June Ministry of the Month: St. James Church - Modesto, CA
Ministry Leader: Kimberly Swehla
Kimberly (right) with daughter Emilia at the 2023 Walk for Life in San Francisco
Kimberly (right) with daughter Emilia at the 2023 Walk for Life in San Francisco
Kimberly (right) with daughter Emilia at the 2023 Walk for Life in San Francisco


Tell us about yourself!
I’ve been married to my husband, Ryan, for twenty-two years and we have three children, one in college and two in high school. I homeschooled our children for twelve years and now I run our church bookstore and serve on the parish council.

Have you always been pro-life?
I was raised in a non-religious household, sported a Darwin fish on my car bumper in high school, was a puppet of the public school system, and would gladly have proclaimed that I was pro-choice. After all, I was a modern young woman and believed in women’s rights! Then I started dating my future husband, Ryan. Glory be to God! I was baptized Orthodox when I was 21 years old and have been pro-life since then.

How did you learn about OCLife?
My brother-in-law, Joel Swehla, is really the one to credit with our church becoming a part of OCLife and all of us parishioners becoming more vocal about the pro-life movement. It began when Joel suggested our extended family participate in the Walk for Life in San Francisco in 2019. The Walk was so beautiful and energizing and everything was kickstarted from there. We came back to our parish and couldn't stop talking about the experience.



Why is the pro-life cause important to you?
As Christians, we believe that life starts at conception. Who will fight for these powerless humans if we don’t? Who will help the women in crisis pregnancies make the correct choice for herself and her baby?

How is your parish working to educate the youth?
In the Great Entrance, our priest prays for the victims of abortion. Our church has an icon on a wall in the sanctuary of the Theotokos, the “Protectress of the Unborn.” We hold the OCLife baby shower to support our local pregnancy center, and a large group of us participate in the Walk for Life each January. By making "pro-life" a normal and consistent part of our parish, the youth are learning by example. Nothing is hidden. We are firmly and openly a pro-life parish. We recognize that society will step in and educate our youth if we are not active about what we believe. Society has an agenda and is very convincing and never stops trying to win our youth.



How have you connected with the local pro-life community?
We have only been [affiliated with OCLife] since 2022, and already have a very active group of parishioners of all ages, both male and female. In the fall of 2022, we purchased three tables at our local pregnancy center’s annual gala. There were 30 of us Orthodox Christians sporting OCLife buttons among 600 Protestants. One of our tables was front and center to the stage. It was spectacular! We hope to fill even more tables this fall. . . We hope to grow the friendly and respectful relationships between our Orthodox Church and the local Protestants churches in our city.



Do you have any words of encouragement for other parishes that might be thinking about starting an OCLife group?
Just start by doing something. Something, no matter how small, is better than nothing. It could be asking your priest to pray for the victims of abortion in the Great Entrance. It could be hosting the OCLife annual baby shower or touring your local pregnancy center. We have found that talking about our experiences at the Walk for Life has calmed the fears of many people who were on the fence about attending. . . If you have a parish that is a little nervous about it, or if you have a parish that is already largely pro-life, you just need to take that leap and get involved. Christ Is Risen!