Our hearts yearn for a relationship with Christ

by Sister Mary Pieta | Sisters of Life


“In this sacred time of celebrating the death and resurrection of Jesus, I invite you to consider how Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross touches your today, your “now,” in the Sacrament of the Eucharist.” – Sister Mary Pieta, Sisters of Life

When I was little, I never dreamed that I would live anywhere but North Dakota, let alone New York City. Now, I actually live in Manhattan, literally only a few minutes’ walk from St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Central Park, and Times Square. What has brought me here? Jesus, of course, through drawing me to the religious community of the Sisters of Life.

The Sisters of Life, an active contemplative community, was founded by John Cardinal O’Connor, the Archbishop of New York, in 1991. The charism, or gift of the Holy Spirit particular to our community, is that of the protection and enhancement of the sacredness of all human life, especially of those who are most vulnerable.

Here in New York, the largest population whom we serve are pregnant mothers, who face incredible pressure to have an abortion. A great deal of the time, these women aren’t given the love and support they need to recognize their own dignity and goodness; their gift as one capable of loving, and that they are unique and unrepeatable, an image of the living God. We also have a retreat mission, and serve those who have suffered from abortion through our Hope and Healing Mission.

I came to know the Sisters through my time as a missionary with FOCUS after college, and in that time slowly grew to love consecrated life. Before that, I had felt drawn to it at times, but I had a fearful idea of what religious life could mean a lot of “no’s” – no family, no children, no spouse….

However, when I met the Sisters, something in my vision of religious life changed, and I saw it in a new light – to be a bride, a soul set aside to live and love Christ as my spouse. In a sense, it was actually a lot of “yes!” It is about a relationship with Jesus, on which all other relationships are founded – when my life belongs to Jesus in this way, I actually can live as a better woman, daughter, sister, friend, and even bride and mother.

The convent where I live, Sacred Heart, our holy respite mission, is a place where we invite pregnant mothers to come live with us as guests as they prepare to give birth to their child, and then grow in their relationship as a mother with that newborn for a few months following. Living at Sacred Heart, right in the midst of Manhattan, we see a lot of people show up at our door.

One such encounter was a little boy named KJ, who came by with his father. He hit it off with one of our sisters, Sr. Michela. At 8:15 p.m., the bell rang for prayer, and although KJ wasn’t Catholic, he REALLY wanted to come to the chapel and pray night prayers with the Sisters.

At the end of prayer, when the candles on the altar were extinguished, KJ noticed that the red sanctuary candle next to the tabernacle remained lit. He leaned over to Sister Michela and “whispered” – you know, one of those “little kid whispers” that’s actually louder than their normal voice – “Hey, what’s that red light for?” Sister replied, “It means Jesus is here.” “Oh.” Made perfect sense. After a second, he then asked, “Hey, what’s in that gold box?” Referring to the tabernacle. Now, Sister Michela wasn’t sure if she should explain transubstantiation to a four year old, “My flesh is true food…” (John 6), so she simply said, “That’s where Jesus is, that’s where he lives.” And totally forgetting to whisper, wide-eyed KJ stands on the kneeler and said, “Well, do you ever take him out and look at him?!” To that, Sister responded, “Well, yes, we do, every day for an hour; we call it Adoration.”

Our hearts yearn for a relationship with someone who will understand us, who will love us with our weaknesses, and who we can love in return. In this sacred time of celebrating the death and resurrection of Jesus, I invite you to consider how Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross touches your today, your “now,” in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. Every time we come to Mass, we hear the priest say, “Behold the Lamb of God!”

When we behold him, we see Jesus, who makes himself so small, so vulnerable, so we can receive him. Yet he is the same God who created the universe, the mountains with their grand vistas and tiny alpine flowers, and he created you and I so intentionally, even with that space in our hearts that ache for someone – him. When you go to Mass or Adoration, ponder how he looks at you as you look at him. The Eucharist is this gift Jesus gave us as his true presence among us now, so we remember we are not alone.

Sister Mary (Michaela) Pieta is a 1st professed sister at the Sisters of Life in Bronx, NY. She the daughter of Pat and Brenda Breen and is originally a parishioner of Sts. Anne & Joachim Church in Fargo.