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News from the Novice: Wrapping Up Christmas With Gratitude and Prayer

By Michelle Garlinski, SNJM

Happy Feast of the Baptism of the Lord! What a wonderful way to wrap up the Christmas season with the words, “this is my Beloved with whom I am well pleased.” I hope and pray that the abundance of God’s love and joy filled your hearts and homes this holy season. It was truly a white Christmas here in Winnipeg as the snowfall totaled nearly 18 inches (that is in addition to the 12 that came in early December). Needless to say, I traded in my flip-flops for a warmer model!

I had a wonderful trip to California at Thanksgiving, I was so grateful to visit with many from the SNJM community and enjoy quality time at the Arch Street. house. I also appreciated visiting some of the familiar places as I walked Berkeley once again. The morning at People’s Park to say hello and reconnect with people was good for the spirit. It is amazing how I leave more aware of community and grateful for their generosity to me. This deep generosity flowed through the Christmas season as I had several opportunities to host or be with our SNJM community, including cards and chili on a cold winter afternoon! My time with family and friends continues to enrich my love and appreciation of community too. I hosted our annual family Christmas Eve rituals. We also celebrate Ukrainian Christmas on the “old” calendar and some of my extended family continue our traditions started when my grandparents arrived from the Ukraine in the early 20th century.

The Charism and Mission Office is certainly rolling along. I am very excited to be accompanying four of our staff members to the Congregational House in May. This “Encountering Our Story” experience will be an opportunity to help our partners in ministry broaden their knowledge, deepen their passion and fan their flame to continue casting fire upon the earth. We also have two staff joining the SNJM Network of Schools pilgrimage in the summer. I have made presentations about the Charism and Mission Office to our Board of Directors, Foundation Board and those attending the retired staff brunch. I am invited to speak at our Parents’ Guild Torch Talks, which is a TED talk-style morning of parent professional development. We are also busy preparing for the Public Way of the Cross Good Friday morning, which SMA is hosting. This is an annual event which is co-sponsored with the Archdiocesan Youth and Young Adult Ministry Office. I am excited to oversee this experience as the planning team is composed of students, staff, alumnae and parents. Our theme is Living Peace through Justice Together and each station will focus on a topic (education, family, inclusivity, etc.) and will highlight a woman who was at the heart of working towards justice. I also look forward to welcoming Sr. Carol Sellman and Alan Liebrecht from HNU to SMA next week. It is even more exciting to share Winnipeg in January with them – they say misery loves company!

My continued ministry at Gonzaga School has been great. The students teach me so much and I look forward to seeing their smiling faces every week. In addition to formation via phone sessions with Sr. Beth, I try to keep living into the vows and asking God to continue to show me the next step. Experiencing meaningful faith-sharing with our Sisters in Advent, on the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus and with the young adults with whom I gather every three weeks has been food for the journey.

Well, it is time to sign off. As we put away all of the ornaments and symbols of the season, may the Spirit of Christmas lead us each day living peace through justice together!

Note: Michelle Garlinski was received as a novice of the Sisters of the Holy Names in July 2015. During her first year living with Sisters at our Province’s welcome house in Berkeley, CA, she began sharing her journey through a series of "News from the Novice" letters. She is spending in her missionary novice year at St. Mary’s Academy in Winnipeg, Manitoba. To learn more about becoming a Sister and the SNJM formation process, please click here.

In the photo: The Garlinski family gathers to celebrate Christmas (Sister Michellle is seated in front, at right).