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News from the Novice: A Time of Transition

By Michelle Garlinski, SNJM

Last month, I completed my final paper for the Graduate Theological Union course I’ve been taking while living at the SNJM Novitiate House in Berkeley, CA. Finishing the course was part of a flurry of activity in May as I approached the end of my first year as a novice – the canonical year, a time of immersion in prayer and development of my relationship with God and with the Sisters of the Holy Names. Now it’s time to transition to my mission year, which I’ll spend in ministry alongside the Sisters in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Writing the paper gave me an opportunity to reflect on what a wonderful gift it has been to study (even if only in a very part-time capacity). The exposure to new ideas and writings in the area of theology keeps me thinking and applying it to our lives today. Relationships, especially with people in the sabbatical program, have enriched my formation as well. Most of them are religious who have been in leadership. Their stories, encouragement and prayers have been priceless.

In addition, my service experiences with Catholic Worker and the Next Step Learning Center in Oakland have stretched me in lasting ways. They consumed most of my prayer time as I brought these people, by name and story, to God. There have been a series of obstacles that each group has had to face. It’s made for very interesting conversations with God.

This spring brought many pleasures as well as some challenges. I enjoyed sharing the first harvests from Sr. Beth Liebert’s vegetable garden, cycling around Berkeley and Oakland, and helping to welcome a young woman visitor who is interested in religious life. I also traveled to Winnipeg, where I hunted for a new place to live and attended a conference of the National Association of Vocation Formation Directors. It was a good opportunity to meet people from across the nation (and beyond), passionate and committed to nurturing and cultivating the call to religious life.

Our house in Berkeley honored Mother’s Day in a unique way. We made a wonderful brunch and shared stories about our mothers. It was a great way to recognize and offer gratitude to women who influenced our lives in profound ways.

Another celebration in May was the East Bay Mission Center gathering to honor our local Jubilarians, Sr. Marcia Frideger (50 years in religious life) and Sr. Mary Herbert Raphael (80 years)! What a joy to be here to celebrate together. They also offered a beautiful blessing and gift to me as it was the last formal time we gathered before my return to Winnipeg. I was touched by their words and love. I remember not long ago when I was feeling overwhelmed at my first gathering, unsure if I would ever remember all of their names!

We are all experiencing times of transition. At Mass on Pentecost, I was encouraged as I heard Jesus’ words, “As the Father sent me so I am sending you.” As I prepare to leave from this safe, sheltered experience from “behind locked doors” of the Novitiate House, I do so with the Holy Spirit as my guide and although that means more uncertainty, it also means endless possibilities.

Let us pray that the Holy Spirit will unleash our fears and continue to lead us where we dare not go.

In the photo: Sisters of the Holy Names bless the residence in Berkeley, CA that is now our Novitiate House.