The Gospel witness of the Sisters of Life reminds us that, amid all the talk of what's wrong with the Church, there is an eternal goodness that will last forever.
I converted to Catholicism 14 years ago. I have never regretted that decision. Quite the opposite: I have cherished it every day.
I'm always conscious of the richness and beauty of the faith. I'm constantly amazed at its seemingly endless depth. I'm thrilled to be part of the Catholic journey. Despite serious medical issues that have occurred since conversion, I feel blessed.
Then, occasionally, something happens that accelerates the love I feel for the Church. It always comes as a surprise ... as it did recently.
On an August Saturday morning in Toronto, I was at St. Michael's Cathedral and Basilica for the perpetual profession of vows of Sister Gaudia Maria Magdalena. She is part of the Sisters of Life, a group I've come to know since their arrival in Toronto in 2007.
The order was founded in 1991 in New York under the guidance of their spiritual father, Cardinal John O'Connor. Their mission is to help women who want to have their babies but who are facing financial and emotional hurdles. They also counsel women who have come to regret their abortions.
To me, they are the epitome of what it means to be pro-life. They are trying to change the world one woman and one baby at a time.
I first met them at a local parish in 2009. What stood out to me was their blue-and-white habits; we rarely see nuns in habits in Toronto. What struck me too was their obvious vitality and love.
I got to know them further after interviewing them for a story for my former newspaper, the National Post. My editors were excited, as the nuns were known to inline skate in Manhattan; I was excited to write about them because I sensed they would have a profound impact on the city.
Over the years, they have become a magnet for our city's Catholics. They created a community of "helpers," those who do everything from donate funds and goods, drive the women to medical appointments, and offer friendship to those who are often poor and alone. Moreover, many of us are part of a prayer community to bolster the sisters and the women they care for.
The sisters are not trying to influence politicians or take part in debates with the "other side" of the abortion issue. Instead, they are stirring up a quiet revolution of action rather than mere talk.
The extent of that community was fully evident on Saturday morning at St. Mike's. Before the service began, hundreds were in the courtyard greeting the sisters and each other. The joy in the air was palpable. It's easy to forget, amid all the talk of what's wrong with the Church, there is an eternal goodness that will outlast all the so-called controversies.
Being at the service was to see Catholicism in all its simple glory.
Between the glorious hymns of the choir, the sweet sounds of babies bounced around the nave. Our new archbishop, Francis Leo, noted it was appropriate that the children chimed in with songs of their own—a kind of unschooled choir and celebration of their little lives.
After all, the point of the Sisters of Life is to help bring the unborn into the world.
The Gospel reading for the service came from the first chapter of Luke. It was perfect for the occasion:
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, 'Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.'
When Sister Gaudia had completed her perpetual profession, she stood facing friends and family. There was a spontaneous round of applause as she hugged each of the sisters one by one and then her parents: The Church was giving one of its daughters completely over to Christ.
For those who were there to witness this miracle, I believe we all felt the pull of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.
For those who say the Church is in trouble, I only wish you could have shared a pew with me at St. Mike's. Your thoughts of troubles would have been washed away and replaced with pure awe.
God bless the good sisters and the good, life-affirming work they do.
Charles Lewis. "Sisters of Life Give Hands and Hearts to a Quiet Revolution of Love." National Catholic Register (September 6, 2023).
© 2023 EWTN News, Inc. Reprinted with permission from the National Catholic Register.
Charles Lewis writes from Toronto.Copyright © 2023 EWTN News, Inc.