“Could you but know what has happened in consequence of the little dirty grain of mustard seed you planted by God’s hand in America.” – Elizabeth Ann Seton to Antonio Filicchi*
This year at the Easter Vigil Pope Francis highlighted the women who went to the tomb. He described the scene on that first Holy Saturday: “Jesus, like a seed buried in the ground, was about to make new life blossom in the world; and these women, by prayer and love, were helping to make that hope flower. How many people, in these sad days, have done and are still doing what those women did, sowing seeds of hope! With small gestures of care, affection and prayer.”
The essence of his message is strikingly applicable to the Sisters of Charity today. With slight modification, it could read:
“The Spirit, after planting a seed of Charity in Emmitsburg, was about to make new life blossom in the lives of the poor in New York; and those first three Sisters whom Mother Seton sent, by prayer, love and courage, made that hope flower. How many children who were orphaned and persons living in poverty have they served? How many Sisters and partners in ministry, through the years, have done and are still doing what these women did, sowing seeds of hope, with small gestures of care, affection and prayer. And note well the enormous undertaking of establishing organizations of excellence that have provided education, health care and resources to people lacking basic needs. Could you but imagine what has happened in consequence of the arrival of the Sisters of Charity in New York?”
The seed metaphor effectively blends the words of Pope Francis and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. In the image, a hand holds little mustard seeds. The outline of America nestles in the natural contours of the palm. “Planted by God’s hand in America,” an illuminated seed marks the Sisters of Charity in New York. This is a beacon of “Charity rising” for those needing assistance, requiring basic necessities or skills.
The entire picture has an intentional flecked or grainy look. It conveys 203 years of infinite seeds sown by the lives, courage and creative outreach of the Sisters of Charity in New York. Impelled by love, the Sisters continue to plant seeds of hope to the ever-expanding array of people on the fringe. “What women these Christians have!” (Libanius of Antioch, 4th c. teacher of rhetoric)
– Catherine Salani (SC collaborator, educator, artist
*Source: Elizabeth Bayley Seton Collected Writings: Vol. 2, 670.