Cardinal Thomas Collins cuts the ribbon to open the new Sisters of Life Centre adjacent to St. Peter’s Church in downtown Toronto as members of the Sisters of Life look on. Photo by Michael Corpus

Toronto's Sisters of Life move into ‘spiritual hub’

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  • September 20, 2018

The Toronto Sisters of Life are opening up a new chapter in their ministry in the heart of the city.

The Sisters of Life Centre has moved downtown to St. Peter’s Church in the Bathurst and Bloor area after nine years along the Danforth in the city’s east end. They will share the facility with the parish, a space that underwent two years of renovations after the Paulist order of priests uprooted from St. Peter’s to return to the United States in 2015.

The sisters and the parish hosted an open house on Sept. 15 with Cardinal Thomas Collins on hand to bless the building.

“We’re so grateful to Cardinal Collins and the archdiocese for providing us a base for our ministry,” said Sr. John Mary, Superior General of the Toronto order. 

The Sisters of Life was founded in New York in 1991 and came to Toronto in 2007. Its main ministry is to assist vulnerable pregnant women from across the GTA. The sisters run a “mosaic of ministries” to further the pro-life cause and the new location, Sr. John Mary says, will make them that much more visible in the community and give the sisters the downtown advantage.

“At St. Peter’s we’re in the heart of downtown and it’s such a hub of activity,” she said.

 “We really believe St. Peter’s is so well-situated. It’s accessible, it’s in a part of downtown where we’re a very visible, spiritual presence and public witness, so we’re very excited that it will become a spiritual hub.” 

It’s not that the sisters weren’t visible, first when they were located at St. Augustine’s Seminary in Scaborough before moving to the Danforth, where they were based at St. Catherine of Siena Church. The sisters were well-known in the community and stood out in their traditional blue and white habits. But the parish itself was closed and moving downtown to an open parish should enhance their ministry, said Sr. John Mary.

“This is a functioning, open parish right downtown. With the co-operation of Fr. Mike (McGourty, St. Peter’s pastor) there’s an opportunity for a lot of collaboration with the parish community.”

It also places the sisters close to two of Toronto’s biggest post-secondary campuses, the University of Toronto and Ryerson University, where they hope to collaborate more closely with Catholic campus ministries.

“It’s a natural collaboration with young adults,” said Sr. John Mary.

There are seven sisters working out of the centre, but there is room to expand for the growing community. Sr. John Mary said the new centre can accommodate another three to five sisters in its working space.

The sisters will host a variety of events, including monthly holy hours, women’s gatherings and faith formation programs for laity. It’s all part of getting that foundational message out that life is good, she said.’

“It’s a message that people need to hear and …. what the culture tells them makes them doubt that truth. We see St. Peter’s, the physical location and the spiritual reality of such a new centre, that’s a message we will be able to share with the city and the culture,” she said.

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