Our Blog: Holy Names Voices
When Sister Maria reflects on her penchant for “doing art,” as she likes to call it, she credits her parents for nurturing her creativity. She inherited their yearning to bring beauty into their surroundings. She recalls her mother’s ingenuity with flowers and handiwork like crocheting and embroidery, and her father’s love of opera and how it filled their home with soaring sounds.
Over the years, Sister Maria has experimented with all sorts of artistic media. Whether it be collage, decoupage, watercolor or drawing, she just goes where the brush, pencil or pen lead her. Some of her creations, like her fanciful doodling, explore the space in between traditional artwork and personal expression. To her, anything that gives visible form to what one sees or feels becomes an art form.
Photography provides her with an important way to capture sources of inspiration, both in her travels and on walks around gardens and parks near her home in Silver Spring, MD. Through photos notecards, these images have become part of her body of work.
Sister Maria’s fascination with “doing art” is sustained by the knowledge that there are endless possibilities yet to be discovered. She finds that “when I DO ART, I am nourished and free.”
During her college years, Sister Jean enrolled in an art class taught by Sister Maria Luisa Wolfskill (Sr. Mary Luke). With her teacher’s encouragement to develop her talent and to major in art, Sister Jean became an art teacher herself, and in turn became an advocate for her own high school art students. She gave them lifelong skills to share their creativity and appreciation for art. One of the students who took her class in stained glass at St. Monica High School in California is now a professional artist who produces stained glass windows for churches and other structures. Many of her students stay in touch with Sister Jean, expressing gratitude for the way she showed belief in them and helped them develop their own talents and confidence.
After teaching art for 32 years, Sister Jean expanded her ministry of education by founding Holy Names Graphics in 1984. It continues to provide resources, including clip art, for schools, parishes, retreat centers, hospitals and religious orders nationally and internationally. Sister Jean also shares her abilities with those who lack financial resources for graphic design services.
Sister Jean continues to develop new skills in graphic design, using multiple computer programs as she creates new images. She never knows what the day will bring in terms of requests for her artwork.
When asked what gives her life in her current ministry, she says, “Listening to and understanding the idea that an individual wants to express and creating a design that conveys that message.”
Art has always been a part of Sister Pat’s life. Her beloved elementary school art teacher inspired Sister Pat to enroll in painting classes for three years at Holy Names Academy in Seattle. In college, she continued her education in a variety of art classes at Marylhurst College, including calligraphy taught by Sister Loyola Mary.
As an elementary and middle school teacher, Sister Pat loved teaching art to her students. They looked forward to Fridays, which she designated as a special day to foster their creative spirits.
After serving in leadership of the Holy Names community for 10 years, Sister Pat took a one-year sabbatical, during which she explored oil painting at Wenatchee Community College. In 2005, at the age of 81, she retired and started devoting more time to watercolor painting. Her works made a welcome addition to the annual Fall Bazaar and fundraising events.
Today, at 98, Sister Pat appreciates beauty in the world around her retirement community in Spokane, WA.
For Sister Marilyn Nunemaker of Portland, OR, art is a spiritual path, a creative engagement with God, particularly through the splendor of nature. “With my art,” she says, “I want to give God glory with nature.”
Her primary subject is landscape, ranging from her own backyard awash in color to broad forest and mountain vistas and beachscapes drawn from her extensive hiking trips.
Wherever she goes, Sister Marilyn brings a camera so she can record images she might later use as inspiration for a painting. Her primary medium is pastels, which have the intensity of color that she feels captures the vibrancy of what she is painting. They are messy but forgiving, she says, and you can make a mistake or change your mind and adjust it. Essential to art for her is intention, of looking deeply into the subject, noticing change and nuance.
In her ministry as an educator, art has always been an important component. She worked with middle schoolers for 23 years and with adult learners for an additional 23 years as a GED instructor at Portland Community College, and art always infused her teaching strategies. Across all disciplines, she relied on art to enliven and vitalize learning.
Through the making of art, Sister Marilyn has a ready avenue to God, and it gives her a sense of joy to freely share it with others.
In 2018, a committee of Sisters and community members discussed options for the former New York Province’s Provincial House in Albany. It was no longer used regularly by the Sisters or the Academy of the Holy Names-Albany that shares the campus. The aged water and power systems, plus pervasive asbestos fireproofing, made construction or renovation options costly and ultimately, they decided that the best choice was to return the grounds to green space.
During the next year, the 85,000-square-foot building was emptied of furnishings. Heating and water systems, hundreds of lockers, lights and built-ins were dismantled and carefully removed. All the items were recycled, donated or sold to area public and parish schools, minority and small businesses, charities and families. One of the chief project objectives was to recycle, reuse or re-purpose everything possible to minimize environmental impacts. For example, crushing the building’s bricks and cinder blocks kept them out of landfills and has provided 85% of the fill material needed for the future green space.
Preparations have reached the last stages, with plans to sift out any remaining bits of recyclable material, begin site contouring, add topsoil and seeding, and install a few lights and guardrails. Soon the adjacent school campus will have a limited-access extension of the natural woods along its border.
This summer, Sister Janet Marcisz spent time at her local county fair with the garden club of Eugene, OR, which sponsored a booth providing flowers and containers to fairgoers wishing to explore flower arranging.
Gardening has always been important to Sister Janet, providing a close, heart-filling connection to the beauty of our planet. After 38 years of classroom teaching, she trained as an Oregon State University Master Gardener as a new facet of her ministry as an educator. In this way she continues teaching God’s love for us in the gift of Creation.
