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From the Rink to the Convent: How a Pro-Life Encounter Changed an Olympian's Life

Kathleen Gilbert : Feb 19, 2010

"I had the wonderful privilege of being able to compete as an Olympian, and now I am blessed to be able to serve God and help those less fortunate."

(LEEDS, England)—As America's team of Olympic women speed skaters compete in the Vancouver Winter Olympics this month, one prodigy once expected to shoot to stardom in the sport won't even be watching the broadcast.

Kristin HollumTwelve years ago, while only seventeen, Kirstin Holum placed sixth in the 3,000 meter race in the Nagano 1998 Winter Olympics—a remarkable feat in a competition usually dominated by older and hardier athletes. But Holum, 29, is now a Catholic nun known as Sister Catherine Mary, and her calling to the religious life has brought her to a convent where no TV or Internet will show the Vancouver Olympics. (Photo:

Holum says that her conversion was sparked by an experience with the pro-life group Crossroads that she says changed her life.

Crossroads participants make a yearly pilgrimage on foot across the United States to witness against the killing of the unborn. Jim Nolan, a spokesman for the group, told (LSN) that "the untold part of this story is that [Holum] bumped into the 2002 Crossroads pro-life walk across America ... and decided to finish the walk from there to D.C. with them," experiencing "a massive conversion due to her pro-life work that summer." This conversion brought her to the convent.

In a letter that Crossroads received in 2005, the former speed skating champ wrote: "Crossroads completely changed my life! I came onto Crossroads as a mediocre confused Christian and finished as a zealous Roman Catholic."

In a Yahoo! Sports column this week, Holum recounted for writer Martin Rogers the path that took her from the sport that defined her life from a young age—her mother was world-class speed skater Dianne Holum—to a life of working with the poor and homeless as a member of the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal (FSR).

"It is funny to think of how different my life is now," she told Yahoo! Sports. "I had the wonderful privilege of being able to compete as an Olympian, and now I am blessed to be able to serve God and help those less fortunate." The religious sister also noted that she enjoys watching youngsters open up after she tells them she is a former Olympian.

In the correspondence that Crossroads received from the former skater, she explained that she "had a pretty rough time in college with my faith."

"So, when I graduated I had no desire to do anything. God saw an opportunity to work something amazing through Crossroads," says the letter. "I had never experienced such joyful, young Catholics and I was so inspired."

"Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all you do for Crossroads and for your intense Pro-Life ministry. Without my Crossroads experience, who knows where I would be!" it concludes. "Crossroads is not only saving babies, it is raising up strong Pro-Life Catholics."

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