It Began With a ‘Help Wanted’ Column

Sisters of Life Offer Tribute to Catholic New York


On Nov. 2, 1989, Cardinal John O’Connor penned an unforgettable headline for his weekly column in Catholic New York: “Help Wanted: Sisters of Life.” This small seed planted 33 years ago has grown into a thriving community of 130 Sisters, established in 10 cities. It's hard to imagine how the Cardinal’s dream for the Sisters of Life would have come to fruition without the support of Catholic New York. 

Catholic New York was the instrument God’s Providence ordained for Cardinal O’Connor to share with the world what had long been on his heart: the founding of the Sisters of Life. Since before the community’s foundation, Catholic New York has been a steady support to the Cardinal and to our community.

During Cardinal O’Connor’s lifetime, Catholic New York published his weekly columns and homilies, faithfully sharing the Gospel of Life in print. Catholic New York also captured the last moments of Cardinal O’Connor’s life and his dying wish. Days before he entered eternal life, his niece Eileen visited him and Cardinal O’Connor begged her to relay a message for him. Eileen turned to Catholic New York who again shared the Cardinal’s message: “Tell the people this, I want to remind the people that we must be kind to each other, we must be gentle. Our world moves so fast but we must never forget that love is truly the only thing that matters. I do not know why my life led me to any sort of prominence. I am not special. I am only an ordinary man. 

“But if my position now permits me to be heard in some way, I want to spend the rest of my life devoted only to love, to doing good, to being prayerful. And we must never forget that we must help each other. We must all spend our lives in love. Please tell the people this." 

The Sisters of Life attempt to embody this vision—to love each person made in the image of God and to proclaim the truth of the dignity of every human life— specifically through our prayer, our service to vulnerable pregnant women and their children, retreats, evangelization on human life and love, and a mission of hope and healing for women who have suffered after abortion. For more than three decades, Catholic New York has helped further the mission of the Sisters of Life by covering numerous stories about our community, including the profession of vows, trips to the March for Life, the community’s formal approbation as a religious institute, the discovery of Cardinal O’Connor’s Jewish roots and the community’s 25th anniversary. Mother Agnes Mary Donovan, S.V., superior general of the Sisters of Life, said, “I am immensely grateful to John Woods and his staff who have consistently provided intelligent and insightful reporting on the Church and the world. Catholic New York has faithfully shared the Gospel of Life.”  

In recent years, as the Sisters work to chronicle the life of Cardinal O’Connor, and to annually honor his life and legacy on May 3, the anniversary of his death, Catholic New York has graciously allowed the Sisters to research its highly organized archival files for stories and photographs. Chris Sheridan’s outstanding photography of Cardinal O’Connor published in Catholic New York has helped the new members of the community to see the face of their spiritual father and founder. 

In this last issue of Catholic New York, the Sisters of Life wish to thank the professional staff of Catholic New York for more than three decades of generous support. Catholic New York has faithfully shared the Gospel of Life with thousands of hearts, and we know that their contribution to the Church and the world will last into eternity.

As a final, poignant nod to the providential role of the Catholic New York in the founding of the Sisters of Life, and in hopes to aid our current work of writing an official biography of Cardinal O’Connor, we invite anyone who has stories or memories of Cardinal O’Connor to please mail them to: Annunciation Motherhouse, Attn: Sister Maris Stella, S.V., 38 Montebello Road, Suffern, NY, 10901.