Greenville, S.C., Aug 15, 2009 (CNA) - After two years of contemplating a religious vocation, Virginia Cotter thought she was finally ready to visit some orders for a closer look. When she arrived at the Sisters of Life convent in New York last year, she was in for a shock.
“Most women, and certainly girls, would be shocked at the joy that they will experience with a visit,” Cotter said. “I was on cloud nine for a week after I first visited. I could not believe the genuine joy there; all of these sisters just, like, beam.”
Even so, deciding to dedicate her life to God as a consecrated woman meant a major change in lifestyle for the 28-year-old. She will have to sell her house and other belongings, leave the company of her friends and family, learn a different way to work and dress, and a new way to pray.
“Not many lay persons pray for four or five hours a day, and that’s what the Sisters of Life do,” she said. “I’ll be going on an act of faith. But my parents raised me to do what God called me to do.”
Her parents, Mary and Tim Cotter of Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Greenville, sent their daughter to Our Lady of the Rosary School for eight years. She graduated from Mauldin High and then from Franciscan University of Steubenville, a Catholic school in Ohio that was recommended by her maternal grandparents, Elizabeth and Richard Wolcott.
Among her post-graduate experiences was a year in Los Angeles living in community with the Volunteers For Life and working in a maternity home for teens. She moved to Wyoming to work with troubled youth and then returned home to work at St. Joseph’s Catholic School.
She has been a college counselor at St. Joseph’s for three years, but Cotter will leave the post to enter the Sisters of Life convent on Sept. 5. Her application to the order was accepted on July 13.
Her first year in the Bronx motherhouse will be spent in further discernment and formation, followed by two more years of formation. She will be permitted two visits home during the first year, and none for the following two.
As a postulant and then a novitiate, Cotter will be integrated into the apostolates of the order, all of which have a strong pro-life flavor.
“We take four vows: poverty, chastity, obedience, and a vow to protect and enhance human life,” she said.
The Sisters of Life community was founded by the late Cardinal John O’Connor, of the Archdiocese of New York, in 1991, after a transformative visit to the former Nazi concentration camp in Dachau. The order manages the archdiocesan Respect Life Office and offers help for pregnant women, especially in their Holy Respite homes. They operate missions, including one in Toronto, the Villa Maria Guadalupe Retreat Center in the Bronx and a library of human life issues. The order also gives retreats for women who have had abortions. They are 64 in number, and are young, active and growing fast, Cotter said. The sisters wear simple navy blue and white habits.
Cotter said her years at St. Joseph’s have been good for her, with the opportunity for daily Mass and what she called “a welcoming Catholic community.” She enjoyed working with teens and has advice for any young men or women who think they may be hearing the small voice of God calling them.
“I would say you need to be open to what God’s plan is for you. Consider your options, not just assuming automatically that he wants you to marry and have a family. The thing is, nothing bad comes from discernment,” she said.
Cotter recommends a visit to an order, calling it pain-free.
“They are not pushy in the least. They will never come to you, so any decision is absolutely yours. Even if you do not enter an order, you will come away having seen the beauty of religious communities and will have gained more clarity about what God wants for you,” she said.
She also suggested staying close to the sacraments and preparing to see overwhelming joy in a religious vocation.
Printed with permission from The Catholic Miscellany, newspaper from the Diocese of Charleston, South Carolina.
Washington D.C., Aug 15, 2009 (CNA) - After weeks of witness on the road, in church youth groups, and in front of abortion clinics, forty young people will end their three simultaneous cross-country pro-life walks across America in Washington, D.C on Saturday. The walk organizer said the endeavor helped women to reject abortion and revealed significant pro-life support.
Three groups of young people with the group Crossroads began their respective walks in Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles on May 23. They collectively logged 10,000 miles across 36 U.S. states in 12 weeks.
Each walker averaged over 1,000 miles and spoke to parishes and youth groups. They also engaged in “peaceful, prayerful” protests and sidewalk counseling at abortion clinics.
The effort has taken place annually since 1995. This year’s walk will end with a 1 p.m. rally at the U.S. Capitol.
Speaking in a press release, Crossroads president James Nolan said the trip showed that America is a pro-life country.
“[U]nlike polls that take a small, phone-based sample, we have had the advantage of directly interacting with thousands of Americans. And the support for the rights of the innocent, unborn has always been in the majority,” he remarked, charging that the Obama administration is “out of touch” with the mainstream.
Speaking with CNA in a Friday interview, Nolan said walkers spoke at thousands of religious services and met with people one-on-one. He claimed the effort revealed a “massive conversion” of youth towards religion and spirituality and pro-life views. It also showed a “massive rejection” of the “culture of death,” especially among the youth, he said.
