On Hollywood Avenue in the Bronx, New York, a growing community of women religious serve an order with a charism for life. One of our own, Theresa Tolpa, who worked for Human Life International from 2008-2011, returned recently to HLI headquarters in Front Royal, VA while preparing to enter the Sisters of Life as a discerning postulant. She will live with fellow postulants at the St. Frances de Chantal Convent during her formation, before she takes first vows.
This isn’t the first time Teri has lived in community since she left her home in Northern Virginia. In July of this year she completed a year of service with Christ in the City, a Catholic evangelization mission in Denver, Colorado, which puts Catholic social teaching into action through communal life, prayer, and intellectual and spiritual formation. Discussing her experience of sidewalk counseling with the homeless and serving at Lighthouse Women’s Center, Teri said her time with Christ in the City was transformative:
“The whole experience forms young Catholics to be leaders in preparation to lead and serve with charity.”
Prior to working with Christ in the City, Teri earned her Masters of Arts in Theology at Denver’s Augustine Institute after leaving Human Life International. What started out as an internship with HLI’s development department soon led to full-time employment.
“Teri impressed everyone from the moment she showed up on our doorstep,” said John Martin, HLI’s Executive VP of Operations. “Her faith was joyful and evident, which lifted up everyone she worked with. Seeing her vocation come into focus is wonderful, though we had always kind of hoped she would come back to HLI!”
Time and talent paid off for Teri, a graduate of William & Mary, as her field agent experience with the campus’ Students for Life club encouraged her to share, not just live, the pro-life message.
“Every step in my journey has been an expression of desire in my heart,” Teri said. “Working for HLI, with its mission to defend the dignity of every person, led me to the next experience in Denver. Ultimately,” she added, “the Holy Spirit has led me to this community, the Sisters of Life.”
The Sisters of Life, a contemplative community of religious women, was founded in 1991 by John Cardinal O’Connor. Taking the traditional vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, the Sisters of Life also take a fourth vow: a promise to protect and enhance the sacredness of all human life.
“The pro-life movement is something I’ve been passionate about my whole life,” Teri said. In fact, her mother took her to the March for Life at a very young age. “I just grew in faith, through my mom’s encouragement, which allowed the Holy Spirit to lead me to this joyful community of Sisters.”
When asked if there was a defining moment of discernment, Teri responded joyfully, “You have the freedom to choose to follow where God leads you. Since we are all called to holiness, I choose this path because I am being called to religious life!”
Teri entered her postulancy on September 6, 2014.
Note: Human Life International honors National Vocation Awareness Week (NVAW), an annual week-long celebration promoting Catholic vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and consecrated life. This celebration runs from November 2 through November 8.