While the pandemic curtailed her in-person master gardener activities, she continues her own education and helps gardeners by sharing best practices via Zoom workshops.
Pandemic safety measures have also limited her work with the Lane County Literacy Council, which gives away books and encourages parents to read to their children. However, the council is still collecting books –accumulating garages full – and devising ways to distribute them, including visiting local parks with armloads full.
Sister Janet looks forward to when she can again dig in the dirt with novice gardeners and read to children tales of wonder and the splendor of our incredible planet Earth.
For the past 32 years, Sister Kay Burton has ministered in Jonestown, MS. A part of her message has been the importance of helping others, both through her own involvement and by training volunteers.
Through Sister Kay’s encouragement, adults and youth of Jonestown have come together to create a wonderful Community Garden. While taking care of the earth by nurturing the land, the gardeners benefit from better access to food, enhanced nutrition, increased physical activity and improved mental health.
In the summer of 2021, the Community Garden produced cabbage, squash, green beans, okra, tomatoes, cucumbers and watermelons. Forty tomato plants grew quickly, loaded with blossoms that produced fruit from April through mid-September. The volunteers enjoy and share their summer harvest while happily anticipating their next crop, as they now sow seeds for winter greens.
Sister Mary Rita Rohde embodies the SNJM commitment to caring for the Earth. “For me, it’s a moral issue,” she says. “We need to be morally responsible for generations to come.”
When asked for two actions people can take to make a difference, she quickly identified eliminating the use of plastics and not eating beef.
She knows it’s not easy to be plastic-free, but when she goes shopping in her town of Sunnyside, WA, she chooses bar soap instead of liquid, brings mesh or paper bags for produce and avoids buying water or other drinks in plastic bottles.
Regarding beef, Sister Mary Rita explains that there are two related concerns: the methane that cows produce, which adds to the planet’s greenhouse gas problem, and the destruction of trees in order to provide grazing land for cows, especially in the Amazon region. When you consider that it takes more than 1,800 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef, the environmental impact becomes even more significant. She notes that good alternatives are available that make it easier to eliminate beef from your diet.
“Our interconnectedness with all of creation means that the actions of every individual matter,” Sister Mary Rita concluded.
By Mary Annette Dworshak
In this time of institutional racism, global pandemic, economic fragility, climate change, and families struggling, I ask others to pray with me about the knots in my life that that are causing many of us to ask questions about power, privilege, and respect.
As someone who knits winter caps for the homeless and prayer shawls for those in need of comfort, I have untangled many knots of donated yarn (rose, lavender, golden, and royal blue). Yarn tangles and often insidious knots appear in complicated combinations. I do not want to cut the yarn but safeguard it to be useful for others.
As a U.S. citizen concerned about the common good for all, as an educator believing in the value of political structures safeguarding the rights of all, and as a woman of faith, I am deeply troubled by the polarization gripping the nation, the diminishment of conscience paralyzing many people, and the dismissal of the reality of the pandemic continuing to disrespect millions of people, caregivers, and families.
Dear Our Lady, Undoer of Knots, I pray to you and ask others to join with me in this time of crisis, collapse, and fragility, not only here in the United States, but throughout the world.
Safeguard each person who is stepping forward to engage in difficult conversations about racism and white privilege.
Welcome all at the table to dismantle the racist history taught in our institutions and develop a more inclusive national story of our past, widening the door open to the future.
Guide political leaders and their supporters to value the integrity of conscience in their responsibilities to care for the lives of all people, rather than division.
Prompt us to adapt our lifestyle choices to care for our common home.
Encourage those of faith to build bridges of care for the common good rather than constructing walls of separation.
Consuming news can be like eating your least favorite vegetable. It might be something you need, but it’s probably something you’d rather push aside. Since COVID-19 took over the headlines, some have recommended limiting your news intake for the sake of self-care. But Sister Elizabeth Liebert has another idea – letting the news into your prayer life.
Sister Elizabeth adapted the following prayer practice from “Noisy Contemplation” by William Callahan in The Wind is Rising: Prayer Ways for Active People (Quixote Center, 1973) and Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola (#121).
Praying on Society
In this prayer, based on Ignatius of Loyola’s “Application of the Senses,” you will use your senses to be present to another land or culture or situation.
- Choose another land, culture or situation, perhaps one in the news at the present time. Read contemplatively about this land, culture or situation, seeking to “know” the situation more deeply in your heart. Imagine the persons behind the story…
- See in your imagination and ponder in detail the circumstances in which they are…
- Hear what they are saying, or what they might say…
- Feel what they are experiencing…
- Smell the smells of the place…
- Taste the experience faced by some of your sisters and brothers in that land, culture or situation…
- Be present to them and see if your own empathy can give you a feel for their lives…
- Speak to God about what stirs within you…
At a time of global fear and crisis, the practice of spending intentional time in the holiness of the natural world is a powerful way to connect with God. Sister Elizabeth Liebert has adapted writings in the book Visio Divina: A Reader in Faith and Visual Arts by Mel Alhborn (published by LeaderResources, 2009) to provide a guide to prayer with a simple experience in the outdoors.
- As you begin your prayer, express your desire to meet God in this time. Invite God to visit you through a small portion of the natural world.
