Diocese redoubles efforts to help moms

When the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court on the Dobbs case was leaked last month, effectively overturning five decades of unlimited access to abortion, the Diocese of Venice vowed to redouble efforts to help moms who are facing unexpected pregnancies.

In a statement released after the Supreme Court ruling on June 24, 2022, Bishop Frank J. Dewane said: “Of course, legal protection must be accompanied by more care for mothers and their children. The Catholic Church, and the Diocese of Venice, stand ready to help mothers in need. Pregnant women are not alone.”

The statement added that “Parishes in the Diocese of Venice have redoubled their efforts to accompany women and couples who are facing unexpected or difficult pregnancies, offering them loving and compassionate care.”

Diocese of Venice Respect Life Director Jeanne Berdeaux said the Diocese and all the faithful “need to continue to Pray! – Educate! – and Act! – to promote a greater respect for all human life.”

Berdeaux said that all parishioners will want to learn about “Walking with Moms in Need,” a new program which educates Parish staff and the faithful where to send a pregnant woman in need (https://dioceseofvenice.org/walking-with-moms-in-need) with all resources available in both English and Spanish. There are 22 Pregnancy Help Centers and nine residential maternity and after-birth homes within the Diocese, standing ready to help. Importantly, with an expected increase for demand, there are many financial and volunteering opportunities available to support these Pregnancy Help Centers.

For decades, the Diocese of Venice has supported these Pregnancy Help Centers and will continue to do so. Our Mother’s House of Catholic Charities in Venice is one of the programs in the Diocese that supports single mothers and their children, providing not just housing and material needs, but valuable counseling and education.

Berdeaux also stressed the need for the faithful to learn about the support after abortion outreach in the Diocese called Project Rachel. This program is a confidential service where any woman or man who is hurting from an abortion can seek help and find hope and healing. Again, this service is available in both English and Spanish.

“Many people still don’t understand Catholic teaching on abortion and the sanctity of human life,” Berdeaux said. “There are many resources available to help them learn the truth beginning with the Catechism of the Catholic Church and on our Diocesan website www.dioceseofvenice.org/respectlife.”

In the Diocesan statement, it points out that: “In God’s eyes, all human life is sacred, from conception to natural death; this is the teaching of the Catholic Church.”

As the Diocesan statement concludes, we are reminded: “Let us all continue to pray for the end to abortion, and the end to taking the lives of an entire category of human beings, the preborn.”

Where to volunteer, donate or refer a mom in need of services

List of pregnancy help centers in the Diocese of Venice:

List of residential facilities in the Diocese of Venice:

  • Bradenton, Sarasota and Englewood – Solve – 941-748-0094 – solvehomes.org
  • Venice – Our Mother’s House of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc. –941-485-6264 – catholiccharitiesdov.org
  • Fort Myers – Our Mother’s Home of Southwest Florida – 239-267-4663 – com
  • Cape Coral – Thrive –239-242-7238 – thriveswfl.org
  • Naples – Sunlight Home – 239-352-0251 – org
  • Naples – Providence House – 239-692-8779 – org

Material Needs: Venice Area Pregnancy Care Center – 941-485-1776 – vapcc.org

Volunteer to help moms and their babies

Our Mother’s House of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., is looking for volunteers to assist in helping moms and their babies in Venice. Our Mother’s House has provided transitional housing to homeless mothers and their children since 1987. The program’s mission is to offer single mothers and their preschool-age children a safe and secure environment to achieve increased self-sufficiency through education, vocational training, and personal growth. Volunteers are needed for assistance with childcare, maintenance, fundraising, and administration. To inquire about volunteering, please call 941-485-6264 or email Joyce Scott at joyce.scott@catholiccharitiesdv.org.

Help pregnant moms in need

If you would like to help pregnant women in need financially, consider giving to the Pennies for Babies Fund. Send checks (not cash) to Catholic Charities Pennies for Babies Fund, 1000 Pinebrook Road, Venice, FL 34285. All donations go directly to rent, utilities and special needs of pregnant moms who choose to parent their child.

