Mary Wagner talks to a woman attending the March for Life rally in Ottawa in 2018. Photo by Robert DeBroy

Mary Wagner and a mother’s influence

By 
  • January 24, 2021

Jane Wagner remembers the raw emotion she experienced when her daughter Mary Wagner was first arrested in Vancouver in 1999 for her crusades on behalf of the unborn.

“It was very difficult for me,” recalled Jane. “Just the idea of your daughter being in jail with murderers was so overwhelming. I thought, ‘how can you do this?’ But Our Lady came to me and told me to be supportive so I became supportive through an act of will.”

Jane and Mary sat side by side speaking about their special mother-daughter bond during a virtual meeting of the Catholic Mom’s Group Jan. 14. Dorothy Pilarski, a writer, communications professional and radio host who founded the group in Toronto, led a Zoom Q&A with the Wagners while also sharing questions from the audience of Catholic mothers. 

Mary, 46, has spent essentially six years of her life in prison in Toronto or Vancouver because of her continued willingness to defy the “bubble-zone” laws — anti-abortion protests within a 50-metre radius of health-care centres are illegal. She walks into abortion clinics and calmly counsels women with alternative options to terminating the child in their womb, sharing red or white roses and pamphlets with each woman to whom she speaks.

Her most recent arrest was just before Easter in 2019 at the Everywoman’s Health Centre in Vancouver.

The sacrifices Mary has made, including numerous Christmas and Easter celebrations imprisoned and away from family, can be credited to the example set by Jane and her father, Frank. The seminar afforded Mary a platform to talk about Jane’s motherhood and her upbringing. 

Mary said one of the greatest gifts given to her and her siblings by her parents was a passion towards the concept of adoption.

“I remember that the idea of adopting a child was something that excited my siblings and I long before my parents decided to adopt,” said Mary. “From early on the seeds were planted about openness to others. This had a really profound impact on me along with their lesson to put Jesus first.”

Jane and Frank have raised seven biological children, five adopted children and four foster children. Pilarski opened the seminar by asking Jane about her eye-opening experience towards adoption while she and Frank were stationed in Africa where he taught at a polytechnic institute.

“We were eating on the beach and this two-and-a-half year old boy came up and he was wearing a rag and he showed all the symptoms of protein deficiency. He was looking not at us but at our food. It was a turning moment for me. This was a boy who had nothing — literally nothing. Of course, we gave him everything we had,” said Jane.

“I said, ‘Frank, we have to do something.’ He said, ‘what can we do?’ And I said, ‘maybe we could adopt him.’ He said we can look into it as we watched the boy down the beach having a swarm of kids descend on him and take everything he had. They were hungry too.”

While Frank and Jane were unsuccessful in adopting the kids she encountered that day, the couple returned home determined to open their home to children.

Jane concluded the seminar by urging mothers to carry out the sacred gift and duty given to them by God.

“What is most precious in your life, you devote yourself to. A child, a gift from God like that is so irreplaceable and priceless that you do have a duty to be there and safeguard that child, and lead them toward God.”

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