Sisters of Life & A Moment of Grace

By Dave Andrusko

When we carried stories this week analyzing the statistical breakdown of abortions in Minnesota, there was the great news that in 2010 abortions dropped for the fourth consecutive year to the lowest point since 1975 and that the 7% drop from 2009 was the largest annual percentage decline in nearly 20 years. But in addition to demonstrating what determined, effective National Right to Life affiliates can accomplish, the stories also unfortunately reminded me that there are places in the nation where the number of lost lives is staggering.

One of those places is New York City, about which we have written many times. Statistics from the New York City Health Department, for example, revealed that a full 41% of viable pregnancies in the city are aborted, nearly twice the national average, and that 60% of African-American pregnancies were aborted in 2009. But pro-lifers refuse to give up or give in.

In the Wall Street Journal today Bill McGowan writes about what Edmund Burke undoubtedly would include in his “little platoons” of compassion—the Sisters of Life. The Sisters (70 members, with an average age of 37) are celebrating its 20th anniversary this summer. I first wrote about this small order of nuns before  it actually came into existence.

“The order was the vision of the late John Cardinal O’Connor,” McGowan writes, “whose Nov. 2, 1989, weekly column in the newspaper Catholic New York was titled ‘Help Wanted: Sisters of Life.’” On their webpage we read, ”The Sisters of Life is a contemplative / active religious community of women founded in 1991 by John Cardinal O’Connor for the protection and enhancement of the sacredness of every human life.”

Some pregnant women live in one of their convents, other women who are “in need of practical assistance” are helped through their Visitation Mission, while the Sisters of Life also invites women “who have suffered abortion to hope and healing.”

McGowan describes the Visitation Mission—“a spiritual call center where sisters have contact with about 700 women a year”—as their most important work. Some seeking counsel feel enormous pressure to abort, fearing the end of their professional or social lives, “but pregnancy is a wake up call,” Sister Magdalene tells McGowan. “It tends to stop them from doing what they might imagine they’d do without a second thought. We believe it’s a moment of grace.”

About half who are counseled remain at home, other women live in maternity facilities run by other religious orders (or live in private homes), “and then there are the women who move in with the nuns, in the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen.” McGowan says that they can stay at the Convent for as long as six month before giving birth and a year afterwards. Over the years 150 babies have been born at the convent.

The individual stories are incredible, and I can not do justice to them by providing a brief summary. Instead go to http://nrlc.co/nT8BdO and feast on these inspirational stories of courage, faith, and faithfulness.

Perhaps the line in the story that best illuminates the power of these women of faith is a quote early on from Archbishop Timothy Dolan. Once the sisters connect with unwed pregnant women in need, he said, “The battle is half over.”

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