Adoption services available

Catholic Charities Adoption Services is a state-wide agency that provides counseling to birth parents, and provisions or resources to meet the needs of birth parents considering adoption planning. If you or a loved one would like to learn more, please call Joan Pierse at 941-355-4680.

Support after abortion – Project Rachel outreach

Most women who choose abortion eventually realize that they made the wrong choice and face a lifetime of regret. Even if they confess this sin to a priest, they often find it difficult to accept God’s forgiveness and forgive themselves. They will often confess the same sin over and over. Project Rachel is the Catholic Church’s program to help women and men come to terms with an abortion decision and find the hope and healing they need. Watch for more on post-abortion healing in the next edition of The Florida Catholic. For confidential help, call 941-412-5860 or email project.rachel@dioceseofvenice.org.

Men’s Support after Abortion Program

Men, you are not alone.  While 1 out of 4 women will have an abortion by age 45, men are involved too. According to a national survey, 71% of men said they had an adverse effect after abortion. If you are a man affected by an abortion decision, you are invited to participate in a confidential and free healing series for men.  It will be led by Fr. Mark Harris, St John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Naples, and Nathan Misirian, Support After Abortion.  To learn more about the program, when it will be scheduled or to register for the virtual sessions, call 941-412-5860 or email project.rachel@dioceseofvenice.org.


Project Rachel: Hope and Healing for All

By Sylvia Jimenez, Special to the Florida Catholic

The women and men who have reached out to Project Rachel for help in their path to healing from past abortion range in age from early 20s to late 80s and even 90+ years old.  Some have been suffering silently with their “secret” for as many as 70 years.  For some, there is no one else in the world who knows about their abortion(s). The father of the aborted baby may not even know about the fact that the woman was pregnant – because some women never tell anyone.

There is hope, and healing, for those impacted by abortion. Project Rachel is a Diocesan outreach to women and men who suffer from the mental and spiritual trauma of abortion. This important outreach in the Diocese of Venice includes counseling, healing retreats and other direct and indirect support. All contact is strictly confidential.


It is wonderful to see a glorious transformation in every participant who experiences the Project Rachel healing retreat. It is like a Holy Week experience, where one goes through some of the trials or suffering of Calvary, but at the end of the retreat there is the new life and happiness of the Resurrection.  It is interesting that those who are the most reluctant and fearful in the beginning are the ones who are especially beaming at the end. Every participant feels great relief, freedom, and peace.

One woman felt deeply hurt each time she heard harsh, judgmental comments made by others at her church about those who have abortions. They would never have imagined that she had an abortion.  This caused her to alienate herself from God and Church for many years.  Then reading a testimony online, she concluded that if she expected to be forgiven for her sins, she too had to be forgiving, and she decided to “give the Church a chance” by attending a Project Rachel retreat.  She not only received the healing she desired, but she also came back to the Church and grew spiritually, including frequent reception of the Sacraments. This then led her to become active in the evangelization of other fallen-away Catholics.

Project Rachel invites you to view a few short and beautiful video testimonies of several women who have received healing from their abortions at www.dioceseofvenice.org/respect-life/post-abortion-help


We are all sinners and undeserving of the grace God offers us. Yet, God is our loving Father, who waits with open arms, always inviting us to a renewed relationship with Himself (Luke 15:11). It is our Christian duty to spread the message that no matter how much one has sinned, with true repentance, we have access to God’s abundant love and mercy. This is the very foundation of Project Rachel.

Here is how you can help:

  1. Pray – Let others know you are praying for this intention. Ask that intercessions be included with those at your parish’s Masses. Also, prayer cards are available which may be requested free of charge.
  2. Inform yourself and share with others –These websites have ample information:

www.hopeafterabortion.com and www.supportafterabortion.com

Watch movies such as: Unplanned and The Matter of Life, a new documentary available soon via streaming or DVD.

  1. Help raise awareness (among your family, friends, community) about the need for healing after abortion and hope for healing through Project Rachel or other post abortion healing groups. Invite Project Rachel staff to speak to your parish group (CCW, Women’s Guild, Men’s Group).

For More Information:

Project Rachel invites you to view a few short and beautiful video testimonies of several women who have received healing from their abortions at www.dioceseofvenice.org/respect-life/post-abortion-help.

