Respect Life: Education

Programs, services and events of the RLA that aim to deepen understanding of the sanctity of human life and the humanity of unborn children, the moral evil of intentionally killing innocent human beings—whether at the beginning of life or at its end—and the mission of the Church to witness to and serve all human life.

Archdiocese Shows Strong Support for Catholic Education, Respect Life During 2018 Creative Writing Contest

1,058 Catholic Eighth Graders Write About Chastity, Respect Life, 146 Finalists Honored at April 18 Assembly

With approximately 500 people in attendance, the April 18 awards assembly culminated nearly five months of work that went into the 2018 Respect Life Creative Writing Contest. This partnership between the Catholic Education Office, Respect Life Apostolate, and schools and parishes throughout the archdiocese, helped 1,058 eighth graders reflect on the virtue of chastity and respecting each person's fundamental right to life.

These entries represented 61 schools, Parish School of Religion programs, and Catholic home schools. Of these students, 146 were rated as finalists by our judges and invited to the award assembly at the Cardinal Rigali Center.

At the assembly, Archbishop Robert Carlson, Fr. Brian Fallon, Bob Cochran (nephew of Bishop Edward O'Donnell), Zip Rzeppa, Missouri Knights of Columbus leaders and RLA Executive Director Karen Nolkemper helped present the awards and inspire the students. The presence of parents, teachers, principals, priests, and religious further inspired and supported the achievement of these eighth graders.

Each finalist received a certificate of achievement, respect life T-shirt, a teen book on chastity, and the opportunity to be individually recognized, presented, and photographed with Archbishop Carlson.

In addition, 14 of these 146 finalists were selected for either a scholarship or an honorable mention. This year, six one-time, partial scholarships and eight honorable mention prizes were awarded to help 14 students more easily pursue Catholic high school education in 2018-2019.

The recipients of the six $2,000 scholarships are:

  • Bishop Edward J. O'Donnell Scholarship: Emmeline Roseberry (St. Margaret of Scotland Grade School and Parish) will be attending Nerinx Hall
  • Mary Forrestal Hennessey Scholarship: Meghan Meehan (home school, St. Dominic Savio Parish) will be attending Bishop DuBourg High School
  • Mr. & Mrs George Kletzker Scholarships: Leah Anderson (St. Joseph of Imperial Grade School and Parish) will be attending Ursuline Academy, and Olivia Knobbe (St. Joseph-Josephville Grade School and Parish) will be attending St. Dominic High School
  • Knights of Columbus Missouri State Council Scholarship: John Paul Vlahutin (Annunziata Grade School and Holy Trinity Parish) will be attending Chaminade College Preparatory School
  • St. Joseph Evangelization Network Scholarship: Carlotta Croak (Holy Infant Grade School and Parish) will be attending Villa Duchesne 

The recipients of the eight honorable mention awards are:

  • Alexander Rodriguez (Holy Trinity Grade School, Our Lady of the Presentation Parish), will be attending DeSmet Jesuit High School
  • Amy Lien Stukenholtz (Sacred Heart-Valley Park Grade School and Parish), will be attending Cor Jesu Academy
  • Eric Piening (St. Monica Grade School and Parish), will be attending St. Louis University High School
  • Matilda Killeen (St. Margaret of Scotland Grade School and Parish), will be attending Visitation Academy
  • Gabriel Chase Lancia (Holy Cross Academy, Our Lady of Providence Parish), will be attending St. Pius X High School
  • Hannah Lifka (St. Peter Grade School, St. Joseph-Imperial Parish), will be attending Lindbergh High School
  • Hannah King (St. John Paul II Preparatory School, Queen of All Saints Parish) will be continuing her high school education at St. John Paul II
  • Hope Dery (homeschool, St. Joseph-Cottleville Parish), will be attending St. John Paul II Preparatory School 

Click here to read the St. Louis Review article.

Click here to read the winning scholarship entries

"God Led Me Here" Says RLA Volunteer Turned Staff Member Kelly Brown

Anyone who asks our newest bookkeeper/data coordinator Kelly Brown why she decided to work for the RLA will receive this joyful answer. She felt God calling her to apply after learning of the part-time position through her volunteer work as a Respect Life parish coordinator.

