When the Archdiocese of San Francisco organized a pro-life retreat 15 or so years ago, Mary Peterson was assigned to pick up one of the speakers at the airport and shepherd him to events.
She already knew the speaker by reputation.
“You can’t be involved in pro-life and not know him,” she said of her high-profile passenger, Father Frank Pavone. “That’s why it was such an honor.”
Mary is one of the newest employees of Rachel’s Vineyard, the world’s largest ministry for healing after abortion and, since 2003, a member of the Priests for Life family of ministries.
It’s no exaggeration to say pro-life work is in her genes. Her father, Ray McKeon, was an anti-death penalty advocate who would witness in front of the notorious San Quentin prison in California. Her mother, Maureen McKeon, spent countless hours praying in front of abortion mills.
“l lived in a household where you didn’t separate the two aspects of pro-life,” Mary said.
Mary had worked for non-profits and been involved in 40 Days for Life vigils and the Walk for Life West Coast, but when she saw Father Frank praying in front of an abortion mill in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district at 7 a.m. on a Saturday, “that convicted me that I wanted to work in pro-life.”
She had already relocated to the Philadelphia area for a job when she sent a resume and made some calls to Priests for Life. When our Rachel’s Vineyard office, headquartered just outside of Philadelphia, was looking for someone to fill an upcoming vacancy, Kevin Burke, co-founder of the ministry, gave Mary a call.
Now a few weeks into the job, she’s loving the work and the location.
“There’s so much history here,” she said. “And it’s incredibly green.”
Mary is the mother of one son, Clayton, a patrolman with the California Highway Patrol.
“I appreciate prayers for him,” she said.
Another Mary has come to work at Priests for Life, this one at our headquarters in Titusville, Florida.
Mary Stein, a recent graduate of Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, grew up in a “big Catholic family” with four sisters and they often prayed outside Planned Parenthood. She said that when her mom gave her Abby Johnson’s book Unplanned, “it was then that I realized just how bad abortions are, for children and women especially. “
At Benedictine College, Mary studied psychology and became involved in a pro-life club on campus.
“I would often go on prayer trips, fundraise, and attend workshops where I learned how to talk to others about abortion and help women choose life,” she said.
Mary, who has relocated to Florida from Charleston, South Carolina, is working as the public outreach associate, a position that puts her in touch with many people who call, email or write to Priests for Life.
When she graduated, she said she looked for a job “where I could make an impact and help others. It breaks my heart to hear that some women think abortion is their only option. The pro-life movement is so important and I want to do my part to help end abortion.”
Along with welcoming these two Marys, Priests for Life also brought on two interns recently, about whom you can also read, and likewise hired an additional person at Rachel’s Vineyard and two more individuals for the Priests for Life headquarters.