The Sisters of Life are a religious order founded in 1991 by the late Cardinal O’Connor of New York, who was convinced that there was a need for a religious order of women who would serve completely in pro-life ministry. In August, the Archdiocese of Toronto was blessed by the entrance of the Sisters of Life, who have established their first convent outside the United States.
Sisters Antoniana Maria, Mary Clare and Monica Faustina are the three sisters who currently live together in Toronto. Usually, there are a minimum of six sisters living together in community, but the three have entered the Archdiocese of Toronto on a year of discernment to determine whether the Holy Spirit intends for them to establish themselves permanently in Toronto.
Sister Antoniana is a Canadian who grew up in Vancouver. She joined the Sisters of Life in 2002. As a student in university, Sister Antoniana was involved in pro-life activism and felt called to give her whole life to building a culture of life. She told The Interim: “Sometimes God calls us to places that we would never have expected to go.”
Many pro-life leaders would remember Kathleen Ross for her many years of youth pro-life leadership in Canada. Kathleen is now Sister Kathrine Marie with the Sisters of Life and living in New York.
The Toronto house represents the seventh house for the Sisters of Life. They currently have 61 members with an average age of 35. Theirs is an extremely popular calling for young, pro-life Catholic women. This year alone, they received 12 new postulants.
They live a mixed spiritual and contemplative life that finds their vocation in the world. The Catholic church refers to this as contemplative-active.
They are completely committed to community life – travelling, working and praying together. They keep one calendar and one schedule. They are committed to four hours of prayer daily and maintain Friday as a complete day that is focused on prayer.
One of the primary works of the Sisters of Life is crisis pregnancy counselling. Their convent in Manhattan is set up with space for pregnant women to live with them. Pregnant women who agree to live with the sisters are treated as part of the family and are expected to follow the house rules. The sisters also have a mission to serve those who have suffered abortion, assisting women and men on their road to healing. The sisters give their whole lives to the service of life. They are also available to speak in parishes and at conferences and are willing to provide spiritual retreats.
When asked about their first experiences in Canada, they indicated that there is a great joy and hunger among pro-life leaders in Canada who desire an authentic unity.
The sisters recently travelled to Moncton, N.B. to attend the national pro-life conference. They were impressed that many of the speakers and pro-life leaders are young. They were hopeful for Canada, because many of the speakers focused on prayer and service. There was a genuine concern for the spiritual direction of the pro-life movement at the Moncton conference. The Sisters of Life are convinced that a cultural conversion in Canada and worldwide will take place primarily through a spiritual conversion. God opens the door to the culture.
The sisters are discerning what exactly the nature of their work in Canada will be and are open to whatever the Lord asks of them. They are grateful for the many people who are praying for them and they ask all pro-life people to pray for them.
So far, the message the sisters have heard is that they are welcome in Canada.