Laudato Si…Five Years Later

“Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last 200 years.”

–Pope Francis, Encyclical Letter on Ecology,
“Laudato Si” (Praised Be)


As we approach the fifth anniversary of Laudato Si, we re-post this piece that originally appeared in 2015 for your reflection. May we recommit ourselves to caring for the gift of our earth. For the full text of the encyclical,  click here.

The following are excerpts from Laudato Si, prepared by the Catholic Climate Covenant, in Washington, DC., and published on June 18, 2015.

pope-environmentThe Problem

This sister [our common home] now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life.

The earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor.

The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.

Pope Francis_the green vision of Pope FrancisNever have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last two hundred years.

Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain. We may well be leaving to coming generations debris, desolation and filth. The pace of consumption, waste and environmental change has so stretched the planet’s capacity that our contemporary lifestyle, unsustainable as it is, can only precipitate catastrophes, such as those which even now periodically occur in different areas of the world.

Policy and Political Leadership

There is an urgent need to develop policies so that, in the next few years, the emission of carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gases can be drastically reduced, for example, substituting for fossil fuels and developing sources of renewable energy.

The establishment of a legal framework, which can set clear boundaries and ensure the protection of ecosystems, has become indispensable, before the new power structures based on the techno-economic paradigm overwhelm not only our politics but freedom and justice as well.

A global consensus is essential for confronting the deeper problems, which cannot be resolved by unilateral actions on the part of individual countries. Such a consensus could lead, for example, to planning a sustainable and diversified agriculture, developing renewable and less polluting forms of energy, encouraging a more efficient use of energy, promoting a better management of marine and forest resources, and ensuring universal access to drinking water.

Negative effects of Fossil Fuels 5International negotiations cannot make significant progress due to positions taken by countries which place their national interests above the global common good. Those who will have to suffer the consequences of what we are trying to hide will not forget this failure of conscience and responsibility.

Enforceable international agreements are urgently needed, since local authorities are not always capable of effective intervention.

True statecraft is manifest when, in difficult times, we uphold high principles and think of the long-term common good.)

What is needed is a politics which is farsighted and capable of a new, integral and interdisciplinary approach to handling the different aspects of the crisis.

Reality of the Problem and Necessity to Act

Obstructionist attitudes, even on the part of believers, can range from denial of the problem to indifference, nonchalant resignation or blind confidence in technical solutions. We require a new and universal solidarity.

Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience.

It must be said that some committed and prayerful Christians, with the excuse of realism and pragmatism, tend to ridicule expressions of concern for the environment. Others are passive; they choose not to change their habits and thus become inconsistent.

Calls to Action

Rather than a problem to be solved, the world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise.

Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home.

Young people demand change. They wonder how anyone can claim to be building a better future without thinking of the environmental crisis and the sufferings of the excluded.

Pope encyclical 1Our goal is not to amass information or to satisfy curiosity, but rather to become painfully aware, to dare to turn what is happening in the world into our own personal suffering and thus discover what each of us can do about it.

Concern for the environment thus needs to be joined to a sincere love for our fellow human beings and an unwavering commitment to resolving the problems of society.

We know that technology based on the use of highly polluting fossil fuels – especially coal, but also oil and, to a lesser degree, gas – needs to be progressively and replaced without delay.

Negative effects of Fossil Fuels 2Reducing greenhouse gases requires honesty, courage and responsibility, above all on the part of those countries which are more powerful and pollute the most.

Truly, much can be done!

Many things have to change course, but it is we human beings above all who need to change.

A great cultural, spiritual and educational challenge stands before us, and it will demand that we set out on the long path of renewal.

Climate 2-change-and-cocoa-Chocolate-firms-action-to-temperature-rise

Taking the Long View

By Sr. M. Martha Pavelsky, MHSH

Quick!  What do O.J. Brigance, the Baltimore Ravens football player; Michael J. Fox, the movie actor; and Joseph, son of Jacob from the Old Testament, have in common?  No idea?  I didn’t know either, until I recently (July 13) read a portion of the book of Genesis (49: 29-32, 50: 15-26a) and the connection became clear.