- Go outside. Walk slowly and attentively. When a small portion of creation captures your attention, stop there. If it is not possible to go outside, bring a small piece of creation (such as a leaf, a shell, a piece of fruit, a rock) to your prayer space.
- Gently turn all your senses to this small piece of creation. Seek to meet it on its own terms, to understand it from within. Honor it.
- Let this portion of creation into your heart on its own terms. Perhaps it speaks to you. Perhaps an image or feeling comes up for you. Sit with this offering with love, without analysis.
- Continue being in relationship with the piece of creation that has chosen you. Let a prayer arise from the heart as you connect with it.
- Rest in God in the presence of this small piece of creation. In silence. Without words. Listening. Waiting.
- Gently come out of prayer. Reflect on how you can incorporate your experience into your daily life. Does this portion of creation invite you to some action?
In 2017 I traveled to Lesotho bringing 60 water filters and a desire to provide clean water for 60 women with children. Each of the women would pledge to filter water for three other women with children, bringing the total to 240 families being served for 10 years.
In 2018, I asked our U.S.-Ontario Province to help me return with 60 more filters to serve another 240 families with children. I also traveled to Brazil and trained 15 women to use the filters, providing clean water to 60+ families. Many donors helped to make our SNJM Water Project possible.
I am not sure I know how to share with you the profound gratitude of the women who received the filters or the impact this project has on their families, but I’ll share some of their remarks and pictures with you.
I returned to Brazil in September 2019 and to Lesotho in October 2019. An article about the Water Project in our newsletter SNJM Now inspired very generous donors. I specifically remember one donor asking me if I had more resources, would I be able to expand my reach? I did not hesitate to answer because of an experience I had in Lesotho last year.
We arrived in a village for our last meeting. We only had 15 filters left. Over 100 hopeful people showed up. I cannot tell you the pain I experienced in the pit of my stomach. Many of these people had walked a long way in hopes of getting clean water to keep their children from sickness and perhaps death from contaminated water. All we could do at that time was to put everyone’s name in a hat and have a little boy draw 15 names. To this day, I have a vivid picture of the look on the faces of those who left very disappointed. I asked God to make a way for us to return to that village in Peka with more filters.
Well, this past October we were able to do three training in Peka, which allowed us to reach about 180 families. I asked each woman to sign a commitment that she would not only help three other women with children, but to also help at least one elderly person. I had noticed that many of the elderly live alone and could use clean water.
My goal this year was 200 families in Brazil and 500 in Lesotho. I am very happy to say we reached the goal in Brazil and we surpassed the goal in Lesotho. When I left Lesotho, we had reached 510 families. While there, I worked with local Sisters who serve on the SNJM Justice Network and trained them to lead the training sessions. I left with them enough filters and materials to do three additional trainings, which will bring our total there to 735 families. This is why I say, “Look what God can do!”
The women and the Sisters in both places are so grateful for the SNJM Water Project. They just kept thanking me and saying, “We cannot believe that you would come all the way here to help us” and “We cannot believe that people who do not even know us would make it possible for us to have clean water for our children.” They thanked me and asked me to please thank everyone back in my country for them. People had big smiles on their faces when they left, and many would hug me and say, “We love you.” It was so humbling to see their reaction to something we take for granted every day.
Women receiving water filters from the project have two requirements: they sign a covenant to provide clean water for three other women with children and one elderly family, and they also agree to meet once a month for at least six months to support one another and continue to build community.
In the photos, you’ll see that many of these women are very young. They walk a long way to get to the site where we hold the trainings, often bringing their little children. What we have been able to do so far has had an enormous impact on their quality of life.
But there are so many more wanting and needing our help. At times, we are still turning some people away. Let us continue to ask our good God to make a way for us to continue this much needed project, and perhaps expand it in the near future.
Sister Barbara Spears
By Mary Annette Dworshak, SNJM
As we approach the feast day of St. Josephine Bakhita on Feb. 8, I struggle with the reality of global human trafficking. According to a September 2017 report from the International Labor Organization (ILO) and Walk Free Foundation: “An estimated 24.9 million victims are trapped in modern-day slavery. Of these, 16 million (64%) were exploited for labor, 4.8 million (19%) were sexually exploited, and 4.1 million (17%) were exploited in state-imposed forced labor.”
The numbers are staggering. The reality is dehumanizing. In 2014, Pope Francis directly identified the immorality of human trafficking: “The human person ought never to be sold or bought as if he or she were a commodity. Whoever uses human persons in this way and exploits them, even if indirectly, becomes an accomplice of injustice.”
As a teacher of Contemporary Problems to high school seniors at Holy Names Academy in Seattle, WA, what can I do? In 2004 the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary adopted our corporate stand against human trafficking in which we promised to “educate ourselves and others regarding the magnitude, causes and consequences of this abuse, both wherever we are missioned and throughout the world.” We committed ourselves to work in collaboration to “advocate for policies and programs that address the prevention of trafficking or provide alternatives to women and children in danger of being trafficked.”
Fifteen years later, I wonder “What have I done?” Although I have not provided shelter to those trafficked in India or provided job skills training to survivors in Nigeria, as a member of our SNJM Justice Networks, I have collaborated with others to promote awareness about human trafficking, not only within our own community but in our schools in Lesotho, Manitoba, and the United States. Every year some of my students have participated in the Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center’s Just Video contest in which they have dramatically and effectively educated others about the tragic reality of human trafficking right here in Seattle along the I-5 corridor.
