The Sisters of Life’s new Holy Hours introduce Catholics and non-believers to Christ

4 mins read
Sisters of Life
Sister Mary Grace holds a baby as she and others participate in the 2023 March for Life. Courtesy photo

After a rough day, Kyle dragged himself to Holy Hour at a religious sister’s invitation. Remaining just inside the door, he looked up and — seeing the Eucharist — stood motionless. He wasn’t alone; Sister Mary Grace of the Sisters of Life stood beside him.

He stayed in that position until the end of the night, when he finally sat down. As Sister Mary Grace saw the tears pouring from his eyes, she reassured him, saying, “I don’t know what you’re going through, but I know God loves you infinitely.”

“I know,” he responded, struggling to speak more. “Now I know.”

Kyle’s story is one of several that Sister Mary Grace shared with Our Sunday Visitor. His encounter with God came during a new Holy Hour organized by her order — a community of Catholic religious women dedicated to promoting the inherent dignity and worth of every human person — called “The Source.”

Read more Spring 2023 Vocation stories here.

The sisters welcome Catholics and non-Catholics alike to be with Jesus in the holy Eucharist, whom they recognize as “the source and summit of our faith,” during their Holy Hour with music. It’s an event, as Sister Mary Grace described, “open to every human heart that is willing to come and see.”

These Holy Hours take place in the cities where the sisters are located: Denver, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Washington, D.C., Toronto and Catskill, New York.. The Holy Hour began in New York City, where the late Cardinal John O’Connor founded the Sisters of Life in 1991. Together, the sisters profess four vows: poverty, chastity, obedience and “to protect and enhance the sacredness of human life.”

Among other things, this means that the sisters dedicate their lives to God by serving women vulnerable to abortion, providing life-affirming support to pregnant and parenting women in need, hosting retreats, evangelizing, performing college-student outreach and offering help to women who suffer after abortion.

And, now, they also host Holy Hours.

Encounter with God

The event, Sister Mary Grace said, has only grown since it started in New York a few years ago. In October 2022, the sisters even began hosting it “on one of the busiest streets in the world” — at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Midtown Manhattan.

“The Source is a chance for people to allow the presence of Christ in the Eucharist [to] intervene in their lives,” Sister Mary Grace described. “When we open our hearts to Christ, he moves in mighty ways, sometimes obviously, other times hidden, but he always comes.”

This opportunity draws an assortment of people who pack the pews: devout Catholics, lapsed Catholics, first-timers, and even non-believers, she said.

Sisters of Life
Eucharistic adoration is crucial for the Sisters of Life.

“We’ve witnessed Christ’s eagerness to encounter every human heart no matter what state we find ourselves in!” Sister Mary Grace said. “There is no expectation or requirement to join us, only a willingness to enter a beautiful church, and as we pray, we see God bless each heart in a particular and personal way.”

Along the way, she has seen firsthand how it changes people. She met one young man who was on his way to a strip club when he received an invitation to stop and pray.

“Surprised he was welcomed having just admitted his addiction, he asked, ‘Do you still see good in me?'” Sister Mary Grace remembered. She told him in response: “Yes, Rodney — I still see the good in you, and so does God.” He stayed.

She also told the story of a girl from China who arrived and sat in front of the Eucharist before asking, “Who is God?” Sister Mary Grace explained that he was present — right there, in the Eucharist — and handed her the Litany of Trust to pray. When the girl asked if she should pray it out loud, Mary Grace encouraged, “Yes, but also in your heart.”

The girl read it quietly, closed her eyes, and, after a brief moment, turned to Sister Mary Grace in tears. “I can hear my heart speaking!” she exclaimed.

God’s idea

These Holy Hours, Sister Mary Grace said, coincide with the National Eucharistic Revival, a movement to inspire others to encounter and know Jesus in the Eucharist.

“It’s been amazing to see the Holy Spirit inspire this event and move through it by revealing to individual hearts his unconditional love and infinite mercy to them,” she said.

“We could never have planned this to coincide with the National [Eucharistic] Revival, and the timing was all his idea,” she said. “He’s always about a revival, and it has been evident to us that he wanted this more and has been preparing it way before we got involved!”

On their website, the Sisters of Life, who spend four hours each day in common prayer centered around the Eucharist, remind the faithful that “prayer is not about doing something. It’s about being with Someone — God Himself.”

“Every human person is made for a unique love and communion with God and others,” they teach. “Jesus wants you to be with him, but not for anything you can do — just because you are you, and he loves you.”

The sisters infuse this truth into their Holy Hours, where, Sister Mary Grace said, the sisters sing Eucharistic hymns and original pieces that they have written “that help lead hearts into prayer and adoration.”

Sisters of Life
Sisters of Life share their joy in public.

Originally from Sydney, Australia, Sister Mary Grace now lives at the St. Frances de Chantal Convent in Bronx, New York. Eucharistic adoration, she revealed, changed her own life — and impacted her vocation.

“This was not my bright idea, and I never thought my life would look like this!” she stressed. “But when I encountered sisters alive and in love with Jesus, it awoke the desire in me I never knew was there.”

“After many years of hesitation, I finally visited the sisters in New York, and that’s when God planned a moment in Eucharist adoration when he revealed to me my own desire to belong to him and his desire for me to belong to him as a Sister of Life,” she remembered. “I never felt more free in my life than in that moment and I took one small step after another toward his voice.”

His love, she said, still continues to astound her.

“After 10 years since entering the convent,” she concluded, “he continues to draw me deeper into his love and I feel more alive every day.

Katie Yoder is a contributing editor for Our Sunday Visitor.

Katie Yoder

Katie Yoder is a contributing editor for Our Sunday Visitor.