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News from the Novice: An Autumn Update from Sister Michelle in Winnipeg

By Michelle Garlinski, SNJM

Hello from warm Winnipeg! It is hard to believe that lately there was only a 2-degree difference in temperature between here and Berkeley. Thank you, God! Flip flops in November in Winnipeg? Definitely global warming! Otherwise, it looks like fall has settled with the trees bare of their leaves and harvest moons. October was also the beginning of my favorite season – turkey and pumpkin! With Canadian Thanksgiving and Sister Cathy’s family visiting from Australia, I had opportunities to perfect the turkey on three different occasions. I am delighted to be in California for U.S. Thanksgiving as it extends the season!

Life in the condo remains quiet while Sister Cathy is gone; she continues to receive medical care and build up her strength. In the meantime, I have tried to “share” the space in the condo by initiating a regular gathering of young adults. Our group is approximately nine women, ages 18-32, who are interested in community, faith and service. At each gathering we rotate the focus between faith-sharing and a common service experience. It is a nice mixture of St. Mary’s Academy alumnae, staff and others connected to SNJM in some way.

The Charism and Mission Office at the academy is unfolding as the timeline to roll out our five-year plan becomes more concrete. We celebrated Mother Marie Rose week in fun and engaging ways Oct. 3-7, including our launch of prayer pals, a basic session on Mother Marie Rose and our SNJM story in 10 of 22 homerooms, and “following” her on social media. I’m experimenting with a new initiative that I call “charism corner.” It’s a weekly piece of information about our charism that is connected to the students’ lives today. Preparing these has also benefited me, as it has helped deepen my understanding of our charism and how to articulate it to our school community.

I am appreciating my ongoing formation, focusing on the General Chapter Acts via regular phone conversations with Sister Beth. I look forward to her visit in mid-November. I meet weekly with Sister Carmen, who lives nearby, for a meal and prayer. I’ve also been invited by Kateri House in Toppenish, WA, to join them in evening prayer by phone when my schedule allows.

My service experiences continue at two ministries that serve the economically poor. I have also had my official tour and meeting at the Jesuit Gonzaga Middle School (similar to Nativity Schools) and I will begin Nov. 30. I get frustrated sometimes because it is difficult to keep the regular commitments at these agencies given the evolving nature of the new charism office at the academy. What a difference from my canonical year! However, I am confident that a regular rhythm will emerge. In the midst of all of this, I am still finding time to play! Spending time with family and friends proves to be good for the soul, too.

As I follow the news of the presidential election, be assured that the U.S. is in my prayers. This is a very anxious time for your country and we stand with you in prayer and hope. God is always faithful.

I look forward to my visit to Northern California later in November and a blessed Thanksgiving with community, family and friends.

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: An autumn scene in a Winnipeg neighborhood.








For the Least of These: Welcoming Refugee Children

As part of UN Day on Oct. 26, Gonzaga University in Spokane hosted a talk by Micah Spangler, Deputy Director of Legislative Affairs for the Better World Campaign, on how citizens can help with the global refugee crisis. Three Sisters of the Holy Names participated along with Sally Duffy, Associate, who submitted the article below after attending a separate workshop on resettlement of refugee children.

Images of unaccompanied children riding the infamous “Death Train” through Central America, captured on film by Catholic Relief Services, made a stark backdrop for a recent workshop on a new refugee program in Spokane, WA.

For many of these children – desperate to escape trafficking, drug-related violence, hopelessness and a life of fear – there is no happy ending. But thanks to programs such as the one starting in Spokane, some will find loving homes, new friends and an education.

Sally Duffy, Associate, participated in the workshop to learn about Spokane’s recent designation as one of 23 programs in the U.S. to accept unaccompanied refugee minors. According to workshop leaders, the United States is the only country in the world to offer a resettlement process for unaccompanied refugee youth. 

The Unaccompanied Refugee Minor Program in Spokane is headed up by Lutheran Community Services, which has been a partner in past local SNJM anti-trafficking efforts. Catholic Relief Services is involved in the same program elsewhere, including in Seattle. As Pope Francis has said of such social justice partnerships worldwide, “We walk together.”

A handful of children will be arriving in Spokane next summer. Lutheran Community Services hopes to resettle as many as 30 by fall 2017, says director Lisa Johnson. While the program embraces children from around the world, leaders of the Spokane program hope that about half will come from the Central American nations of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.

