World Day for Consecrated Life was celebrated Feb. 2 in the Diocese of Brooklyn with an afternoon presentation featuring Sister Elizabeth Johnson, C.S.J., followed by Mass celebrated by Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio and a renewal of vows at the diocesan offices in Park Slope.
Instituted by Pope John Paul II in 1997, World Day for Consecrated Life is a day to celebrate the gift of God’s call to women and men who serve the diocese as sisters, brothers, religious order priests, as members of secular institutes and as consecrated virgins.
Sister Elizabeth, a Brooklyn-born member of the Sisters of St. Joseph, Brentwood, is a former president of the Catholic Theological Society of America. She holds a doctorate in theology and has written numerous books and articles.
Her main message for the day focused on “Laudato Si’” – Pope Francis’ second encyclical, which is subtitled, “On Care for Our Common Home.” The encyclical addresses climate change and critiques consumerism, environmental degradation and global warming. Pope Francis calls on all people of the world to dialogue about how to shape the future of the planet.
Reflecting on the Holy Father’s call to action, she called to mind a phrase in the Gospel of St. John.
“John says, ‘And the word became flesh,’” she said.
“He doesn’t say, word became man, or word becomes human. Flesh is that of all life on earth. Mark’s Gospel even says, ‘Go out and preach to all creatures.’ All life is fragile and all life must be taken care of.”
More than 50 women and men in consecrated life, many of them teachers, had become the students, learning from Sister Elizabeth’s insights and considering the questions she posed.
“Shouldn’t we be taking care of our home? Not destroying it,” she asked. “How come we don’t hear about these issues during homilies on Sundays? What do we teach the children to be able to better our home?”
Sister Elizabeth said there is hope for the future, and asked everyone to join together to do his or her own part.
“None of us is the Savior, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have the power [to affect change]. We can’t do it alone and need our community. We can all make our own contribution.”
Brother Bill Boslet, O.S.F., of St. Gregory the Great parish, Bellerose, heard the challenge, and plans to make changes in his own life.
“I think she challenges us to go back and to take action. Looking at ‘Laudato Si’, I am sure for many people it was overlooked or even ignored. So being able to go back, read it again and have a new sense of what changes need to be made is very powerful.”
Bishop DiMarzio closed the afternoon with Mass and witnessed those in consecrated life renew their vows. He thanked them for the work they do and living out their vows “every single day of their lives.”
Sister Maryann Seton Lopiccolo, S.C., diocesan delegate for religious, was grateful for the day and Sister Elizabeth’s eye-opening talk.
“I think I am personally called though to look at how I live and my actions affect something much greater,” she said. “We all need to step back and see what contributions we can make.”