“We are called to love God when we love the other. We love the other when we wish them well and no harm. We are called to love who and what God loves as God loves.” These are the words of Sister Leonard Marie Lichinchi. We come to celebrate her as a person of deep faith and integrity and a Sister of St. Joseph for seventy six years.
Leonard was born in Long Island City to Rose and Leonard, named Yolanda, and on the day of her birth, baptized Theresa Yolanda. She would have celebrated her 96th birthday this Friday. She grew up with her brother, Louis, and her beloved sisters, Rose, Albina, Marie and Louisa, all gifted and talented in art and design. Attending Washington Irving High School in Manhattan because she wanted to be a dress designer, Leonard wrote in her own story: “Little did I know then that I would spend twenty four years of my adult life wearing the standard uniform dress of a Sister of St. Joseph and the color was always black.”
Leonard recognized her desire to be a religious early in her life but first worked in an exclusive dress shop and in two factories, one manufacturing military uniforms and the other gloves and parachutes. She joined her good friend, Theresa Grasso, and worked for the Republic Defense Plant, installing gas lines in the cockpits of Army Fighter planes – our very own Rosie the Riviter, while living with the Grasso Family in Brentwood. And here is the connection to our congregation. Traveling on the LIRR, Leonard met Sisters of St. Joseph who were going to classes at St. John’s University. She talked with them about her desire to be a religious but noted she did not want to teach.
Well, Leonard did teach and became an excellent educator in ten parish elementary schools and served as principal of St. Vincent de Paul in Elmont. She earned a Master’s in Education from Brooklyn College and a Master’s in Theology from St. John’s University. She taught religious education and became the coordinator for St. Robert Bellarmine Parish.
Leonard was a reflective woman always searching for understanding and encouraging others. She conducted workshops on values clarification and family living and taught in adult education programs. In her later years she volunteered in the Brentwood Literacy Program our Learning Connection Literacy Program and eventually in The Adult Day Care at Maria Regina and our archives.
Leonard reflected and wrote frequently on the mystery of God’s love in her life, on personal freedom, trust and relationships. She accepted the challenge to love as God loves always delving into the mystery of that love. In her words: “These mysteries, as well as others, have helped me understand the depth of God’s love, which helps strengthen my trust, especially when at times I wonder why God loves me. If I have a chance to wish for one thing for my end time, it is that I be graced to remember how much I am loved.”
Leonard we know God loves you and you now know that love for all eternity. You need to know that we love you as well and grateful for your life with us.
Sister Leonard Marie Lichinchi, CSJ died on February 8, 2020 in the 78th year of her religious life.