Local News Archive
Print Issue: January 6, 2000
Mary Boyert Named Archdiocesan Pro-Life Director
By Rita McInerney
Special To The Bulletin
ATLANTA-Mary Boyert was actively pro-life before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973 gave women the right to abortion in the first three months of pregnancy.
New director of the Pro-Life Office of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, she began her duties Dec. 1, 1999.
Boyert's history of pro-life activism began in Parma, Ohio, when she heard a young couple describe the horror of abortion during a presentation with slides at her parish. By 1974 she was a chapter leader for the Ohio Right to Life. Moving to Atlanta with husband Tom and son Tommy in 1978, she became active with the Georgia Right to Life Committee.
She is settling into her new post with enthusiasm and energy; her responsibility spelled out in the mission statement from Archbishop John F. Donoghue: "to assist the archbishop in promoting and implementing the U.S. Bishops Respect Life program and pastoral plan for pro-life activities."
She looks forward to meeting and working with representatives of pro-life committees in the parishes.
"My hope is to get to know them and to find out how I can assist them," Boyert said. "Me being in this office is no good unless I can share with the parishes. I would like anyone who is a pro-life representative to call me at (404) 888-7821."
Even before her official start on the job she sent letters to parish representatives announcing plans for the Jan. 21 Mass mourning Roe vs. Wade. She is working with Alan Brown, music director at St. John Neumann Church, Lilburn, for this annual liturgy at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Here Catholics gather spiritual strength for the annual pro-life march and rally to follow at the state Capitol nearby.
After the Boyerts moved to Atlanta in 1978, she joined a small "kitchen table" group of women who had started GRTL in 1971.
"They were concerned that something bad was going to happen," she recalled. "They thought existing laws (on abortion) would be liberalized."
Later, as people saw what an immense tragedy the Roe vs. Wade decision had inflicted on the nation, GRTL worked out of small offices, first in Decatur, then Dunwoody. Boyert ran the committee from her home in Norcross for several years in the early 1980s before the present office in Chamblee was established. She was president from 1980 to 1986 when she became executive director, a position she held until coming to work for the archdiocese. Today, the organization is recognized statewide for its pro-life efforts in education, legislation and political action. There are about 12,000 members and about 200,000 who have evidenced support over the years.
Lobbying was among her varied duties with GRTL and she expects to be "as involved as is appropriate" in gaining votes for pro-life measures when the state legislature returns to the Capitol in mid-January.
Other duties included speaking before school, church and community groups, informing and responding to the media, working for passage of life-protecting measures - the partial-birth abortion ban, parental notification before an abortion and the feticide law.
"I learned so much about people, how the world works," she says of her GRTL years. "In the beginning I didn't know anything about the Hyde Amendment." First adopted by Congress in 1976, it limits federal funding of abortion.
Now she wants people to know about the National Institutes for Health proposal to "allow human embryos to be killed for experimental purposes. We believe this is a violation of all ethical standards governing human life. The proposal is open for public comment and we will be trying to get people to let NIH know they are opposed. People can be tricked into thinking this is good. We're not saying 'don't do research,' we are saying 'don't kill anybody to do it.'"
Boyert taught at Catholic schools in Parma after graduation from St. John College in Cleveland. When the family moved to Atlanta they had already adopted son Tommy. Daughter Brenda, 19, was adopted here. Tommy was 18 in 1994 when he was killed in a car crash.
The Boyerts are members of All Saints Church in Dunwoody.
Boyert succeeds Peggy Sinanian, who retired in Feb. 1999 after serving as archdiocesan director of the Pro-Life Office for 10 years.
Sinanian worked to increase Catholic presence at the annual march and rally held each January at the Capitol in downtown Atlanta on the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision allowing women to have an abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy.
In 1991, her idea that pro-life supporters celebrate Mass together at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception before the event was warmly supported. Each year since then, worshippers filled the church for the Mass for Life.
"What I tried to do each time was come up with varying themes," she said.
She felt fortunate in having the talents and enthusiasm of Alan Brown, director of music at St. John Neumann Church in Lilburn; Mary Welch Rogers, contemporary Christian singer; and people from the parish pro-life committees to help.
Another observance she initiated was the Life Chain.
"I was looking for an activity to do for October-Respect Life Month," she said. "This is an event open to everyone."
Pro-life supporters holding placards line up at curbside on both sides of Peachtree Street north and south of the Cathedral of Christ the King. Archbishop John F. Donoghue has taken part whenever his schedule permits.
About 1,000 usually participate in this peaceful witness. Many close the afternoon with Benediction celebrated in the cathedral, Sinanian said.
A four-page quarterly newsletter was another innovation. Mailed to parish pro-life representatives from the Pro-Life Office, it contained timely national and local information including new efforts of pro-life groups and "our opponents" announcements of training sessions available to parish pro-life volunteers and other activities.
"We tried to support Crisis Pregnancy (outreach of Catholic Social Services)," she said. "We would encourage parish committees to help, let them know the particular needs."
When Sinanian began her work at the archdiocesan level 10 years ago, there were 64 parish pro-life committees. When she left there were "close to 90."
She and her husband, Loris, a permanent deacon, now live in Blairsville. They attend St. Francis of Assisi Church where she serves as director of religious education. He is director of formation for the archdiocesan diaconate.
After coming to Atlanta in 1972 from California, they were members of St. Jude, Holy Spirit and, most recently, Sacred Heart parishes. She was active in RCIA and adult education.
PRO-LIFE DIRECTOR -- This past
December, Mary Boyert was named director of the Archdiocese of Atlantas
Pro-Life Office. Boyert is the former executive director of the Georgia Right
to Life Committee and is a member of All Saints Church, Dunwoody.