On July 17, Mary Florence Hughes, mother of pro-life leader Jim Hughes, passed away shortly after becoming seriously ill in her 101st year.
Mary raised Jim and his sister Patricia on her own in Toronto in the 1940s and ‘50s, working a variety of jobs to support her own children and an extended family of cousins. Her husband Charles Hughes died following a heart attack in 1946 when Jim was three and Patricia just a month old. Mary Hughes never remarried. During the funeral homily, Fr. Louis Di Rocco, said that Mary was always there for her family, noting that she would take the children to Mass before school, drop them off, go to work in the morning for two hours, return home to make lunch, drop them back to school before returning to work for several hours, and then be home to make dinner.
At the funeral at St. Joseph’s Parish in Toronto, adjacent to the senior’s residence where she lived her final years, Jim remembered a woman who could not recite Scripture but certainly “lived the Bible.” She went to Mass daily, raised her children in the faith, supported pro-life, prayed diligently, and was the matriarch of a large family that included seven grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren, and more than 100 grand and great-grand nephews and nieces.
Steve Jalsevac of Campaign Life Coalition and LifeSiteNews said the Canadian and international pro-life movement owes Mary “a debt of gratitude” for remaining a “faithful Irish Catholic lady (who) raised and strongly supported a son who has played a substantial role in the movement for the past 30 years.
Jim Hughes, of course, is national president of CLC and vice president of the International Right to Life Federation. He said that his mother played a direct important role, herself. In the August CLC National News, he said that “Mary wrote letters, participated in political nomination meetings, (and) attended rallies and LifeChains.” She also organized baby-sitting at pro-life conferences so families with small children could attend.
At St. Joseph’s Place, a senior’s residence, she and a group of friends she called “the Coffin Dodgers” started the St. Joseph’s Penny Savers, collecting coins for pro-life. Some would contribute other donations and include Campaign Life Coalition in their wills. It is estimated that she helped raise more than $100,000 for CLC over the past 20 years. The idea of Pennies for Life and Coins for Life has since spread across the country.
The funeral Mass was concelebrated by seven priests including Fr. Louis Di Rocco, a former employee of CLC, and Fr. Alphonse de Valk, editor of Catholic Insight. Fr. Ted Colleton, a former Interim columnist, was in attendance. More than 300 people were at the funeral Mass, most of whom are active pro-lifers.