Sometimes a few of my students or colleagues have joined some of us on the First Sunday of the month for the IPJC Anti-Trafficking Vigil across the street from Seattle’s Westlake Center. After prayer, we stand holding our signs answering questions of the curious, listening to the stories of those who have been trafficked, or smiling at those who give us a “thumbs up” as they walk or drive by.
A few years ago, when the Sisters of the Holy Names focused on the issue of fracking and the Keystone XL Pipeline, I invited my students to research the impact of fracking upon water and the environment. We also explored the reality of the promise of the oil boom along with the impact on the economy of the surrounding area and the workers who moved there. The Jan. 28, 2019 issue of TIME reported on women who have been bought and sold in oil patch trafficking. Windie Jo Lazenko tells her own story, which prompted her to assist other trafficked victims.
Just last week in class, I assigned this topic to my students: “Two years ago the Sophomore Social Justice Committee studied human trafficking. What have you done about human trafficking since 2017?” I heard students respond, “I haven’t done too much; I am more conscious of where I shop and what I buy; I advise younger women to be more aware of their surroundings and social media; I have researched more about Fast Fashion and am concerned about labor trafficking, as well as sex trafficking.” What these comments say to me is that there are ways to work on stopping the demand through the lens of labor trafficking, as well as sex trafficking.
There are ways in which each of us can make deliberate choices to refuse to be accomplices of injustice harming all of us in our common home.
Sister Mary Annette Dworshak teaches religion and serves as Peace and Justice Coordinator at Holy Names Academy in Seattle, WA.
My name is Julie Tilghman, and I am one of the campus ministers at Holy Names Academy in Seattle. I began my ministry at Holy Names in the fall of 2005, and have been an Associate for almost two years. In my current role, I teach World Cultures to ninth graders, and help develop student life programs related to the spiritual life and social justice work of our school.
In recent years, the work that has most animated my spirit is leading our Charism Committee, a dedicated group of 14 teachers who help plan our Charism Week in November, our biannual personnel retreats and our quarterly Charism lunches. Since first walking through the doors of HNA in 2005, I have developed a profound admiration for the work of the Holy Names Sisters. As my Jesuit pastor likes to quip: “The Holy Names Sisters are doing the work that the Jesuits talk about.” The SNJM Charism and work of the Sisters is directly connected to the life and ministry of Jesus and Mary; the Sisters are a direct reflection of the core Gospel values. The Sisters’ dedication to developing the whole person is evident throughout Holy Names, and serves as a guiding light in the ministry of our faculty and staff.
A peak spiritual and professional experience of my 21-year career took place in 2017, when I traveled to Montreal for the “Pilgrimage of the Heart” with Sister Lorna Cooney, SNJM. Alongside 23 other SNJM school representatives, we visited the sacred sites of Blessed Mother Marie Rose’s life. My mind and heart were illumined by the richness of the SNJM tradition. Our group hailed from eight different schools, each of us honoring Mother Marie Rose’s legacy by educating young women of diverse backgrounds, in unique yet common ways. The sense of sisterhood that we felt was surely animated by the spirit of Mother Marie Rose, as our hearts burned with a renewed passion for our unique ministries in the SNJM schools.
I am grateful each day for the gift of the Holy Names Sisters in my life. As a teacher, campus minister, SNJM Associate and a mother of two, I feel profoundly blessed to count myself as a member of this beautiful community.
As a reporter for a Catholic newspaper, SNJM Associate Carrie McClish has learned that writing is a powerful tool for ministry.
At the Catholic Media Conference of the Catholic Press Association held in June, Carrie received an award of excellence for Coverage of Violence in Our Communities. Carrie works as reporter and staff writer for The Catholic Voice in the Diocese of Oakland and won second place in this new category.
A few years ago, Carrie began reporting on a ceremony that takes place at a church in Oakland, CA. As a way to bring attention to the high rates of violence in the community, this church holds an annual memorial service in commemoration of those murdered each year. For every victim, a cross is displayed. Carrie attends this service yearly, reporting on the sense of community that arises when family members come together to pray for one another and their city.
Writing on violence can be troubling work, but Carrie finds ways to spotlight the beauty within the tragedies. “These people have suffered so much,” Carrie said, “yet they are trying to help each other.”
By covering issues that affect marginalized and voiceless people, Carrie sees the positive impact of her writing. “It’s a way of helping people see what’s going on in the Church outside of their parish,” Carrie said. Sharing people’s stories and difficult moments is a privilege for her and one of the many reasons she enjoys reporting on a wide variety of events, ranging from funerals to jubilee celebrations.
“I think of it as a way to maybe bring people together. Not everyone can go out to these events, so it can be a way of not only building community but deepening other people’s faiths.”
In addition to reporting for The Catholic Voice and being an active member in her own parish, Carrie has become an active Associate with the Sisters of the Holy Names. Since becoming an Associate in October of 2017, Carrie has enjoyed seeing the ways in which her writing connects with the values that Holy Names Sisters hold dear.
One of Carrie’s favorite experiences as an Associate so far has been attending an interfaith group that meets outside of a detention center in Richmond, CA. The center detains immigrants and refugees as they await deportation. The Sisters and Associates who attend this interfaith gathering each month use it as an opportunity to pray for the family members of those being detained and to listen to their stories. “It makes the issue come alive,” Carrie said.