Joseph wanted to comfort his brothers, who feared his vengeance for selling him into slavery.  They were envious that their father Jacob preferred him over all his other sons (remember the Technicolor Dreamcoat?).  To reassure his family that he intended no harm, Joseph said, “Even though you meant to harm me, God meant it for good, to achieve God’s present end, the survival of many people.” What a great attitude on Joseph’s part!

So – Brigance and Fox:  Brigance, after a successful career in football, developed ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, which quickly or slowly paralyzes its victims to death.  In his case, and with much medical care, it has progressed slowly, and with the help of his wife, Chanda, he has developed an enormous second career, counseling and supporting other players through the struggles of their playing days. His “street cred” is huge, because everyone in the Ravens organization has witnessed his and Chanda’s efforts on behalf of the Ravens – not as players but as people.

O.J. and Chanda Brigance


Michael J. Fox had a successful career, too, as an actor.  Drinking and partying were close to destroying it (see his memoir, ironically titled Lucky Man) until he awoke one morning and noticed his little finger oddly twitching on its own.  Medical investigation led to a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease.  It’s hard to say which (Parkinson’s or ALS) is worse.  Gradually, Michael took up the cause of Parkinson’s research, again encouraged mightily by his stalwart wife, Tracy Pollan.

Michael J Fox and Tracy Pollan


Like O.J. Brigance, Michael Fox lives on, doing great good for many people because of the misfortune that befell him long ago.

 It seems God takes a very long view when “permitting” harm to happen and is cleverly creative in eventually drawing good out of what certainly seems evil or tragic to us.  “God meant it for good,” Joseph explained.  Let’s pray for a similar long view, especially for the many who are suffering all around us.

Celebrating Earth Day 2015

“The earth will not continue to offer harvest except with faithful stewardship. We cannot say we love the land and take steps to destroy it for use by future generations.”

–Pope John Paul II



April 22 – Earth Day – It was the brainchild of Democratic Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, a two-term governor and three-term senator, who wanted to raise public awareness that our planet was at risk and put the national spotlight on environmental issues.

“When we heal the earth, we heal ourselves”                                                                                    –Davis Orr 

Since the first celebration of Earth Day on April 22, 1970, we have seen the following legislation enacted: The Clean Air Act, the Water Quality Improvement Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Toxic Substances Act, the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act and the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Senator Nelson rejected the suggestion that the economy take precedence over environmental protection:

“The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment, not the other way around.”

simple conceptGaylord Nelson and his like-minded colleagues changed the nation’s perspective on the environment. Today we continue to push back against those who would weaken the air and water protections that were established decades ago. And we add new technologies like fracking and offshore oil drilling to the list of environmental concerns.




As we take time this week to think about our planet Earth, here are some observations and images that might shine a new light on our reflections.

“Earth provides enough to satisfy everyone’s needs but not everyone’s

  –Mahatma Gandhi


earth not dying


“It is horrifying that we have to fight our government to save the environment.”                                                                                              

–Ansel Adams



“Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and the
last fish been caught will we realize that we cannot eat money.”
                                                                                                –Cree Indian Proverb


“A nation that destroys its soil destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of the land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people.”                                                                                                 –Franklin D. Roosevelt

“Man is the most insane species.  He worships an invisible God and slaughters a visible Nature…without realizing that this Nature he slaughters is this invisible God he worships.”

–Hubert Reeves

“God has, in fact, written two books, not just one. Of course we are all familiar with the first book, namely Scripture. But God has written a second book called creation.”

–Francis Bacon        

“I Will Go, Lord, Where You Lead Me…”*

Mission Helpers Celebrate 325 Years in God’s Service

By Loretta Cornell, MHSH, President

On Saturday, June 9, we celebrate Jubilees—one of the most joyous occasions we Mission Helpers have each year.  It gives us the opportunity to reflect on the lives and ministries of women who have been called by God, and who have responded…

“…I will go Lord, where you lead me
I will hold your people in my heart.”* 

Each of this year’s six Jubilarians has lived the words of the hymn, “Here I Am Lord.” They have gone where God has led them; they have held God’s people in their hearts.  And, they have done much more.

