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News from the Novice: Ready ... and Never Fully Prepared

By Michelle Garlinski, SNJM

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.