Mary Guzzino Wilkinson brought herself to tears thinking about the oppression unborn babies may be up against following last fall’s national elections and the success of pro-abortion candidates. She wanted to do something to educate others about the sanctity of human life, so she asked God what she could do in her small part of the world to show people the truth.
“He consistently put on my mind, ‘A picture is worth a thousand words,’” Mary said. “As I continued to pray about it, He continued to repeat the same.”
Wilkinson answered by ordering several 4×8 pro-life banners featuring pre-born children at various stages of development. She and her husband, Jay, put them in front of their property in Iowa, near Lake Charles in Southwest Louisiana, then friends wanted a banner to put up, too, so she ordered more. Then God gave her one more message: “Go bigger!”
Knowing a billboard campaign would be a large financial undertaking, Mary contacted Louisiana Right to Life for support. Now Mary is spearheading a major billboard effort around the Lake Charles area, raising the needed funds and coordinating the designs and billboard locations.
“Think of the millions of times these messages will be viewed,” she said. “Think of the conversations about life in the womb that will occur.”
This is what has motivated Mary, even though she was apprehensive about asking for contributions due to the horrific hurricane damage the area suffered last year and the continued business shutdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Naturally, I experienced some instances of resistance, but I knew beyond a doubt that God wanted the billboards at this time and with these images,” she said.
The first billboard went up in April on the north side of Interstate 10 facing east at mile marker 40, 2 miles west of La. Hwy. 383. Mary quickly secured enough funding to keep that board up a year.
“I made a list of all my friends and family that I felt would support this and started calling each individually, telling them my story of God’s prompting, and most immediately said, ‘Count me in!’” Mary explained. “The Lake Charles Catholic Diocese put a beautiful article in our American Press about the Promote LIFE billboard campaign with my contact information. That led to more support, thanks especially to one person from Our Lady Queen of Heaven Parish, who took it upon himself to make personal contacts with his friends, who have contributed immensely.”
Donations continued to come in, and Mary secured a digital billboard near a large shopping area and the L’Auberge Casino that began May 31. She secured another billboard site recently at a busy intersection near McNeese State University.
“The consistent feedback I get from the billboards is ‘Wow! The images are so impactful!” she said.
Mary isn’t new to the prolife movement. She has been a member of the American Life League for more than 30 years, has participated in several local life marches, has donated to many pro-life organizations, and has consistently written letters and emails to her senators and representatives regarding pro-life laws and legislation.
Mary taught elementary, middle, and high school over the course of 34 years and has also sold real estate. She and Jay also had a civil engineering business for 20 years, and in between ran a trucking business, hay farmed, and raised cattle, among other endeavors. For the past 20 years the couple has run a large tree farming and sales business.
They also raised three children, two boys and a girl, amid their ventures. They were all active in sports, including rodeo events, which kept the family even busier. Justin, the oldest, died tragically in 2007.
“When we lost Justin, we clung to the verse Romans 8:28, ‘In all things, God will work for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose.’ We knew something positive had to come of this. Through divine inspiration, we built a church through the Franciscan Missions in Ecuador. That’s when I realized how totally unimportant the material things in life are, and in this short, blink-of-an-eye time we have to serve God’s purpose with our lives,” she said.
Her unrelenting quest to educate others about the sanctity of life is one result of this realization.
“My hope Is that the images and message leave a lasting impact on the viewers,” she said. “Think about the conversations that will occur among families when a child asks their parent, ‘Is that what a baby looks like in the tummy?’ Think about when college students discuss the remarkable development of an unborn child at just 8 weeks, and when parents who may be considering encouraging their daughter to have an abortion contemplate the preborn images. Hopefully, school age children will carry this prolife message with them into the next generation.”
Mary isn’t finished raising funds for the campaign. As more funds come in, she plans to secure more board locations.
Mary said she’s been approached by folks from other areas who want to do similar billboard campaigns in their areas. She said she’d love to see this type program take off and the state be flooded with pro-life messages.
“Hopefully this campaign will educate people enough to slow down the demand for abortions,” Mary said.
For more information on the Calcasieu billboard campaign or to make a donation, click here.
To learn more about starting a campaign in your area, or working with us on one that is already in motion, contact Louisiana Right to Life at 866.463.5433 or by email at email@example.com.