Together they have spent 325 years in God’s service.  Directly or through the many hundreds of people they have trained to teach, these Sisters have introduced God and Jesus and the Church to thousands of youngsters.  They have re-introduced religion to parents and adults and guided non-Catholics on the path to the Church.

And, Sister Dolores has done it all in sign language, too!

They have cared for the children of immigrants and have brought religious education to the children of men and women in the military.  They have been by the side of the dying and grieved with those they left behind.   They have lived and worked with those who have developmental disabilities, ministered in AIDs hospitals and helped refugees find sanctuary.  And, collectively, they hold 10 college degrees.

They have done it all and we salute them:  Sisters Dolores Beere and Maureen McKenna, 70 years; Sister Barbara Wills—who has also been the keeper of the Community’s Archives for the last 36 years—60 years; Sisters Martha Pavelsky and Rita Lynch, 50 years; and Sister Julianne Hau, 25 years.


They have, indeed, gone where the Lord has called them to go.  And, as Sister Maureen (70 years) says, “God has held us by the hand every step of the way.”

We hold each of them in our hearts.

* Hymn, “Here I Am Lord;” Lyrics by Dan Schutte, S.J.

The Divine Spark Within

By Sister Agnesine Seluzicki, MHSH

As I reflect on my journey of faith, a tune from my youth pops into my head:  “Everything is beautiful, in its own way….” And I muse, “Yes, everything, even those twisted, thorny times when life seemed a blur.”

This gives me pause because I see at those very times the “divine spark” that exists in each of us provided the energy and focus that ultimately brought renewed vision.

I grew up in a culture where the neighborhood, the church and ethnic roots provided communal solidarity and gave a sense of direction.  As a child of six or seven, I recall being lively, carefree and somewhat undisciplined.  By the time I was Confirmed, I was making a more conscious effort to pray and to overcome faults.  It was also a time that sparked a desire to learn and to excel. But it was also a time when I had grown very, very shy.  It was a shyness that continued into my adult life.

In high school, I wanted to choose a college preparatory program, but my counselor said that my immigrant parents would hardly be able to provide a college education. This was a real blow to me and left me with feelings of inadequacy and poor self-image.

But in my teens, I met a seminarian who saw some sort of giftedness in me.  He thought that I might have the qualities needed to bring peace, joy and growth in people.  He encouraged me to investigate a group of Sisters whom he described as dedicated and exuding warmth and joy.

“Yes, I Can…”

This began a new phase in my life.  After meeting the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart, I knew that life for me could never be the same. I wanted to be a part of whatever it was  that inspired this group of women to give themselves so totally to God.

With them, I found people who believed in me. I recall how shocked I was when I was assigned to work toward a college degree. I was frightened and didn’t think I could do it, but the love and support of the Mission Helpers seemed to crack the wall that had been constructed around me and caused it to crumple. With their help, I made it and I made it with A’s and could say, “Yes! I can do it!”

My superiors also assigned me to tasks for which I considered myself unqualified. But, once again, their confidence in me gave me the courage to go forth. Somehow in my own growth, I had reached a point where Jesus was now at the center of my being, someone with whom and through whom I derived meaning. I discovered the truth of, “in him I can do all things.”

The divine spark remains eternally within us.  All it needs is an awakening. And then, what marvels it can do!

Reflection:  Who or what awakens the divine spark in you?

Read more about Sister Agnesine’s journey in the Fall/Winter issue of The Mission Helper magazine.

Mission Helpers Celebrate Jubilees

By Sister Loretta Cornell, MHSH, President

“Do not be afraid, I am with you.

I have called you each by name.  Come and follow me…”

On Saturday, June 18, we will sing these words by David Haas as part of our 2011 Jubilee Celebration honoring the ministries of four Mission Helpers of the Sacred heart.  Each was called by name to follow.  Each responded to the call.

Together, the four Sisters have served the people of God for a total of 220 years bringing joy, hope, consolation, and the words of the Scriptures to thousands of people.  We know they have touched hearts and changed lives, and our world is a better place because they answered that call so many years ago.  They continue to answer it today.

Take a few minutes to read about their lives and their ministries [see below] You will meet Sister Carrie Schindler, raised on a farm and working for the FBI when she answered the call to spread the word of God and be a pastor to His people.

