Sisters of Life
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New York, Connecticut, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Denver, and Toronto, Canada
Patron Saints/Famous Saints of the Community
The Madonna of the Streets, St. Joseph, Our Lady of Guadalupe
The Sisters of Life are women who are in love with Love – Love incarnate, crucified, and Risen – and captivated by the truth of the beauty of every human person, created in God’s image and likeness.
We believe every person is valuable and sacred. We believe that every person is good, loved, unique and unrepeatable. We believe that every person’s life has deep meaning, purpose and worth. In fact, we give our lives for that truth.
Like other Catholic religious Sisters, we’ve made a decision to leave behind what the world offers to give our whole lives to God by professing vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. What does that mean? It means we don’t personally own anything – Jesus is our treasure. We don’t get married – Jesus is our one love. And we freely surrender to lives of obedience – Jesus is our one will. This sets us free to love in a universal way, and commit wholeheartedly to the mission Jesus entrusts as we live in community with one another.
And, as Sisters in love with life, we’ve also made another decision:
We vow to protect and enhance the sacredness of every human life. This is our CHARISM. As spiritual mothers living in the heart of the Church, we experience the threats to human dignity and life all the more deeply. We pray. We fast. We serve. Why? Because we want to uphold the dignity and worth of each person, created from and for God’s great love.
Entrusting ourselves completely to the Lord of Life, we commit our lives to the protection of human life and to the promotion of new life in Christ, acknowledging the goodness of every person, and sharing the gift of God’s abundant mercy with all those we meet. In this way, we seek to help reveal to each person their own innate goodness, the particular love God has for them, and invite them to something greater: a life of truth, joy, and hope.
In 1975, Cardinal John O’Connor, a navy chaplain-become-archbishop of New York, paid a visit to the Dachau concentration camp in Germany, where thousands of people had been tortured and killed during the Second World War. As he placed his hands into the semicircular red brick ovens, he said he had a profound spiritual experience in which he felt the intermingled ashes of Christian and Jew, rabbi and priest. Pierced to the heart, he cried out: “My God! How can human beings do this to other human beings?” In that moment, he made a promise: to do everything in his power to protect human life.
So he did.
But years of preaching, advocating, and laboring with others to restore a sense of the dignity of human life yielded only a discouraging lack of results. Cardinal O’Connor wondered at this, and brought it, as he did all things, to prayer. And, finally, it came to him: a different kind of response was needed. Reflecting on the life of Christ, the Cardinal would say, “He preached eloquently; He worked spectacular miracles. But He did not make possible the salvation of the world until He laid down His own life.” To counter what he understood to be a “culture of death” pervading the fibers of society, at the root of which was a deep crisis of faith – a spiritual response was needed. This spirit of contempt for human life was a demon that could “only be cast out by prayer and fasting.” (cf. Mk 9:29)
An idea began to slowly percolate in the Cardinal’s mind and heart. After years of prayer, he penned an unadorned headline in a local Catholic New York paper: “Help Wanted: Sisters of Life.” He proceeded to describe his vision for a religious community of women who would give them themselves fully to the protection and enhancement of the sacredness of every human life, beginning with the most vulnerable.
The article was reprinted across the nation, and to the surprise of the Cardinal, hundreds of letters poured in. On June 1, 1991, eight women gathered in New York to form the new community of the Sisters of Life. Since then, the community has grown to over a hundred Sisters from across the globe: USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Spain, and the Philippines, and expanded missions from our birth place in New York, to Denver, CO, Stamford, CT, Philadelphia, PA, Washington, D.C., and Toronto, Canada.
Just as the Resurrection of Jesus came after His death on the Cross, so too, out of the ashes of Dachau came new Life. So, yes, we know the power of death. But we also know that death and darkness are not the end of the story. Love is stronger. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5)
The Eucharist is the center of our lives. Like our Blessed Mother, who conceived Jesus beneath her heart at the Annunciation and immediately “went in haste to the hill country” (Lk 1:39) to serve her pregnant cousin Elizabeth, we receive Jesus in the Eucharist before we begin our work on behalf of vulnerable human life.
We live a spirituality of vulnerable love. Our faith in His Presence in the Eucharist helps us to discern His presence in every human life, especially when that life is vulnerable, silent, hidden or diminished in any way. We seek to be in union with Him, becoming as vulnerable as Christ in the manger, on the Cross, and in the Eucharist, and as vulnerable as the child in the womb.
All of our common prayer is prayed before the Blessed Sacrament. We spend four hours each day in prayer, including a daily, common Eucharistic Holy Hour, the Rosary, periods of meditation, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and the Liturgy of the Hours. We also spend time each day in spiritual reading. All the convents reserve one day a week and one Sunday a month as prayer days spent in silence with extended hours of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
We look to our Blessed Mother as our model of self-giving, joy-filled love, our hope of promises fulfilled, and the mother of our souls. She is always there for us, leading us, without fear, deeper into the heart of Jesus.
Prayer is powerful.
– That’s why we spend four hours each day in common prayer centered around the Eucharist.
– That’s why we reserve one day a week for prayer and an additional Sunday every month for retreat.
– And that’s why we invite you to step into prayer in your own life. Encounter the Love for which you are made.