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Two ‘vibrant’ religious orders head to Denver

  • Brian Fraga, OSV Newsweekly
  • |
  • April 16 2015
Courtesy photo

Sisters of Life, Missionaries of St. Charles Borromeo will minister to college students, parishioners

The Sisters of Life and the Missionaries of St. Charles Borromeo, two relatively young and vibrant religious orders, will both be establishing houses in the Archdiocese of Denver this summer.

The Denver house will be the Sisters of Life’s first mission in the United States, while the Missionaries of St. Charles Borromeo’s presence in Broomfield, Colorado, will be the Italian-based community’s first foundation in the country.

“Any archdiocese welcomes religious orders. This is a huge honor,” said Karna Swanson, the director of communications for the Archdiocese of Denver.

Swanson told Our Sunday Visitor that both orders approached the archdiocese.

“This is where the have both been led by the Holy Spirit,” said Swanson, who added: “What’s really exciting about this is that this is happening in the Year of Consecrated Life, and we announced this on the Feast of the Annunciation. These are very new orders with very young sisters, and this is exciting and kind of a first for both of them.”

‘A visible witness’

Founded in 1991 by Cardinal John O’Connor, the late archbishop of New York, the Sisters of Life profess a vow to protect and enhance the sacredness of every human life. The New York-based order’s primary mission includes practical assistance and outreach for pregnant women in need.

“The Sisters of Life could have gone anywhere they wanted, and they chose the Archdiocese of Denver,” Swanson said. “The pro-life issue is a topic very close to Archbishop [Samuel] Aquila’s heart. I know this is extremely exciting for him.”

Archbishop Aquila told Denver Catholic that he is dedicating the religious communities to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

“The arrival of two new religious orders to the Archdiocese of Denver during the Year for Consecrated Life is a great blessing for the faithful of northern Colorado,” the archbishop said. “It is evident that God has a clear plan for these two young orders of sisters here in the archdiocese, and we are more than willing to assist them in any way.”

Mother Agnes Mary Donovan, the Superior General of the Sisters of Life, told Denver Catholic that her community, which consists of 88 members, 23 of whom are in initial formation, had been discerning and planning a new foundation for the past couple of years.

“Within the last few months, entrusting our deliberations to the Holy Spirit and in conversation with Archbishop Aquila, the Church of Denver emerged as the site of this foundation,” said Mother Agnes Mary, who anticipates sending four sisters to take up residence in Denver by mid-August.

“While there is great vibrancy within the Church in Denver,” Mother Agnes Mary said, “we believe that we are prepared to offer the unique gift of being a visible witness to the Church’s proclamation of the dignity and mystery of every human life.”

The Sisters of Life’s initial mission in Denver will entail evangelization with a primary focus on young adults and college students in northern Colorado. The Sisters will work with young people attending the University of Colorado, as well as Colorado State University and the University of Northern Colorado.

“The Sisters of Life say from their work and experience that college women are most at risk of having an abortion,” Swanson said. “They will come here and work with young women on college campuses. It’s a big priority for us.”

Coming to the U.S.

The Missionaries of St. Charles Borromeo were born from the Communion and Liberation Movement. In 2007, the community received official recognition as a Private Association of the Faithful in the Diocese of Porto-Santa Rufina, Italy. In 2011, the community was recognized as a Public Association of the Faithful after its first sister professed vows.

The Italian-based Missionaries were looking to establish a presence in the United States and chose Denver, said Swanson, adding: “They looked at different places where Communion and Liberation is active. We have a very vibrant C&L community, which is part of their spiritual family.”

Two Missionary sisters — Sister Elena Rondelli and Sister Maria Anna Sangiorgio — will live in a convent belonging to the Nativity of Our Lord Parish in Broomfield, which is staffed by priests from the Priestly Fraternity of St. Charles Borromeo. The sisters will assist with many aspects of parish life, including Eucharistic adoration and teaching religious education.

“I think their presence is going to be a huge gift to the Archdiocese of Denver, and to our parish especially,” said Father Michael Carvill, a priest of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Charles Borromeo, who is pastor of the Nativity of Our Lord Parish.

Father Carvill told OSV that the sisters will begin their Denver mission by primarily visiting the sick and homebound in nursing homes and hospitals.

“They’ll really be going out, getting to know those people, developing relationships with them, serving their spiritual needs and helping us to service their sacramental needs,” said Father Carvill, adding that he expects the sisters to arrive in early August.

“Their mission will be to bring those people right into the heart of the life of the Church. I think Pope Francis would be happy with that. As they get to know the culture and the country, and as they establish themselves more, then they will be available and willing to reach out and engage in other apostolates that might be suitable to their state of life.”

‘A huge blessing’

Father Carvill said he was also excited that the Sisters of Life will be setting up shop in Denver.

“It’s a huge blessing,” he said. “These are young, vibrant, deeply committed religious. To me, they, together with many new congregations, kind of represent an imagery of feminine religiosity and Catholic life that I think is often missing today.”

Swanson added that establishing new foundations is a monumental decision for young religious orders. “They put a lot of prayer into this,” Swanson said, adding that the archdiocese actively promotes consecrated life.

“I think the flourishing of consecrated life is always a sign of vibrancy for the Church,” she said. “The more vibrancy we can have in the Archdiocese of Denver, I think it’s all that much better. We will do anything we can to promote its flourishing, because it helps the rest of us.”


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