The Sisters of Life, founded in 1991 by John Cardinal O’Connor, is a contemplative/active religious community dedicated to “the protection and enhancement of the sacredness of every human life.”
Among their chief works is tending to pregnant women in whatever way might be needed, including giving them a place to live. The sisters host retreats for the post-abortive and serve as coordinators for the Respect Life office of the New York Archdiocese. In recent years, four young women from Catholic Studies have found their way into this thriving community.
“It was in the classrooms and chapel at Sitzmann Hall that I fell in love, in a deeper way, with Love Himself,” says Sister Magnificat Rose. “Being a religious sister has drawn forth a deeper love and joy out of my heart than I ever thought possible.”
Like many religious, the sisters find that they serve as spiritual mothers to many. But spiritual motherhood is not a term any of these young women take lightly or as a shallow metaphor. Rather, it is a lived experience they encounter every day in a very real way.
“Each woman’s heart is maternal by nature,” says Sister Zélie Maria Louis, who just took her first vows on Aug. 4 on the Feast of St. John Vianney. “That isn’t something that gets shut off or suppressed when one enters the convent. In fact, it only grows! I have experienced spiritual motherhood as a radical availability. Whether I’m walking down the streets of New York City, at the airport, or anywhere in between, I belong to every person I meet because that person is deeply loved by my Spouse. And they, in a real and mysterious way, belong to me, and look to me to listen to them as only a mother can.”
In fact, spiritual motherhood is such a profound reality for the Sisters of Life that it forms the centerpiece of their spirituality. “St. Therese says that ‘the loveliest masterpiece of the heart of God is the heart of a mother,’” says Sister Ann Immaculee. “It reveals the unfailing care and nurturing aspect of the heart of God. Spiritual maternity is also a share in the heart of Mary, who at the foot of the cross was entrusted with the souls of all mankind, not to be physically grown within her, but to be spiritually nurtured within her heart. This is not a light saying, but it is a stout-fibered reality.”
Sister Fidelity Grace puts it this way: “We are the Sisters OF Life – rather than Sisters FOR Life – very intentionally. We are not political activists. We do not exist merely to lobby in Washington, to seek to overturn an unjust law, or to promote the pro-life cause. Rather, we belong to life – Christ is our life.”
“Our medals contain the line: ‘And nothing would again be casual or small.’ Because of the Incarnation, everything once ordinary is now extraordinary.”