Mary Ann Schwab at the March 2023 Bella Gala at Star of the Sea. (Photo courtesy Kelly Connelly)

SF Pro-life pioneer leaves a legacy of accomplishment and love

Mary Ann Schwab 1920 – 2023

Women, babies and families lost an advocate on earth on Oct. 18, but those who loved and respected Mary Ann Schwab believe they have gained an advocate in the hereafter. Her obituary linked below and the following tribute by Sally Brien Holper of Bella Primary Care, a new Catholic healthcare clinic Mary Ann supported, provide a bit about someone whose life cannot be summed up in a few words — but who truly made a difference.

St. Brendan parishioner Mary Ann and her compatriot, Alice Asturias of St. Anne of the Sunset, and stalwart fellow prolife advocate then Monsignor, now Bishop Daniel Walsh were pioneers who first established a respect life office within the Archdiocese of San Francisco.

As Mary Ann told it, there was some foot-dragging about giving the new ministry office space. When Archbishop Joseph Thomas McGucken learned of this he took Mary Ann and Alice on a tour of the building and gave them a choice of several empty offices. A woman who achieved a bachelor’s degree at Mount St. Scholastica women’s college (now Benedictine College) in Atchison, KS, and a master’s in social work at St. Louis University at a time when few women achieved advanced degrees, Mary Ann’s dogged support and keen intelligence continued to make a difference until she died.

Mary Ann was a woman of deep faith, a loving wife and mother of five children, who lived her faith in her life, in her parish, in the Church and within the world. Never daunted by advancing years, as a volunteer, Mary Ann led until 2018 the Project Rachel ministry for those hurt by abortion and for many decades was key to helping those in the Catholic Church and prolife community understand that women and men, the babies’ fathers, are also among the casualties of abortion, a view that is now accepted but at one time was an outlier.

Mary Ann Schwab at 2015 prayer vigil at Planned Parenthood.

A tribute to Mary Ann Schwab

By Sally Brien Holper

Bella Primary Care is saddened to share the passing of one of our community’s stalwart supporters. Please join us in honoring Mary Ann’s memory.

I met Mary Ann Schwab in the late 1980s when I began my volunteer work with Birthright of San Francisco as a counselor for women in crisis pregnancies. A woman who began the crusade for life in the late 1960s when abortion was legalized in California, Mary Ann was always an encouraging and positive force representing the right to life. Clearly aware that God had charged her with crusading for life issues, she lived her life on-focus in career, marriage, raising five children, and stepping up to assist or lead in any life-supporting issue.

I continued to encounter Mary Ann over the years at various pro-life events and dinners, always aware I was in the presence of a superstar, someone to be revered. It wasn’t until just three years ago that she became a mentor and provided wisdom for the creation of a Catholic healthcare clinic in San Francisco. We enjoyed many phone calls and in-person visits, chatting about our lives, love and loss over a cup of tea and her homemade berry crumble. Warm and personable, Mary Ann’s personal outreach until her death was more than just business, it was love.

Mary Ann’s passion for all lives never abated with age. At over 100 years old, she was abreast of what was going on in the world and wanted to discuss what needed to be done to combat all life-threatening issues in San Francisco, from the evil perpetrated by organizations mass-promoting abortions to providing teens hormone blockers when questioning their gender.

As one of Bella’s staunchest advocates, she encouraged us to build something beautiful for God with Bella Primary Care. Mary Ann encouraged us to host a gala, and we did! Last spring we brought together pro-life supporters from all over Northern California, and Mary Ann was there. She encouraged us to build a pro-life coalition of community organizers, and we did! From Santa Rosa to San Jose to Concord, our Bella community continues to grow, and Mary Ann was there. Every event we hosted to support efforts to build Bella Primary Care, from open houses to pizza parties to receptions, Mary Ann was there, even arriving by Uber when her rides fell through. Mary Ann knew her purpose and gave Bella Primary Care, and so many others, her unwavering support and commitment.

I went to visit Mary Ann just three weeks before she left this world to check on her after a fall in August that resulted in a broken arm. Living on her own in the home where she raised her family, she told me that she fell on the morning of August 14 and couldn’t get up. She was on the floor for fourteen hours before someone found her and prayed, “Please Lord, don’t let me die this way.” We both laughed and I said, “Thank God, your prayers were answered.” And again her prayers were answered, when she passed away in the manner that a lifelong, faithful Catholic woman of 103 would want to die, receiving the sacraments and being surrounded by her family and friends.

Mary Ann’s legacy lives on in her children and grandchildren. It lives on in every provider and patient reached by Bella Primary Care, and the countless individuals touched by her efforts to promote life since her early work began with Catholic Charities in the 1940s. It has been a privilege to know a woman of courage, strength, and faith! I thank God for having had her in my life. May she rest in peace.

Friends are invited to visit at 5:00 pm on Wednesday, November 1st at 5:00 pm and pray the Rosary at 6:00 pm at St. Brendan’s Catholic Church, 29 Rockaway Ave., San Francisco.

A funeral Mass will be celebrated at St. Brendan’s on Thursday, November 2nd at 10:00 am.

Mary Ann will be laid to rest with her husband, Francis, at Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery in Colma, CA.

For complete obituary and funeral information, click here.