Since 2005, Grief to Grace has helped those who have experienced abuse to find reconciliation and healing.

Centered on Jesus Christ, our week-long retreat approach combines a comprehensive understanding of medical and psychological principles with professional excellence and compassion.

For me the retreat was an experience of grace as palpable and as powerful as my ordination . . . The healing was immense, the joy is so wonderful.
— A survivor of clergy abuse who became a priest

Grief to Grace is a Catholic program open to people of all faith.

Our program manual received an Imprimatur and Nihil Obstat from Justin Cardinal Rigali in Philadelphia in 2006.

Healing Abuse Within Religious Vocations

Amidst the many tragic effects of abuse, Generations of developing vocations in the Catholic Church have been aborted, vocations abruptly terminated by the pillaging destruction of young souls through clergy abuse. There are some parallels between the experience of those who have participated in abortion and the incomprehensible response of some church leaders when abuse allegations had been brought to their attention. Like a woman in denial about her abortion, many Church leaders resorted to the same dissociated posture toward the horror of the crimes. They constructed a similar fortress of defensiveness that is quite common when we entrench ourselves in the knowledge of deep sin and its cover-up. If only Mother Church from the beginning had allowed her heart to be broken by recognizing the truth revealed in the shattered lives of her victims, and heard the pleas of desperate parents begging the Church to step in and protect the innocent lives of her children.

Healing Within the Church

In deep recognition of their need, and hearing of a safe place to heal, many religious sisters and priests have begun to make the journey from Grief to Grace along with other victims of abuse. After attending the program, one priest who had been abused as a child by another priest wrote:

“I do not have the words to tell you how grateful I am for all I have been given this week through you and your team, by your heart so full of faith, hope and love... I never believed so powerful a journey could happen so suddenly. Thank you from the depths of my heart, now so overflowing with peace and joy.”

The new Evangelization Initiatives mandate that we invite all into the fullness of authentic love so they are free to discover their unique vocations in Christ. But abuse of any sort, given its fundamental nature of betrayal, endangers an individual’s ability to fully accept and embrace this gift. Abuse attacks the heart of our vocations as beloved children of God. Grief to Grace directly responds to this suffering by bringing the wounded soul to the very font of love itself, the Lord Jesus.

This program was created to end the isolation and secrets of abuse within a retreat process that is fully centered upon the person and presence of Jesus Christ, who knew exactly what it felt like to be an innocent victim. One victim of clergy abuse shared these words after completing the Grief to Grace program: “I notice that the sense of helpless vulnerability which seemed ingrained in me has evaporated and I have a new sense of being present to myself and integrated in body, mind and spirit as never before. Now I think, “this must be how we’re meant to feel.” It helps me understand my lack of accomplishment and direction in life up until now. How could I make goals and follow through with them when so much energy was expended in agonizing then second guessing every decision and choice I was faced with? Now I’m happy to say my greatest accomplishment is my full acceptance of humanity, wounds, scars and all, in myself and in others.”

Because the Church is the community of believers, when one of its members is healed, the Church itself is made stronger. Imagine if many are healed! Imagine if her leadership is healed! A stronger, more radiant Church is one that can’t help but engender goodness throughout all of society. Those who experience healing within the context of their faith will, in turn, invest their gifts and resources into the Church. They are inspired to serve and build upon the foundation that has been laid within the context of Church, faith and community.

One priest who suffered abuse as a child shared that Grief to Grace provided the missing piece that 22 years of addiction treatment had failed to provide – addressing the spiritual component of his own relationship with God.

 One religious sister who had been sexually abused as a child expressed the following:

“Things are so much better in terms of house dynamics with my superior. I have come to see that I not only saw God as a perpetrator but also the Sisters I live with. When I began to take off the lens of my abuse, I saw that I really am very loved by God and my Sisters. It’s any given moment, when I stop to think, I know exactly what I am feeling and why and what to do about it. In prayer, I’ve been asking Jesus to touch my heart and to hold me close. I am trying to make a habit of visualizing this in prayer. Our Lord is telling me to be not afraid.”

Cardinal Renato Raffael Martino from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace spoke these words of encouragement for Grief to Grace: “Please be assured of my prayers as you continue to serve God’s people with such dedication and love. The ministry of healing that you provide to so many women and men will no doubt bring hope, strength, and a renewed faith to those who suffer the traumatic effects of abortion and sexual abuse. May the Lord who has begun this good work in you, bring it to fulfillment.”

Grief to Grace supports and assists its participants in this spiritual journey. It helps participants face the depth and tragedy of abuse while reclaiming their value and dignity as daughters and sons of the Living God. By traveling the Paschal Mystery of their own lives and uniting their suffering to Christ’s, participants share in the new life and fullness of His Resurrection and thus re-establish the font of love, tenderness, belonging, safety, joy and peace which are often missing from the stories of abuse victims.

One victim of clergy abuse shared:“I have been delivered from a great burden as a result of Grief to Grace. Resurrection has occurred in my life as a result of this experience! I can share very frankly about my experience as well as opening myself up to others about who I really am. I know the tender loving care of God in a new and refreshing way and I look forward to my life and what the possibilities are that lie ahead.”


 Where we are

  • Diocese of Kingston, Jamaica
  • Diocese of Nelson, British Columbia
  • Diocese of Portland, OR
  • Diocese of Southwark, England
  • Diocese of Fargo, ND
  • Archdiocese of Oklahoma
    City, OK
  • Archdiocese of Philadelphia, PA
  • Diocese of Palm Beach, FL
  • Archdiocese of St. Paul / Minneapolis, MN
  • Diocese of Phoenix, AZ

Please see our retreat calendar for a complete listing.