich College of Communication at Marquette University at Jesuit-run Marquette University.
“Our hearts break as we mourn Vicki Thorn, founder of Project Rachel post-abortion healing ministry, and recipient of the 2021 @NotreDame Evangelium Vitae Medal. May she rest in peace,” the Nicola Center tweeted. for Ethics and Culture from the University of Notre Dame.
Thorn, who was also executive director of the National Office of Abortion Reconciliation and Healing, received the Evangelium Vitae Medal at a mass and banquet in April 2021.
COVID-19 delayed the presentation by a year; she was due to receive the honor in April 2020, but in March of that year the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a global pandemic.
The annual honor is always announced on Respect Life Sunday, the first Sunday in October, and usually presented the following spring. The award consists of a specially commissioned medal and a $10,000 prize.
Thorn, a certified trauma counselor and spiritual director, started The Rachel Project in 1984 while working in the Respect Life office of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. The first training workshop for a small group of participants took place on September 19, 1984.
In a 2021 YouTube video produced by the Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture when Thorn received the Evangelium Vitae Medal, she described the reaction she often received after being featured as a speaker.
“All of a sudden (a) woman will come up to me and she’ll say, ‘Can I give you a hug?’ And she’ll just wrap her arms around me and hug me real tight,” she said. “She’ll whisper in my ear, ‘Thank you.’ And I know the story: she had an abortion and the Rachel project restored her.
She grew up in a very devout Catholic family in Rome, Minnesota. When she was in first grade at Notre-Dame de Lourdes school, she learned something that changed her life: a very close classmate had had an abortion between his second and first year, arranged by the mother of this classmate.
“It was a very, very painful experience for her and she was an emotional mess,” Thorn recalled. “All I could do was love her and be with her. But it was a life changing experience – that the abortion was not a non-event. It left huge imprints in someone’s life and left tremendous pain.
“I kept thinking what could we do?” How could we help him? And then I understood that we could offer advice to people who were having an abortion,” she said. This led her to start the Rachel Project for women and men who have lost children through abortion. “There were so many people who knew someone who was injured that it spread like wildfire.”
Mary Hallan FioRito, Cardinal Francis George Fellow at the Nicola Center, described Thorn “as the heart of the pro-life movement.”
“She is someone who is able to see Christ in every person she meets,” she said. “She’s really developed a whole new way not only for the Catholic Church, but also for other denominations around the world, to look at the issue of abortion, to see how you meet a woman where she needs to. be able to help him. … And that’s what it’s all about.
Thorn “saw the need to bring together the spiritual component of healing with the psychological component,” Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, then chairman of the bishops’ pro-life committee, said in the video.
“It helped the church see more clearly that women are the second victims of abortion. She had this call, this unique call to help the church do this essential part better – to communicate the mercy of God,” he said.
Thorn is the author of “Progetto Rachele, il volto della compassione” (“Project Rachel, the face of compassion”), published in 2009 by the Libreria Editrice Vaticana. She has written numerous articles and spoken internationally about the Rachel Project and the effects of the consequences of abortion on women, men and family members and the post-abortion healing process.
Together with her husband, she was inducted in 2008 into the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem. In 2009, she received the People of Life Award from the USCCB for her pro-life service to the Catholic Church, and in 2017 Pope Francis reappointed her as a corresponding member of the Pontifical Academy for the life. She was first appointed to the academy in 2011.
Thorn had a psychology degree from the University of Minnesota. She was an American Academy of Bereavement-trained grief facilitator and a Resolve Through Sharing-certified perinatal loss facilitator.
She earned her trauma counseling certification at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and was a longtime member of the Prenatal and Perinatal Health and Psychology Association.
Additionally, she has written and spoken about the sociological changes in society since 1960 and the “spiritual and psychological wounds” carried by Generation X and Generation Y as a result of these changes. She has also written about the role of stress in abortion decisions and ways to help women with pregnancies in crisis.
Lately, she had given presentations to groups of high school students, college students, and groups of adults on her recent research on the topic of “the biology of the theology of the body.”
Thorn was a member of St. Catherine Parish in Milwaukee. Besides her husband and children, she is survived by 19 grandchildren.
“We, as Christians, as Catholics, are called, I think, to be evangelists but also … to get involved in really caring for people,” Thorn said in the Nicola Center video. “God’s mercy is greater than anything we can do and for us to be able to promote God’s mercy to people who are really, really emotionally hurt is so important.
“But it’s this importance of recognizing that God is there for everyone and that there is nothing greater that we can do that is greater than God’s grace and mercy.”
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Editor’s note: Nicola’s Center video on Vicki Thorn can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ACxQQkJxsJs.