Respect Life and Family Life Are Now Separate Departments


On Sept. 5, the archdiocese’s Family Life/Respect Life Office began operating as two separate departments, Cardinal Dolan recently announced.

The cardinal said the Family Life Office’s “diligent” work on a “revamp and relaunch” of its marriage preparation program, combined with the need to maintain a strong pro-life apostolate, made the change in office structure necessary.

Dr. Kathleen Wither, who had served since 2013 as director of the Family Life/Respect Life Office, “will continue her outstanding work” as director of the Family Life Office, the cardinal said.

A new team of Sisters of Life is working in the Respect Life Office. They are Sister Virginia Joy, S.V., the new director, and Sister Pia Jude, S.V., the assistant director.

“We look forward to meeting pastors and parishioners throughout the archdiocese as we learn about the initiatives already in place that uphold the sacredness of human life,” said Sister Virginia Joy about the sisters’ responsibilities in the new office.

“And with all new undertakings we turn to the Holy Spirit, asking Him to enlighten and guide our way.”  

The decision to appoint the new sisters was made in conjunction with Mother Agnes Mary Donovan, S.V., the superior general of the Sisters of Life.

The new sisters will build on the Sisters of Life’s 15-year legacy of leadership in the office. Most recently, Sister Lucy Mary, S.V., and Sister Shirley Ann, S.V., served the archdiocese in the pro-life apostolate. Both have recently received new assignments from the Sisters of Life.

Sister Virginia Joy has been a member of the Sisters of Life for eight years. She has served women experiencing crisis pregnancies at the sisters’ Visitation Mission in Manhattan, and also worked in vocations ministry to assist young women in discerning God’s call for their lives. Before entering religious life, she served in Catholic education as a guidance counselor and coach, and worked with troubled teens.

Sister Pia Jude, who professed vows last year, has worked with the network of lay volunteers who assist the Sisters of Life in serving vulnerable pregnant women. Before entering religious life, she was an attorney at a corporate law firm in Manhattan.


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