For more information about Project Rachel, as well as to read stories of hope and healing, visit www.hopeafterabortion.com (English) and https://esperanzaposaborto.org (Español)

For testimonies of men having found healing after abortion, visit www.menhealingfromtrauma.com.

If you know someone who has had an abortion and you would like to reach out to them so they can receive healing, contact Project Rachel. We can offer good recommendations for each situation. All contact is strictly confidential. (Se habla español. Todo contacto es confidencial) Call Sylvia Jimenez at 941-412-5860, or email Project.Rachel@DioceseofVenice.org.


Project Rachel: Hope and Healing to Those Impacted by Abortion

By Sylvia Jimenez, Special to the Florida Catholic

By the age of 45, about 1 out of 4 women in the USA has had one or more abortions. When we include the numbers of men, as well as the parents of the women, the siblings of the aborted babies, etc., we begin to see the implications of how abortion has deeply affected and hurt our entire society, and in staggering numbers.

There is hope, and healing, for those impacted by abortion. Project Rachel is a Diocesan outreach to women and men who suffer from the mental and spiritual trauma of abortion. This important outreach in the Diocese of Venice includes counseling, healing retreats and other direct and indirect support. All contact is strictly confidential.


Many choose abortion as a matter of “convenience” (not the right time, not ready, fear of others finding out they are sexually active, etc.), or to avoid disappointing their parents.

Others, such as victims of abuse, feel as if they are at fault for what has happened to them, evoking feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, making them more vulnerable to either choosing abortion or letting others make that decision for them.

Project Rachel in our Diocese has helped several women who had been pregnant because of rape or incest. In these cases, they invariably said that their abortions were more traumatizing and debilitating for them than the sexual abuse – because in this act they became complicit in an even more violent crime than their abusers. Furthermore, their abusers could continue abusing them once they had covered up their crime by “aborting” the DNA evidence.


Many who have walked a lonely path of grief and hopelessness after abortion eventually begin to understand that they have a deep spiritual wound. But sadly, they also are likely to believe that they have committed “the unforgivable sin” and fear God’s anger or punishment.

The deep feelings of regret, grief and shame which can emerge sooner or later are profound and often crippling.  Some try to numb the emotional pain by self-medicating through abuse of drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, or a host of other self-destructive behaviors.

After abortion, men as well as women can suffer some or many of the following complications:

  • Grief (mild to profound)
  • Depression (sometimes to the point of suicidal thoughts and attempts)
  • A sense of alienation from family, friends, church/faith
  • Isolating self from others to avoid discussing the topic of abortion, which can trigger many negative emotions (intense shame, anger/rage, guilt, sadness, etc.)
  • A feeling of being ‘numb,’ not able to feel joy from activities that used to be pleasurable
  • Difficulty concentrating (e.g., on work or studies)
  • Anger toward self, the child’s father and/or others involved in the abortion decision
  • Eating disorders
  • Promiscuous and reckless behavior
  • Sleep disorders, like insomnia or abortion-related nightmares or flashbacks
  • Adverse reactions to sounds, smells, and sights which remind them (at least subconsciously) of the abortion experience
  • Adverse reactions to (or impulse to avoid) seeing babies, pregnant women, little children, etc.
  • Problems bonding with her other children (being over-protective but emotionally distant)
  • Child abuse or neglect
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Fear that God will or is punishing them
  • Addictive behaviors (e.g., alcohol or drug abuse to “numb the pain” or “self-medicate”)
  • An inability to forgive themselves and an inability to accept God’s forgiveness

To be continued in the next issue of The Florida Catholic.

Project Rachel invites you to view a few short and beautiful video testimonies of several women who have received healing from their abortions at www.dioceseofvenice.org/respect-life/post-abortion-help.

For more information about Project Rachel, as well as to read stories of hope and healing, visit www.hopeafterabortion.com (English) and https://esperanzaposaborto.org (Español)

For testimonies of men having found healing after abortion, visit www.menhealingfromtrauma.com.

