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What Does Love Look Like?

By Mary Annette Dworshak, SNJM

What is a Catholic school? Some might say it is a building with a cross on top of the dome and where religion classes are taught. Others might say a Catholic school is a place where immigrants have found a pathway to inclusion in society. Others might say a Catholic school is an environment where students are challenged to achieve their potential.

Before I answer this question, let me tell you a story. For my parents, a Catholic school meant so much to them that they sold their Montana ranch and moved to the town of Miles City so that my sister Bernadette and I could attend Sacred Heart Grade School and High School. My father, whose own education ended with his eighth-grade graduation, worked in a produce warehouse and later for the Milwaukee Railroad so that the Ursuline and Dominican Sisters would educate his daughters.

For my mother, a former one-room country school teacher, commitment to her faith meant so much that she said "yes" to becoming one of the first lay teachers at Sacred Heart. My mother was my third-grade teacher in a room packed with more than 50 students. Throughout my years at Sacred Heart, Mom immersed me in community service long before there was any thought of whether it counted for religion credit or not. She instructed me in how to alphabetize papers, put up bulletin boards, play the piano for her class songs and later help with correction of spelling quizzes.

Beginning with this family story, I have learned that a Catholic school is a community of persons from many different geographical, cultural and religious backgrounds who share a belief in a better future for our families and for the world. We risk finances, careers and relationships to make a contract with others to “bring about a revolution of the heart” in the spirit of Dorothy Day. 

We're now beginning a new semester at Holy Names Academy in Seattle, where I teach. As I look back on the impressive scores students achieved on our first semester final exams in World Cultures, Scripture Literature, Morality/Service and Contemporary Problems, I think of Paul's letter to the Corinthians (I Cor. 1:1-13). These academic achievements, along with dozens of community service hours, are "a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal" if we do not have love.

And what does love look like? Love is respectful in posts in our social media interactions. “Love is not arrogant or rude” in our comments. Love is patient, listening attentively to those with different points of view. Love is hopeful as a new year begins, with all its fear and violence. Love negotiates hour after hour online and face-to-face to bring an issue to the attention of others; love works together to analyze the causes of injustice; love moves to undertake action to improve education, housing and opportunities for others.

Love learns that as a child, I thought of "me" first, but now as an adult, I realize that I have sisters and brothers in many places and all are welcomed around the Earth table.

“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘This is my commandment: love one another as I love you’” (Jn. 15:12-16). This is the pulse beat within the call to “bring about a revolution of the heart.” We in our Catholic schools may often receive the “A” for doing the works of charity, but are we converted at the deeper interior level to this kind of radical love relationship that exists between Jesus and his Father, and between our Creator and us?

What is involved in daring to open ourselves to this ongoing revolution in our hearts? Let us pause for a moment of silence to reflect on what it means to welcome a revolution of God’s love into our hearts.

Are we willing to take that step today by pondering the words of Pope Francis? “God's mercy can make even the driest land become a garden, can restore life to dry bones (cf. Ez 37:1-14). ... Let us be renewed by God's mercy, let us be loved by Jesus, let us enable the power of his love to transform our lives too; and let us become agents of this mercy, channels through which God can water the earth, protect all creation and make justice and peace flourish" (Easter Urbi et Orbi message on March 31, 2013).

Adapted from Sr. Mary Annette Dworshak’s address at Catholic Schools Week Liturgy, Holy Names Academy, Seattle, WA on Jan. 26, 2017.

In the photo: Holy Names Academy students carry necessities to people in need as part of the Urban Plunge in Seattle.

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).

The Importance of a Vision

By Guadalupe Guajardo, SNJM

The need for a vision is so essential that even the sacred scriptures tell us, “Where there is no vision the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18). In addition, many fields of study share this concept in their own words. Those in the field of metaphysics say, “You can only materialize what you can visualize.” Even the field of Community Based Organizing embraces this idea with the phrase, “You can only organize what you can imagine.”

How do we respond to a vision? One way is practicing the Law of Deliberate Creation. Our hearts yearn to go forward into a better future. It’s hard to image that we could create a better future in light of the magnificent accomplishments of our congregation in the past, yet it is certainly possible. Our 12 foundresses expected nothing less of us: to go towards a better future.

