Sisters of Life: ‘You are irreplaceable’, just like the child in the womb
by Katie Yoder
Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 15, 2021 / 15:01 pm America/Denver (CNA).
The members of an order of religious sisters are dedicating their lives to sharing the message that every person, from the moment of conception, is infinitely loved.
The Sisters of Life recently spoke with EWTN host Montse Alvarado in remembrance of Mother’s Day. Sr. Magdalene Teresa Mercy stressed the joy of life and discussed spiritual motherhood during EWTN News In Depth May 7.
Alvarado introduced the order as one that helps to choose life by “providing shelter, supplies, and counsel” in six U.S. locations. She spoke with Sr. Magdalene Teresa, who serves as a local superior and mission coordinator for the Sisters of Life at a crisis pregnancy mission at St. Andrew’s Center in lower Manhattan.
The Sisters of Life, the sister said, embrace “spiritual maternity.”
“Motherhood really is a foundational piece of our charism,” which is “to protect and enhance the sacredness of human life,” she explained. Motherhood is the “floor or the ground that we walk on.”
John Cardinal O’Connor founded the Sisters of Life in New York in 1991. The community of Catholic religious women profess four vows: poverty, chastity, and obedience, and “to protect and enhance the sacredness of human life.”
They dedicate their lives to offering support and resources to pregnant women and mothers, hosting retreats, evangelizing, practicing outreach to college students, and helping women who suffer after abortion, among other things.
At St. Andrew’s, the sisters receive women who are “just really wondering what to do.”
“They’re in the throes of the decision about abortion or choosing life,” she urged. “And for us, it’s such a joy to just invite them to see everything a little different.”
She revealed one of the questions they ask pregnant women to help them discern.
“We’ll say, ‘If everything were different – if you had this dream and that dream and all the things that you hoped for – if it were different, if it were this, what would you do?”
According to Sr. Magdalene Teresa, these women give the same response: “Of course I would give life to my child, if I had all these resources.”
“That’s our biggest thing,” she said, “is to make their dreams come true because nothing should stand in the way of them achieving everything they want.”
“Pregnancy is not a disease,” she emphasized.
Sr. Magdalene Teresa agreed that material resources can be an obstacle to choosing life. But she said that the biggest challenge is “the spiritual and the lack of hope and the sense of basically not knowing” motherhood, including from their own mother.
“For me, that’s a big desire, is to provide that gift of maternity in our mission,” she responded.
The sisters do little things to lead to a “bigger place” – a place where women know, “I can rest in my maternity” and “rest in joy of being with my children.” One of those little things is offering women a cooking class to make dishes with chicken.
At other locations, like their Sacred Heart convent in midtown Manhattan, they house and live side-by-side with pregnant women in need.
“The beauty of our charism,” she said, “it does speak to the heart.”
The sisters’ “basic message,” she said, is, “You are made in the image and likeness of God. You are unrepeatable and irreplaceable. And because you’re unrepeatable and irreplaceable, the child in the womb is.”
“You’re so loved by God,” she added. “You’re loved into being. If you were somehow not loved, you would cease to exist.”
The sisters dedicate their lives to both speaking and acting on that message. They’re not alone either, with over 20,000 volunteers to help them.
Among the problems that concern Sr. Magdalene Teresa is the pressures that push women toward abortion, including diagnosis via prenatal testing.
While prenatal testing is becoming more accurate, she stressed that “sometimes God does something in the womb that is unbelievable.”
“I’ve had so many times where there’s this amazing test that says the baby’s going to have this really hard, very difficult anomaly.” she said. She remembered a time when “everybody was praying” for a baby with a prenatal diagnosis. He ended up being just “fine, he was huge.”
“If we reverence life, even in the medical world, it would lead to great gifts,” she concluded. “There’s a great need to share the joy of life, even if it’s an hour long.”
One of the things that drive people to abortion is fear, she said. But the sisters counter that with love and “also some courage.”
“We walk with women,” she said. “That’s one of our big works, is to send coworkers or ourselves to the appointments with the women just to back them up.”
She also looked to what the future might bring for the sisters.
“I personally am on a rampage to ask for there to be a Catholic birthing center hospital in every diocese,” she hinted. “That could be a great mission for an order.”
She ended with a message to women: to “lay our trust in the Lord, lay our trust in Our Lady.”
“She does want to be that anchor in a stormy sea that we’re in at this time and she does want to share – shine that light on where to go next,” she said. “I also think she has her mantle around us and we often just don’t notice it, but we’re wrapped in it.”
The Blessed Virgin Mary is also a “great model for maternity”, she said.
“I tell a lot of women who are open to hearing, she wants to teach us how to be moms,” Sr. Magdalene Teresa concluded. “She loves sharing all her secrets.”