New religious order opens Toronto chapter

  • September 17, 2007

{mosimage}TORONTO - A new religious order has joined the archdiocese of Toronto.

Three Sisters of Life arrived Aug. 27 to open the order’s first Canadian chapter.

“I think that they are a wonderful order,” said Toronto’s Archbishop Thomas Collins. “They are dynamic and filled with a great faith.”

The contemplative/active community was founded in 1991 by the late archbishop of New York Cardinal John O’Connor for the protection and enhancement of human life.

Mother Agnes Mary Donovan, the orders’ superior general, said when she approached Collins about joining the diocese the Sisters were warmly welcomed.

{sidebar id=1} “There are four Canadian Sisters in the Sisters of Life so we felt a certain commitment to the church in Canada because it has been so generous to the Sisters of Life,” said Donovan in a phone interview from Yonkers, N.Y.

Over the coming year the Sisters will live at St. Augustine’s Seminary in the convent formerly housed by the Sisters of St. Martha, familiarizing themselves with the people and agencies within the archdiocese to determine which ministries best suit their needs.

In New York State the order operates a live-in program for pregnant women, hosts healing retreats for women who’ve had an abortion, runs the Dr. Joseph Stanton Human Life Issues Library and directs the New York archdiocesan Family Life/Respect Life office.

In addition to the three traditional vows of poverty, chastity and obedience the Sisters also make a fourth vow to protect and enhance the sacredness of human life.

“We take a fourth vow to advance a sense of the sacredness of human life and protect human life,” said Donovan.

Twelve young women — the eldest 27 — made all four vows on Sept. 1, boosting the order’s number to 61 members from the United States and Canada. Donovan estimated the average age of the Sisters is 35.

It’s no secret why these young women are attracted to the full blue and white habit, said Donovan.

“In a word — the Lord,” she said. “God raises up communities all through the ages to meet the special need of the day and I think those who are young recognize the urgent need of the world to hear the message of the dignity of the human person.”

“We need to mother the whole world into the culture of life,” said 26-year-old Toronto chapter superior Sr. Antoniana Maria Macapagal, S.V., adding she was attracted to the order for its mission to advance the culture of life.

She dedicated herself to protecting the unborn at a National Campus Life Network symposium at St. Augustine’s Seminary eight years ago.

“Our charism seems to be the need for the day. If you look at the attack, it’s not against the doctrine of the Trinity, the attack is on the human person and the dignity of the human person.”

During her work for the order’s vocations’ office Macapagal felt she sensed what young women are generally looking for in a religious order.

“I really felt there was a hunger for authentic religious life and that includes a deep prayer life — Eucharist prayer life, a visible witness in the holy habit and a vibrant community life.

“For me coming (to Toronto) has been a prayer answered,” she added. Originally from Vancouver, she is joined by Sr. Monica Faustina Pollard, 36, from North Carolina and Sr. Mary Clare Cranley, 30, from Texas.

Macapagal committed herself to God during World Youth Day 2000 in Rome. Two years later after completing an environmental science degree at the University of British Columbia she attended World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto right before entering religious life in New York.

Five years to the month since Toronto’s World Youth Day the order has come to the city.

“It’s no mistake,” said Macapagal.

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