By Anna Weaver
Hawaii Catholic Herald
Mary Jane Home founder and pro-life champion Robert Pearson shared his experiences counseling pregnant women at a Respect Life Evening on April 25 at St. Anthony Parish in Kailua.
Fifty people attended the event, one of several held on Oahu and the Big Island by MAX’007, a visiting youth and young adult Catholic ministry group.
Pearson, back in Hawaii for the first time in many years, told the audience how he followed a “warmhearted impulse” in involving himself in pro-life efforts.
“I didn’t know anything about abortion except that [my wife and I] loved children and wanted a dozen children and knew that [abortion] kills babies,” he said in a phone interview a few days before he spoke at St. Anthony.
Pearson was a Maui building contractor in the 1960’s when several states started loosening abortion restrictions. In 1960 he opened the first Crisis Pregnancy Center in the nation to counsel women on alternatives to abortion. He would go on to open 12 more in Hawaii.
In 1970, when Hawaii became the first state to repeal its law against abortion, Pearson and his wife Kathy expanded their efforts to reach out to unwed mothers.
The Pearson, who had one biological child and who eventually adopted six more, opened up their home on Maui to women. Later they moved the Mary Jane Home, named after Robert’s first wife who died at 33, to the former St. Anthony Orphanage in Kalihi Valley. The Mary Jane Center, as it is now called, is a program of Catholic Charities Hawaii and located in Kailua.
In his St. Anthony’s talk, Pearson said that what made it all worth it for him was when women who decided against an abortion would come back to visit with their babies. “You look into the eyes of that baby and you go, “oh my gosh!” he said. “If in all this time you could only save that one baby, then it was all worth it.”
The Respect Life Evening turned out to be a family reunion of sorts for Pearson, whose adopted daughters Shevawn and Rose Pearson both spoke at the event. Shevawn is involved with the Militia of the Immaculate, an international group founded by St. Maximilian Kolbe in 1917 and the parent organization of Max’007.
Pearson’s godson, Norman Carlbom cam to Oahu to meet him for the first time. Coincidentally, a photo of Norman’s biological mother—who had lived at the Pearson’s home on Maui while she was pregnant before giving him up for adoption was in a slideshow shown at the event.
Norman, who was adopted by St. Anthony permanent deacon Ernie Carlbom and his wife Donna, had only seen one other picture of his biological mother before.
The Respect Life evening included a hula dance to Na Leo Pilimehana’s “Ua Mau (Hosana),” as skit by the Max ‘007 team, and audience members filling out spiritual adoption certificates for unborn children facing abortion.
“Truth Unmasked: Abortion information for today’s youth” CD’s were also distributed with the message to share them with others.
Pearson is currently writing about his life experiences and has returned to his contractor roots as he works on several houses in Arkansas where he now lives.
“The good Lord has given me good health,” said Pearson, 78. “I feel like I’m still in my fifties.”