"When St. Martin of Tours needed a volunteer pro-life coordinator just last year, I was thrilled that it was open and that I could fill the role. I feel the same way about working professionally for the Respect Life Apostolate, too," Kelly said.

"As a woman and mother, I'm passionate about life, family, and children," she explained. "Serving in a ministry that focuses on life is such a great honor. Life isn't as valued in our society as it should be. I want to help our culture realize that children are precious gifts from God and that we should put them first. What better work is there to do than to protect the lives and future of children?"

Kelly, a St. Louis native, is a convert to Catholicism as is her husband Will who works for the Federal Reserve. They're the proud parents of Charlotte and dedicated to the pro-life cause and their Catholic faith. "It's Will's dream to enter the diaconate one day," Kelly said. "Since the RLA office is right down the hall from the deacon formation director's, I decided to give him a heads up!"

Kelly replaced Marlene Kren, who retired after seven years of service to devote more time to her family: husband Dave and their children and grandchildren. Marlene temporarily left retirement to help Kelly learn the various financial, bookkeeping, donation, and data entry tasks of the RLA.

"We're so blessed by our present and past staff who help our ministry make a seamless transition when these changes occur," said Karen Nolkemper, executive director. "We're so grateful for Marlene's assistance as well as Maureen Kane's. Maureen, who retired last summer, has been an invaluable help to her replacement, Mary Varni, our newest program manager."

RLA Accounts Coordinator Marlene Kren Honored for Seven Years of Service

The Respect Life Apostolate extends best wishes and congratulations to Marlene Kren upon her retirement as our part-time accounts coordinator.

Marlene faithfully helped us with all of our financial, donation and bookkeeping needs, overseeing convention registration and ad sales, and staffing various pro-life events around the archdiocese.


Marlene (third from left) who was also our behind-the-scenes prayer warrior as a daily Mass goer and office decorator extraordinaire. She joined the staff in 2011, serving the needs of the St. Louis Respect Life Movement for seven years. Executive Director Karen Nolkemper and the RLA staff will greatly miss Marlene's prayerful presence, amazing organizational ability, and gentle sense of humor.

She'll continue her pro-life mission as an RLA volunteer and devoting her time to her grandbabies, children, and husband Dave.

RLA Executive Director on STLToday.com: "Catholics are Bound to Accept Church Teaching on Abortion"

By Karen Nolkemper

Many Catholic politicians and commentators used the March for Life on Jan. 19 and the recent failure of the U.S. Senate to pass the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act to publicly contradict the very tenets of their own faith on the sanctity of human life. It must be noted that the Catholic Church is opposed to abortion as "gravely contrary to the moral law." Catholics are bound to accept this teaching and cannot compromise for the sake of pragmatism.

St. Mother Teresa once said abortion is the "greatest destroyer of love and peace." Pope Francis has bluntly called abortion the "murder of an innocent person."

Women in difficult situations facing an unplanned pregnancy need not resort to violence against their child. Numerous organizations, including the Catholic Church, stand ready to assist women materially and spiritually. We offer hope, healing, and forgiveness to anyone wounded by an abortion experience.

Regardless of the political climate, we find hope in Pope John Paul II's prophetic words: "In God's plan, life will be victorious."

See her original Letter to the Editor here.

EDITORIAL: Our Commitment to a Culture of Life is Rooted in Love

Love Saves Lives.

That's the theme of this year's March for Life, which commemorates the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision to legalize abortion. Forty-five years later, more than 59 million babies have been killed through abortion, according to the statistics from National Right to Life.

But the commitment to stopping this travesty isn't just about attending the March for Life in Washington, D.C., every year. It's a commitment -- rooted in love -- that requires our efforts every day of the year.

The pro-life community understands that choosing life isn't always easy. Facing poverty, abusive relationships, and lack of education or employment are among the reasons women seek abortion.

We're called to love and support both the unborn child and the mother. We must remain committed to building a culture of life from the womb through all stages of life. It isn't only the loving thing to do, but also empowering when a woman chooses life for her child.

Finish reading the St. Louis Review editorial here.

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