The pro-life order the Sisters of Life have celebrated their 25th anniversary with a special Mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral in New York followed by a street party.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York concelebrated the Mass with Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto, nine other bishops and more than 45 priests.
In his homily Cardinal Dolan said there were towering challenges to consecrated life when the religious order was established in 1991, and sceptics wondered if the sisters would be able to sustain their mission. But the order has grown from eight members to nearly 100 today.
“You’re a booster shot for all of us, proving that renewal and rebirth are part of the Lord’s thesaurus,” the cardinal said.
Cardinal Dolan recounted how his late predecessor, Cardinal John O’Connor, had issued an “historic dare” by writing an appeal in the archdiocesan newspaper, inviting women to consider joining a new contemplative and active religious community dedicated to protecting and enhancing the sacredness of every human life.
The sisters provide material, emotional and spiritual outreach to pregnant women and new mothers, retreats for women who have experienced abortion, and serve as diocesan Respect Life coordinators. They minister in New York, Denver, Washington and Toronto.
“The trust placed in the most noble cause of life by the Sisters of Life two and a half decades ago has been validated beyond belief,” Cardinal Dolan said. He invited superior Mother Agnes Mary and her sisters to celebrate their 50th jubilee in 2041 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, which he predicted would be “jampacked with hundreds and hundreds of Sisters of Life and babies who will be adults by then.”
At the end of Mass, Mother Agnes Mary acknowledged the support of clergy, fellow religious, families, donors and co-workers.
“Through the years, we have been supported first by New York priests distinguished by their fidelity to Jesus Christ, vibrant orthodoxy and loyalty to their archbishop. They are our daily Mass chaplains, teachers, confessors, spiritual directors, mission collaborators and friends in the Lord, bringing Jesus to us each day in the Eucharist, the source of our strength and our joy,” she said.
Mother Agnes Mary added: “We have witnessed miracles of love and courage by young women who respond to the deepest desires of their hearts and accept the new life entrusted to them by God. We have witnessed miracles of healing.”
More than 1,000 people, including current and former guests of the sisters with their babies and toddlers, attended the Mass, which was followed by a Eucharistic procession, and and a street party with live music, face-painters, kids’ games and food.
Volunteer Colette Dempsey told Catholic News Service: “I think Cardinal O’Connor was a prophet and we’ll see him brought to sainthood for founding the Sisters of Life. We’ve lost the dignity of the family and they’re bringing it back. They’re so giving. If someone’s at risk, they walk right with them. They don’t judge. They don’t give up.”
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