If you know someone who has had an abortion and you would like to reach out to them so they can receive healing, contact Project Rachel. We can offer good recommendations for each situation. All contact is strictly confidential. (Se habla español. Todo contacto es confidencial) Call Sylvia Jimenez at 941-412-5860, or email Project.Rachel@DioceseofVenice.org.

News Briefs for the Week of July 2, 2021

Mooney grad named Miss Florida

Congratulations to Leah Roddenberry, a graduate of Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota, for being crowned Miss Florida, June 26, 2021 at the RP Funding Center Youkey Theatre in Lakeland. She will go on to represent the state in the 100th Miss America Competition in December. Contestants are now judged on their poise, intelligence, talent, and how they are trying to make the world a better place. Roddenberry is originally from Bradenton and the 22-year-old is formerly Miss Tampa 2020, is an author of a children’s book and founder of “Be a LeadHER: Igniting the Spark Within” as a result of her own struggle with self-confidence during her youth. She graduated from Cardinal Mooney in 2017 and previously attended St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton. She is a graduate of the University of Florida with a degree in Family, Youth, and Community Sciences and is a member of the Florida Blue Key, the oldest and most prestigious leadership honorary society in the state of Florida.


Ordination to the Priesthood July 31

Bishop Frank J. Dewane invites the faithful of the Diocese to the Ordination of Transitional Deacons Mark Harris and Alexander Pince to the Priesthood. This is to take place at 11 a.m., July 31, 2021, Epiphany Cathedral, 350 Tampa Ave. W., Venice. All are welcome and encouraged to attend this important event in the life of Deacons Harris and Pince, as well as the history of Diocese of Venice. A reception will follow in the Parish Hall.

OLPH Retreat Center Fall Schedule published

Our Lady of Perpetual Help (OLPH) Retreat and Spirituality Center in Venice has published their Fall 2021 Group Retreat Schedule. The schedule includes a Men’s Retreat in October, Ignatian Preached Retreat in November, and Advent Retreat in December. In addition, the schedule for the Monthly Day of Prayer, held on the second Sunday and Wednesday of each month starting in September, has also been published. Please see the Schedule of Events page on our website for more information and to register at www.olph-retreat.org. If you have any questions, please call 941-486-0233.

Proyecto Raquel Retiro de Sanación Después del Aborto

¿Está usted sufriendo después de un aborto? Hay esperanza y sanación esperándola, no importa hace cuanto tiempo haya sucedido. Usted nunca es demasiado mayor para regalarse a si misma el Retiro de Sanación del Projecto Raquel. El próximo retiro en Español está programado para el sábado 14 de agosto. Para información confidencial, contacte a Sylvia al número 941-412-5860 o project.rachel@dioceseofvenice.org.

Project Rachel Healing Retreat After Abortion

Are you suffering after an abortion? There is hope and healing waiting for you, no matter how long ago it happened. You are never too old to give yourself the Healing Retreat from Project Rachel. The next retreat in Spanish is scheduled for Saturday, August 14. For confidential information, contact Sylvia at 941-412-5860 or project.rachel@dioceseofvenice.org.

World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly

Pope Francis instituted the Church-wide celebration of World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly. Beginning this year, this special day will be held on the fourth Sunday of July (July 25), close to the liturgical Memorial of Ss. Joachim and Anne, the Grandparents of Jesus. The theme chosen by the Holy Father for this World Day is “I am with you always” (cf. Mt 28:20) which is a way of expressing the closeness of the Lord and the Church to every older person. “I am with you always” is also a promise of closeness and hope that young and old can mutually share. Not only are grandchildren and young people called upon to be present in the lives of older people, but older people and grandparents also have the mission of evangelization, proclamation and prayer, and of encouraging young people in their Faith. To learn more, please visit www.amorislaetitia.va.

