Franciscan Faces

Kelly Tolman

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Franciscan Faces

Kelly Tolman

From Unplanned Pregnancy to Pro-Life Ministry.

Autumn 2021 | Jessica Walker

In This Article

It’s OK,” the woman said as 19-year-old Kelly paid for her abortion clinic appointment. “You weren’t meant to be a mom anyway.”

Her comment struck Kelly. Although Kelly hadn’t really embraced faith, she had gone to a Catholic high school. She realized having an abortion was serious, but the receptionist didn’t appear to. Kelly gathered her money and left.

That appointment wasn’t the last. With her pregnancy, Kelly would have to give up her dream of being an Air Force pilot. Abortion seemed like the only choice. She and her boyfriend drove to another clinic, but people were praying outside. Kelly couldn’t make herself walk past them.

Finally, while heading to a third appointment, they hit bumper-to-bumper traffic. The appointment time came and went. That’s when Kelly noticed the car in front of them.

“It had a ‘Choose Life’ license plate,” she says. “I looked at my boyfriend and said, ‘I don’t know how we’re going to do this, but I’m pretty sure we’re having this baby.’”

Kelly and Fred Tolman married and left college—he enlisted in the Army, she worked nights. Their son, Nic, was born in October 2002.

Kelly’s personal experience led her to get involved in pro-life work. She started a pregnancy resource center in Georgia called Seneca, Choices for Life, which shared a parking lot with an abortion clinic. There, she and fellow members encountered and ministered to women and their families through providing resources, support, and prayer. Even with the great work at Seneca, Kelly felt there was more to do. Reaching someone who is already at an abortion clinic is triage, she says. What’s needed is prevention because “abortion is the consequence of a culture that’s denied the dignity of the human person.”

So, Kelly decided to co-found the Pelican Project.

The Pelican Project is an online resource to support parents in educating their children about human life’s sanctity. Its mission is centered on growing, serving, and praying—to help parents grow in knowledge and pour that knowledge into their kids; to serve others and honor their dignity; and to root everything in prayer.

The Pelican Project’s website ( is full of infographics, outreach ideas, a pro-life study, and more, covering topics from abortion to pornography to end-of-life issues. It’s all to strengthen families today so that, decades from now, the next generation can live convicted of their—and their own children’s— innate worth.

“If we can support the four walls of the domestic Church, then we can have our young people grow up to know the dignity of human life,” she says.

Kelly doesn’t just help other parents gain knowledge; she’s constantly learning herself. When her four children started asking questions she didn’t know the answers to, she decided to earn her master’s degree in theology online with Franciscan University, even taking her studies abroad when her family was stationed in Italy. She says her online Franciscan classes have helped her grow in confidence and faith. Still, the greatest lessons in her life have been those the Divine Teacher has given her.

“Looking back, I see everything I went through, and at every single turn, God was there,” Kelly says. “It’s a testament that God can use absolutely everything.”

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