In addition to attending these monthly gatherings, Carrie had the privilege of flying to Portland, OR this July for the community’s chapter. Over 250 Sisters, Associates and Lay Consecrated came together for the event. One of the highlights of Carrie’s first chapter was attending a public witness organized by the Sisters towards the end of their time together. “We all walked out of the hotel and stood outside with one another, standing up for immigrants and refugees,” she explained. “It was really moving for me.”
Supporting migrants and refugees is a corporate stand of the Sisters of the Holy Names and one that often brings the community together. Carrie has appreciated seeing Sisters and Associates put this value into action in their daily lives, in small and in big ways.
Carrie said she would encourage anyone to become part of a community of women religious, especially one whose values you share. “It is a community,” she said, “and it’s not just a word they toss around. It really is a community. I almost feel like I’m part of a family – a bigger family.”
Mahshid, Sister Lucinda Peightal and Pramela work on English language skills at the dining room table.
Mahshid and Pramela prepare a meal with Delphine Busch, Associate.
Pramela, Mashid and Tehras have become friends as well as housemates at the House of Mercy.
Every refugee has a unique story, but almost all of them share a common need – a safe place to live. With support from the Sisters of the Holy Names, Mariposa Ministries was founded in 2017 to provide a home and caring support for up to four women in transition who want to succeed.
Volunteers at the ministry’s House of Mercy in Portland, OR help the residents adjust to living in the United States and provide education so that they can be productive members of society. The house is also a sacred place for study, reflection and prayer.
Mahshid, the first resident to arrive, has become the ministry’s first success story. Mahshid, 47, came to the House of Mercy in October after spending four years in limbo on the island of Nauru. Originally from Iran, she is a gifted painter whose art hangs on the living room wall of the House of Mercy. In February, she found a job working as a baker for a company that operates neighborhood coffee shops in Portland.
Pramela, age 50, moved in the week before Christmas. A refugee from Sri Lanka, she suffered the loss of her husband during the two years they spent waiting for a host country to accept them. Sister Lucinda Peightal tutors Pramela in language skills three days a week, in addition to the many hours Pramela devotes on her own to improve her English so she can apply for a job.
The ministry’s volunteers warmly welcomed the most recent resident, Terhas, when she flew into Portland on March 14. Terhas is the youngest resident at age 30. She fled Eritrea, a country in the Horn of Africa that has been the subject of many human rights complaints. Terhas is just beginning her English studies with Sister Lucinda. She knows that English is the key to a job and a new life here.
This ministry reflects the commitment of the Sisters’ 34th General Chapter, which urges them to create intentional, mission-focused communities that will be intergenerational and intercultural in membership and will be aligned with the community’s major social justice commitments, called corporate stands. The Chapter envisions collaboration among SNJM Sisters, Associates, Lay Consecrated persons, volunteers and others in the formation of these communities. The House of Mercy is one small community responding to this call.
Located along a wide bend in the Columbia River, The Dalles, OR gets its share of cold, wet and windy weather. When a group of residents recognized how difficult the winter season was for their homeless neighbors, they decided to respond.
Collaborating with St. Vincent de Paul in downtown The Dalles, a committee formed in 2010 to find ways to help. The result was the Warming Place, a haven of hospitality where people without shelter can find a welcome, a meal and a safe place to sleep. The Warming Place is one of the beneficiaries of the Sisters of the Holy Names Ministry Grants program, which provides financial assistance to a wide variety of ministries in which Sisters are involved.
Sister Barbara Gfeller, who serves as secretary to the St. Vincent de Paul Warming Place Committee, and Associate Mary Beth Thouvenel report that in 2016-17 the ministry served 903 guests, with an average of 10 guests per night. The Warming Place is now in its seventh season.
Serving others with kindness and care fits squarely into the Holy Names Sisters’ commitment to provide hospitality. This commitment thrives at the Warming Place, as those who host freely share God’s love for all.
In addition to serving hot meals three nights a week, the St. Vincent de Paul dining room is open on cold nights from mid-November to mid-March to shelter people in need. Volunteers remove the tables and set up cots with blankets for the guests.
St. Vincent de Paul also operates a food bank twice a week, serving over 250 people on a monthly basis. In addition to Sr. Barbara, the volunteers include Sister Mary Sullivan and Associates Lois Dunsmore and Juanita Saldivar.
Advent greetings from Winnipeg! As I spend time on retreat before my vows, I am watching the beautiful snowflakes fall so gently. As they create this seamless blanket of white covering the ground it is not difficult for me to dream of a white Christmas. Admittedly, I am praying for a moderately warm one, too!
Life has been full since I last communicated, as I am sure it has been for you, as well. The discernment time with leaders of the two provinces – the Province Leadership Team for Manitoba and Sisters Maureen Delaney and Beth Liebert for the U.S.-Ontario Province – went well. I will profess my first vows as a Sister of the Holy Name of Jesus and Mary on Jan. 3, 2018. Official preparations were under way the day after the announcement. I am grateful to have so many of the SNJM family involved, especially through the commitment of prayer. It is an exciting time for all of us in the Congregation. Our family has never celebrated a religious profession, and it has been 40 years since the Manitoba Province had someone make profession (I think this means our time in the desert is over)! God is good! We look forward to welcoming several people from the U.S.-Ontario Province to Manitoba in a few weeks for the celebration. I ask for your continued prayers.