Many who interacted with the walkers were “very, very supportive” of the effort. Nolan told CNA that people are “hungry for truth” and for “something new,” and are not “buying the old lies involved with the culture of death in general.”
He explained that participants walked 24 hours a day around the clock during weekdays, while on weekends they would pray at abortion clinics, youth groups, and various religious services.
The Crossroads walk has witnessed “amazing stories of conversion” and of women “choosing life,” according to Nolan.
“There was one parish out in the Midwest where after the walkers spoke at one of the evening Masses a gentlemen came up and asked if they had been praying at the clinic earlier that Saturday.”
The walkers responded that they had.
“This gentleman said that he had actually been driving his daughter to the clinic for the abortion and when they saw young people in T-shirts and praying the rosary, they decided they just couldn’t do it,” Nolan recounted.
After turning away from the clinic, the pregnant woman and her father then went to get an ultrasound. They discovered she was carrying twins.
“The father was just in shock. Before, he was just that close to choosing abortion. Now, he’s a grandfather of two.”
He described the incident as a moment of “real conversion” through the youth.
“When people see young people really taking a stand, hearts and minds get changed. It’s pretty amazing.”
CNA also asked about an incident at Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado where a park ranger initially stopped three female walkers from entering the park. According to Nolan, the ranger said the shirts “might offend other people with opposing views” and needed to be changed.
While the situation was resolved after half an hour, Nolan commented, “just the fact that young people wearing pro-life T-shirts were stopped from entering, just in itself, is an outrage.”
“There is no doubt in our minds that this was a case of thinly veiled harassment based on nothing more than political ideology,” Nolan said of the incident.
Though Nolan told CNA that the park ranger did not mention President Barack Obama specifically, he said the incident is indeed evidence of mounting pressure on pro-life groups under the Obama administration.
Nolan reported that Crossroads walkers had faced “harassment” under the Clinton administration but had a “break” under President George W. Bush.
“With the Obama administration, we’re just seeing a ramping up of pressure on pro-life groups. It’s clear that there has been a change in administration.
“That harassment has started up again,” he charged, citing the Rocky Mountain National Park incident as his group’s first “real clear example.”
However, Nolan was optimistic about the future.
“The pro-abortion position is definitely in the minority now,” he said. “The youth of the country especially are returning back to the religious and the life-respecting roots of earlier generations.”
Independence, Mo., Aug 15, 2009 (CNA) - Police in Independence, Missouri have arrested a rifle-toting teenage burglary suspect who was chased into the woods by a religious sister on Thursday morning.
The 17-year-old suspect had broken into one home around 6:00 and another at about 6:30 in the morning, authorities told Missouri’s NBC Action News. Both houses were occupied at the time of the break-ins but no one was injured.
However, a gun was reported missing from the second home.
Sister Catarina of the Sisters of St. Francis Convent told NBC Action News that she saw the suspect through a convent window. He was holding a rifle and walking through a nearby field.
She and another sister named Sister Connie went out to approach the suspect, who they first thought may have been an illegal hunter.
At first the young man was pleasant to speak with, Sister Catarina reported. When the two sisters started asking questions about what he was doing, he ran away through the woods.
Sister Catarina chased the teenager but could not keep up with him. The suspect was later apprehended and was expected to be charged on Friday.
Washington D.C., Aug 15, 2009 (CNA) - As the American health care debate continues, the U.S. Catholic bishops have launched a webpage to promote support for a “truly universal” health policy that respects human dignity.
The page on the website of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) includes letters for bishops to Congress, videos, facts and statistics, frequently asked questions, and links for contacting members of Congress.
According to a USCCB press release, letters to Congress include USCCB pro-life chairman Cardinal Justice Rigali’s August 11 letter which criticized abortion provisions in the House version of health care legislation. The site also reproduces the July 17 letter from Bishop William Murphy, which outlines the bishops’ concerns and priorities for health care reform from a social justice perspective.
The new webpage also includes videos of USCCB staff explaining the bishops’ position on health care. Kathy Saile, the USCCB’s director of Domestic Social Development, outlines the prelates’ general position and concerns. Richard Doerflinger, associate director of Pro-Life Activities, describes how abortion relates to the debate over health care reform.
The website also reports facts and statistics on Catholic health care in the U.S., where there are 624 Catholic hospitals, 164 home health agencies and 41 hospice organizations.
The USCCB’s health care reform web site is at www.usccb.org/healthcare