Futurists tell us that there is not just one future but “futures.” Through the practice of the Law of Deliberate Creation, we are to explore what is possible in this world. Given current realities, what is most probable when we factor in our environment? And most of all, what is preferable?

A vision begins with a dream. Daydreaming is something familiar to us all. It is something we do effortlessly. Why? Because our minds go naturally to that which is pleasant as well as hopeful.

We need not be held back by our size or age for we are abundant in passion for human liberation and education. Skills, expertise and knowledge are not lacking. We also have resources to harness. Perhaps all it takes is undergoing some wild, out-of-the-box thinking. Sometimes the answers are found between current realities – with all their limitations – and outrageous limitless imaginings.

We want a world where the environment can provide fresh drinking water for everyone.

We want a world where no one goes hungry.

We want a world where girls and women are safe to lead robust, fulfilled lives.

We want a world without the hardship of war.

In the science of organizational development, assessment begins with a thorough review of an organization’s purpose. Our purpose comes from the Gospel: To free all human beings through the act of loving one another. These are our marching orders. The words of our charism, stating we are “committed to the full development of the human person,” say it all.

In addition, we have our 34th General Chapter Acts to inspire and guide us. Most recently, we have a corporate stand on Immigration and Refugees before us to study and act upon.

Let’s go forward. Our vision is calling.

In the photo: Guadalupe Guajardo, SNJM

Two Poems on Spirituality

Life Is a Process

Life is a learning in process,

that teaches about pain, and teaches about joy.

Life endures pain, knowing and remembering some day it will end.

Then new life arises, and catches the joy for new ways of loving in truth.

It moves with the Spirit in love.

Life is a light, that sparkles understanding, comes dimly in darkness, where wounds buried deeply are opened to healing...

and new ways of loving begin.

Then life finds meaning, and hope instills promise that harmony's forever.

Life with the Spirit always lived is true.

Nadine Grogan, SNJM (August 2003)

Enter in the Inn

Enter in the inn.

The sacredness of life is here.

We do not see it everywhere.

Enter in the quiet of life.

Bow down and enter in.

Enter in with reverence.

Be present to your God.

Nadine Grogan, SNJM (December 2003)

An Immigrant’s Story: ‘No One Ever Asks’

By Cathy Beckley, SNJM

I met Rudy at the St. Vincent’s food pantry in McMinnville, Ore., where he works. One day while doing some volunteer work filling shelves with food, I asked him to tell me about his life. He said no one ever asks.

When he was 16, his mother told him he needed to leave Nicaragua before he was forced into the military. He would have to travel over 2,000 miles alone, with little money to survive on. Still, the worst part was saying goodbye to his mother and never knowing if they would see each other again.

It was a long and desperate journey. As Rudy’s story unfolded, I learned about the grief, fear and helplessness he faced. On his own, he made it as far as a refugee camp in Honduras, where authorities wouldn’t release him because he was an unaccompanied minor. He had to build his own shelter out of scrap materials. He had no choice but to wait, pray and cling to his faith. Months passed.

Finally, his stepfather tracked him down and got him released from the camp, but his troubles were not over. The two were able to fly to Mexico, then make their way north by train. But crossing the border into the U.S. meant hiring a “coyote” to help them run through the night. Rudy held his stepfather’s hand, slowing his steps for the older man, fighting panic. He didn’t know they had reached their goal until he looked up and noticed signs were written in English instead of Spanish.

Last weekend, the Sisters and Associates of our Mission Centre invited Rudy to tell us his story. He is a middle-aged man now, married and working to support his family. Speaking from his heart, he told us that until he was asked about his earlier life, he had locked the memories away. But once that door was opened, somehow he could face it. He told us he went home and shared his story with his wife, and they cried together.

When our group learned that the cost of applying for U.S. citizenship had been insurmountable for Rudy, we offered to assist him financially. We also plan to help defray the cost of a visit to the family he had to leave behind as a frightened teen-ager. This offer brought tears to his eyes.

Mother Rose says each of us should reach out a hand to others. Our Chapter Acts tell us to help people on the margins, and help with the full development of each human person. What I told Rudy is that God is generous and people want to help. We pray that he is blessed, along with all those who ask for – and listen to – stories like his.

In the photo: Sister Cathy Beckley introduces Rudy to Sisters and Associates gathered for a Mission Centre meeting in Lake Oswego, Ore.