2021 Marriage Preparation Retreats

The Diocesan Office of Family Life is offering “Day of Reflection” retreats for couples preparing for the Sacrament of Marriage. A specially prepared volunteer team of married couples and a priest will share their experiences and information with the intention of enabling couples to be more aware of the privileges and responsibilities of marriage. The retreats in English are from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., on the following Saturdays: July 10, Aug. 7, and Nov. 13. Please visit https://dioceseofvenice.regfox.com/marriage-preparation-retreat-2021 to register for the English retreats. Retreats in Spanish take place: 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Aug. 7 and October 30 at St. Jude Parish, 3930 17th Street, Sarasota, and 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Aug. 14 and Dec. 4, at Our Lady Queen of Heaven Parish, 355 S. Bridge Street, LaBelle. To register for a St. Jude retreat date please contact the parish at 941-955-3934. Please visit https://dioceseofvenice.regfox.com/retiro-de-formacion-matrimonial. to register for a retreat at Our Lady Queen of Heaven, For further information contact Carrie Harkey at 941-484-9543 ext. 3019.

Online St. Joseph course now available

The Institute for Catholic Studies and Formation invites you to celebrate the Year of St. Joseph with a self-paced online course “Encountering St. Joseph with St. John Paul II and Pope Francis.” The class covers John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation on the Person and Mission of St Joseph (Redemptoris Custos) and Pope Francis’ Apostolic Letter on St Joseph (Patris Corde). This course can be taken individually or in a group. Start the course anytime and proceed at your own pace as it includes short, pre-recorded videos, questions for personal reflection or group discussion, recommended resources and more. Course fee: $35. For information and registration visit the Institute web https://institute-dov.org/ or call 941-766-7334.

St. Francis of Assisi Food Pantry open

The St. Francis of Assisi Food Pantry, 5265 Placida Road, Grove City, is open and distributing food from 9:15 a.m. – 11:15 a.m., on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings. For more information contact Megan at 941-697-4899, or by email at megan@sfoachurch.com.

God and Pro-Life Prayer Warriors Help Convert Cape Coral Woman’s Heart

Susan Laielli – Special to the Florida Catholic

If you have ever prayed in front of an abortion clinic during 40 Days for Life – or on any day – and wondered if it has an impact, one need not look further than the transformation of a former Maryland Planned Parenthood employee who walked away from the industry, thanks to those prayers.

The story begins when Myra Neyer, 43, of Cape Coral, found herself looking for a job in Baltimore, Md. to support her seven children, after her husband was killed in a car accident. Following the death of her husband, a subsequent relationship ended at the hands of abuse, making the job search even more desperate to feed and clothe her children.

As her college graduation neared, the school sent Neyer’s resume to various organizations which were looking to fill positions. The work she found was at two northeast locations of Planned Parenthood, in Annapolis and Baltimore.

Over the next year Neyer would watch half-hearted counseling sessions of young pregnant women who were trying to decide how to handle their pregnancy. From day one she would observe actual abortions. Worst of all, as part of the job requirement, Neyer would be forced to piece babies back together following their killing, to be sure all of the aborted baby had been retrieved from its mother.

“I knew early on this was not the place for me but I had seven children to care for, so I kept going to work,” Neyer said, as she sat in a Cape Coral coffee shop recalling that long year of working for Planned Parenthood.

One day as she was walking back to work from lunch Neyer passed by two sets of protesters: the quiet Catholic prayer warriors who were joining together in praying the rosary; and the loud angry people who yelled awful things to the Planned Parenthood employees. Privately, Neyer says hearts are being affected.

“I started to think, what if God does hate what I am doing, and what am I doing to my soul?” Neyer recalls. It was then she remembers feelings of guilt started penetrating her mind. “The torment became so severe I would dream of being the one who was having the abortion – without anesthesia.”

Neyer recalled each time she looked at her youngest child, who was three at the time, she saw the skin of the aborted babies and soon became tormented for hours each day.

“One day I went outside to the 40 Days for Life prayer warriors, although I didn’t know any of them at the time, and I asked for a pair of the rosaries from one lady who was praying,” Neyer said, smiling. “She asked me if she could pray for me, and if I knew how to pray the rosary, to which I responded, yes. I also told her I grew up Catholic, and this is not how I ever saw my life going, but I have children to raise by myself.”

The woman continued to quietly pray over Neyer before she walked back into the Planned Parenthood clinic, knowing her co-workers were going to give her grief for talking to the people praying outside.

