I met two people in my life whom I genuinely feel should be declared saints (other than my wife and my bank manager) and they are Dr. Jerome Lejeune and Joe (hold on now) … Borowski.
One, Dr. Lejeune, a genius and world-renowned scientist, and devout, pro-life Catholic, who discovered the cause of Down syndrome and the other, Joe Borowski, a former hard-rock miner, who described himself as “the guy who carries the lunch pail,” a working-class guy with no initials after his name. Lejeune’s canonization is proceeding along, (the Pope visited his grave on a recent visit to Paris), but Joe’s is not even on the radar screen.
I met Lejeune at the Campaign Life Coalition offices a few years back when he was giving a talk here, and what a gentle, unassuming man he was. It has been said that he would have won a Nobel Prize for medicine if it wasn’t for his well-known pro-life views.
Contrast a charming, sophisticated Parisian Frenchman, Lejeune, with Joe Borowski, a strong-willed, independent person, who quit school in Grade 6, and at age 14 left home to work in lumber camps, on a ranch, on fishing trawlers, as a cook in a restaurant and got married at 19 to a girl a year older than he was. (That annoyed Jean Zelinski, who thought he was 24; after all he had his own truck.)
It proved to be a life-long happy marriage. Three lovely daughters came along. Joe was at one time a successful vacuum salesman and a cook at an army base, before finally settling in a raw mining settlement in Thompson, Man., working underground as a miner.
Joe, a natural, gifted speaker, fought for worker justice, voting rights for the people of Thompson, Indian rights, and rights for northern residents of Manitoba. Fired for his union activities, he joined the NDP, was elected MLA from Thompson and was promptly made the minister of highways by premier Ed Schreyer, because Ed said that Joe was absolutely honest. (Schreyer became the governor-general of Canada and was a pallbearer at Joe’s funeral.)
During his political career, Joe had a private audience with the Pope and met one of his heroes, Mother Teresa, while in Rome in 1993. William Kurelek, an internationally known painter and writer, inspired by the dedication of Joe Borowski, became an outstanding defender of the unborn.
Joe went to daily Mass for years and would feel out of sorts if he didn’t get there. (A prayerful politician – what a rarity!) You’ll get an insight into this colourful, complicated, stubborn individual in Lianne Laurence’s fascinating and recently published biography, Borowski: A Canadian Paradox.
Joe was also an enterprising entrepreneur, making up jewellery with leftover mineral samples from the mine where he worked and selling them to visitors and residents of Thompson. Eventually, he started a very successful health food store and Jim Hughes considered Joe one of the best salesman he ever met. This ability came in handy when he raised hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years to fight his crusade to force the Canadian courts to acknowledge that the child in the womb is a human being. And yet, a Supreme Court made up of mostly obfuscating, stalling, obsequious liberal-leaning hacks failed to acknowledge the truth of the matter. When everything failed, he went to jail for not paying his taxes. He objected strongly to his money paying for abortions. Joe resigned from the cabinet when the NDP insisted that it was perfectly legal to use tax money for abortions. Then, Joe went on a long hunger strike for the unborn that seriously impaired his health and certainly shortened his life.
What’s Dr. Jerome Lejeune got to do with Joe Borowski? Dr. Lejeune came all the way from France to testify at the crucial 1983 “Trial for Life” on behalf of Joe Borowski. Lejeune gave a magnificent pro-life testimony to stone deaf ears.
Borowski’s contribution to the pro-life cause was finally recognized when he was honoured on Jan. 9, 1996, with one of the highest honours that the Vatican can bestow on a layman, the Pro Ecclesia Et Pontifice medal. No one deserved it more. After reading Lianne Laurence’s biography, I think there is one more award that the Vatican can bestow on Joe and that is sainthood.
Joe attaining sainthood, I’m sure, will cap a tumultuous life dedicated to relentlessly saving unborn babies from being slaughtered.
As Joe would often say: “Pray to God and row for shore.”