The greatest attack on human life in all of human history is abortion. With over 60,000,000 babies killed in the U.S. since the Roe v. Wade court decision, and billions more innocent children slaughtered worldwide, the widespread silence and complacency on this massacre is shocking and unacceptable.
But Christendom alumni are not complacent. From working for nationally known organizations like Live Action to serving women at local pregnancy centers to influencing public opinion through journalism to leading prayer campaigns, Christendom graduates are pushing forward the pro-life cause.
Lauren Merz is a prime example of a professional using her talents to further the pro-life movement in powerful ways. After graduating from Christendom in 2010, Merz moved to Washington, D.C., with plans of pursuing a career in the political realm. While living in D.C. and becoming tuned in to various policy debates on Capitol Hill, Merz began to see the centrality of the abortion issue.
“I realized that if we can kill our own children in the womb, how will any of the other challenges we face be solved? How can we expect to … ensure a healthy political system to protect the common good when the very fundamental building block of the family is destroyed by abortion?” Merz recalled.
With this realization, Merz felt called to commit her career to the pro-life movement.
After working as a development assistant for the Media Research Center, a conservative nonprofit, she decided to apply for a job at Live Action, the nation’s most well-known and influential pro-life organization. She was hired as Live Action’s development manager and has since risen through the ranks of the organization, recently being promoted to vice president for strategic partnerships, where she works alongside President Lila Rose and COO Josef Lip as part of the Executive Team. In this role, Merz manages the full fundraising team, and oversees the Media, Government Relations, Events, and Partnerships teams. With these responsibilities, she is greatly able to influence the direction of the organization’s marketing, messaging, and strategy, thereby optimizing the organization’s impact. In addition, she frequently travels for speaking engagements, sharing Live Action’s mission and work across the country.
Ten years after graduating, Merz still credits her Christendom education with empowering her to do the incredible work she is now doing for the pro-life cause. It prepared her as a professional, teaching her to strategize, think critically, and communicate well, skills she capitalizes on daily. Moreover, she developed a reliance on prayer and a deep love for the sacraments while at Christendom, which she continually draws upon while working to fight such a horrific evil.
She also found the worldview and intellectual foundation to explain, defend, and articulate pro-life arguments in a way that is both compassionate and convincing.
“The essentials we learned about human nature and ethics have been fundamental to me as I help form Live Action’s messaging and strategy with our team,” Merz explained. “The understanding of human dignity, morality, and the Church’s teachings I formed at Christendom are the roots of the pro-life work I do today.”
Through the years, Merz has seen her work at Live Action save lives. In 2017, she helped to produce a video where a former abortionist explained the medical nature of an abortion procedure, revealing the brutality of abortion. This video has since become a popular and powerful resource for pro-lifers. Merz recently heard from a young woman who found herself in an unexpected pregnancy and was strongly considering abortion until watching that video. Now this young woman is the proud mother of a beautiful son and a vocal member of the pro-life movement herself. According to Merz, Live Action regularly gets feedback like this, especially from young people, who’s hearts and minds have been changed about abortion.
Recent graduate Bridget Handy ’17 is also working for Live Action and serves as the government relations liaison. In this position, she represents Live Action on Capitol Hill by attending coalition gatherings, briefings, hearings, and meetings with staff and members of Congress. Handy also conducts policy research and writing for Live Action. This job was a great fit for Handy after she had gained experience in legislative government, first by working as a staff and press assistant for a republican congressman, and then working as a speechwriter and communications assistant for a house committee member.
Like Merz, working in D.C. increased Handy’s sense of urgency regarding the pro-life cause, so deciding to devote herself full-time to the movement was a natural fit. “Live Action exposes the violence of this evil like no other organization, so when an opening that fit my experience and interests came up, I jumped on it,” Handy shared.
Handy’s pro-life activism took root while she was a student at Christendom. A regular participant in Christendom’s pro-life club, Shield of Roses, she frequently travelled with fellow students to pray for mothers and their babies outside local abortion clinics. She became a leader for Shield, serving as a vice president her sophomore through senior year. Handy also took her activism a step further, receiving training to become a sidewalk counselor, attempting to intervene and provide alternative resources to women who were entering the clinics. All those early Saturday mornings of prayer and intervention contributed to Handy’s fervent passion for the pro-life cause.
