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Jerry Costello

Standing Tall for God and Life

  “Look at the midget!” 

                Mary Oswald has heard all the catcalls, all the insults. They come with the territory. She shakes them off, even accepts them in a way—they are born, after all, in ignorance, and that’s the way she meets them.

                Mary Oswald concedes that she is “a small person,” born with short legs, one short arm and no hands. Her birth defects were caused by the drug Thalidomide, but she refuses to let that define her. A staff member of the Legal Center for the Defense of Life in Morristown, New Jersey, she is staunchly a pro-life advocate, and has the awards and honors to prove it. Her appearance at the “Speaking of Faith” series sponsored by the Paterson Diocese was reported by Michael Wojcik in The Beacon, the diocesan newspaper.

                Ms. Oswald felt nothing but love from her family during her growing-up years, and beyond. Her parents ignored the dire warnings of doctors at her birth, who predicted, for example, that she’d never sit up, or live beyond 30. (Both predictions, happily, proved groundless.) Her education was first-rate—graduation from Catholic high school, a bachelor’s degree from the College of St. Elizabeth, and a master’s degree in vocational rehabilitation counseling from Seton Hall University, both in New Jersey,

                Her parents gave her love throughout her life, Oswald said, a love that would produce five more siblings born after her. She began thinking about a pro-life career at the gentle urging of Sister Rosalie Curran of the Sisters of Charity, one of her faculty members at St. Elizabeth’s. She landed a job with N.J. Right to Life, and never looked back.

                “God has a plan for each of our lives,” she said, echoing a Christopher principle. “As our faith teaches us, we aren’t created for this life but the next, when the blind shall see, the deaf shall hear, and the lame shall jump for joy. This is what give me great hope.”

                Throughout the interview before her audience—which was conducted by Father Paul Manning—she sat comfortably in a chair, answering questions posed by individual members. She admitted that it was difficult watching her sisters make plans for their marriages, but nonetheless she chose the single life. “I’m at peace with that,” she said.

                One of the onlookers at the program was Betsy Miller from a nearby parish, who was a member of the high school class that followed Oswald.

                “Mary’s talk was inspirational,” she said. “I hope that my kids learn that God is always there for them in good times and bad. They need to hear these life lessons.”  


For a free copy of the Christopher News Note, HOW TO DISCOVER AND CULTIVATE YOUR TALENTS, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail: