the Sisters of Life, a small order of nuns celebrating its 20th anniversary this summer. The sisters take traditional vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, but they also take a fourth vow "to protect and enhance the sacredness of human life." According to Archbishop Timothy Dolan, once the sisters connect with unwed pregnant women in need, "the battle is half over."The sisters are the hands and feet of Christ as they care for women in crisis:
There the women can stay as long as six months prior to giving birth and up to a year afterward, some holding down jobs, others studying. Meanwhile the sisters go about their lives of prayer, contemplation and occasional rollerblading. The nuns "rely on providence" – i.e., donations – for food, baby clothing and strollers. They excel at recruiting "Josephs" for heavier household chores. "Our motto is that no man leaves without doing us a favor," says Sister Rita Marie, the local convent superior.
The rooms are spartan and lights go out at 9 p.m. Following Cardinal O'Connor's vision, the nuns take a healing approach. They don't keep records of who is Catholic and who isn't, they don't try to convert anyone or arrange a baptism unless asked, and they don't even require that the women pray.
Since the first guest arrived in 1998, 150 babies have been born at the convent. The sisters take heart in "the beauty of a mother coming to the understanding of the dignity of her calling and how that gives life back to her," Sister Rita Marie explains.
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