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 | Linda Reeves, Florida Catholic Media

Young Catholic is on a Pro-life Journey Walking with Faith

March 8, 2023 | Kristen Wayne, a Winter Park native, has remained true to her Catholic faith and beliefs throughout her young life, but she confesses that she kept quiet about her convictions in fear of being taunted until she witnessed Catholics her age wearing t- shirts with the words “I am the Prolife Generation” boldly speak out.

“I met members of Student for Life on campus,” said Wayne. “I thought it was awesome that people came together to speak about pro-life.”

Kristen, 23, is a senior at the University of South Florida in Tampa, where she is studying social science and deaf studies. This summer, she joins a Catholic fellowship program in Europe to study and “learn more about my Catholic faith and where it comes from,” she told the Florida Catholic.

Kristen is a leader of Student for Life, a pro-life group, at the University of South Florida and has people taken notice of her dedication to and passion for pro-life initiatives.

“Kristen is one the most dedicated students in the region,” said Andy Secola, Florida coordinator for Students for Life of America, giving Kristen a shout out for taking on several leadership roles since she joined the group three years ago and going over and beyond to promote the cause and take action.

“She is currently the vice president of the Student for Life group, and last year, they made it into the top three for “Group of the Year” out of groups from around the country,” said Secola about the significant “Pro-life Champion” recognition that the campus group received among 1,300 groups on middle, high school, college, university, medical and law school campus throughout the nation.

Looking back. Kristine’s parents moved to Brandon near Tampa when she and her sister were young. The Wayne family found St. Francis of Assisi Parish in nearby Seffner, where Kristen received religious education, sacraments and a solid faith foundation. She served as an altar server and later, an Extraordinary minister.

As far as schooling, Kristine went to public elementary and middle schools. She graduated from Brandon High School and enrolled at Hillsboro Community College in Tampa, where she earned a business degree before joining the University of South Florida.

She attends daily Mass at the Catholic Student Center, a mission of the Diocese of St. Petersburg, and serves as a coordinator of the women’s group that meets weekly for prayer, fellowship and service.

Kristine says she has believed in respect for life from conception to natural birth, as the Church teaches, as long as she can remember, but it was one of those topics that she didn’t talk about, and she knew little about the pro-life movement that started 50 years ago.

Through various Student for Life programs, events, talks and long-time advocates, she learned more and more about the statistics of the millions of babies killed from abortion and the harsh realities about the after effects of terminating a baby.

“Abortion is harmful to everyone involved. The mother, father, brother or sisters, and most of all the baby who is being killed in the process,” she said.

“When I learned what abortion actually was, I could no longer be silent. I had to stand up and say this is wrong. And I’m blessed to have others by my side.”

Last year, Kristine came face-to-face with a homeless mother on the streets. Shanika was in her late 20’s, six-months pregnant and begging for money near the local Publix.

What lessons Kristine learned from the mom were more than any found in textbooks or lectures.

“She talked a little about her situation, but what wasn’t said you could kind of piece together,” said Kristen shaken by the incident but ready to help.

“I proceeded to ask her about her baby. She was unsure what she wanted to do.”

Kristine took the mother’s telephone number to keep in touch, provided her with hotline-support numbers and pregnancy care center information, and assured her that she and her pro-life group were there to help.

One thing led to the next and in the end, Shanika got some help and choose life. Kristen and the Students for Life group organized a baby shower, clothes drive and fundraiser, and everyone was energized by the true-life encounter with the desperate mother.

“The experience has taught me to give everything I have to Jesus and give thanks for it all. I am so thankful for opportunities to reach out and minister to women and children who need to be seen, known, and loved by those around them.”

Kristine attended the annual March for Life in St. Augustine in 2020 and 2021 and in 2022, the March for Life in Washington D.C., the largest pro-life gathering in the nation. This year, she had a personal matter and could only attend events in spirit and prayer.

“I was praying for the unborn and for the safety of all the participants,” she said.

The annual March for Life in Washington D.C. was historic. The event marked the first march since the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade, the decision that had legalized abortion for 50 years. Decisions about abortion legalization are now left to individual states.

Thousands of young faces were in the crowd and represented the millennials born between early 1980’s and late 1990’s and Generation Z, young people born after 1997. The young people wore t-shirts and held signs with pro-life messages and many chanted,” I am the pro-life generation.”

The young people tend to be showing up at pro-life events everywhere these days and getting attention.

“It is great to see young people participating at pro-life events,” said Jim Thoma, a teacher and parishioner of Holy Family in Port St. Lucie steadfast in the pro-life cause for more than 25 years and regarded by many as one of the strongest, longtime respect life advocates in the northern part of the Diocese of Palm Beach.

Thoma, who was awarded the diocesan Respect Life Person of the Year recognition in 2015, says that longtime pro-lifers continue to pray for the end of abortion, but now as the battle moves into a new phase, prayers are going up for the young people to step up to end the culture of death for the next generations.

“Many of the old-time pro-lifers are praying that the young generation will get involved. We need the young people to carry on the movement,” he said.

By divine providence or by chance, Christine happened to be in Washington D. C. at the leadership conference last June when word came that Roe V. Wade had been overturned. Participants were shocked.

“We were in a seminar when some people walked in and announced that Roe v. Wade had been overturned,” said Kristen. “In the moment, I couldn’t even think. It was crazy. It was awesome after all the hard work and dreams that one day babies would not be killed.”

A Pew Research Center was conducted after the decision. Among 6,174 Americans on the nationally represented American Trends Panel findings reveal that 62% of women disapprove of the decision to end the federal right to an abortion.

Interestingly but apparent, the poll also indicates that Catholics, who attend Mass regularly, are among the country’s strongest challengers, who oppose abortion being legal.

“The work doesn’t stop with the overturning of Roe v. Wade. We have to work even harder. We have to be more supportive of life than ever,” said Kristine.

Abortion in Florida is currently legal until the 15th week of gestation and is governed by the State Legislature. Another new issue is that Walgreens and CVS pharmacies are seeking certifications to sale abortion pills.

What is next for Kristine and her group? “We are planning for 40 Days for Life,” she said about the peaceful and prayerful campaign against abortion that begins on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 22.

She is encouraging the Prolife Generation on campus to pray and fast during the campaign for the end of abortion and to join her and other group leaders in prayer and witness at the abortion clinic near the university campus with hopes of changing “minds and helping women with unwanted pregnancies. Letting them know that abortion isn't their only option,” said Kristine continuing her pro-life journey with faith and for the glory of God, the Creator.

Linda Reeves, is a correspondent for the Florida Catholic Media.