On September 24, 1996 Father Ted Colleton and I flew to Manitoba to attend the funeral of Joe Borowski. It felt strange to be there in Winnipeg and not to visit Joe in the health food store which the Borowski family has owned and operated for the past 17 years.

On frequent trips over the years we had discussed issues and shared experiences together, often disagreeing with one another but always remaining close friends and allies.

As Father Ted and I talked with Joe’s pastor Fr. Pat Morand, I noticed a poster on the wall which could have been referring to Joe. “When the Good Lord takes the measure of a person, He doesn’t put the tape around the measure of person. He doesn’t put the tape around the person’s head; He puts it around his heart.”

I remember reading the book “Trial for Life” part of a letter Joe had written to Hon Warren Allmand, Minister of Justice in the Trudeau government; I will do anything and everything humanly possible to stop child murder no matter what the price or consequences.” Joe was true to his word.

One of the first pro-life events I attended was back in the late ‘70s at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Toronto. The featured speakers were Ottawa lawyer David Dehler and Manitoba activist Joe Borowski. That’s where I first met Joe. There was a huge storm that night but the hall was packed. I saw him as a straight shooter, a down-to-earth, meat-and potatoes type of Polish stock, familiar to my own Irish roots.

Joe was a determined—some would say stubborn man, who was brutally honest and totally trusting those he respected.

Most of us hunger for politicians who will stand on principle and work for justice. No one was more committed to his than Joe Borowski. Joe thought most people who called themselves pro-life were actually afraid to make a commitment to the cause. “Pro-lifers are gutless” or “Pro-lifers are cheap,” he would say. But no one ever questioned Borowski’s commitment. It was total and complete. He threw all his effort and all his financial resources to the battle. It was his faith in action—prayer first, action second, but always hand-in-hand.

Over ten years ago, former abortionist and confirmed atheist Dr. Bernard Nathanson shared a stage with him in Toronto. Borowski invited him to join the Catholic Church. Nathanson chuckled (and he doesn’t chuckle often) and thanks Joe for his invitation, and the presentation moved on to another topic. Now Borowski’s public invitation to Nathanson embarrassed a lot of those present. They felt squeamish at Joe’s apparent lack of tact. But Joe put Nathanson on his “Prayer list” and remembered him daily. At Easter 1996< Bernard M. Nathanson was welcomed into the Catholic Church.

Joe believed that the conversion of abortionist Henry Morgentaler was possible through prayer—lots of prayer. But like any task, Joe believed it was necessary to put everything into God’s hands first. “Pray to God then row for shore,” was one of his favourite expressions.

There was also a humorous, tongue –in-cheek side to Joe.

Strategy meeting were organized by Campaign Life Coalition on an annual basis to bring together provincial leaders and activists from across Canada to discuss tactics and report on successful strategies being employed in his country and elsewhere. Over the years, in an effort to keep costs down, we experimented with cooking our own meals and sleeping in dormitories (it proved to be ore of a pain than it was worth).

It happened in Sharon, ON, many years ago that the greatest roasting applied to Joe Borowski didn’t come at the hands of the media or in the political arena. It came from pro-life women, outraged that Joe would not do his bit by cooking or cleaning at the meeting. But when they found later that Joe had been trained as a cook, and even operated his own restaurant, they quickly tied an apron around his middle.

“This is woman’s work,” quipped Joe. “The blazes it is” cried the women. Joe gave in. No one can recall Joe ever have given in before or after.

Borowski could be counted on to get everyone’s attention. When considering the elements and issues that make up reasons for voting fro any given political candidate, Joe was quick to point out that in his experience, “women voted with their ovaries.”

Now if you’ve ever encountered a group of determined and dedicated pro-life women before, his comments almost cost him his head. But the discussion became instantly hot, and the strategies ad points of view drew sharper images because of his comments. It was finally agreed that a majority of people vote for charismatic candidate over one ho runs on issues.

Occasionally Joe had to apologize for connecting too quickly, when thoughtful consideration of the subject was called for. His letters to politicians, media and church leaders were pungent with colourful, biting prose.

At CLC’s Manitoba board member for years, Joe really got behind the Interim newspaper, placing paid advertisements and carrying out its wide-spread distribution throughout his province. Without his financial help The Interim would not have been successfully launched and stayed on course. Only years later did he learn that hundreds of thousands of copied of The Interim that he purchased had been ditched by the distributors. None had been delivered.

He was unbowed. After his initial shock at the defeat of his effort to have the Supreme Court hear his case recognizing the unborn, he grew philosophical “Don’t worry, Jamesie,” he said, “it was all won on Calvary 2000 years go.”

Joseph P. Borowski will surely be sadly missed. But he left an indelible mark on the Canadian terrain and a torch to be passed to any and all who will take up the challenge. As she learned Stilwell, active in both Alliance for Life and Campaign Life Coalition, said, “Joe was always there.”

Yes, Heather and he always will be.