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Jerry Costello

A Reporter Becomes a Sister of Life

Mark Zimmermann likes to keep track of his former employees. My good friend, who’s the editor of the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Washington (D.C.) Archdiocese, isn’t up to anything nefarious. Far from it; he’s interested in how all of his one-time coworkers are advancing their careers. And he’s not above throwing a bouquet their way if it’s deserved.

                That’s especially the case with a young woman named Henrietta Gomes, who came to the Standard some years ago as a bright-eyed graduate of the journalism school at Catholic University. She moved on from the paper, three years later, with other things on her mind. But she never forgot the time she spent at the Standard, especially her first day. And what’s more, Mark Zimmermann never forgot her.

                Fast-forward 15 years, to a day in the summer of 2016. That was when Henrietta Gomes, now 36, made her final profession as Sister Grace Dominic of the Sisters of Life. Zimmermann admits to having tears in his eyes that day, and if I’d been there I have no doubt that I would have joined him. It was that special a day.

                One reason Henrietta—Sister Grace Dominic—never forgot that first day at the Standard was that it was a terrible day, a day of death and destruction. It was 9/11, September 11, 2001, and her first assignment, the one no reporter can ever forget, was to cover a Mass for Peace, hastily put together, at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Zimmermann believes the seeds of a vocation were born then and there—“by that day’s moments of grace,” he later wrote.

                At any rate, Henrietta Gomes went on to other things: a master’s degree in theology from the Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio; another job as a reporter, this time at the Arlington (Virginia) Catholic Herald. Then she joined the Sisters of Life, as a postulant. And eight years later, on August 6, 2016, she made her final profession as Sister Grace Dominic.

                I’ve always been interested in the Sisters of Life, in part because they were founded by one of my former bosses, Cardinal John O’Connor of New York. I know that he put his heart and soul into the project, and today, in their 25th year, they already number more than 100. As do all members of the community, Sister Grace Dominic promised not only poverty, chastity and obedience, but also “to protect and enhance the sacredness of human life, and to persevere faithfully until death.”

                Zimmermann describes Sister Grace as “a petite woman with a radiant smile.” Judging by the photograph that accompanies the article, she’s all that and more. He also wrote that at her Mass of Thanksgiving, Sister Grace Dominic encouraged people to be open to God’s plan for their vocation, whether it involves marriage, the priesthood or religious life.

                “God has an incredible plan for your life,” she said.

                “Our former reporter,” Zimmermann wrote, “who began working for the Catholic Church on a day of fear and death, now has devoted her life to bringing Christ’s love to others.”

                As I said, Mark Zimmermann likes to keep tabs on his former reporters. I don’t know about you, but I’m awfully glad he does.


For a free copy of the Christopher News Note, OPENING YOURSELF TO GOD’S GRACE, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail: