In the crypt beneath St Mary’s Cathedral, the silence of adoration is broken by the sudden, shocking rumble of scattering chairs and echoed gasps. A woman has fainted.

From the back of the chapel, Sr Marie Veritas SV, from the touring Sisters of Life, springs into action, offering water and comfort. In her arms, the woman comes to, and peace is restored. The Sisters of Life, consecrated for the protection of human life, aren’t just talk.

“We are spiritual mothers. Every human person is given to us in a special way to care for—especially as the Sisters of Life. So, it’s a gift to have helped her,” says Sr Marie Veritas, when I mentioned the incident to her. It’s no wonder the first night of their 2024 Sydney tour was a sell-out.

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“Every time they have come out, they have made a huge impact within the Archdiocese of Sydney,” said Natalie Ambrose, from the Archdiocese of Sydney University Chaplaincies, organiser of the tour.

Sr Marie Veritas began the night with an instalment of the St Mary’s Cathedral adoration and catechesis series City Compass: “Let Love Show You Who You Are.”

“We need to touch the goodness of God. That’s what we are made for—union with God,” she told the hushed crowd.

Sr Marie Veritas speaks at City Compass about how Catholics can ‘touch the goodness of God.’ Photo: Alphonsus Fok/The Catholic Weekly

With equal parts humour and grace, Sr Marie Veritas charmed her audience with the story of her vocational journey as a Sister of Life, weaving it into her talk’s theme: how to “unify yourself with God” and “let him save you and love you.”

Sr Marie related a story of an encounter she had while shopping at Costco after Ash Wednesday Mass.

“Here I was, in the nut section, when a lady walks up to her and wipes the ashes off my forehead and walks away! I thought, ‘You’re welcome?!’ But my ashes spoke truth to that lady,” Sr Marie Veritas said. Rather than be angry, she applauded the woman’s boldness: “She wanted that. So, she took it!”

She challenged the crowd of 120 young adults to seek that truth, to touch the goodness of God and reach for that union, at all costs.

The second part of the night saw the young attendees move into the St Mary’s Cathedral College Hall for the latest Bishop’s Blend, the long-running young professionals’ initiative by Bishop Richard Umbers. This time the four sisters joined the crowd for dinner and a Q&A session.

Sr Mary Grace SV, originally from Sydney, fellow Aussie Sr Rose Patrick, Sr Miriam Bethel and Sr Marie Veritas, shared the challenges of pro-life mission on university campuses throughout the US—a ministry made easier with doughnuts, said Sr Mary Grace SV.

“Very few turned away from the offer of free doughnuts!” she joked, suggesting they arm themselves with meat pies on Sydney’s university campuses.

Mixing laughter with serious discussions, the sisters didn’t shy away speaking to the suffering caused by abortion and the sense of loss and abandonment felt by women who have terminated a pregnancy. For many, this was the affirmation they came to hear.

Sr Mary Grace SV with Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP. Photo: Alphonsus Fok/The Catholic Weekly

“It was insightful, because there’s propaganda and media that states a lot of things about allowing abortion,” said Marina Kassab, 22, from Bankstown. “But it’s important to see there are other options, that there’s a big support network if you just are given the opportunity to find them.”

Melissa Donnelly, a 27-year-old from Gymea, said it was “so inspiring to see such women committed to their faith. They are so real and so relatable.”

The men in the room were also challenged to step up in the pro-life movement, and not to leave it all to women. Good men are integral in the fight against abortion, they said. If men treated women well, it would help in stemming the tide of women seeking such a procedure.

Matthew Powell, a town planning consultant from Bondi, appreciated their framing of abortion as a healing issue, rather than a political one. “It was about having that empathy to bring out what’s good within. To teach them about the alternatives. We have a role to play in sharing the love of God with people and allowing them to be a better person,” he said.

Young IT professional Paul Limbers appreciated the American vigour they bring to their mission. “I think sometimes us Aussies, are too laid back. We have pride in our kind of laid-back nature,” he said. “But sometimes I think we need to be more confident in not being afraid to preach that pro-life message specifically—a bit more passionately, if you like.”

Fr Benjamin Saliba processes through the St Mary’s Cathedral crypt with the Blessed Sacrament at City Compass. Photo: Alphonsus Fok/The Catholic Weekly

Sr Mary Grace felt blessed by the turnout in her hometown. “It was incredible! Such a gift. Hearts are hungry for truth. And it’s a gift for us to come here and just see how open Sydneysiders are to learn more. It inspires me!”

The night also featured musical interludes by the “fab four,” who blessed the crowd with one of the songs from their extensive repertoire.

“It’s a gift to go on a mission together. That’s the most thrilling thing about it. That God doesn’t want us to do it alone,” Sr Mary Grace said. “There’s so much joy and new life in doing things together. We wouldn’t have it any other way.”

The Sisters of Life are touring Sydney at the invitation of the Archdiocese of Sydney’s University Chaplaincies until 24 April.

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