STAMFORD—Hundreds of faithful filled the Basilica of St. John the Evangelist in celebration as three Sisters of Life professed their final vows in what Cardinal Timothy Dolan called a true act of sacrificial love for Jesus and his Church.
New York Cardinal Dolan celebrated the Mass of Perpetual Profession on the Feast of the Transfiguration, when the sisters professed their final vows of poverty, chastity, obedience and to protect and enhance the sacredness of human life as Sisters of Life.
“We are at our best, we are living precisely as God intends, when we give ourselves away in love at the cost of sacrifice to another,” Cardinal Dolan said. “That happens when Dad walks his daughter down the aisle and gives her away to her husband in marriage. That happens when a man falls to the floor in the sanctuary to give himself away as he rises in holy ordination. That happens when a husband and wife completely give themselves away to each other when a new life is conceived. And that happens as these three young women give themselves away to Jesus and his Church in perpetual consecration.”
During the Mass, the women professed their final vows to Mother Agnes Mary Donovan, superior general of the congregation and one of the founding sisters with the late Cardinal John O’Connor. Two days before, Mother Agnes had presided over the profession of first vows of 11 women, who had completed two years at the novitiate in Suffern, NY.
After their profession, each sister received a simple silver ring as a sign of her permanent commitment to Christ, her one true Spouse. As the Cardinal placed it on each woman’s finger, he said, “Receive this ring, for you are betrothed to the eternal King; keep faith with your Bridegroom so that you may come to the wedding feast of eternal joy.”
The Cardinal praised Mother Agnes and the Sisters for their work and called attention to the founding five Sisters present, who with Cardinal O’Connor established the congregation, which is dedicated to the protection and enhancement of the sacredness of human life. He also congratulated the 11 women who had professed their first vows.
“This profession, this solemn liturgy is a real highlight of the year,” he said. “We continue to thank Almighty God for the charism of the Sisters of Life.”
Cardinal Dolan also expressed gratitude to the parents for “giving your daughters to Jesus.” He recalled how in May 1976 as he was leaving Rome for the United States to be ordained, he met then Pope Paul VI, who gave him two rosaries for his parents. And the Pope said, “Would you give these to your mom and dad and tell them the Pope thanks them for giving their son to the Church.”
“Dad had his rosary in his casket when he died,” the Cardinal said. “And Mom still has the rosary in her purse, right on top of her lottery ticket.” (Although in 42 years, she still hasn’t won, he said.)
Mother Agnes expressed her gratitude to the many people who contributed to the occasion and also acknowledged the families of the Sisters and concluded by saying, “To our Sisters who professed their vows today, we know you have encountered the holy God. We have witnessed you growing over the years. … We are blessed to have you and look forward to a long life together.”
After the Mass, many people came to wish Mother Agnes well and congratulate her as she stood outside the basilica.
“Today is a revelation that God is alive,” she said. “It is revelation of the glory of God. Look at these young women who could do anything with their lives. They are very competent young women, and God chose them. By his grace they heard and here they are today to bring glory to him. He calls them because he wishes to bring them joy. That is what the Church says. It is the second purpose of religious life. The first is for the glory to God … and the second is for the joy of the one chosen.”
Photos by Photos by the Sisters of Life
The Sisters who professed their final vows were:
Sr. Mary Margaret Hope, SV, 32, was raised in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. She received her bachelor’s degree in astrophysics from Queen’s University, Kingston, ON in 2008; her master’s degree in astronomy from Harvard University in Cambridge, MA, in 2010. Prior to entering the Sisters of Life, she was pursuing a Ph.D. in astronomy at Harvard and studying magnetic activity in very cool dwarf stars. She is the daughter of Reginald and Mary McLean of Toronto. Her older brother is Joseph McLean (married to Aidan). She has served in the outreach and spiritual accompaniment of college students in Colorado, and in the Visitation Mission in New York to explore life-giving options and provide resources and practical support to women experiencing unexpected pregnancies or adverse prenatal diagnoses.
Sr. Josephine Rose, SV, 32, was raised in Vermont, where she attended St. Ann’s parish in Milton. She graduated from St. Michael’s College in Colchester, VT, with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and religious studies. Prior to entering the Sisters of Life, she was director of Joseph’s House, a community outreach program for the parish of St. Joseph. She later worked for the Diocese of Burlington in Human Resources. She is the daughter of Steve and Lori Daudelin. Her younger brother is Christopher (wife, Megan) Daudelin. Sr. Josephine Rose has served in novice formation at the motherhouse; in the accompaniment of women facing a crisis pregnancy through the Visitation Mission in Toronto, and assisting in retreats and evangelization in Canada and at the Villa Maria Guadalupe Retreat Center in Stamford.
Sr. Faith Marie, SV, 31, was raised in Illinois. She received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, and was pursuing a doctorate in pharmacy at the University of Illinois in Chicago, prior to entering the Sisters of Life. She is the daughter of Ned and Gail Zerwic and the oldest of five siblings: Ned Zerwic, Jr., Timothy, Mary Beth, and Melissa Zerwic. She has served in the Generalate Mission at the motherhouse, and most recently in the New York City Visitation Mission, through which she accompanies women whose pregnancies have created a crisis in their lives, seeking to bring them the spiritual, emotional, and temporal support they need to choose life for themselves and their children.