Mary Wagner, Vancouver Island’s pro-life crusader, was released from an Ontario prison jail after doing 22 months for entering a Toronto abortion clinic, interfering with the lawful conduct of its business, and breaching probation.
She was released at her sentencing hearing, sentenced to time already served.
After “three to five” convictions, she must await trial in jail, because she always returns to the clinic while on probation.
For now, though she is back visiting her siblings in Victoria and parents in Nanaimo.
They are supportive of the 40-year-old woman though they expect she will soon return to her calling—witnessing to women seeking abortion—and so to jail.
Mary faces the prospect of every lengthening sentences for her crimes with philosophical aplomb.
“I’m not trying to get thrown in jail,” she says.
“But if it were a 10-year sentence, then that would at least serve to highlight even more what is at stake–that each unborn baby is unique.
“What mother or father wouldn’t give their lives to save their own child’s life?
“Or go to jail?
“And just as each poor person was Jesus to Mother Theresa, each unborn baby is Jesus to me.”
While others have broken these laws by demonstrating within the bubble zones set up around clinics in Ontario and B.C., Mary Wagner has always gone right into the clinics, not she says, to protest, but to minister and witness.
Her usual modus operandi is to give whomever she finds in the waiting room a flower and talks to whoever will listen.
If no one does, she talks softly to the room at large.
At Christmas, before police came, she gave the patients little, brightly-wrapped gifts.
If they asked what was inside, she replied, “You have to wait, just like to have to wait for what’s inside your womb.”
The women she finds there are not usually very receptive, she admits.
But occasionally, there is a positive reaction.
“Once, when I talked about how 17 dead fetuses were found in a Lansing, Michigan dumpster, discarded by an abortion clinic, and how the bishop held a mass funeral for them, a woman who had been ignoring me looked up, held my gaze in shock , gathered her things and left.
“I think she finally got it.”
It is the crowning irony of Mary’s ministry that her time in jail—always the Madame Vanier Institute for Women in Mississauga, just west of Toronto—is well spent and may well be more effective than her witness in clinics.
“The women in jail are way more receptive.
“Maybe because they have fallen so low, so much has been stripped away.
“Maybe God makes His love known to them out of His love for the poor,” she says.
“Many have told me they have seen His hand in their lives at crucial moments.”
She does not proselytize.
The women come to Mary, attracted by her regular prayer life.
The Catholics join her in the Rosary.
Protestants join in study and meditation on Scripture.
Mary does not actively proselytize, but women do talk about why they are inside, and most of her fellow inmates who do talk admit to having had abortions.
“Unlike women in the clinics, these women know they took a life.”
Though they know Mary is likely to spend much of her life behind bars, her parents are accepting.
“I’ve never had a problem with what she does,” says father Frank Wagner.
“Mary is called to do what she does.
“Who could ask for anything different from their children?
“I wish she weren’t in jail so much, but she does good work while she’s there.”