Requiescat in Pace: The untimely death of a feisty advocate for life

Remembering the life of a true-life advocate.

Pro-life and Catholic ecological advocates lost a dear friend and tireless advocate with the recent death of Kristen Hayes, 51, of Berwyn, Pennsylvania.

Kristen’s influence on these pages and myself cannot be understated. She first reached out to me in 2011 when she came across my eco-writings, especially this blog, and we became fast friends. She was a self-taught expert on issues ranging from Catholic eco-teachings to toxicology, but she was a natural at advocating and championing the causes of life.

With her urging and guidance, I agreed to join forces with her and other like-minded faith-based eco-advocates in 2012 and developed this Joint Declaration for Life—a document that sought to heal ecclesial divides by demonstrating the connections between traditional pro-life movements and ecology, which was of course a major theme of Benedict XVI and would be in Pope Francis’s 2015 eco-encyclical Laudato Si.

Later, she was instrumental in helping me with background info and the sources necessary to write this piece on toxins and human life in Catholic World Report.

She was fierce in her devotion to helping educate others about man-made toxins and their impacts on human life—a lesson she and her family learned at high cost, which she recounts in the Catholic World Report article.

In the summer of 2005, death and illness drifted over the property line of Kristen Hayes’ new home in Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania. The first sign of problems was the unexpected death of the family golden retriever, Tanner. Shortly after, Hayes’ three children developed a variety of health problems. Hayes later discovered that her family had been exposed to the organophosphate pesticide Dimethoate 4EC when Amish farmers had leased neighboring land and sprayed the pesticide near her home.

Hayes began to study if such substances could have been the cause of her family’s suffering. It didn’t take long to discover that they could.

She learned, for instance, of the US Central Intelligence Agency’s warning that “[o]rganophosphate pesticides…are in the same chemical class as nerve agents. Although these pesticides are much less toxic, their effects and medical treatments are the same as for military-grade nerve agents.”

In 2011 Hayes wrote and distributed “A Catholic Call to Action: Protecting our most vulnerable population, our born and unborn children” and in 2012 she co-founded (with other Catholics and with sympathetic Evangelicals) the grassroots group Protecting the Sanctity of All Life Movement, or PSALM. In 2014 she would begin serving on the Board for the Saint Kateri Conservation Center and (unsuccessfully) run as a Democrat for Pennsylvania’s 84th House District.

Kristen and I would have long conversations about the ecclesial and political worlds and how they did or did not best serve human life—a subject that began to take root in my life after my mom’s 2011 diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease, a topic Kristen and I spoke of often.

Kristen Hayes. (Photo: Facebook)

It was the care of my mom that increasingly demanded my time, and those demands began to interfere with my eco-writings and relationships, like my friendship with Kristen, who in her corner of creation was dealing with family health issues and then her own.

Life too often means the most when it is taken from us—a sad fault that we humans learn repeatedly when we become too busy with issues both trivial and even profound.

For Kristen, life was always, always the most important topic and cause, and her championing others to consider it likewise will not and indeed should not be forgotten.

I do not doubt that God’s mercy has looked kindly on Kristen’s soul for all its benevolence and hard work in defense of the defenseless and in championing God’s great gift of life, in all its forms, stages, and frailties.

But we should nevertheless pray for Kristen’s soul, and perhaps someday, if not now, pray for her intercession so that we who are remaining may continue to build the culture of life that God had intended in the beginning, as well as to appreciate the people in our lives while they remain with us.

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About the Blog

Catholic Ecology posts my regular column in the Rhode Island Catholic, as well as scientific and theological commentary about the latest eco-news, both within and outside of the Catholic Church. What is contained herein is but one person's attempt to teach and defend the Church's teachings - ecological and otherwise. As such, I offer all contents of this blog for approval of the bishops of the Church. It is my hope that nothing herein will lead anyone astray from truth.