Pope Francis focused on migration from Central America during his recent visit to the United States, according to a CRS news release. “Migrants and refugees fleeing through Mexico are very vulnerable to kidnapping, extortion, assault and even death,” said Roberto Rojas, CRS Advisor for Hispanic Outreach.

Not all of the children who survive the hazardous journey to the U.S. are fortunate enough to find their way to welcoming homes. The number of refugees who can be accommodated in Spokane depends on how many local residents find it in their hearts and have the means to become foster parents.

Those who do will undergo recruiting, screening and licensing similar to the process for domestic foster parents, but with additional training. Next, Lutheran Community Services will work to match families with a child waiting for placement. Families will receive a stipend and support from a social worker to assist with adjustment.

At present, two Spokane families have agreed to be foster parents. One is taking two sisters from the East African country of Eritrea and the other is taking a boy from Burma.

Foster parenting is not the only way to support the program, which also welcomes volunteer tutors and drivers. But Johnson hopes to recruit more parents in the region.

“It’s heartbreaking to look at the list and you see child after child after child…who’s been sitting in a refugee camp” with nowhere to go, she said in a recent article. “Let’s get them here.”

For more details about the Unaccompanied Refugee Minor Program, please click here. You can also read more about the program in the Spokane Journal of Business.

For more details about the UN Day presentation at Gonzaga University, please send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or read about the UN Foundation's Adopt-A-Future Campaign to raise money for refugee education at www.unausa.org/programs/adopt-a-future.

In the photo, L-R: Mary Ann O'Mara, SNJM, Sally Duffy, Associate, Anne Bosserman, SNJM and Karen Conlin, SNJM at Gonzaga University’s UN Day program. 

I Was a Stranger and You Welcomed Me

By Deb Shannon, Associate

Immigration – and confusion worldwide over what to do about it – is headline news these days. But if you’re an Associate or Sister, how might you live the message of Matthew 25:35: “I was hungry and you gave me food... a stranger and you welcomed me...”?

That was the focus of the autumn Oregon Associate retreat on Oct. 8. Three dozen Associates and Sisters attended.

Participants shared stories of their families’ arrival in the U.S. As one Associate said, it was shocking to look at a multi-generational family photo and see the beat-up hands of farmers. The photo had an impact, she said: “I’ve ridden piggyback on the backs of people who suffered greatly.”

Realizing that, what individual actions can we take regarding immigration? Sister Guadalupe Guajardo of the Province Leadership Team, one of the retreat speakers, rejected taking action based on guilt. Instead, she urged retreatants to come up with “SMART” actions: ones that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely.

Sister Mary Rita Rohde said to look around you to see what the needs are, then collaborate with others to meet the needs.

Both speakers urged participants to educate themselves. Resources with accurate information on immigration are available through the Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center, SNJM Mission Centres, UNANIMA International and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

In the picture: Sisters Mary Rita Rohde and Guadalupe Guajardo help lead the SNJM Associate retreat in Marylhurst, Oregon. Photo courtesy of Sister Virginia Schroeder.

News from the Novice: Thoughts About Community and Charism

By Michelle Garlinski, SNJM

Well, it has been anything but boring since my return from retreat. Unfortunately, Sr. Cathy was admitted to hospital in August and she continues to struggle with health concerns. I try to visit her each day after work as the walk is good for me.  We had our first death in over three years in the Manitoba Province last week. When in a smaller province, we certainly feel the pulls on the community resources in particular ways. God is always faithful!

Cathy being in the hospital has left me holding down the fort. So far, so good. I have had plenty of experience living on my own and so this has been easy enough to adjust to, although not my preference. It has forced me to confront some of the concerns I named before returning from California. It takes more effort and commitment from me to seek out opportunities to pray and gather with others in community. However, I believe this is an example of how we will have to live into being as a smaller congregation as the 34th Acts of General Chapter identified. An adventure in the Spirit, indeed!

My new position as Director of Charism and Mission is slowly unfolding. There are some projects on the horizon. One being the development and implementation of the Charism into each year (grades 7-12) of the Religion curriculum. This will include a foundational dimension (what do they need to know) and a functional dimension (how can they live it). It is nice to have someone in the department with me (the Coordinator of Campus Ministry) as we actually have department meetings! The meetings with the Boards will begin soon and I am sure there will of other projects coming. I have also started a ministry experience at a local agency called Oak Table. They are located just down the street in the basement of the neighborhood United Church. They offer lunch and community to those who are struggling with economic poverty, living with physical or mental illnesses or recently out of prison. This will hopefully be a weekly commitment for me, once some of the community realities settle.  

