Eleven women profess first vows as Sisters of Life

STAMFORD—Eleven women with backgrounds in medicine, engineering, fashion, nutritional health, marketing and theology, shared a common bond Sunday when they professed their first vows of poverty, chastity, obedience and to protect and enhance the sacredness of human life as Sisters of Life.

After two years in the novitiate in Suffern, NY, they chose to leave behind what the world offers to give their whole lives to God.

Several hundred people filled the Church of the Holy Spirit for the Mass of Profession, celebrated by Bishop Richard G. Henning, auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, NY, who said, “This is a most privileged moment to be with you here today as you offer yourselves in love and trust to God through Our Lord Jesus Christ. It is a beautiful gift to all of us and to the Church.”

He told them, “There are few in our culture that will really understand the nature of the gift you give today to the Church and for others. Even within the Church, we struggle to live this mystery of grace and to respond fully to the calling and give ourselves completely in love and trust.”

During his homily, Bishop Henning told them they live in extraordinarily difficult times with opposition from without and division within the Church, and said, “I hope and pray that your devotion to the Eucharist and your participation in the Eucharist will bring from your heart the same love you feel today for the Lord, the same response, the same commitment.” He urged them to be like chalices, “vessels set aside for the things of God and only for the things of God.”

As a sign of their religious consecration, each Sister received a silver medal of the Institute’s patroness, the Madonna of the Streets, and a blue band to be worn across the front of the veil.

At the conclusion, Bishop Henning thanked the families, the Sisters and Mother Agnes Mary Donovan, the superior general, and said, “You have guided them, informed them and inspired them and helped them to respond so beautifully to the call of the Lord….God bless the work you do.”

Commenting on the 11 women who professed their first vows, Mother Agnes, who was one of the five founding Sisters with the late Cardinal John O’Connor, said, “With each one of these 11 today, it is an action of God. There is no other explanation. We have an abundant God … and he still talks to the young.”

Mother Agnes, who has been a Sister of Life since 1991, has called it “an adventure with God” and recalled Cardinal O’Connor’s commitment to the order, which was his vision. She had been a psychology professor teaching graduate students at Columbia University’s Teachers College when she heard Cardinal O’Connor preach at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. He mentioned his desire to form a religious order dedicated to protecting and enhancing the sacredness of human life. And she followed the call.

Sister Mary Gabriel, the novice director, has accompanied the newly professed Sisters during their time in the novitiate, integrating them into the religious life so their vocations are confirmed and each has a deep sense of her identity as a daughter and spouse of Christ.

“I see Jesus and the Holy Spirit walking through the hallways of these women’s minds and hearts,” she said. “It convinces me so deeply how much he desires that every single person knows his love and that he has a personal investment in every single detail of their lives. We are never alone and we can trust him completely. I can see that transformation so powerfully in these women … that is how God works.”

The Sisters of Life operate the Villa Maria Guadalupe Retreat Center in Stamford in cooperation with the Knights of Columbus. Their foundational belief is: “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.”

“I find myself really inspired by the women who are professing,” Sister Mary Gabriel said. “The quality of their hearts and their love and their integrity is so impressive that it inspires me and gives me hope. It is important for the Church to know during a necessary time of cleansing that the Lord is at work and calling people — and really beautiful young and capable women.”

At the conclusion of the Mass, Mother Agnes called each Sister forward and announced their first missions. Those professing their vows were:

Sr. Luca Benedict, 35, graduated from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey School of Osteopathic Medicine and completed her residency in internal medicine at the New Jersey Medical School with a fellowship in Hospice and Palliative Medicine at Montefiore Health System.  She is the daughter of Peter and Judy Furka of Secaucus, NJ.  Her twin sister, Sr. Pia Jude, recently renewed her vows as a Sister of Life and serves in the Respect Life Office of the Archdiocese of New York.

Sr. Tirzah Mariae, 31, graduated from the University of Louisiana with a bachelor’s degree in fashion design. She is the daughter of Alex and Catherine Taylor of Grand Coteau, LA. Her sister is Iris Taylor. Prior to entering the Sisters of Life, she worked in New York City in the fashion industry and designed costumes for Broadway plays.

Sr. Cora Caeli, 29, received her undergraduate degree from Marywood University in Scranton, PA, and completed graduate studies at the Institute of Pastoral Theology in the Diocese of Madison, WI (a program through Ave Maria University). She is the daughter of Deacon John and Nancy Dunn of Pleasant Valley, NY. Her siblings are Joseph (wife, Yeo) Dunn; Jeanette (Francis) Seichepine; and Mary Ellen (Erik) Mason. Prior to entering the Sisters of Life, she served Catholic youth at Camp Gray in Madison, WI.

Sr. Mary Catherine, 29, graduated from SUNY College at Brockport in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in recreation therapy, and worked in a nursing home and as a FOCUS missionary prior to entering the Sisters of Life. She is the daughter of Sean and Alice Brown of Brewerton, NY. She has an older sister, Jennifer Brown.

Sr. Madeleine Agnes, 29, graduated from Seattle Pacific University with a bachelor’s degree in food and nutritional sciences, and a master’s in dietetics from the University of Vermont. She is the daughter of Randal and Angela Russell of Edmonds, WA. Her siblings are Hannah Russell, Claire Russell, Raphael Russell, Grace Russell, and Luke (wife, Mika) Russell. Prior to entering the Sisters of Life, she worked in dietetics in Vermont and as a FOCUS missionary.

Sr. Lumen Gloriae, 28, received a bachelor of science in mechanical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, MA. She is the daughter of James and Christine Foley of Blair, NE. Her younger siblings are Patricia and James Foley. She was a FOCUS missionary prior to entering the Sisters of Life.

Sr. Martha Maria Guadalupe, 28, received a bachelor’s degree in theology and Spanish from Benedictine College in Atchison, KS. She is the daughter of Robley and Joan Evans of Mendota Heights, MN. Her siblings are Sr. Mary Joseph, ACJ; Paul (wife, Leah) Evans; and Theresa, Philip, and Anna Evans. She was a FOCUS missionary prior to entering the Sisters of Life.

Sr. Desirae Purissima, 27, attended the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, SD, earning a bachelor’s in education in secondary math education. She is the daughter of Scot and JoEllen Wieseler of Orient, SD.  Her younger brothers are Robin and Darin. She was a FOCUS missionary prior to entering the Sisters of Life.

Sr. Charity, 26, received a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Carleton University, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. She is the daughter of Andrew and Eileen Brown of Orillia, Ontario; her siblings are Hailey Krol (husband, Andrew Krol), Shannon Theoret (husband, Louidgie Theoret), and Matthew Brown. She was a Totus Tuus missionary prior to entering the Sisters of Life.

Sr. Gloria Maria, 26, graduated from Northeastern University Electrical and Computer Engineering prior to entering the Sisters of Life. She is the daughter of Nicholas and Carol Bezreh of Needham, MA; her siblings are Nicole and Chris (wife, Sandy) Bezreh.

Sr. Juliana Faustina, 24, received a degree in accounting from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX. She is the daughter of Paul and Gloria Martin of Plano, TX Her siblings are Kevin and Stephanie Martin.  Prior to entering religious life, Sr. Juliana Faustina worked in marketing for BirthChoice in Dallas the summer before entering the Sisters of Life.