Reaching youth for Christ and for life
My journey home to Catholicism hasn’t been an easy one. I was brought up in an evangelical home, surrounded by family members who were leaders in our non-denominational church.
I volunteered for a Heartbeat-affiliated pregnancy resource center (PRC) in Steubenville, Ohio, when I was in high school. The moment I walked into that center, my life changed. I learned about the grim reality of abortion, about the babies who were being killed, and women and men wounded. That summer at the PRC set me on my way eventually to lead Students for Life of America.
But it also did something else: It introduced me to real Catholicism. I met Catholics who knew answers to my questions and who courageously lived out their faith. For example, I learned why the Church scorns contraception and how it’s at the root of our abortion crisis.
This unfailing adherence to the truth started me on my journey home. Subsequent research showed me that no matter the time or place in history, the Catholic Church has never wavered in proclaiming the truth about humanity, about our Creator, about love, and about life. Loud voices in the culture not only accept, but vigorously promote abortion and contraception. The Church refuses to bend. The Church stands for what is true, no matter the cost.
The truth and our example are winning over this generation for the protection of life. I see it every day on college and high school campuses — the “ground zero” of the pro-life movement. The battle for the next generation is being fought in schools and on campuses, and we’re winning that battle.
Students’ passion for life is truly astounding. Not known for being pro-life beacons, high school and college students across the country are standing up for those who cannot speak for themselves — even when it costs them personally. Our students brought our Planned Parenthood Project to 80+ campuses this past semester, educating their peers on the ugly business model of Planned Parenthood — not an easy topic to discuss.
And this past school year, six high school students have gone public with their struggles to start pro-life groups at their schools, exposing discrimination, involving our attorneys, and doing interviews with unfriendly local and national media.
This is the next generation of pro-life warriors. As the Body of Christ, we need to support them now more than ever. Spiritual warfare is real. These students need our prayers, and they need to know that the Church is with them in this fight.
Last fall, Students for Life released its first national list of top colleges and universities that are the friendliest to pregnant and parenting students. We looked at various policies in place at schools to help women facing unplanned pregnancies — plus the availability of housing, child care and financial aid, etc. Catholic universities made up more than half of that list.
The March for Life and Walk for Life (West Coast) also give me great hope for this generation and the example of our Church. The majority of faces are young people — including young nuns in habits and priests wearing their collars.
It’s not enough to say that the Church is pro-life. We have to live it. We have to show it. This generation of young people yearns for leaders who aren’t afraid to stand up for their faith and beliefs. In fact, they crave it. In a world where social media accounts allow people to create an illusion of themselves (and everything can seem fake), this generation needs genuine leaders. They aren’t afraid of the costs of following someone or something as long as they believe it to be true — and as long as they view its leaders as genuine.
That’s why the Catholic Church is uniquely positioned right now to reach out to this youth generation and show them that we are steadfast in life, that we aren’t going anywhere, and that we practice what we preach.
Our team at Students for Life is constantly traveling the nation, training students, educating them on how to change their campus culture, and supporting them every single day of the year. This is our moment to show this generation what we stand for. This is our moment to win them back to a relationship with Jesus Christ, with our Church, and with a Culture of Life.
KRISTAN HAWKINS is president of Students for Life and a member of Legatus’ Twin Cities Chapter.