“This time, with freedom!” Sisters Mary Karen and Mary Gabriel implored. It was a rare day for Sisters of Life from different convents to be together at the religious order’s motherhouse in the suburbs of New York. There, they gathered around an outdoor Nativity scene with fire for warmth and sang carols and other devotional songs.
The funny part of the freedom remark is that these women are freer than just about anyone I have ever met.
In one description of the founding of the Sisters of Life, Mother Agnes Mary Donovan said about its founder, Cardinal John O’Connor: “He was very frank. He often said he was doing what he believed the Holy Spirit had asked him, and if it was of the Holy Spirit, then it would turn out all right.”
I thought of that story as Sister Mary Gabriel gazed on the flames of the fire and talked about the Holy Spirit burning in each Christian. When you acknowledge that reality within, great things can happen. Goodness and joy can become contagious. Hope can be seen and love can be plausible.
The Sisters of Life help women in need — women who may not want their children, but don’t want to choose abortion; women who need help with parenting; women who need help, period. It is an international movement, with sisters hailing from all corners of the globe. (The sisters currently have convents in New York, Denver, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Toronto.)
It’s safe to say the Holy Spirit wanted the Sisters of Life, because it is looking more than all right. They are women dedicated to God and his people, with a special commitment to innocent human life. The Sisters of Life were born of an inspiration Cardinal O’Connor had at Dachau. He asked himself: “How could human beings do this to other human beings?”
Speaking of freedom, I realize I still can’t get over an event at the Freedom Tower — the structure built on the site of the World Trade Center — in January, when the governor of New York decided to expand abortion in a state already known as the abortion capital of the country. To celebrate such a blow to life at a site at which so much life was taken should be beyond the pale.
But life continues, and God provides people who see clearly and will pour themselves out in service for others. Ours doesn’t have to be a culture of cynicism and despair. The sisters not only show us something greater, something wonderful, something more real than so much that we allow ourselves to become enslaved to; they draw us into it, as well.
The sisters will tell you: “We believe every person is valuable and sacred. We believe that every person is good, loved, unique and unrepeatable. We believe that every person’s life has deep meaning, purpose and worth. In fact, we give our lives for that truth.”
And that seems to me a good prompt for a resolution for the new year, for the rest of our lives. What more can we do to help people see that they are “good, loved, unique and unrepeatable”? People don’t feel good, loved, unique and unrepeatable. What can each one of us do about that? That’s not simply a question for women who take particular vows with the Sisters of Life. It’s fuel for the revolution our lives and world need. This is using freedom well. And it only comes from knowing it about yourself — at which point it becomes harder not to want the same for others.
So, as the sisters said: “This time, with freedom!” — how about that as a mantra for 2020?