While this development is unfolding, so too are many others. My ministry in the Charism and Mission Office at St. Mary’s Academy in Winnipeg has been sprouting signs of new life. In addition to the business as usual, the initiatives in November focused on retreat days – one for staff and another for our two main boards. It is exciting to witness the energy and enthusiasm as the greater community hears and shares the common language of our charism, rooted in the Gospel. In some ways, it feels like the New Evangelization – the call for us to share the message in ways that reach this milieu.
On the health front, although not much has changed and I remain frustrated with falling iron levels and high eye pressures, I am grateful for the persistent medical personnel who are trying to search for causes and more effective treatments. I am constantly reminded as I watch the news that although I am challenged by my health limitations, they are merely inconveniences. My prayer for peace, safety and hospitality for so many in our world has been intensified during this Advent season.
As I am approaching first profession, in many of my emails and conversations I have referenced myself as “soon-to-be-Novice-no-more.” I am willing to close this chapter of my journey and await what God has in store for me (and us). This time as a novice has been incredibly rewarding, challenging, growth-filled and enlightening. I find myself in one of those deeply theological moments of the “already and not yet.” This has also been the gift of my waiting during the Advent season. My joyful expectation of welcoming the Christ-Child again is accompanied by my welcoming of the deeper commitment to the Christ-Child. No matter how much I think I am ready, I am never fully prepared. But that’s okay, God will take care of the rest!
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 spent 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.
November marks a defining time of harvest and abundance, a diminishing time of light and the remembrance of those gone before us. Gratitude is an emotion, an attitude, and a virtue that covers all these dimensions.
Gratitude as an emotion: It’s a feeling like joy, happiness, delight, gaiety and bliss.
Gratitude as an attitude: It’s a mindset, a disposition, a worldview that we hold or lean toward.Gratitude as a virtue: It holds a special place in our heart and soul. Some would say it can be a form of prayer. Meister Eckhart reminds us “if the only prayer you say in your whole life is thank you, it will be enough.”
In addition, gratitude goes by many other names. In academic circles it is often referred to as “appreciative inquiry.” In the private sector it may be referred to as “best practices.” In the psychology field it is called “attentiveness bias.” In the metaphysical world it’s called “the law of positive attraction.” And in faith-based circles we’ll hear the words “blessings” and “grace.” This is one sign that the concept of gratitude is universal. There are some wonderful synonyms for gratitude as well: appreciation, gratefulness, thanks and thankfulness.
Despite our current political climate, wars, declining living conditions, environmental crises and the worsening conditions for immigrants and refugees, there is much to be grateful for in our lives and in our world. In the U.S., we have refined religious life into a ministerial profession and opportunity for service and carrying out the call of the Gospel. So many corners of the world still have underserved and neglected communities. If you read the online resource Global Sisters Report, you will find daily reassurance that Sisters continue to be present wherever there are marginalized and disenfranchised populations. Regardless of terrible conditions these people face, a sense of gratitude prevails, even if it’s often in small ways.
Whether we are experiencing crisis, scarcity, loss or merely frustration, expressions of gratitude lift the human spirit. They help us see that with some practice, we may gain insights from the challenges in our life and work. Gratitude also encourages us to stay positive, to focus on what is going well around us.
Each life situation offers an opportunity to intentionally notice gifts, insights, blessings and graces received. Even during our most challenging times, we have a choice about where to focus our attention. It is important to develop an eye for the good around us. All religious orders and ministries are experiencing extremely high demand for human services, advocacy and social change. In the midst of this work, many of us already have a practice of cultivating gratitude in our daily lives. This season is an opportunity to ramp it up.
Today I am grateful for my position on the Province Leadership Team, which allows me to accompany our Sisters and to be part of our transition to a new vision of religious life. I am grateful for our sense of teamwork in service of the SNJM U.S.-Ontario Province. I am grateful for those I serve as liaison to Mission Centres and on various committees. I am grateful to those I go home to, who help me renew my energy for the next day. I am grateful for the comfort and security I am privileged to experience. I’m grateful for our excellent staff throughout the Province. I’m grateful for our separately incorporated institutions. I’m grateful for so many “best friends” within our religious community. I am grateful for the opportunity to be part of a positive collective force making a significant difference in this country and in the world. What are you most grateful for during this season of gratitude?
Until I volunteered at Villa Maria del Mar, I had no idea how its ministry of hospitality reaches so many individuals and groups. I spent time there this fall and last spring, helping with the recovery groups, faculties, seminarians, prison chaplains, prayer groups, Sisters, individual retreatants, quilters and others who keep the staff busy almost every day of the year. I want to share just a few stories from my time there in October.
One day, as I welcomed the Diocese of Oakland’s school superintendent and about 35 principals, I talked about the Villa’s history. At the end of my talk, Jocelyn Pierre-Antoine, who is principal of St. Bede’s, announced enthusiastically, “And don’t forget that Friday (Oct. 6) is the feast of Mother Marie Rose, who was the founder of the Holy Names Sisters!” Jocelyn cherishes the SNJM founding of her school, and she’s on fire with love for Mother Rose and the charism of our community. The next day she brought in a cake surrounded by strawberries – the symbol of SNJM ministries in California – which we shared with our kitchen staff at lunch.
Another time, an elderly couple sitting quietly at a table overlooking the beach was visited by Sister Cheryl Milner, director of the Villa. When Sister Cheryl asked them what brought them to the Villa, the husband said the visit was on his “bucket list.” His last visit had been a vacation with his mother in 1954, when he was 9 years old and the property was known as the Hotel Del Mar. When he searched online for Hotel Del Mar, the Villa’s website appeared. He was thrilled to come back to his childhood vacation spot and be able to spend a few days relaxing with his wife.