It wasn’t long before Neyer found herself searching for the woman who offered to pray for her, if only to share a smile, or a kind word. In some strange way, she says a sense of well-being was gained from those exchanges.

“This is when I remember starting to feel different. There was something about the prayer woman that provided comfort, and I felt drawn to her,” Neyer said, wiping away a tear. “I learned these ladies were with 40 Days for Life, which at the time, I knew nothing about.”

Attendees of 40 Days for Life commit themselves each Spring and Fall to 40 days of prayer in front of abortion clinics across the United States, including Sarasota, Port Charlotte, Fort Myers and Naples in the Diocese of Venice in Florida.

February 2014 is when Neyer definitively knew it was time to end her year working at Planned Parenthood. She says a young pregnant girl, estimated to be 20-years-old, came into the clinic feeling pressured to get an abortion by her boyfriend, an older man who did not want children.

Neyer says the ultrasound tech told the young mother she was 13-weeks pregnant with identical male quadruplets. The abortion could not be performed at that location because there was not sedation available there, so the procedure needed to be moved to another location in order to abort the four babies.

On the next scheduled visit, the day of the abortion, the young girl was too upset to go through with it. On the third visit her boyfriend came in with her and was visibly angry, claiming he did not want children and he argued with all involved, according to Neyer. The couple was moved to a private room to come to an agreement, but they eventually left without the abortion.

The next day before closing, Neyer said the young mother came back to the clinic in substantial pain, bleeding, with the babies literally falling out of her. The boyfriend had taken the young girl to an unknown location to have an abortion, which was going very wrong.

“The last baby needed to be suctioned out, and (afterwards) all of these little (parts) needed to be pieced back together, as my co-worker and I stood there hugging each other crying,” Neyer painfully recalls. “I knew I could not do this anymore.”

In hindsight, Neyer is now convinced more than ever that the woman who offered to pray for her was a gift from God and is ultimately what helped change her heart.

But for those who know and love God, there is an understanding that His work is never done. As Neyer quit her job the next day, she asked the woman outside to please continue praying for her because she would need a job and was unsure how to provide care for her children.

The praying woman gave Neyer a pamphlet titled, “And Then there Were None” (ATTWN), a non-profit organization founded by Abby Johnson, that exists to help abortion clinic workers leave the industry.

Johnson herself left the industry in 2009 after watching a 13-week old baby struggle in the womb during an ultrasound-guided abortion, and is the subject of the 2019 movie, “UNPLANNED.” That was the first time Abby saw an abortion done with an ultrasound, so it was also the first time she actually saw what was happening inside the womb.

Following Neyer’s conversion, ATTWN provided her with assistance, strength and counsel which led to a trip to Washington, D.C., for the pro-life March for Life. On the plane, Neyer found herself seated next to Renate Ferrante, Executive Director of Collier Community Abstinence Program, who knows Abby Johnson, and a meeting was set up.

Today, Neyer calls Johnson a sister and occasional mother figure, who has given her the strength to speak in public.  She will express to all who will listen that there is a better way for you – and our babies.

Jeanne Berdeaux, Diocese of Venice in Florida Respect Life Director is thrilled Neyer is now local.

“We are blessed that Myra Neyer chose to move to our Diocese after quitting Planned Parenthood in Baltimore.  She gives a powerful testimony to the truth of what happens inside an abortion facility,” Berdeaux said.

Neyer has spoken at several Luncheons 4 Life gatherings. This grassroots effort was started locally to bring like-minded and life-affirming people together and now takes place monthly in eight locations including Venice, Fort Myers and Naples and beyond.

Post-Abortion Help/Project Rachel

Are you suffering after abortion? There is hope and healing waiting for you. Many women and men experience deep pain and grief after an abortion and don’t know where to turn. They don’t know there is help available for them.  Project Rachel is the outreach of the Catholic Church to those who are suffering this loss. We offer help through the sacraments, retreats, and referrals for professional counseling. For confidential information, contact Sylvia Jimenez, Project Rachel Coordinator, at 941-412-5860 (English and en español), project.rachel@dioceseofvenice.org, or www.hopeafterabortion.com.