Sister Act (Extract)

Two Sisters of Life share about their work supporting mothers and pregnant women who feel that their choices are limited.

(This is an extract from a 2018 episode of CPX’s Life & Faith podcast, where Natasha Moore interviews Sister Mary Grace and Sister Jean Marie, two Sisters of Life. Listen to the full episode here.)

NATASHA MOORE: Here’s what’s different about the Sisters of Life, as compared with other orders of nuns. The fourth vow they take (after the standard poverty, chastity, obedience) is to protect and enhance the sacredness of human life.

This means lots of different things, but they have a focus that – the political term for this is “pro-life”. That term often carries connotations of something judgmental and restrictive, of wanting to control women. And the sisters want to challenge that equation. Here’s Sister Mary Grace.

MARY GRACE: Yes, it’s funny, I was just in line for a bathroom recently, which as you know, us women, we have great conversations in those places, and good things happen. Well, I was in the line for a bathroom and a woman tapped me on the shoulder and she said, “Oh hi Sister, what kind of Sister are you?” and I said, “Oh, I’m a Sister of Life.” And she said, “Ohhhh, I know you.” She said, “You’re the radical, anti-choice nuns.” And I was like wow, okay, not the lightest bathroom conversation, but okay. I said, “Well actually, you know, I’d like to think we’re more known as the radical, pro-woman nuns.” And she wasn’t quite convinced – and a little bit confused at what I had said.

And I said, “You know, it’s often choice that we see women are deprived of. When they find themselves in unexpected pregnancies, a lot of the women will come to us and say I feel like I have no choice, or they’ll go through with an abortion and say I feel like I had no other choice, that that was all I had. And we simply stand in solidarity with women that are in difficult situations, that find themselves pregnant or in un-ideal situations, and we stand with them in their place and say Hey, you can do this. There are resources and support for you. There are other options. You have the courage and the freedom to make a choice, and we’ll be with you, and we’ll help you find a pathway through this fear, so that you can be courageous and make a decision most suitable for you.”

And what we have found is that a lot of women don’t know that. When they turn up to an abortion clinic, they are terrified and scared and often feel like that’s their only option. And we just hope that we can stand with them and say that there is actually another choice, and it’s on offer for you, and we love you and will be with you in it.

NATASHA MOORE: What if they choose the abortion?

MARY GRACE: And many do. Many of the women that we work with do. It’s a sorrow, and we continue to walk with them. And that is another beautiful ministry that we have – a ministry that we’re privileged to walk with women that have suffered the real effects of an abortion. And that’s one of our most beautiful missions because we see the power of God’s mercy and love that is unconditional, that loves a woman back to life, to be able to find joy and healing and new life, where she didn’t think it was possible again.

We are there to be with them, to love them, to let them know of their inherent dignity.

NATASHA MOORE: I asked Sister Jean Marie what that work looks like, practically?

JEAN MARIE: So it could be materially, with diapers, strollers, prams, et cetera. Often they are facing enormous pressure, especially in the culture today, where everyone is telling them, “Oh, you can’t have a baby right now, you haven’t finished school” – and all these pressures, you know, even from the father of the baby, from their own family, to basically end the life of the baby. And we are there to be with them, to love them, to let them know of their inherent dignity, that they are loved and that they can love.

Cover image: Jeffrey Bruno, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.