Mission Helper Jubilarians: From the left, Sister María Luz Ortíz, celebrating 50 years; Sister Mary Louise Zaworski, 50 years; Sister Carrie Schindler, 60 years; Sister Mariel Ann Rafferty, 60 years

Sister Mariel Ann Rafferty wanted to be a “missionary of some sort” and spent more than 30 years traveling throughout rural Florida and West Virginia bringing pastoral care to poor parishes.

Sister Maria Luz Ortiz, born in Puerto Rico, knew from a very early age that she was meant to help people in need.  Her 50-year ministry has been one of great service in both the Hispanic and the English-speaking communities in North and South America.

Sister Mary Louise Zaworski was also drawn to religious life at an early age.  By the time she reached high school, her only question was which religious community to enter.

Four Sisters, all very different, all drawn to the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart where each was able to pursue her own, unique calling.

Please read their journeys and join me and the entire Mission Helper Community in gratitude for these outstanding women.  God has truly called them by name and they continue to be guided by the Holy Spirit.

CLICK HERE to read more about the Jubilarian Sisters.

Community Days – The Mission Helpers Gather

By Sister Elizabeth (Liz) Langmead, MHSH

“What the Lord wants for us is infinitely more than we could ask or imagine.”                                                                                       –Ephesians 3:20

From the evening of June 9, 2011, through the afternoon of June 14, 2011, the Mission Helpers from near and far will gather for our annual Community Days.  This is a time for us to gather in prayer, meet about community matters, join together in community celebrations, enjoy each other’s company and plan for the future.  The above quote from Ephesians will serve as our theme this year as we continue our preparation for Chapter.

Our Community Constitutions, which “recognize the gospel as the basis for all Christian living and describe the ideals and traditions that form the living heritage of the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart,” state “The General Chapter is an assembly of elected members and ex-officio members who meet as a collegial body every four years…The first responsibility of the general chapter is to call the congregation to renewed fidelity to its mission in the church and to revitalize the life of the congregation and its members in the midst of constantly changing circumstances.” (Constitutions/Directory 58 & 60)

We will begin our Community Days (or June Days) with Eucharistic liturgy followed by a dinner celebration.  The following day we will be invited by our facilitator, Pat Flynn, SSND, on “A Journey Engaging the Future.”  What better way to begin that engagement than by carving out stillness in our lives to encounter the living God?  Following our retreat day, we will continue with our full schedule of days which will conclude with a Sending Forth ritual.

Each and every voice is a valuable voice to be heard and so this year we continue our endeavor to have more and more Sisters involved in preparation for Community Days and Chapter.  Our Formation/Spirituality Circle of Leadership has been guiding us in a Discernment Process by periodic mailings throughout the year.  Regular meetings with Circles of Leadership Animators have helped to shape our planning and assure a continuous flow of conversation and dialogue with the Circles.

Truly, our God is doing for us infinitely more than we could ask or imagine!  Perhaps some of us can relate as well to Catherine the Great when she said (no doubt with a grin) “A great wind is blowing and that gives you either imagination or a headache!”

Reassessing Your Life

Reflecting on the film, “Of Gods and Men”

By Sister Martha Pavelsky, MHSH

“What‘s a nice kid like me doing in a place like this?”

Why were Trappist monks living in the mountains of rebellion-torn Algeria in the 1990s?  What was the point of their being there at that time living among decapitations and slit throats, and how could it ever speak to our being here now?

Furthermore, why was I at The Charles, Baltimore’s only “art theatre,” two weekends in a row seeing the same film, “Of Gods and Men.”  The film lays out in spectacular photography before our sometimes startled senses the grit of daily life in that part of the world at that particular time.

Americans, among others, may wonder what those monks were doing there.  On the surface, not a lot: no NGO (Non-Government Organization) projects, no seed money for local artisans.  They were just there, being monks, living simple, prayerful, struggling lives, much like their neighbors, Muslim townsfolk.

They harvested honey and sold it at the weekly market, offered basic medical treatments to anyone in need—villager, soldier, rebel.  In one vignette, they celebrated a milestone in the life of a young family by cooking and cleaning and….But this is so ordinary, so mundane, so boring.  Those are things we all do every day.  