Toward the end of my stay, I welcomed three Daughters of Charity from St. Louis. As I learned their story, I found out that one of them, who had been in Province Leadership for the past 18 years, was going to Durand, MS with two other Sisters of Charity. They will continue the ministry of Sisters Paula Merrill, SCN, and Margaret Held, SSSF, who were murdered in their home in August 2016. One will be a social worker in the medical clinic there, another will minister to youth 18-24 who are not employed or in school, and the third will volunteer at the county correctional facility.
What a healing place of beauty and hospitality to all who come to the Villa!
Sister Teresa Shields ministered for 30 years in the Mississippi Delta as an educator, advocate and fundraiser for community improvements. These days she is part of the Sisters of the Holy Names community in Seattle, WA. You can learn more about Villa Maria del Mar at www.villamariadelmar.org.
In the top photo: Jocelyn Pierre-Antoine and Sister Teresa enjoy a sunny day at the Villa in Santa Cruz, CA. In the lower photo: Sisters Cheryl and Teresa are surrounded by staff who later shared the cake topped with strawberries.
Understanding the relationship between the environment and society is critical for the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary. As fires, floods and a whirlwind of worry sweep over humankind, the Sisters faithfully embrace their responsibility as stewards of the earth.
The Sisters’ commitments – spelled out in a document known as the Chapter Acts – include Integral Ecology, which calls for “a comprehensive vision to address what are simultaneously environmental and human crises.” Pope Francis writes of these interconnected relationships in Laudato Si’ (#48), where he states, “The human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together.”
Sister Mary Annette Dworshak is a teacher of religion at Holy Names Academy in Seattle who has incorporated this holistic approach to ecology in every aspect of her life and ministry. “The difference Laudato Si’ made in my life, commitment and teaching is a call to accept the challenge of speaking out about our responsibilities to care for our common home and to take the risk of inviting others to join in prayer, advocacy and responsibility,” she said.
Along with others involved in the SNJM Congregation’s Justice and Peace Network, Sister Mary Annette seeks to promote understanding of how important it is to make sustainable practices a way of life. The Sisters do not work alone but are blessed with opportunities to advance the cause of sustainable living in collaboration with local, national and international groups.
A touchstone for their efforts is the United Nation’s “17 Goals to Transform Our World,” established in the fall of 2015. Many of the goals – including Clean Water and Sanitation, Gender Equality and Quality Education – are closely tied to the Sisters’ vision and mission. These sustainability goals are woven deeply into their daily lives. Several are reflected in their corporate stands, which are positions affirmed by the whole community to focus their efforts in advocacy, ministry and prayer.
From undertaking projects to provide clean water in Lesotho to speaking out against human trafficking in the U.S., the Sisters have taken on these sustainability goals with rigor and passion.
One informal SNJM group called the “Green Ladies” challenges itself to promote dialogue and storytelling as a way of supporting the UN sustainability goals. One of the “Green Ladies,” Sister Linda Riggers, explains that changes in behavior stem from changes in attitude. “We all believe,” Sister Linda said, “that things like sharing our personal experiences, witnessing other people who care for the earth and storytelling shape our attitude and draw us to a conversation of our own ways of being.”
Our lives become stories that educate others to reflect upon their own attitudes, beliefs and behaviors. When others are inspired by our stories, change can begin its process.
With their historic focus on education, members of the SNJM community easily make a connection between being teachers and valuing storytelling as a way to promote change. Sister Marilyn Gooley, another member of the “Green Ladies,” shares a telling anecdote about downsizing her apartment. During her transition to a smaller living space, she recalls the words of an old friend who told her, “There’s never been a U-Haul following a hearse.” Relationships, she adds, are far more precious than possessions.
The message is clear: the material things that fill our homes cannot fill our hearts. But the vision of a future with clean drinking water for our neighbors, lush green forests, children with enough to eat and education accessible to all is a different matter. The contents of our U-Hauls will not follow us beyond the grave, but this legacy will.
Additional information and resources are available from the Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center.
Heather Rockwell works as Communications Assistant in the SNJM U.S.-Ontario Province office.
In the photo: A few of the “Green Ladies” share materials about sustainable living. L-R behind table: Associate Frodo Okulam and Sisters Claire Durocher and Dianne Nixon.
By Guadalupe Guajardo, SNJM
My choice is April, still!
By then the old must go,
By then the new must grow;
It causes some commotion,
Yet, calm is not my notion,
But that we have our will.
My choice is April, still,
Because it’s sweeping, storming,
Because it’s smiling, warming,
Because it has resources,
Subverts old winter’s forces,
Gives birth to summer’s thrill!
When we talk about facing an unsustainable future, it’s important to remember that we have choices. As Sisters of the Holy Names, we choose to look at the economic, social and environmental warning signs that surround us and respond with confident hope.
We are not in denial about the dangerous realities confronting our world. Our dominant economic system – typically described as “capitalism” – certainly has positive dimensions but it has lived out most of its usefulness and its disadvantages are becoming increasingly apparent. This economic system has global impact: it requires raw materials, low taxes, cheap labor and new markets. It determines who gets access to power, land, jobs and resources. There are some winners, but a vast number of losers. News outlets are filled with reports about the 99% who can’t make financial ends meet, the disappearance of the middle class, the high rate of homelessness in one of the world’s richest countries.
