You know it’s going to be a good afternoon when you run into the Sisters of Life at the New York Catholic Center.
That was the case last week when I saw Mother Agnes Mary Donovan, S.V., the order’s superior general, at archdiocesan headquarters in Manhattan. We were both headed to different meetings, but she indicated that she wanted to meet afterward, so I invited her to drop by CNY’s offices.
She brought along Sister Mary Elizabeth Wusinich, S.V., the vicar general of the Sisters of Life, whom I got to know well when she was director of the archdiocesan Family Life/Respect Life office, which the Sisters of Life continue to serve.
Any time I spend with these women of faith is a graced encounter because their holiness and prayerful spirit come through even in the midst of normal conversation.
They began by recounting the response they have received to the latest issue of the sisters’ Imprint magazine. They spoke about the overwhelming reaction to the articles, including an interview with Dr. Michael Brescia, executive medical director of Calvary Hospital in the Bronx, and another article comparing the world views of secularism vs. Christianity. If you have never seen a copy of Imprint, it would be worth your time to ask the sisters to send you one. Their website is sistersoflife.org.
The sisters had plenty of other initiatives to discuss. Those include the opening of convents in Suffern, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia.
In Suffern, the sisters are planning to move into Heart of Jesus Convent at Sacred Heart parish at the end of July. This will create needed convent space for sisters serving at the generalate and consequently make room for novices at their nearby Annunciation motherhouse in Montebello.
Of course, you can’t take on more missions and move into new convents if you are not blessed with vocations. Ten novices will make their first vows with the Sisters of Life in August. That’s a good number, even for the Sisters of Life, who usually have about half a dozen sisters professing vows.
In the Brookland section of Washington, they are taking over a Poor Clare Sisters convent with a legacy of Eucharistic Adoration for 63 years, where they will open a mission of intercessory prayer. Quoting their founder, Cardinal John O’Connor, regarding their now 26-year mission in support of life and against the prevailing culture of death, the sisters said, “This kind of demon can be driven out only by prayer and fasting.”
In Philadelphia, they are renovating a former convent of the Sisters of Mercy at St. Malachy’s parish in the northern part of the city, near Temple University.
“The church is a jewel. It was originally an Irish community and is now African-American,” said Mother Agnes, filling in details easily without notes.
Establishing a convent in the hometown of Cardinal O’Connor is “very pleasing,” she said. They will open a Visitation Mission for pregnant women there. The sisters will do so with the help of many co-workers for life, lay people who work alongside them. Many have come to New York for training sessions with the sisters.
“They are women who create networks of support and friendship around women who are pregnant,” Mother Agnes said. “We affirm them and their decision.”
Mother Agnes and Sister Mary Elizabeth also described other Sister of Life apostolates in Connecticut, Colorado and Toronto.
As we neared the end of our time together, the sisters pointed to family photos and holy cards among the page dummies and news clippings in my office. They wanted to know who each person was and what the holy cards meant to me. As I shared answers, the communion between us was easy to feel.
That is one of the things I enjoy most about this work. God is part of it, sometimes very quietly, and at other times in very visible and apparent ways.