Behind the Scenes with the Sisters of Life |Part 1

Jeffrey Bruno
5 min readSep 22, 2021


A peek at some previously unpublished photos…and a little story…

When I got in that training accident in July, one of the first thoughts that came to mind was the assignments that I’d miss.

Not that I had seven broken ribs, broken clavicle, or broken nose … but that I’d miss what I consider to be the proverbial ‘Holy Grail’ of photo assignments.

All of them involved those called by Christ to serve, accepting his invitation.

There were the First Vows of the Sisters of Life, the First Vows of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, The Final Vows of the Sisters of Life, and the Final Vows of the CFR’s.

4 events…

Strike that.


Yep, that’s about right.

To witness those who have embraced Christ and offered their lives back to Him is perhaps the most powerful proclamation of His continued Presence in a fallen world.

People who assent to this call do so against the fiercely opposing forces of the culture. It demonstrates the power of the Holy Spirit and the power of Grace when one cooperates with it.

Well, praise God, I was well enough to be present for each. Admittedly it was a little painful, but I wouldn’t have traded the experience for the world.
So without further ado, here‘s a look…

At Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Suffern, NY. five Novices made their First Vows. It’s always a wonderful occasion when religious outnumber lay folk :-)

Sister Noelle Marie Bethlehem, S.V. receives the medal given at the First Procession from Bishop Conley.

In this sequence there are *two frames that were among the most commented upon that I’ve ever had…

These two.

Of course if anyone is paying attention, the second photo is a different Sister…(and not part of the sequence, but no one seemed to notice)

One of the cool things about attending these events (and photographing them) is that you get to learn about new things. For example, in this frame, a ‘ribbon’ is removed after the First Vows to reveal a dark blue (I don’t know what it’s called) that declares that the Sister has made vows.

Bishop Connelly is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, particularly for a Bishop…but that’s not part of the story.

Do you know how some photographers blame their equipment for bad photos?

Well, I’m about to do that, so brace yourself.

A full 50 percent of the photos that I took of this event were out of focus.

The backstory; Thanks to COVID, assignments were scarce for a while. Even the March for Life in DC was canceled. However, a little birdie told me that Jeannie Mancini and some pro-life leaders would be laying roses before the Supreme Court…so I went.

And afterward, in the parking garage of my hotel, in a truly unprecedented move. I mean UN-FREAKING-PRECEDENTED…both of my cameras fell to the cold, concrete floor…and broke.

Well, I dropped them.

Not intentionally, mind you.

One was no longer functional, but the other seemed sort of okay…or so I thought.

Every now and then, an image would be out of focus, but I blamed myself because what sort of loser blames his equipment.

Until the Ordination of Fr. Matthew Breslin.

Using my old reliable 400mm 2.8, which is tack sharp, several of the main photos I needed were out of focus.

It wasn’t me, really it wasn’t.

The emotions I experienced were similar to those of a soldier not being confident that his gun works. Or a mountain climber not knowing if the rope will hold him…except worse.

Well, at least I thought so.

And this breathtakingly beautiful First Profession was the LAST time that I used THAT camera. But in the meantime it was a ‘white knuckle’ day.

Praise God, most of the main photos were okay…unlike this one.

But my little troubles were nothing compared to the enormity of the day.

Even if there were no photos, the fact remains that Heaven and Earth touched.

Five young women embraced Christ and began their ‘engagement’ to He Whom the would Wed, should they discern their way to their Final Vows.

One of the nice things about not having an editor is that you can spell words however you like.

Granted, everyone will think you’re a moron, but you can.

And that’s the nice part. Sort of freeing.

And as a sort of case point, the lead image for this article had nothing to do with the First Vows of the Sisters of Life.

Well, in a herculean reach, it sort of does. It’s a photo from the Final Vows of the Sisters two weeks later (Different Sisters, of course).

And wait for it…

You can’t have the Final Vows without the First Vows…

Okay. I did say it was a stretch.

The actual reason I used the photo is that I really like it. And I don’t have an editor around to tell me that it’s against some etiquette law, or style guide, or common sense to post a picture of an entirely different event for an article (if this is even an article) about something else.

Viva la Freedom!

If you’ve stayed with me this long, I owe you a beer or soda; I won’t judge. But I’ll tell you that part 2 of ‘Behind the Scenes with the Sisters of Life’ IS about the Final Vows at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Stay tuned!

PS: I have nothing against editors. I think they’re fantastic. I just don’t have one ;-)



Jeffrey Bruno

Jeffrey Bruno is an award winning photojournalist and creative director specializing in the mission and beauty of the Catholic Church around the globe.