“I remember distinctly a moment one Saturday when I was standing outside the D.C. Planned Parenthood we prayed and counseled at. I looked down the street and just stared at the Washington Monument several blocks away. There was this very real pause where it dawned on me how surreal the whole moment and movement were. There I was, standing in the capital of the free world outside a building where our most vulnerable citizens were being killed,” Handy recalled. “Sometimes, I think about that moment and how it’s come full circle in my profession and life. God knew then what all of those Saturdays with my classmates were helping prepare me to do.”
As taxing as it can be to devote one’s career to fighting an evil that is so dark and horrific, Handy feels strengthened by the faith formation she received at Christendom.
“The Truth of the Catholic Faith and the reality that justice will be served by an omnipotent God is the sweet relief in the spiritual warfare we face daily fighting the evil of abortion,” Handy shared. “I owe a lot of the confidence I have in these truths to my education at Christendom.”
Merz and Handy are doing heroic work to change minds and save lives through Live Action’s marketing and digital engagement, consistently engaging Gen Zers and millennials and helping them to take an honest look at the abortion issue. They are on the front lines along with those working in crisis pregnancy centers.
Meeting the Needs of Women in Need
Alumnae Felicity Fedoryka ’17 and Olivia (née Cerroni) McDonough ’18 work to promote the pro-life cause by directly meeting the needs of women in need at a crisis pregnancy center. These two graduates work together at the Christendom alumni-founded Front Royal Pregnancy Center (FRPC) in Front Royal, Virginia, where they provide medical and physical resources to women on a daily basis.
Fedoryka serves as the donor relations and office manager organizing initiatives to increase donor engagement, managing FRPC’s social media, and much more. She is thankful for the opportunity to work for the pro-life movement on a local and interpersonal level, where she is able to concretely enable women to choose life.
“I am blessed to be working in a role where I can see the life-changing results of my work on an almost daily basis,” Fedoryka said. “Possibly my favorite part of my job is when a woman who did change her mind comes back months later to show off her newborn, and you can see the love and pride in her eyes as she looks at her baby.”
Fedoryka is thankful for the professional preparation she received at Christendom. “Credibility, transparency, and honesty are essential when trying to change hearts and minds, especially when the other side is so willing to adjust the facts or ignore research,” she said. Fedoryka believes her Christendom education has helped her to be able to argue and present facts in a clear, digestible, and compassionate manner, which is extremely important in her line of work.
McDonough serves the pregnancy center as the events and program manager filling a variety of roles, including planning fundraisers, designing literature, assisting with marketing, speaking at churches, and interacting with the women who come to the center.
McDonough had been interested in working for the pro-life movement for a long time, and before landing a full-time position at FRPC, she volunteered her time at another pregnancy center. Devoting her career to the pro-life movement was an easy decision for McDonough, especially since, she says, Christendom “prepared my heart, soul, and mind for this work.”
Much like Fedoryka, McDonough loves getting to work for the pro-life cause at a “boots on the ground” level. To be able to meet the immediate needs of women, and help them to choose life, is unspeakably rewarding.
“There are so many instances of women and girls coming in, dead set on abortion. By the time they leave, some are laughing, smiling, and excited for the day their babies are born,” McDonough shared.
Without a doubt, Fedoryka and McDonough are doing great work by encouraging women to choose life and by providing the resources they need to become mothers.
While this aspect of the movement is extremely important, in order for the pro-life cause to be completely successful, the hearts and minds of the public must be changed as well. Alumnus John Jalsevac is influencing the culture by working for pro-life news source LifeSiteNews.com, which reaches 40 million readers per year.
Engaging Highly Complex Cultural Problems
Starting as a journalist at LifeSiteNews upon graduating from Christendom in 2008, Jalsevac rose through the ranks of the organization, becoming an editor, managing editor, and finally managing director and VP of digital marketing. In this administrative role, Jalsevac developed high-level strategy to optimize LifeSite’s outreach and shaped the organization’s digital marketing, making LifeSiteNews a leader in the pro-life movement. Currently, Jalsevac is working as a management and technology consultant for LifeSiteNews as he pursues a PhD in philosophy.
