By Jessica Easthope
Sister Maryann Seton Lopiccolo feels at home in Brooklyn, that’s because she is home.
The borough native who has held the position of Episcopal Delegate for Religious for 22 years spends her days welcoming others home into the Diocese of Immigrants.
“Brooklyn has always been historically the Diocese of Immigrants. We say that all the time but I see them. I see their faces. so there’s an empowering of them by support and I’m there for them,” Sister Maryann said.
Religious from all over the world come to the Brooklyn Diocese for education, for ministry and for roots. They’re roots Sister Maryann has never taken for granted.
“I think there is a sense of welcome and I’m very conscious of that and I often say to them, ‘If I were moving to Kenya, I would want someone to make friends with me right away,” she joked.
As Episcopal Delegate, Sister Maryann oversees more than 850 religious sisters, brothers and priests in the Diocese of Brooklyn. Now with a surge of international sisters, her role has taken on new meaning.
“They come and they don’t have a provincial or a regional superior so they call me the Big Mother, they say you’re just like our mother and I say okay if that’s how I can serve you and if that’s a role that makes you comfortable I’m fine with it,” said Sister Maryann.
Sister Maryann works to find housing that makes people from across the world feel like this urban jungle is their own.
“I really work hard in finding them a place where they will be comfortable too because the cultural differences are real. They’re not good, bad or indifferent. They’re just real,” she said.
As for women being excluded, Sister Maryann says that’s never been the case in Brooklyn, especially not under Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio.
“The Bishop has been super sensitive about including women, what’s happening from our perspective that he should be more aware of that perhaps as a man he didn’t notice it or didn’t hear it,” she explained. “And there’s a side of him that’s so open to learning because he wants to serve the best he can,” Sister Maryann noted of Bishop DiMarzio’s commitment to inclusion.
She’s looked to as a leader in the Diocese of Brooklyn, the go to person. But to the people whose lives she’s touched, she’s “The Big Mother.”