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‘Be not afraid’: Woman jailed for entering abortion centers to save babies encourages pro-lifers

Mary Wagner, who inspired the growing Red Rose Rescue movement in the United States, offered inspiring words in connection with Canada's 23rd March for Life.
Fri May 15, 2020 - 8:14 pm EST
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Pro-life prisoner of conscience Mary Wagner greets children during a visit to Poland. Jacek Kotula

TORONTO, May 15, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — The words of this year’s March for Life theme — “Be not afraid Canada” — are “so important because they speak on the level of revealed faith but really to the heart of our conscience,” Mary Wagner said in an interview aired Thursday during Canada’s first Virtual March for Life.

Known as Canada’s “pro-life prisoner of conscience,” Wagner, 46, has spent nearly six years in jail because of her peaceful attempts inside abortion facilities to save women and children from the violence of abortion.

She was one of a number of guests featured during a three-hour Virtual Rally and March for Life organized by Canada’s national pro-life political lobbying group, Campaign Life Coalition. (Wagner’s segment starts at minute 28:13.)

The March for Life is Canada’s biggest annual pro-life event and marks the legalization of abortion on May 14, 1969. The 23rd annual march was moved online because of coronavirus pandemic restrictions. Wagner spoke to Matthew Wojciechowski, Campaign Life’s vice president.

Wagner’s modus operandi is to enter an abortion facility with roses, which she offers to to the mothers in the waiting room along with offers of help and alternatives to abortion. She refuses to leave the mothers and unborn babies until arrested and taken away by police.

She has inspired the growing Red Rose Rescue movement in the United States. Indeed, the day of Canada’s Virtual March for Life, four people — including two priests — were arrested in Red Rose Rescues at two Washington, D.C. abortion facilities, and at least three rescuers were arrested in Grand Rapids, Michigan on Wednesday.

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Wagner, who hails from British Columbia, was herself inspired by Linda Gibbons, who spent 11 years in jail for counselling or praying for abortion-minded women at Toronto’s abortion centers.

Gibbons “was the reason I moved to Toronto 10 years ago,” she said.

Courage comes from knowing God’s will through prayer

Wagner and Gibbons have saved lives by offering help to women “at that final hour,” as Wojciechowski described it when he asked Wagner how she had the courage to reach out to women at that time.

“It’s really prayer, Matthew, it’s really prayer,” replied Wagner, a Catholic who spent time in a contemplative community discerning her vocation.

“I’m grateful and I don’t think that God would have led me to this if He hadn’t prepared me through time in the monastery, and understanding the preeminence of prayer, of Adoration [of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament] especially,” she said.

“Every year since I moved to Toronto in 2010, I’ve been able to take a time after a period in custody and give it all to God, and really ask Him, ‘Shall I continue this path?’” added Wagner.

“So really surrendering to Him, and asking His will has been what gives me that confidence, because I think that if we know what His will is, what’s most pleasing to Him, then He gives us that grace to carry it out and that confidence,” she said.

“As for reaching out to those women at that moment, St. Thérèse has really been an invaluable friend to me, and the little way of love, that God is not asking us to do great things, but to be faithful,” she said.

“So in reaching a woman who is at that moment determined to abort her child, it’s really asking God to come in and step in and just trusting and asking Him to lead step by step, little by little, and putting it all in His hands.”

Saving babies in maximum security jail

Wagner refuses to abandon the mothers and unborn babies when the police arrive at the abortion facility, as they inevitably do. She is then arrested and typically is charged and summarily convicted of mischief, which in Ontario carries a maximum sentence of six months.

However, because she cannot in conscience sign bail conditions requiring her to stay away from abortion facilities, Wagner usually remains in jail until her trial, a period of time that can be as long as or longer than her sentence.

Wojciechowski pointed out that Wagner’s ministry does not end when she is in jail, where she often encounters pregnant women, and asked her to tell how she was “able to bring Christ’s love to these women who are truly suffering in prison.”

She and Gibbons “happened to be in maximum security together in the summer/fall of 2012” and had “just learned that one of the women we had been with” had come from another jail to have an abortion in Toronto “at probably at five and a half months,” Wagner related.

They were “grieving the loss of that little one” when they then “met another woman who had just come in, and she was pregnant and also abortion-minded, having had several of her children aborted and not having any living children,” she said.

“Linda and I, we prayed and we fasted for this woman,” recalled Wagner.

“And we also got help on the outside for her. It was a bit of a financial component to her struggle, and so people were willing to help her out on the outside. But really, I have a very strong sense that it was the week of prayer and fasting that we offered for her” that resulted in the woman deciding against abortion.

“Her little boy was born on Mother’s Day, and then she came to see me when he was about four months old, and they were just thriving. She was a completely different person — he had changed her life completely, for the better. I really believe that’s the power of prayer,” said Wagner.

“It makes me think of the story in the Gospel, when the friends of the man who was paralyzed brought him over to Jesus on a mat, and the remark of Jesus that when He saw their faith, He healed the man. He said, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’” she said.

This Gospel also reveals “the intention of God to unite us and the power therein of a united family of believers,” Wagner said.

Be not afraid to choose the better path

When discussing the March’s theme “Be Not Afraid,” Wagner mentioned she had recently watched A Hidden Life, a movie by Terrence Malick about Blessed Franz Jägerstätter of Austria, who was beheaded by the Nazis in 1943 for refusing to serve in the German army.

A “simple, humble father and farmer” and “devout Catholic,” Jägerstätter “simply stood his ground because he knew that he couldn’t do something that he knew was wrong,” observed Wagner.

“So the words ‘Be not afraid,’ I think they resonate deep in our conscience whenever we are faced with a choice to either, I mean not just to do right or wrong, but to choose even ... the better path,” she said.

“And that transcends all faith even, but especially as Christians, they resonate for us because they come from the words of Jesus.”

To watch the Virtual March for Life Rally, visit www.marchforlife.ca or the March for Life YouTube channel here.


  abortion, march for life canada, mary wagner, red rose rescue

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