Ask almost any Denver Catholic why this archdiocese contains so many powerhouse ministries and disciples, and you will hear the same answer repeated: Pope Saint John Paul II came here for World Youth Day. The theme of his 1993 visit was John 10:10– “I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly.” Amongst the hundreds of thousands who came to see him was Cardinal John J. O’Connor, who had just founded a fledgling group of religious sisters called the Sisters of Life, and a 17-year-old teenager from Maine. Now, in the wake of another pope’s visit to the US, the Sister of Life have arrived in Denver, and that teenager is their local superior.
The Sister of Life were founded on June 1, 1991. In addition to the traditional religious vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, the Sisters of Life take a fourth vow to protect and enhance the sacredness of human life. They are a contemplative-active community, spending about four and half hours a day in prayer, and the rest in serving mothers in crisis pregnancies, post-abortive parents, and running retreat houses.
However, their mission in Denver is going to be a little different. Although Archbishop Aquila has expressed interest in having the Sisters join his diocese since he was in Fargo, it was only this year that the sisters decided to move west.
“We were discerning as a community where to go next. The Holy Spirit then inspired Curtis Martin to invite us into a partnership with FOCUS (the Fellowship of Catholic University Students),” Sister Mary Concepta, SV said.
The sisters will work with college students at CU Boulder, CSU, and UNC. They will also occasionally work with Colorado school of mines.
“We’ll spend on week each month at each of the campuses,” said Sister Maris Stella, SV. “Our desire is to bring them a charism of life. We want them to know that their lives are something sacred, beautiful and good. We also know that young women in college are especially vulnerable to the abortion industry.”
“We want to form relationships with them and be a witness,” said Sister Mary Concepta.
Unlike their other missions, the Denver sisters will not operate a crisis pregnancy shelter. Instead, they will be focused on full-time evangelization to college students. However, they ask that the people of Denver pray for their mission to expand.
“We want the people of Denver to know that we’re praying for them. We expect the Holy Spirit will develop this mission, even in ways we could never expect. Please pray that we remain docile to the Spirit’s instructions on how to grow the charism of life in this archdiocese,” Sister Maris Stella said.
Meet the sisters
Sister Mary Concepta, SV
Sister Mary Concepta is the local superior for the order. She first came into contact with the Sisters of Life through a college friend who became unexpectedly pregranat, and who recieved help from the sisters of life.
“Her life had been so transformed by the sisters, that when I was open to religious life, I was naturally drawn to them,” Sister Concepta said.
She said that she has been overwhelmed by the generosity of the faithful in Denver, who have provided everything the sisters needed “down to the last spatula.” She also says she marvels that so many years after hearing Pope Saint John Paul II speak at World Youth Day, she is now tasked with bringing the charism of life to Denver.
“It’s beyond what I could have imagined God doing in my life,” Sister Mary Concepta said.
Sister Maris Stella, SV
Sister Maris Stella graduated from the Naval Academy and was stationed in Naples. It was there that she first heard about the Sisters of Life, from seminarians. When she came back to the United States, she decided to look them up.
“I was kind of hesitant to visit, because I couldn’t believe they existed in the world. It was a discovery of my own heart, discovering them, because the seed of the charism of life was already there within me,” Sister Maris Stella said.
She said she is also thrilled to be in Denver.
“It’s a new adventure. The spirit is definitely at work. I hope we can be docile instruments,” Sister Maris Stella said.
Sister Maria Anne Michela
Sister Maria Anne Michela was studying for her graduate degree in biochemistry at the University of Madison-Wisconsin when decided to answer the call to religious life.
“I had though about a vocation for years. I’ve heard people compare vocations to a dripping faucet–gentle, yet persistent,” Sister Maria Anne Michela said.
She prayed about Peter walking on water in Matthew 14. She said she was filled with conviction that she needed to step out of her boat. Shortly after, she found the Sisters of Life online.
“As I read through the website, I couldn’t believe it existed. It resonated with my heart,” she said.
Sister Maria Anne Michela said she humbled and honored to be called to serve in Denver.
“[The Lord] doesn’t need us to do his work, but he let’s us participate. I marvel that he let me be a part of this,” she said.
Sister Fiat Marie
Sister Fiat Marie said her vocation was almost a response to the culture of death. Although she had been involved in various pro-life activities, she said she had her wake-up moment when she accidentally stumbled across a pro-choice group. As she read through their materials, specifically Planned Parenthood cartoons targeted at youth, she became convicted that she needed to act. A few months after graduation, she answered the call to religious life.
“When I went to bed that night, I really felt that invite from the Lord. There was a great joy in being able to respond,” she said.
Sister Fiat Marie worked for five years at Holy Respite in Manhattan, serving mothers during and after unexpected pregnancies. Shes said she was inspired by the women’s heroicism, but also looks forward to serving college students.
“College is such a pivotal moment,” she said. “When healing comes into those broken areas of life and love, that’s what brings people back to the Lord. It’s a privilege to be able to witness that.”