Poland embraces pro-life champion Mary Wagner at World Youth Day
August 17, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — Mary Wagner, a Canadian who spent more than four years in jail for defending the unborn, made her second trip to Poland in the past two years and she remains a near-celebrity in the pro-life country.
Wagner was invited by the Polish Right to Life Foundation to visit the country and take part in World Youth Day in July.
Wagner told LifeSiteNews that in the past she has been invited to speak at several schools and parishes in Canada as well. Nonetheless, her fame in her own country is dwarfed by her popularity in Poland. She is highly regarded for her uncompromising views and actions in defense of the unborn. This visit has attracted the attention of the conservative and Catholic media as well as that of the local public television. There is also a Facebook page dedicated to her trip.
Wagner’s primary message during her trip was that the defense of the unborn is the fulfillment of the Christian calling. “We need to see Christ in the unborn,” she explained.
Wagner has been imprisoned many times for “disturbing the business” of an abortion clinic in Toronto, where she tried to talk to women entering the clinic and gave each a rose. She remained in prison because she refused to agree to a bail condition that she stay away from abortion clinics.
Wagner recently described her first arrest. “It turned out that the policeman was Catholic,” she said. “He was very polite and told me to be careful.” Wagner said, “I remember he cried. We prayed together.”
Shortly after landing in Warsaw on July 22 to begin her visit to Poland, she was greeted by a crowd of pro-lifers. Among them was a priest who gave her a blessing and internationally renowned gynecologist Dr. Bogdan Chazan, who lost his job as a hospital director for his pro-life views.
Speaking with SalveTV, Wagner explained her calling as “an obligation” that “God made clear in my heart.” She said her time in prison “testifies to the worth of these children and their mothers.” She added that “even if we have to spend many years in jail, this only intensifies our awareness of the truth of how much they are worth.”
Kinga Małecka-Prybyło of the Right to Life Foundation praised Wagner as “a true example for us, showing that we have to fight for the unborn children in every circumstance.” Małecka-Prybyło pointed out that “no matter what the consequences are for us, we have to stand for those who cannot defend themselves.”
Wagner was an honorary guest at the Festival of Nations in Warsaw, part of World Youth Day. “I love Poland,” she said. “I am very happy to be here.” Wagner added that she is thankful that the country is “not satisfied with the status quo because every single life is precious.” Poland’s law allows for abortions in some cases, but legislators will soon vote on a total abortion ban proposed by Polish citizens.
Wagner was invited by Archbishop Henryk Hoser to speak at World Youth Day in Warsaw, where she prayed for the persecuted in so many parts of the world. She spoke of a Polish father, blessed Jerzy Popiełuszko, who was brutally murdered by the Communists in the 1980s. Wagner visited Popiełuszko’s grave and praised his uncompromising and heroic actions. Popiełuszko was not afraid to lose his life and did not bend to pressure to temper his anti-Communist rhetoric, even when this pressure came from some in the Church’s hierarchy.
In Niepokalanow, Wagner visited the museum of another martyr, Saint Maximilian Kolbe, who voluntarily gave his life for a fellow prisoner in the concentration camp at Auschwitz. In 1997 Wagner was outside the cell where Kolbe had been starved for two weeks before finally being killed by a lethal injection. Kolbe is a patron saint of the pro-life movement, and Pope Francis prayed in the same cell later during his trip to Poland.
In Krakow, 400 people came to see and to hug Wagner. Many asked about her multiple arrests in Canada. Polish people struggled to understand how Canada could have unlimited abortion and how authorities could put her in jail for defending the unborn.
“Don’t they know it is a disgrace for the country?” someone asked.
She urged people to contact the Right to Life Foundation, known for showing large posters of aborted babies. The foundation is working toward a complete abortion ban in Poland. St. John the Baptist parish, which hosted Wagner, posts news about her on the news board, prays for her regularly, and sends letters to the Canadian ambassador in Warsaw.
Wagner also met with students of the University of Silesia in Katowice, where 250 people gave her a standing ovation. Asked how a delicate and sensitive woman could stand being incarcerated, Wagner replied that her faith keeps her going, and that having 13 siblings, five of whom were adopted, prepared her for her pro-life fight.
Wagner visited more than a dozen Polish towns, many beautiful churches, and shrines dedicated to the Virgin Mary. She also went to the shrine to St. Joseph of Nazareth, where she met four bishops and 80 priests. The event was broadcast live to millions of people by TVTrwam.
Wherever Wagner went, she talked about fellow Canadian pro-life advocate Linda Gibbons, who spent 11 years in jail for defending the unborn in a peaceful way.
Never complaining about her stay in jail, Wagner sees it as place to evangelize. “There are many women there, about 80 percent, who aborted their babies,” she said. Wagner explained that they always try to help them in any possible way, but especially by offering spiritual assistance and advice. She also asked for prayers for women in Canadian prisons and for the whole country.
Happy to meet so many young Catholics, she said World Youth Day is a beautiful gift from Pope St. John Paul II. “You can look inside yourself and see joy,” she said. “This joy explodes among young people and this can make them love life, trust God and welcome children.”