A zealous priest with an ambition for God's glory, John O'Connor, (who would one day become the Cardinal Archbishop of New York), has a transformative experience on visit to the Dachau concentration camp. After putting his hands in the ovens which saw the mingling ashes of Jew and Christian, he leaves with the reality profoundly and newly impressed upon his soul that each human person is a unique, unrepeatable creation made in the image of God. As the years pass, he prays and waits upon God wondering if a priest with a personal history of 27 years of chaplaincy in the military is discerning in truth God's persistent call to found a contemplative/apostolic, religious community of women dedicated to advancing the sacredness of human life in all of society. Grace is victorious and in 1990 he authors a column in Catholic New York: "Help Wanted: Sisters of Life".
In the same years, other powerful graces are at work among women strategizing in corporate offices, women teaching in neighborhood schools, women devoted to accompanying adults with disabilities in walking their daily lives, women probing the mysteries of life in science labs, at engineering tables, and in academia; other women are moved by the silent alchemy of Love while standing at the bedside of the ill in hospitals and at home, and for some the call is heard in the heady days of university life. They come in a steady, abundant stream to the convents of the Sisters of Life. How does this happen? What is the secret? The answer is simply, totally in the hands of our incredible God. For only the compelling love of God could move a bright, beautiful, mature, and competent young woman to surrender all of her life - affections, possessions, and will - for the glory of God, and through Him to His people, especially the most vulnerable among us. Behind each Sister is a story, a love story of universal dimension!
On June 1st, 1991 a new religious community is born as its first 8 members gather round the Eucharistic Lord - its Head and Heart. Life's daily experiences prove the reality that community is formed only in the Eucharist. With the help of numberless priests and fellow religious the Sisters' formation begins. With each year apostolates emerge to meet the needs of God's people - ministries of reverence to vulnerable human life include: evangelization on the Church's teaching on human life and human love, spiritual retreats to sustain those in the pro-life movement, days of prayer and healing for men and women suffering from abortion, a Library and resource center on human life issues, and a "holy respite" (a convent) in which pregnant women in need are invited to live with the Sisters.
Now 11 years from the halcyon days of beginning, our numbers have grown to forty; we live believing that at the end of the second millennium God gave the world a gift - a new charisma for a religious community. Graces intended for the people of the whole world through the hands of a new religious family - the Sisters of Life - who pray and work to protect all vulnerable life: the unborn, the frail elderly, the chronically and terminally ill, etc. and to advance a sense of the sacredness of human life in all of society. This is God's work. For no human acumen, no talent, even of a gifted Founder, can explain the growth and vitality of the Sisters of Life. We are not nearly clever enough to accomplish what has been done. Admittedly, we simply stand in the path of grace. To God be the glory!
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