By Steven Schwankert
NEW YORK (OSV News) — About 1,500 family members and well-wishers joined bishops, priests, religious brothers and dozens of sisters from the Sisters of Life as seven new sisters took their perpetual vows August 5 at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan.
Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan served as the ceremony’s principal celebrant. A previous archbishop of New York, Cardinal John J. O’Connor, founded the Sisters of Life in 1991, after publishing an article in Catholic New York entitled “Help Wanted: Sisters of Life.” Eight sisters founded the new order on June 1, 1991, which has now grown to more than 100 sisters.
The seven Sisters of Life who made their perpetual vows are: Sister Mary Pieta, Sister Mercy Marie, Sister Mary Grace, Sister Fidelity Grace, Sister Zelie Maria Louis, Sister Ann Immaculée and Sister Catherine Joy Marie.
The annual Mass is celebrated to coincide with the feast of the dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome, the world’s largest church dedicated to Mary. According to legend, snow fell in Rome on the day of its dedication. Cardinal Dolan referenced this in his homily, saying, “He (Jesus) is the Lord of surprises, like an August snowfall.”
Cardinal Dolan also called upon those taking their perpetual vows to “change the culture of death into the culture of life.”
The seven sisters made their perpetual vows before Mother Mary Concepta, who was elected the Sisters of Life’s new mother superior earlier this year.
Concelebrants included Archbishop Gabriele Giordano Caccia, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations; Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska; and New York Archdiocese auxiliary bishops, Bishop Peter J. Byrne, Bishop John J. O’Hara and Bishop Edmund J. Whalen; as well as New York Archdiocese vicar general Msgr. Joseph P. LaMorte and Father Enrique Salvo, rector of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Among the Sisters of Life in attendance was their founding superior, Mother Agnes Mary Donovan, who received the Gaudium et Spes Award from the Knights of Columbus at their 141st Supreme Convention in Orlando, Florida, which concluded August 3. The award was first given to St. Teresa of Kolkata in 1992 and also to Cardinal O’Connor in 1994.
Also in attendance at the Mass were Knights of Columbus Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly and his wife, Vanessa; and Sister Joan Curtin, the New York Archdiocese’s vicar for religious.
Steven Schwankert is the digital editor of The Good Newsroom, the news outlet of the Archdiocese of New York.
Brief bios on the seven Sisters of Life who made perpetual vows August 5:
Sister Mary Pieta, 38, was raised in Fargo, North Dakota and has a bachelor’s in speech, language and hearing science at Minnesota State University-Moorhead. Prior to entering the Sisters of Life, she served as a FOCUS missionary, sharing the Catholic faith with college students. She has served the retreats at Villa Maria Guadalupe in Stamford, Connecticut, missioned at the Holy Respite in Manhattan for pregnant women and their unborn children, and this coming year serves the Visitation Mission in New York, which explores life-giving options and provides resources and practical support to women experiencing unexpected pregnancies or adverse prenatal diagnoses.
Sister Mercy Marie, 41, was raised in South Wilmington, Illinois, and graduated from Franciscan University of Steubenville with a bachelor’s in business administration-marketing. Prior to entering the Sisters of Life in 2014, she was the director of programs at Endow (Educating on the Nature and Dignity of Women), a Catholic education program for women. She helped to open the Sisters of Life mission in Philadelphia to evangelize and support women who find themselves in a crisis pregnancy. For the past five years, she has participated in the mission of inviting women to step into the mercy of Jesus Christ after an abortion at the St. Paul the Apostle Convent in Yonkers, New York. In late August, she will participate in the retreat works of Villa Maria Guadalupe.
Sister Mary Grace, 33, was raised in Sydney and first met the Sisters of Life through World Youth Day 2008. She graduated from the University of Notre Dame in Sydney, with a bachelor’s in theology. Prior to entering the Sisters of Life, she worked as the chaplaincy convenor for the University of Notre Dame Australia and organized events for young adults in the Archdiocese of Sydney. Sister Mary Grace was missioned to Toronto from 2018-2021, served the evangelization works of the Sisters of Life since 2021 and this coming year will be part of a team for evangelization and retreats in Denver.
Sister Fidelity Grace, 33, was raised in Oakdale, Minnesota, and graduated from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, with a bachelor’s in Catholic Studies and secondary education. Prior to entering the Sisters of Life, she was a middle and high school religion teacher in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. She served at the Generalate Offices of the Sisters of Life, Villa Maria Guadalupe, and St. Anthony’s Convent in Catskill, New York. This coming year, she will assist women and children, born and unborn, at the Holy Respite.
Sister Zélie Maria Louis, 31, was raised in Waterloo, Iowa, and graduated from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul with a bachelor’s in Catholic studies and political science, and a minor in philosophy. Prior to entering the Sisters of Life, she worked in human resources at Assessment Associates International in Wayzata, Minnesota. She was missioned to the Visitation Mission and has served pregnant women at the Holy Respite since 2022.
Sister Ann Immaculée, 30, was raised in Owatonna, Minnesota, and studied philosophy, Catholic studies and business at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul before receiving her liberal arts degree in 2015. She was part of the Sisters of Life’s vocations team from 2018-2022, and in 2022 went to serve at Villa Maria Guadalupe in Stamford. This coming year, she will join the Sisters’ evangelization and retreats mission in Denver.
Sister Catherine Joy Marie, 30, was raised in Stamford, Connecticut, and graduated from Providence College in Providence, Rhode Island, with a bachelor’s in theology and a concentration in biology prior to entering the Sisters of Life. She was missioned to Toronto from 2018 -2021. There she served vulnerable, pregnant women seeking help; young adults desiring to know God’s plan for life and love; those suffering after abortion and searching for hope and healing; and all open to an encounter with the living God through hosted retreats. In fall 2021, she returned to the motherhouse serving in the mission support office and is expected to join the evangelization and retreats team in Denver.