A pro-life religious order to be known as the Sisters of Life has recently been formed in the United States.

As reported by Chuck Lindberg in the Knights of Columbus publication Columbia (January 1992), the new order was founded to provide spiritual support for the pro-life movement.

The Sisters of Life are committed to pray and work for the protection of life from conception to natural death.

John Cardinal O’Connor played a key role in the formation of the new order. Writing in Catholic New York (November 1989(, he pointed out that though many religious are involved in pro-life activities, it was time to found an order for that specific purpose.

“I am convinced of the need and of the potential,” he said. The response was astounding. As applications flowed in, Cardinal O’Connor enlisted the help of two existing orders of sisters in establishing the new community.

After interviews, testing and other screening, as well as prayer and retreats, eight women were chosen to begin their formation on June 1, 1991. Ranging in age from their mid-20s to over 50, they have experience in such occupations as nursing, psychology, dietetics and editing.

Because it is not an undertaking to enter into lightly, the group’s training and formation will take several years.

Known at first as postulants (seekers), they will progress to a two-year period of study and formation in which they will be called novices (new sisters).

If they then proceed, they will become junior professed sisters, taking temporary vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience to their legitimate authorities. And later still, they may become fully professed religious with permanent vows.

Already the Sisters of Life have a waiting list. A second group of postulants will enter the fledgling order early this year.

They will find themselves forming a small Christian community with an intensely spiritual life. In addition to periods of recreation and the routine tasks normal to any household, their years of preparation will include many hours of prayer and study on religious and spiritual matters as well as pro-life issues. They will also attend lectures, participate in workshops, and visit clinics, counseling services, and homes for single mothers.

Eventually, as professed sisters, they will spend part of each day supporting pro-life initiatives through writing, lobbying, educating the public, counseling and similar activities.

But always, their major focus will be prayer on behalf of life, wherever and however it is threatened.

In their chapel there are two dramatic reminders of their purpose: a statue of the mother of Jesus cradling a pre-born child, and a painting of Mary as The Madonna of the Streets.

“They remind us of the many mothers with whom we work, and for whom we pray,” the Sisters say.

Postulant Agnes Donovan, speaking at a pro-life conference in New Jersey, noted that although everyone involved in pro-life activity agrees that prayer is the true strength of the movement, it is too often an overlooked component.

“By bringing back our sense of dependence on God, prayer restores our awareness of the sanctity of life. It calls the heart to act. And it sustains and supports us in action. Nothing ranks before prayer in its importance to the pro-life movement. It is our sure hope of victory,” she stated.