In the last of a 12-part series on the life of Christ, Russell Shaw covers…
New 12-part series shares the mission of the Sisters of Life
In the first 60 seconds of the new 12-part video series “Into Life: Love Changes Everything,” it’s clear that the perceived mold for traditional pro-life messaging has been set aside. As beautiful imagery of the cosmos, nature and diverse people of all ages grace the screen, a woman’s gentle voice echoes a message of profound hope.
“From all eternity, God desired that you be. He wanted to make you in his own image and likeness, a unique and unrepeatable reflection of his eternal glory. There’s nobody like you, and there never has been nor ever will be anyone like you. You are good. You are sacred. You are chosen,” Sister of Life Marie Veritas narrates.
The original series “Into Life” is a collaboration between the New York-based Sisters of Life and the McGrath Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame. Collaborating with Michael Campo, the director/owner of film production company Camp Campo, “Into Life” invites the viewer to journey with the sisters as they strive to underscore the dignity and magnificence of every human life.
The genesis of this collaboration began in 2020, according to McGrath’s Jess Keating, program director of the Notre Dame Office of Life and Human Dignity.
“The McGrath Institute had just release its landmark study — How Americans Understand Abortion: A Comprehensive Interview Study of Abortion Attitudes in the U.S. — and we were conducting focus groups with diocesan leaders of pro-life ministry to discuss the findings of the research report,” Keating said. “We’d worked a bit with the Sisters [of Life] in the past, but it was over the course of these conversations about the study that we realized we might have the opportunity to do something really special. We explored the different ways Americans think about and articulate their views on abortion, parenting and children, and considered how these findings could impact the way we imagine and live out a pro-life vision. Through shared discernment, we realized that we were being invited to collaborate in a deep and beautiful way.”
The creative process
Building on his early experience with Grassroots Films, director, producer and cinematographer Michael Campo set out on his own to create productions such as the award-winning film “A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story.”
“The Sisters of Life were very specific on what they wanted to say,” Campo said about the “Into Life” collaboration. “Our goal as filmmakers was to take that and create something equally impactful and beautiful so as to convey the message properly and in a way that is easily digestible, cinematic and attractive to watch, and helps the audience feel what was intended.”
“The style of this series actually embodies what it seeks to communicate: a more contemplative, patient, and discerning approach to loving people into life,” said Leonard DeLorenzo, the director of undergraduate studies and academic director of vision for the McGrath Institute. “I think that is a really remarkable thing. The impression that the videos make upon your heart and mind is like a seed that contains the beauty of Sisters of Life’s charism.”
Keating was a part of the project from its inception. Working alongside Sister Marie, Christina Leblang, who is the Office of Life and Human Dignity’s associate program director, and filmmaker Michael Campo, Keating had a hand in everything from the creative vision for the project, to the series’ content, to study guides and support materials.
”This series is an adaptation of the Sisters of Life Co-Worker Training Day,” Keating said. “‘Into Life’ invites every person who watches into a new vision of pro-life ministry, one grounded not in slogans but in authentic relationships, genuine dialogue and intentional accompaniment. Rooted in the wisdom of the Sisters of Life, this series introduces people to new ideas for building a culture of life and solidarity, offers the opportunity for prayer and reflection, and develops and refines skills for accompanying women through an unexpected pregnancy.”
As a filmmaker, Campo made creative choices that made “Into Life” something that feels very different from other pro-life materials. In his lighting, cinematography and editing, purposeful decisions were made that created a tone that was consistent with the message the Sisters of Life desired to share.
“Camp Campo takes every effort, making conscious intentional decisions to be different and to stand out. Our pre-production planning was key to getting it right. The moment the words ‘abortion’ or ‘pro-life’ are mentioned, an individual takes a side. We knew this. Great art doesn’t tell you things, it makes you feel things,” Campo said. “As artists, we see the authenticity of what the Sisters of Life do, say and feel. Our job is to turn that into art that others can feel without heavy-handed doctrine. When you watch this, you will feel something. What is it you feel? Why are you feeling it? The answers are different for each of us, as are the choices we make afterwards. Jesus is always inviting us to his table. He knocks, but the decision to open the door is solely ours. Some of us who’ve answered know how life changes when we answer, but the choices to take the next steps are ours.”
Extending their mission
The series places a strong emphasis on accompaniment and the art of spiritual listening, devoting three episodes to listening skills.
“You can literally listen a person into life,” Sister Marie said. “So many people have never been truly listened to. Listening brings healing. One of the greatest gifts we can give to each other is to listen. The last three videos walk you through that; it’s transforming.”
The power of prayer to create a lasting culture of life and a personal response to Mark 9:29 invites viewers to a profound mission with divine cooperation. Mother Agnes Mary Donovan, the superior general for the Sisters of Life, shares in one episode: “This is God’s work. This is not about what I can or can’t do. He wants to work through us. Our wounds and failures don’t disqualify us from being ambassadors of God’s wonders. The gift of being pro-life and of drawing others into a culture of life is not dependent on our power but on God’s.”
The creative partners behind “Into Life” sense the program will become a tool that will be used nationwide to extend the Sisters of Life’s mission.
“Our hope is that every person who watches this series will come to know deeply that their life is a gift, that they are good, made in God’s image, and that their life has profound meaning and worth,” Sister Marie said. “This series is meant to be not only a resource for pro-life work but for the whole scope of human relationships, because it’s ultimately about upholding each other, about listening and accompaniment, and about affirming the other in their goodness and worth. It’s about seeing and loving in truth. When we know we’re loved, we can soar.”
For more information, and to watch the series, visit intolifeseries.com.
Lisa Hendey writes from California.