The Healthcare Advocacy and Leadership Organization’s partners hail from many parts of the United States and Canada. We thought you might like to know who we are. Thus, each month, a HALO partner will introduce himself or herself or, in this case, themselves.
Mike and Mary Schaefer, Members of HALO’s Advisory Board
By Mike Schaefer with Mary Schaefer

Mike and Mary Schaefer with HALO’s president, Julie Grimstad (center)

Mary came from a Catholic family of seven siblings and was raised in Woodland, California. I came from a Catholic family of six kids raised in Bismarck, North Dakota. Both of our families were always pro-life. Married in 1964, we had six children (one son and five daughters) with a spread of 16 years. Mary is a registered nurse and I was a civil engineer by profession. We live in the Sacramento, California area.
In 1972 and 1973, I was on assignment in Washington, DC. While in the Senate cafeteria on January 22, 1973, I noticed a table of eight or so women, all crying. I asked them what was wrong. They introduced me to ABORTION and the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v Wade decision. A few days later, Mary informed me that her mother, Clara, was very upset with this decision and was doing something about it. Clara helped start the HOTLINE for newly pregnant women looking for information in the Sacramento area.
Sacramento Life Center
After our return to Sacramento, Mary received training and joined the HOTLINE team. She served several years advising pregnant women about their options, other than abortion, to help them make life-affirming decisions. The Sacramento Life Center was started in the early 1970s, and Mary and I joined their Speakers Bureau in 1974. We talked to groups (e.g., church committees, Knights of Columbus Councils, and school PTAs) to inform them of the Supreme Court’s decision and the resources the Life Center offered. It was obvious to us that there was a lot of misunderstanding about abortion and what was allowed under the new “law.”
In 1982, when Mary was pregnant with our sixth child, she called Kaiser Permanente to make an appointment with an obstetrician. The receptionist asked, “Is this a keeper?” Mary responded, “Pardon me, this is a baby!” The receptionist explained that they had to ask because they didn’t want to waste the doctor’s time if a woman wanted to abort. She then informed Mary that, due to her age (41), she would have to take genetic testing and counselling. Mary said “NO!” to the testing and counselling because she had no intention of aborting our baby. She was required to sign a refusal statement, which she did
In 1988, Mary and I took part in prayer and protest with Operation Rescue (mainly made up of Evangelical church groups) at an abortion chamber in Chico, 100 miles from Sacramento. I took pictures of the activities while 199 were arrested for blocking the clinic’s entrances. Mary was arrested, booked and mugshot. She had never been arrested before. The policeman was courteous. He asked if the zip ties were too tight on her wrists. (She could slip out of them and scratch her nose, which immediately started to itch, and then slip her hand back into the ties.)
The local paper read, “199 arrested at the abortion clinic.” A letter to the editor later said, “On Saturday I went with a friend to garage sales. If I had only known that Operation Rescue came to town, the paper would have reported, ‘200 people arrested’!”
There wasn’t enough room in the county jail, so all of them were released, but had to return to Chico several times for court hearings.
Our pro bono lawyer was not allowed to use words like “baby,” “fetus,” or “little human” in court hearings. However, someone was able to get a specimen of a miscarried baby, gestational age four months, from a retired physician. The dead baby was presented to the judge with the explanation, “This is what we are blocking the entrances to save.” At seeing this, the judge was about to collapse and had to be taken away. All of us were praying for him, but the bailiff told us we couldn’t pray on government property, so he sent us outside.
Although Mary’s and several others’ charges were dropped due to technicalities, many of those arrested were fined.
Helping Women and Babies, and Other Pro-life Activities
In 1989, I was asked to become the local Knights of Columbus Council’s Respect Life Director. This required an article on a pro-life issue each month for the KC newsletter, which made it possible to share pro-life information with the members and their families and friends. I continued as Respect Life Director until 2017.
Another opportunity to improve communication on pro-life issues occurred in 1990 when Mary and I joined a half dozen people who started Catholics For Life of Northern California. One of our objectives was to assist our bishop, Francis Quinn, in pro-life outreach. He asked us to help set up a maternity home for women in crisis pregnancies. A group home with seven bedrooms was found and our group provided the loving care and correction necessary to transform it into a cozy home for pregnant ladies and new mothers and their babies. We named it “The Bishop Gallegos Maternity Home.” After hiring a house mother-home director, we opened our door to receive the first six ladies in need of help. The home has been operating since 1992, has been expanded to 12 bedrooms, and has many pages of decisions by women to have their babies. Incorporated and independent of the diocese, the home has served more than 800 women. Mary coordinated the raffle and silent auction at the Home’s major fundraising dinner each year for 15 years.
In 2003, Mary and I wanted to devote a month (October) to some pro-life activity. We ended up in Minneapolis-St Paul with Human Life Alliance (HLA). This is when we met Jo Tolck (vice president of HALO), who was then HLA’s executive director, and her wonderful hard-working staff, whom we admired very much. We became advisors to HLA. During our stay, we lived in our RV. God was generous as it didn’t start to snow until the day we left St. Paul on October 29th. Subsequently, we were able to help the staff when they traveled to California by providing them with lodging, transportation, and contacts in the Sacramento Diocesan Office as well as in this area of northern California. It was very interesting.
Caregivers for Our Elderly Loved Ones
Mary and I were on the team that took care of Mary’s parents, Joe and Clara, for the last six years of their lives. Mary’s three brothers, two sisters, and we each took 24 hours weekly to help them.
Joe had Parkinson’s disease and survived a quadruple bypass. He had been on hospice four times and said we took such good care of him that we weren’t letting him go. One hospice nurse suggested that we drug him and let him die when he had a bladder infection – “It’s an easy death.” Mary said, “It’s not a kidney he needs. Get him antibiotics!” He lived another two years and was a companion to his wife and a dad to all of us. He died in 2002 at age 94.
Mary’s mom had a weak heart but lived another five years with family help, until she broke her hip. The doctor didn’t think she could withstand surgery. She died a few days later in 2007 at 92.
God called and they were ready; no one was rushing them. Thank you, God.
In 2004, I was with my sister Ree, age 70, who had lung cancer and was on hospice. She was not in a coma. The hospice nurse said, “No food or water.” I did put ice on her lips. which were dry and cracked. The hospital staff backed away when hospice entered the picture. Ree seemed to be uncomfortable and in pain. She stopped her struggled breathing at 8:00 am the next morning and died. I felt guilty that I couldn’t do something to make her more comfortable. Did the hospice let me down by not checking on her at least once in the 24 hours before she died? I could have used a HALO advocate at that time. This experience was an eye-opener for me about end-of-life issues.
Our children are all still alive and starting to talk to Mary and me about our desires in the years we have left. As a potential teaching moment, we have written them a letter “from the grave” and we have selected a daughter who will speak for us if we become incapacitated. When this life is over for us, we hope our efforts to uphold the dignity of each person’s life will be satisfactory to the Lord of Life.

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