Precisely.   What challenges us to examine our own fidelity, to ask, “Is this really what I was meant to do?  Might I do better somewhere else, with someone else?”

It’s not easy to dare such a reassessment.  It wasn’t easy for those monks, either, but it was clear that their lives could soon come to a painful, gruesome end.  They agonized, as we all do, each coming to his own decision to stay or flee.

Making the effort to track down and see “Of Gods and Men” could trigger a rich and threatening reassessment of what you do and how you be.

Question: What life experiences or everyday activities might lead you to re-evaluate your life? What if you knew, as the monks did, that your life could soon come to an end?  Would you stay or flee?


In anticipation of Mother’s Day we invited sisters and staff to share brief memories of their mothers. In these reflections our posters recall moments of tenderness and joy, express appreciation for special talents that their mothers possessed and describe those personal characteristics of their mothers that they admire to this day. As you read these reminiscences we invite you to reflect on your own mother or mother figures in your life, and give thanks for the love, nurturing and good example that these women have given you. Let us also remember those mothers in areas of the world wracked by war, natural disaster, oppression, disease and poverty. We commend all mothers to the love and care of Mary – mother, teacher, healer and disciple. __________________________________________________________________________________

I think of my mother often during these spring days when all the flowers are in bloom. In a household of twelve, on an artist’s salary, there was no money for extras or frills, but my mother could make us feel rich and elegant just by decorating our large living room with bouquets of dogwood and azalea. Her love of beauty and sense of celebration that she taught us still enrich my life today.

–Sister Jane Geiger, MHSH, loving daughter of Antoinette Fuchs Geiger

When I was about four years old, on a beautiful summer day, Mom (Emily Viola) and I were in Prospect Park having a picnic near the lake. As we sat together Mom picked up some beautiful fresh green grass. She then started to teach me how to make a doll out of these stems of grass. To this day I treasure this memory of Mom and me together.            

–Sister Madeline Gallagher, MHSH

No specific word or incident captures the “who” of my mother, Anna, for me. It was the example of her unconditional love and trust in God and humanity that helped mold the “who” and “how” of what my family and I are today. Thank you, dearest one.

–Sister Agnesine Seluzicki, MHSH

My mother, Catherine, was a model of steadfastness and fidelity. Her life was unalterably changed when my dad contracted polio in the early 1950’s when my brother and I were quite young. Her own “yes” to God and her family was tested in ways she could not have imagined. Through it all she was a loving, generous and faith-filled wife and mother.

–Marilyn Dunphy

At age 58, my mother, Jeannette, retired with my dad to Florida to enjoy the Gulf and play golf.  She made time to tutor migrant children, give food to beggars on the street and always be a compassionate heart for the needy.  At age 90, she continues to bring food to the church pantry for the needy.      [Sr. Susan (left), Jeannette Engel (mom), and her sister Joanne.]

–Sister Susan Engel, MHSH

I’d like to take a moment to honor my mother, Mildred Lucian. Although she passed away three years ago, not a day goes by without me thinking of her and missing her. She was my rock and my best friend. I truly miss our “talks” and visits to the beach. God bless you Mom and may you rest in peace. Your loving daughter, Karen

–Karen Miceli

My mother, Rosalie, was a woman of deep faith. She taught my family and me about the gentle love of Jesus, the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and the grace-filled love of God. Mom always treated others with respect and dignity. She saw Jesus in the other. This is the message she gave to us – love one another as Jesus would love you. She was a great witness to me, my family and to so many people.

–Sister Loretta Cornell, MHSH

Mother M. Demetrias, Foundress {1930's}

Many, many years ago as I searched for a religious community to consider as a life choice, the young priest who was helping me spoke of a group of Sisters he had ministered with.  He said of them:  “Each one treats you like she’s your mother.”

That gave me a new slant on women religious.  So I drove from West Virginia to Baltimore to meet these “mothers.”  They were the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart and I liked their many qualities.  Here I am today at the age of 92 still trying to emulate and imitate them, all the while using the personal qualities they developed in my initiation and my life with them in Community.

–Sr. Joanne Frey, MHSH