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The Sisters of Life: Pro-Life lessons from the Bronx


Sister Mary Grace SV speaks passionately about the mission of the Sisters of Life. Photo: Eric Martin.

By Eric Martin

The Sisters of Life have last week hosted a public forum on assisting those who are struggling with unexpected pregnancy.

The religious sisters, from New York in the United States of America, hosted the “Walking with Life” seminar on Thursday 23 May at the University of Notre Dame Australia Fremantle Campus in the presence of more than 50 people.

The Sisters spoke about their experiences as religious and their mission in the infamous area of Hell’s Kitchen, Manhattan.

Sydney-born Sister Mary Grace SV, who grew up on the beaches of northern Sydney, was the keynote speaker at the event and spoke passionately about the Order’s history and their mission to promote life, sharing a few critical moments of her own personal involvement with the women they assist.

“Women who come to us are often broken and hurting and often terribly scared,” Sr Mary Grace said.

“But what they gradually discover about themselves is really just how heroic they are: their capacity to be mercifully loved and the greatness of their own unique love to be given away.

“The women we have had the privilege to walk with are the witnesses of what it looks like to allow God’s mercy to touch us, to restore us, and to heal the most vulnerable places of the human heart – they are the real heroes of our day.”


Sister Antoniana Maria SV of the Sisters of Life talks with two attendees of “Walking with Love” at UNDA. Photo: Eric Martin.

The value of human life, both the mother and her baby is, for the Sisters, completely centred in God’s love for all his children.

“You are the touchstone of God’s creation. We are the only part of God’s creation that are made in his image and likeness. We are the only creature that God has made for himself.

“You and I were created for God, who is love. To love him and to know his love, and to live in the freedom that it brings is carved into our hearts and only he can fulfil that, and will.”

Sr Mary Grace explained that accepting God’s love in our own lives is key to being able to share his love with others, that by reaffirming our own importance in God’s sight we find a peace and a joy that can be used by God as a blessing to others.

“Everyone of us was loved and willed into existence by God. You were thought of and brought into this world, unique for this time and this place, with the struggles in our world, in this city, and to respond to it with the love in your heart.

“Our lives are a gift, you are good and you matter.”


Sisters Antoniana Maria, Zelie Maria Louis, Mary Grace, and Jeanne Marie of the Sisters of Life. Photo: Eric Martin.

Founded in 1991 by then-Cardinal John O’Conner, Archbishop of New York, the Sisters of Life were a direct response to his increasing frustration at the failed efforts of the pro-life cause, which was not making any headway in changing New York’s attitude towards abortion.

Led by God to the passage of scripture in Mark that reads: “This kind of demon can only be cast out by prayer and fasting,” Cardinal O’Connor had a revelation that gave birth to a new charism, the Sisters of Life.

He realised that the world needed a dedicated group of women, praying and interceding for the unborn and expectant mothers in direct response to the evil he perceived. So he placed an advertisement in the paper.

After receiving hundreds of responses to his weekly newspaper column titled “Help Wanted: Sisters of Life”, eight women entered the newly formed community on Foundation Day, 1 June 1991.

“We’re not activists on a mission and we’re not social workers on duty, but Christians baring Christ within us, taking him to the other and letting the power of his love through our hearts and lives meet them in theirs,” Sr Mary Grace said.

“We stand with you in love, in this mission of building up and restoring the culture of life, which finds its infinite source and inspiration in the gospels, the place from which propels all of our ministries to pregnant women in need, to men and women who have suffered after an abortion and the equipping of others to join us.”