Sisters of Life nuns attend CCO's Rise Up young adults conference. The Sisters of Life recently marked 10 years in Toronto, one of two 10-year anniversaries Fr. de Souza shared with organizations near and dear to him over recent weeks. Register file photo

Sisters of Life and Catholic Christian Outreach celebrate decade of service

  • October 30, 2017
Anniversaries of importance for the universal Church have abounded this year — 500 years since the Reformation, 100 years since Fatima, 25 years since the Catechism of the Catholic Church. For me though, two more modest anniversaries — 10 years — were celebrated this past fortnight.

On Oct. 18 in Kingston we celebrated 10 years of the ministry of Catholic Christian Outreach (CCO) in Kingston. And on Oct. 21 at St. Peter’s at Bathurst and Bloor in Toronto, the Sisters of Life (SV, Sorores Vitae) had a special holy hour — two hours, actually — to mark their 10 years in Canada.

The anniversaries are not of global importance, but they are most important in the Church in Canada. CCO’s evangelical work on campus is one of the brightest lights of the Church in Canada, which is why I am delighted to have them work with me at Queen’s University and to serve on its national board of directors.

As for the Sisters of Life, everyone who meets them thinks that they just might be the most marvellous thing in the Church, bringing the joyful face of religious life to those parts of the culture that are most in need of God’s light. My own sister, Sr. John Mary, joined the SVs in 2005 and since 2013 has been at the convent and mission in Toronto. My priestly life, therefore, has been immeasurably enriched by both CCO and the SVs.

CCO was founded in 1988 by Andre and Angèle Regnier in Saskatoon, but I first encountered it in 2004. Soon after I urged the Archbishop of Kingston to invite them to work in our archdiocese, and in September 2007 they began the work of evangelization on campus. Ten years later we celebrated all the souls converted by their work, and the renewal they have led on campus, in our cathedral parish and in our archdiocese.

CCO marks its foundation on Oct. 18, the feast of St. Luke. The Gospel for that feast speaks about Jesus sending out His disciples, instructing them not to rely on their own provisions for the mission, but the generosity of those to whom they are sent. Providence will provide! Given that CCO missionaries fundraise their entire salaries by doing the hard work of inviting individuals to make monthly donations, that passage seemed especially fitting.

As we thanked our supporters, I told them that they too were part of God’s providence. Jesus sends out His disciples on mission, and the success of the mission depends — by Jesus’ own design — on the benefactors the missionaries meet along the way.

Jesus sends His missionaries that people might be prepared to encounter Him. The missionaries depend on the provision of others. That same reality is being lived today, and to witness that the Gospel has not lost its power is an occasion for thanksgiving indeed.

The Sisters of Life arrived in Toronto in August 2007. Actually, they first crossed the border and spent their first night in my parish of Wolfe Island, a blessed moment in the history of Sacred Heart of Mary parish. Since their arrival, the SVs have developed a presence that has touched tens of thousands in the archdiocese, far beyond the specific mission of serving expectant mothers in need. For example, evenings of eucharistic adoration began three years ago, as a way, Sr. John Mary said, of “praying with the extended family of the Sisters of Life.”

I would claim to be in the “immediate” family of the SVs, thanks to my sister. One way that I know how many people the SVs have touched in Toronto is that I am often asked when I visit the city, “Are you Sr. John Mary’s brother?”

I am very proud to be identified that way in Toronto. After all, most Catholics love their priests, but all Catholics love the Sisters!

In her reflection for the holy hour(s) of thanksgiving, my sister spoke of their charism and the “bold claim” of their constitutions: “The Sisters of Life embody the Church’s response to ‘culture of death’, ” Sr. John Mary said. “We proclaim that life is good.”

Yes, life is good. God is good, and His goodness to me has been particularly manifest in the families — for spiritual families are real families — He has given to me. I have quite an enormous number of “sisters-in-life” in Sr. John Mary’s fellow sisters, and a very large number of spiritual sons and daughters through the ministry of CCO. The Bride of Christ is a most fruitful mother.

Every anniversary is a reminder that God has acted in the past and an invitation to trust that His action is also now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen!

(Fr. de Souza is the editor-in-chief of and a pastor in the archdiocese of Kingston.)

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