NEW YORK, April 27, 2004 ( – The success of New York’s Sisters of Life, a Catholic community of religious sisters founded June 1, 1991 by the late John Cardinal O’Connor, has been recognized and approved by the Vatican. The community has received official approbation as a religious order, a step forward that, if it comes at all, normally comes only after many decades of steady work. The speed of this move shows the high priority of the life issues in Rome.

In July 2003, Edward Cardinal Egan, current archbishop of New York, submitted to the Holy See’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life documents outlining the purpose and governing structure of the community. Approval was granted and Cardinal Egan officially established the Sisters of Life as a religious institute of diocesan right, or diocesan religious order. The sisters, their friends, relatives and benefactors, plus a large contingent of media celebrated with a Mass in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, packed with 1200 people.

The Sisters of Life have also put the lie to the idea that young people are not interested in joining religious communities. The so-called vocations crisis is, for them, a housing crunch as more and more young women join them in their work. Their ministry is counseling, of giving adoption resources to women, of following “a philosophy of non-abandonment.” A woman who needs the sisters has them for as long as they need and want.

Sister Mary Gabriel told that the new status meant that the sisters “can go anywhere” if they are invited to make a new foundation in another diocese. She said, “it means that the Holy See recognizes that this charism (work) is a true gift of the Holy Spirit to the whole world, a true gift to the Church.” One woman who attended the Mass at St. Patrick’s said, “It was inspirational to see how (Cardinal O’Connor’s) wisdom in encouraging the laity, priests and religious to work with the sisters for a culture of life was reflected in today’s huge turnout.”