Jason Kelly | October 25, 2017
Phil Sakimoto and Lenny DeLorenzo have been telling the astronomical and theological story of the universe for years. About a decade ago they collaborated on “All Creation Gives Praise,” a 55-minute planetarium presentation that time-travels across billions of years and eternity.
Sakimoto, an astronomer and director of Notre Dame’s Program in Academic Excellence, supplied the science. DeLorenzo ’03, ’08M.A.,’14Ph.D., a theologian and director of Notre Dame Vision in the McGrath Institute for Church Life, provided the religion.
“All Creation Gives Praise” is a long-running hit in the Digital Visualization Theater at the Jordan Hall of Science. Brother Guy Consolmagno, S.J., head of the Vatican Observatory, has seen it on his visits to campus. He’s a fan.
A few months back, Brother Guy emailed his old friend Sakimoto with a request. Would he consider adapting the planetarium presentation for the Vatican’s exhibit at Expo 2017 — basically the current incarnation of the World’s Fair — in Astana, Kazakhstan?
“My reaction was to quote Mary,” Sakimoto says. “‘Yes, but how can this be?’”
The theme of Expo 2017, running June 10 to September 10, would be Future Energy. The Vatican’s exhibit, “Energy for the Common Good: Caring for Our Common Home,” would highlight ideas about faithful stewardship of the physical world from Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical, Laudato Si’.
What Brother Guy and colleagues wanted from Sakimoto and DeLorenzo was a 10-minute version to serve as the entry point to the Vatican’s pavilion. To introduce visitors to the themes of honoring creation and protecting the precious physical stuff of it, the light and matter that illuminates and animates life.
“So we got on the phone, we talked about this more, and Lenny and I both say, ‘Yeah, we'll do this,’” Sakimoto says. “That was the easy part.”
A little harder was distilling their story of the universe, already abridged at 55 minutes, down to 10. The result is “Let There Be Light,” a beckoning to awe at the scope of the cosmos and an awareness of the responsibility to treasure and nurture its gifts.