The people of Newfoundland are often said to be a proud people. In Patrick Hanlon, the pride of Newfoundland’s pro-life community is justified. Just 25 years old, he holds office in many local, provincial and national pro-life and pro-family organizations. He is president of the Right to Life Association for Newfoundland and Labrador, a director of LifeCanada, a volunteer with Newfoundland Campaign Life Coalition, a director with the Catholic Civil Rights League of Canada, an active member of the Legion of Mary and the Knights of Columbus and a director of both his local provincial and federal Conservative riding association.

“I dedicate a portion of every day to pro-life ministry at the Right to Life office,” Hanlon tellsThe Interim. While his schedule fluctuates, he spends about four hours a day promoting the pro-life message.

He first came to national attention as a pro-life activist in 2003 when, as a student at the Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN), he attempted to organize a campus pro-life club called MUN for Life. The group ran into strong opposition from the university, which attempted to shut it down.

This was not his first introduction to pro-life activism and politics. For the pro-life message is one he first learned at home as the youngest of six children born to loving Catholic parents. “One of my brothers died in infancy,” Hanlon says, “and one of my sisters has cerebral palsy.” Both siblings inspired Patrick to become more involved in the pro-life movement. Added to the family mix is Patrick’s father, a senior citizen with some health concerns. Hanlon lives at home, where he has been looking after his father since his mother passed away.

Hanlon recalls that his mother spoke of his brother’s crib death until the day she died. “Every time she thought of the baby, she would cry,” Hanlon says. “I realized that my mother went through all this grief despite having played no part in the loss of my brother. How much more grief must face a woman who decided to abort her child?”

He learned the importance of standing up for human life from going out in public with his sister. Some would laugh and point at her cerebral palsy. Others would say that she was better off dead. “I felt frustrated with people’s views on the value of life that every individual shares,” says Hanlon, whose sister always spoke up for herself. “Those types of reaction that people give you – that leaves a mark on a person and that left a mark on me.”

Hanlon first turned his attention to municipal politics. In 2001, he became the youngest person in St. John’s history to run for city council. He ran again in 2005. He also helped various provincial and federal candidates.

He began to take his faith more seriously as he progressed through his teenage years and his thoughts turned to pro-life activism. “I was looking for a way to express my religious convictions through political activism, some way of marrying the two. And abortion was always a thought in my mind, having gone to Catholic schools and been required to do pro-life projects as a student.”

At the same time, he met Colette Fleming, the executive director of the Right to Life Association of Newfoundland and Labrador. The two would meet about town, chat about family issues and she would invite him to attend local pro-life events. In 2002, Fleming invited Hanlon to join the association’s board of directors and he spent the next four years helping in public relations.

“We would go to different youth events, to the university, to health-related trade shows,” he says. “We set up booths and engaged the public in discussion over right-to-life issues. We made regular phone calls to radio talk shows, wrote letters to papers, participated in the daily vigil in front of the Morgentaler abortion mill here in town.”

In October of 2006, Patrick was enjoying his experience as the association’s youngest board member when the president retired. What happened next shocked him: “Everyone started looking around the table for a new president and suddenly, the eyes rested on me.” He was 23, the youngest person in the room. “I was half the age of most of the board.”

He accepted the association’s presidency, knowing he would have to prove himself. He did so within his first year of office, as a passionate and articulate voice who can garner media attention in the province. He initiated a debate within the local media when the province’s schools attempted to introduce the HPV vaccination. He has met informally with every major elected official in the province, including Premier Danny Williams, to promote the pro-life message.

Most recently, CBC radio invited him on air for an hour to debate a pro-abortion activist. When no pro-abortion activist would agree to the debate, Hanlon spent the hour promoting the pro-life message and answering on-air calls from listeners.

Hanlon does not mind shouldering a little criticism in the media. “It’s a joy knowing you’re saving lives,” he says. “I have met some of the people who have reconsidered and some of the babies we have saved. Yes, we are often persecuted by the media, but I find joy in that as well. Our Lord says in the Beatitudes: ‘Blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness.’ I find joy in that.”