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A Journey to Healing Through Divine Mercy

Foundress of the Entering Canaan post-abortive healing ministry offers meditations on mercy to assist parents of aborted children in their reconciliation with God.

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A Marian's Dream Comes True

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Father Anthony Gramlich, MIC, says that each image chosen for the shrine has significance, especially for mothers, fathers, and grandparents.

By Melanie Williams (Jan 26, 2017)
In 2006, after he became the assistant rector of the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy, Fr. Anthony Gramlich, MIC, would have an image come to mind night after night while in prayer. He knew it came from the Lord.

The image was of men and women on their beds crying out to the Lord that no one understands them and their pain. He knew immediately that they were post-abortive men and women. Father Anthony heard in his heart the Lord say, "These men and women are crying out for someone to help them, and I am sending you. Now I'm going to do something new with Divine Mercy. I want to move the message of Divine Mercy to post-abortion healing."

At first, Fr. Anthony objected, saying to the Lord that he was so busy at the Shrine already. After months of the Lord asking him, Fr. Anthony finally said yes, and he knew that the ministry the Lord wanted him to contact was Rachel's Vineyard, which offers weekend retreats across the United States for women and men struggling with the emotional and spiritual pain of an abortion.

Father Anthony called Rachel's Vineyard and told them who he was and what he wanted to do: He wanted to host Rachel's Vineyard retreats at the Shrine. When he informed the woman on the phone that the Shrine was in the Diocese of Springfield, Massachusetts, the woman nearly dropped the phone in disbelief. Turns out, that very same week, the chancellery of the diocese had called Rachel's Vineyard because men and women were contacting them looking for help with healing from abortions.

The first Rachel's Vineyard retreat was held at the Shrine in March 2007. The Shrine continues to host three Rachel's Vineyard retreats each year. Many of the hundreds of attendees have come back to the Church and have had life-changing conversions.

But Fr. Anthony's desire for the National Shrine to make a bold statement for pro-life causes didn't end there. Shortly after the retreats began, a group from Rachel's Vineyard from Bridgeport, Connecticut, came for a pilgrimage. During a tour of the grounds, one of the women noticed the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe and benefactor names in the Our Lady of Mercy Oratory and Candle Shrine. She asked Fr. Anthony about starting memorials for unborn children, and Fr. Anthony loved the idea.

At the same time, the Marians were constructing the Mother of Mercy Outdoor Shrine on the south lawn of Eden Hill, and there just so happened to be empty space in its bottom level. And with that, plans for the Shrine of the Holy Innocents took shape. It was to be a memorial Shrine not only for aborted children, but also children who were miscarried, stillborn, or who had died as infants. Our Lady of Guadalupe was to be at the center of this memorial shrine, as she is the patroness of life. Tiles would surround her upon which men and women could have their children's names etched.

Father Anthony knew it needed to be colorful, to represent life and the resurrection, and he wanted different features to help with the healing process of grieving men and women. For instance, there would be water fountains with images of the Holy Spirit to represent baptism. There would be background music, candles, and a place to put flowers in front of the statue of the Blessed Mother.

"I've learned from Rachel's Vineyard the importance of providing concrete opportunities to help men and women with their healing," Fr. Anthony says. "All of these features of the Shrine of the Holy Innocents would provide tactile and symbolic opportunities to aid the healing of these men and women from the loss of their child."

The plans were set, and construction began in 2007. Then, in 2008, when the economic recession hit, the Marians had to put the construction on hold. But even though the Shrine of the Holy Innocents remained mostly bare, when Fr. Anthony would bring groups down to see it, many people would break down in tears. They knew it was a place where God was present and where healing could begin.

"I knew these people were feeling the presence of the child they lost, even without all the special things that we wanted to put in there," Fr. Anthony said.

By the grace of God — and through a man from Maryland — construction resumed in January 2015. Here's how that came about: Father Anthony was giving a tour of Eden Hill to men from a Maryland prayer group. When he showed them the incomplete Shrine of the Holy Innocents, he could see the men were moved. One of them, Michael Phau, shared with Fr. Anthony that he was an architect, and it was his life's dream to build a memorial wall for the unborn. When he saw the Shrine of the Holy Innocents, he knew this was the place to do it. Michael wanted to fund the construction and donate his time and resources to finish it. Nearly floored by the offer, Fr. Anthony said, "Yes!"

As of this fall, the shrine is nearly complete. Images and Scripture verses have been put on the walls. One image, of an angel holding a baby, also came about through the grace of God. After seeing the image on a card that he received in the mail, Fr. Anthony knew the image would be an excellent addition to the memorial shrine. He contacted the woman who painted it. She was shocked; she had painted the image specifically for post-abortion healing. She happily gave her permission for the image to be used.

Many people have already come and ordered memorials for the children and grandchildren they have lost, and the names are beginning to surround the statue of Our Lady. When construction is completed, it will be dedicated to St. Stanislaus Papczynski, the Founder of the Marian Fathers, through whose intercession prayers have been answered concerning conception, the unborn, and children.

"There have been tons of adversities against this project," Fr. Anthony said. "But we never need to be afraid of adversities and obstacles, because that's a sign that it is from the Lord. If it takes long, that means it's going to be really grace-filled and have a great impact on souls."

To remember a deceased child at the Shrine of the Holy Innocents with a glass tile, visit MemorialsOnEdenHill.org/sohi or call 1-800-462-7426 and press 5.

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