Couple sees light emerging from personal experience of abortion
Chuck Raymond clearly remembers the moment a visiting priest came to his parish and spoke at Mass on the subject of abortion.
It was a moment in which the Holy Spirit was "calling me out," he said. More than two decades ago, when they were teenagers, he and his wife, Linda, made the decision to end their unplanned pregnancy with an abortion. It was a heartbreaking moment from their past that they shared with few.
In the pews were brochures on Project Rachel, the Catholic Church's ministry to those who have been through an abortion. He knew he had to take one home to show his wife.
But Raymond said he was "petrified" that his fellow parishioners might see him pick up the brochure and became paranoid of what they might think of him. Once he brought home that brochure, it was several weeks before he had the courage to show it to Linda.
Fast forward several years later, and the Raymonds, members of Holy Infant Parish in Ballwin, have taken their sorrow and turned it into a message of hope, through sharing -- here and around the United States -- their personal story of woundedness and healing with others who have experienced an abortion.
"We want to try to get out (the message) that they're not alone," said Linda Raymond. "The good news is Christ loves you so much, He wants to heal you and still love you."
It was 1976, just three years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Roe vs. Wade to make abortion legal in the United States. Chuck Raymond was a senior in high school and Linda was a freshman at a local junior college when the two discovered that Linda was pregnant.
After the abortion, the two eventually married in 1981 and had two more children. They put the abortion behind them, suppressing their emotions about it for years.
"Every now and then a comment (about the abortion) came up," said Chuck Raymond. But it wasn't until their children became adolescents that the couple started thinking about whether they had prepared them as they were becoming sexually mature -- including talking about topics such as respect for their own bodies and members of the opposite sex.
Linda Raymond also was struggling on and off with depression. She surrounded herself with questions about whether she was being a good mother to her children. Her husband started to wonder whether the abortion had something to do with it.
By 2004, the Raymonds sought out help from Rachel's Vineyard, a national ministry that offers weekend healing retreats to those who have had an abortion. It was there that the two began making progress in their healing.
The following year, Chuck Raymond went to the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., and witnessed the presence of Silent No More, a national campaign that draws public awareness to the devastation that individuals have experienced from abortion.
In January of 2007, the couple attended the March for Life together for the first time. It was there former archdiocesan Respect Life Apostolate director Molly Corcoran Kertz arranged for a meeting between the Raymonds and then-Archbishop Raymond L. Burke, who also was attending the march. They spent an hour with the archbishop, who spoke about God's forgiveness and grace to move forward with a message of hope.
"It was like the layers of healing were peeling off one at a time," said Linda Raymond. "He was so heartfelt with us and encouraged us to go out and help with others" who have been in a similar situation.
Today, the Raymonds have devoted much of their time speaking to groups -- large and small -- about their personal abortion experience. They also are involved as respect life coordinators at Holy Infant and are regular participants in the 40 Days for Life campaign. Linda Raymond now serves as a regional coordinator, covering the eastern portion of Missouri, for Silent No More. Chuck Raymond also is involved with Project Joseph, a Church ministry specifically for men who have been through an abortion experience. In January, they will speak before hundreds of St. Louis teens at the March for Life, at an event sponsored by the archdiocesan Office of Youth Ministry.
What the two have discovered through their involvement in pro-life work is that while the culture at large is learning more about the reality of abortion, "what they're still not getting is the woundedness" that comes after abortion, said Chuck Raymond.
Through sharing their personal experience, the Raymonds have learned firsthand the extent of that woundedness that's out there. In speaking to others, they find "it's almost like (others) are coming out of the woodwork" to share their own personal experiences with abortion. Even speaking before a group at Holy Infant, where Chuck Raymond once thought he was alone in his own abortion experience, he has since discovered there are other fellow parishioners who have been through a similar situation.
"People will relate their stories to a certain extent," he said. "We want to give them a safe place to talk" about their experiences.
While the Raymonds say having the limelight put upon their personal situation makes them feel uncomfortable at times, they both realize it's also been the work of the Holy Spirit to offer their example as a sign of hope for others.
"Without the faith, I wouldn't have been able to heal," said Linda Raymond. "I want others to know that there can be healing and hope."
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