I have enjoyed reconnecting with family, friends and my parish community since I have returned. It has been fun to enjoy some of the day-to-day experiences again. I am amazed at how people can carry such heavy burdens daily and still be so present to others. I really feel blessed to have such people in my life who model service and humility. We also had a community day a few weeks ago, which was a nice opportunity to see most of our Sisters and many Associates and celebrate a few 60th jubilees.     

I continue to think of you often and hold you in prayer. I’m sure the fall routines are in full speed for you as well. I appreciate the regular connection with Sr. Beth and Sr. Carol. I was also delighted to hear that Angela has joined them on Arch Street. In case I haven’t mentioned it before – it is a great living community!

Until next time, I pray that our journey through this Year of Mercy may continue to be a sign of hope and love in a broken world.

Note: Michelle Garlinski was received as a novice of the Sisters of the Holy Names in July 2015. She spent her first year living and learning with Sisters at our Province’s welcome house in Berkeley, CA. This fall she began 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: Novice reception ceremony for Michelle Garlinski in July 2015.

Justice: Why We Fight California’s Death Penalty

By Jo’Ann De Quattro, SNJM

Did you know that the death penalty was reinstated in the United States in 1976, the same year that it was eliminated in Canada?

This November, Californians have an opportunity to vote for a ballot measure that would replace the death penalty with life in prison without parole. A similar proposition was defeated by a small margin in 2012.

Currently, there are 747 people on death row in California. While our state leads the country in the number of death row inmates, 13 people have actually been executed since a 1978 ballot initiative reinstated the death penalty in California. In July of this year, Ron Briggs, a former county supervisor whose family authored that initiative 40 years ago, wrote an article in the Sacramento Bee saying he has reversed his position and now considers the policy “destructive to our great state.”

Opposition to the death penalty is nothing new for the Sisters of the Holy Names. In 1998, our former California Province went through an extensive process that resulted in a vote to take a Corporate Stand Against the Death Penalty. We stated:

We, members of the California Province of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, believe that the death penalty is immoral and should be abolished. We further believe that an alternative to capital punishment is a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

Pairing action with words, 109 California Sisters also signed the “Declaration of Life” – a notarized document stating that if the Sister who signed is murdered, the death penalty will not be sought to punish the perpetrator. These declarations remain in effect.

Part of our rationale at the time was the impetus of our community’s 1996 Chapter Act:

Called to be prophetic witnesses to the Gospel, we commit ourselves to work to change structures which oppress life wherever it is threatened.

Today, the Sisters of the Holy Names in California join 26 other communities of women religious who have endorsed Proposition 62, the Justice That Works Act, which seeks to replace California’s failed death penalty with life in prison without parole. It provides certain justice and requires convicted murderers to work and pay restitution to their victims’ families. According to the state Legislative Analyst’s Office, passing the Justice That Works Act would save California taxpayers $150 million a year.

Unfortunately, California voters will be choosing between two competing initiatives. Also on the ballot is the opposing Proposition 66, which attempts to hasten executions, severely limiting appeals to death sentences. Legal scholars believe that proposal will be declared unconstitutional.

Proposition 62 is supported by the California Catholic Conference and the Catholic Bishops of California. This is an affirmation of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ 2005 statement, A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death, which initiated the U.S. Bishops’ Catholic Campaign to End the Use of the Death Penalty.

Believing that a culture of life is also a culture of forgiveness, we oppose the death penalty because of what it does to those guilty of horrible crimes as well as for what it does to us as a society. Reliance on the death penalty diminishes us and is a sign of disrespect for human life.

Pope Francis has said, “In the Eucharist we experience the forgiveness of God, and the call to forgive. We celebrate the Eucharist not because we are worthy, but because we recognize our need for God’s Mercy.” Francis has also decried the sentence of life without parole as a “hidden death penalty.”

While we wish we could abolish the death penalty completely, it seems that for now at least, we have the opportunity to stop the execution of people, some of whom could be declared innocent in the future. DNA technology and new evidence have proven the innocence of more than 150 people on death row in the United State. In California, 67 people have had murder convictions overturned because new evidence proved they were innocent.

Join us in our efforts to pass this legislation in California! YES to Proposition 62, NIX to Proposition 66!

Illustration credit: Peg Averill (Liberation News Service, War Resisters League, Offset, Mid 1970s, New York, NY). Courtesy of Center for the Study of Political Graphics.