by Sister Maryann Lopiccolo, S.C.
This is the text of a talk delivered during the Jubilee Mass for Religious Brothers and Sisters, celebrated by Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio at Immaculate Conception Center, Douglaston, May 21.
I am very happy to welcome our religious sisters and brothers who are jubilarians, and their guests, as we jointly celebrate this festive day.
As always, it is a joy for me to offer each of you jubilee blessings and congratulations in the name of all the women and men in consecrated life in the Diocese of Brooklyn.
Today is a day of great celebration for each of you as you take account of your 25, 50, 60, 65, 70 and 75 years of religious profession. For the 72 sisters and brothers celebrating this year, there is a total of 3,315 years of service given to the Church and the people of God. It is a great day for all of us as we gather to be a part of this happy day for you.
Jubilee often gives us pause to remember and to renew – and for as much as we are able to re-commit ourselves to the original call – that early fervor and passion for the mission of our congregations. But as the song says, “the times have been a-changing” over these 75 to 25 years of your religious lives.
Recently, Pope Francis made a comment that has been stirring within me. He said something like this: We are not entering an era of change, but a change of era. What does that juxtaposition of wording mean?
Perhaps, since most of us have ‘matured’ in the last decades of “everything is always changing and often different,” we can become suspect if things don’t change; and maybe we have become somewhat numbed to it all. In “the era of change of our lifetimes,” we just fasten our seatbelts and go along for the ride, doing what we can to adapt to or influence the systems around us. It can be pretty dizzying and sometimes also become routine.
But Pope Francis says this is a “change of era” – a change of our perception and understanding of all that surrounds us; a change of our relationships and sense of being; a new way of seeing and responding to the all-too-familiar landscapes of our lives. There is a new awareness to one another in a global community but more so, to our universe. We see beyond the known, the measured and safe arena; we are overly humbled by the breadth and width of the unfolding cosmos and God’s infinite designs.
So are we beginning again? Is God calling us to be pioneers once more? Maybe not with covered wagons or sunbonnets as some of our founders, but pioneers today filled with hope for a better world, pioneers rooted in the belief that we are on God’s journey, pioneers with satchels filled with experience and deep trust that we’ve done it before and we can do it again.
Are we ready to face new frontiers? Are we willing to plant our stakes in a world aching for compassion, love, wisdom and strength? A change of era swirls around us – new technology, new global neighbors, new radical needs and new ways to live our vowed lives of service and love.
Pope Francis shows us how, by calling us back to our roots as Gospel people so that we can be steady and strong as this change of era absorbs us. He says we are to serve the marginal, go to the periphery; we should have the smell of sheep on us; see the world as a field hospital and not be afraid to have dirty hands or a warm heart.
Maybe we feel like the prophet Jeremiah who said to God, “Not me, I am too young,” or “I am too old.” We can’t be afraid to let hope guide and direct us into this change of era, to do whatever we can; to see in new ways the challenges and pieces of our ministry lives and know beyond belief, that we are all part of God’s design for the new creation happening in us and around us.
At this time of jubilee, it’s not only about remembering the past, but also now, about today and every tomorrow; to be the new pioneers for this change of era.
So in this special year, we in Brooklyn and Queens, celebrate you, our jubilarians, as pioneers of a Gospel life, leading us with courage and joy through this change of era. We wish you many blessings and our sincere congratulations.