Just as serious, the health of our planet is at stake. As the climate changes, we have experienced blistering heat in the Southwest, harsh snowstorms on the East Coast, an increase in destructive forest fires on the West Coast and a rising risk of adequate water to grow our food.
As part of our commitment to a hope-filled future as responsible stewards of the earth, the U.S.-Ontario Province has produced an issue of our own publication, Voyage, dedicated to sustainability. We’ve also supported the production of a primer on sustainability from the Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center. These materials point to options for taking effective action to improve environmental and social conditions for all.
There is a degree of faith involved as we go into the future filled with uncertainties. Scriptures remind us, “For we walk by faith not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). As women of faith, we believe in the Pascal Mystery, that we are an Easter People in a Good Friday world, that death does not have the last say.
From chaos theory, we learn about the cycles of order, disorder and reorder in organic systems. Things fall apart when something better wants to happen. Futurists tell us that there are “futures,” not just a future. There are possible, probable and preferable futures. We want the preferred future to reflect our values and charism. We want a country and world that favors the disenfranchised and marginalized.
Some expect our current economic and social systems to begin to collapse within the next few decades. These times call for a commitment to a better vision for our future society, for new and different types of leadership. In our vision, leadership will come from the margins of society where people take unprecedented risks, are bold because they have nothing more to lose and where the greatest creativity exists. We will need fresh language that can only emerge as we become more welcoming, inclusive and affirming of differences working together for a common good. We will need policies that liberate the human spirit rather than attempting to perpetuate “business as usual.” Human relationships must be at the center of this future society.
Some businesses already have pivoted away from conventional, profit-at-all-costs practices. In an interview broadcast by NPR, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard shared how the company has reduced the production of new clothing items in favor of repairing items purchased by customers in the past. Manufacturing focuses more on garments that can be worn in multiple seasons and last for years. Patagonia’s work culture includes encouraging employees to enjoy the outdoors and supporting the needs of families with on-site day care. Not surprisingly, the company’s founder is committed to a spiritual practice that includes meditation and has established company values that put people before profits. The goal is to be around for the next 100 years, rather than shooting to the top with financial results.
People yearn for meaning. In his collection of essays, Logical Thinking About a Future Society, author Harvey Jackins wrote, “Don’t appeal to people on narrow, economic or self-serving issues, but enlist people in struggle primarily on the basis of offering them meaningful lives; on the basis that participation in social change and human liberation liberates them from the most destructive effect of the society, that is meaningless.”
Embracing our mission to advance sustainability, we go forth with faith, courage, vision and hope. We must continue building strong relationships that will sustain us through the certainty of challenging times.
As I gather my thoughts to compose this News from the Novice, I am appreciating the smells of spring (minus the allergies) and longer hours of daylight. Thank you, God! At the same time, my heart aches as I watch the news reports of the ongoing acts of violence that ravage our world.
So many things happening in such a short time. I have successfully moved into my new apartment, with the assistance of my “moving team” (whom I highly recommend), though they have warned me that this should not be an annual event. Within the first 24 hours I had 90% of the boxes emptied and the kitchen organized. Admittedly, I ran out of steam and the last 10% has taken me longer to manage than the first 90%.
Following the move, I departed for Longueuil. It was an opportunity to share our sacred sites with four staff members from St. Mary’s Academy-Winnipeg. The Charism and Mission office at SMA has taken the initiative to invite staff to deepen their understanding of the charism and grow in their faith. Based on overwhelming interest by staff and the extremely positive experience of the first group, we hope to repeat this in the next school year.
It was wonderful to have Sister Carol Fleitz visit in early June. She was welcomed by the SMA community, our Sisters and even with warm weather! No sooner were the sheets washed than Sister Beth arrived for a lovely five-day visit. She attended the Jubilee celebration for Sister Cathy Laviolette (postponed from the fall) and although it was not her first visit here, we managed to include a few new Winnipeg highlights. The California visitors were wonderful about keeping themselves busy or just enjoying some quiet time while I went off to work. The Charism and Mission Office did not slow down even as the end of the school year approached.
My summer is going to be very exciting. I depart for Saskatoon, Saskatchewan on July 12 for a retreat with Fr. Ron Rolheiser, which is offered to religious in Canada who are age 55 and under. It is hard to believe a dream that took root last May during my prayer time has become a reality. A group of 22 participants will gather from many regions of Canada, representing various religious communities. Following this, I will be in California visiting the Novitiate House and attending the gathering of Sisters who entered after 1970 in Santa Cruz. I am feeling very blessed to be invited to join these women. Immediately after Santa Cruz, I will travel to Chicago for the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities Leadership Institute for new Mission Officers. I am looking forward to adding some tools to the box as I prepare for my second year in this role.
I am confident that this summer will also provide opportunities for me to enter the quiet. I am eager and grateful to have this time to be with God, to listen deeply and attentively to the inner voice of the Spirit. The God of Surprises always makes me smile! I ask that you pray for and with me this summer knowing, “that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion.”
I am writing as we welcome the summer solstice. May this season offer all of us moments of re-creation and rest for body, mind and spirit.
Blessed be the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, now and forever!
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: Sister Michelle (on left) sits with staff members from St. Mary’s Academy as they read “Pilgrimage of the Heart” study materials about the life and ministry of Blessed Marie-Rose Durocher.