Jalsevac credits the formation he received at Christendom with preparing him for his successful career with LifeSiteNews.
“The classroom experience and liberal arts curriculum provided me with the critical thinking skills and philosophical foundation to engage intelligently with the highly complex ethical and cultural problems involved in the pro-life and pro-family issues,” Jalsevac said.
Christendom gave him the intellectual tools to make convincing pro-life arguments in the countless journalistic pieces he has written throughout the years. He also believes that the other leadership opportunities he had on campus, from helping to establish the Chester Belloc Debate Society to being an editor of the student publication The Rambler to being assistant director of several plays under the guidance of the late Dr. Patrick Keats, gave him the skills to organize projects and lead others in an effective way.
Jalsevac also believes that Christendom was a great place to grow in his commitment to the pro-life cause. When he was a student, he traveled to Florida along with other Christendom students to prayerfully protest outside Terri Schiavo’s hospice in her final days while she was dying by court-ordered starvation and dehydration.
“The effort to rent a bus and send dozens of students to Florida to be present was a student-led initiative,” Jalsevac recalled. “It was deeply moving to experience the commitment of my fellow students, and their willingness to put boots on the ground in service of the weak and vulnerable.”
At the time this was occurring, Jalsevac was writing articles for LifeSiteNews about his experience, and he interviewed Terri’s brother, Bobby Schindler. Jalsevac already had an interest in journalism, and this experience affirmed his decision to devote his gift for writing to the pro-life cause.
Without a doubt, Jalsevac’s work at LifeSiteNews has made an impact, changing minds and saving lives in the process. According to Jalsevac, LifeSiteNews continually receives messages and emails from readers describing how their minds have been changed about abortion. There is no doubt that Jalsevac’s work has impacted the culture for the better.
Prayer, Fasting, and Community Outreach
While using media to change minds and hearts is remarkably important, prayer is still the most powerful and essential aspect of the pro-life movement. Alumna Chloe Herrmann ’18 is contributing to the pro-life movement through volunteering her time to 40 Days for Life, an organization that aims to end abortion locally through prayer and fasting, community outreach, and all-day vigils in front of abortion businesses. While Herrmann keeps busy working full-time as a project manager for Enable Web Design, she still finds time to be highly involved in the pro-life cause. Since graduating in 2018, Herrmann has been involved with organizing and leading prayer rallies and vigils, and managing marketing efforts for different 40 Days for Life chapters. Recently, Herrmann has taken on the role of leader and vigil coordinator for the 40 Days for Life chapter in Danbury, Connecticut.
For anyone who knew Herrmann while she was a student, it is no surprise that she is still a prayer warrior for the pro-life cause. Throughout all four years of her time at Christendom, Herrmann served as a sidewalk counselor and prayed outside abortion clinics for Shield of Roses almost every Saturday. She went on to serve as president of the club her junior and senior years. In addition, she hosted sidewalk counselor training sessions, brought National Pro-Life T-Shirt Day to campus, and volunteered as an active member of Students for Life of America. Her senior year, Herrmann traveled with Christendom on a mission trip to Ireland to participate in the Save the 8th campaign.
Herrmann is a great example of someone who is making an impact in the pro-life cause through volunteering. While not everyone is able to formally work in the pro-life cause, Herrmann believes that each and every Catholic has a place in this movement. “Nothing is impossible with God. Together, our sacrifices can help save lives and bring an end to abortion. All we need to do is pray,” Herrmann stated.
The work and stories of these alumni inspire a renewed resolve for the pro-life cause. They, along with many Christendom graduates throughout the country, are standing up for life in powerful ways. Christendom is one of the most pro-life colleges in the nation, and its alumni are the proof. From fighting for the rights of the unborn on Capitol Hill to simply bearing witness to the beauty of life by raising children of their own, Christendom alumni are standing up for the dignity of life, changing minds, and saving lives.