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Sr. Emily Schietzsch
Sr. Emily Schietzsch
Winnipeg

It has been 20 years since the seeds of sisterhood were first planted in Emily Schietzsch.

Reading through a book on the lives of the saints, 12-year-old Emily discovered a world of courageous martyrs, rigorous ascetics, and the pious devotion of consecrated virgins. From that moment her faith was set afire; she desired a life of total devotion to God.

Now at 32, Sister Emily is preparing to profess the final vows that will permanently confirm her as a Sister Servant of Mary Immaculate.

“It’s starting to sink in – I’ll be a Sister forever,” said Schietzsch, who will be the youngest Sister Servant in all of Canada.

“I’ve lived this vocation for nine years, so in some ways I’m just continuing to develop a lifelong journey I’m already on. In another way, I’m finally saying ‘forever.’ I’m not saying, ‘God I will serve you today, I’m serving you for tomorrow, or for one more year.’ Now it’s ‘God, I’m yours completely and totally forever  ?  no matter what happens.’”

“I know that it won’t always be easy, I know I will struggle at times, but I really do want to be God’s forever.”

Sister Emily is scheduled to profess her final vows on Aug. 10 at the parish of her childhood — St. Josaphat’s Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral in downtown Edmonton. It’s also the parish where she was first introduced to the religious community she would one day join.

The Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate (SSMI) are a Ukrainian order founded in 1882, and their presence in Edmonton dates back to 1902. It was their charism of service — in parishes, nursery homes, hospitals, schools and social services —that particularly drew Schietzsch into their mission.

“When I started thinking more seriously about being a sister, I started researching a bunch of communities, but none of them captured my heart quite in the way the Sisters Servants did,” she said. “There was something about being balanced between prayer and service that really captured me. The contemplative tradition didn’t quite speak to me as much; I wanted to be out and among the people serving and helping wherever the need was the greatest.”

In those early teen years Schietzsch grew into a more intimate prayer life and personal relationship with God. As that deeper spiritual life was blossoming, her discovery of the lives of the saints brought her faith to a new level.

“As I got to know God, I wanted to do more for Him,” she said. “Reading the lives of these people who gave up everything for God, I really became enamoured by that.”

“The saints that really stood out to me were the young female martyrs and other women of the early Church that really went against the grain of the society they were living in. Because in the Church today we too have to go against the grain to be persons of faith. To live your faith, you have to have the courage and the vigour that these people did.”

“And I knew that being a sister was a far more viable idea than being a martyr,” she added with a laugh.

By age 14, Schietzsch was already feeling certain that God was calling her to sisterhood. Even so, she decided to continue her discernment past high school graduation. She earned a degree in psychology at the University of Alberta and spent a year working with adults with special needs.

But the vision of a life in the blue habit of the Sisters Servants never left her mind, and in 2010, at age 23, she entered the SSMI formation house in Winnipeg for her postulancy and novitiate.

Her decision surprised many of her peers. Some friends were supportive, some who were not religious were shocked and dismayed, and others were worried she was being naïve in taking such a step at a young age. But the support of her parents never waned.

“When I was a shy teenager, my mom would arrange for me to go talk to the sisters at our parish and ask questions,” she said. “My dad would always emphasize ‘If you’re happy, I’m happy. I want what’s best for you.’”

With nine years devoted to sisterhood, it has been a long journey of discernment, prayer and toil. Along with her years of study, daily prayer and meditation, she has worked with the sisters across British Columbia and in Winnipeg and Toronto.

She has served in Winnipeg’s Holy Family Nursing Home, done inner-city ministry with the Yorkton Redemptorists, studied and worked with special needs adults, and has helped archive the sisters’ history at their provincial home in Toronto.

Schietzsch currently serves as an education assistant at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Elementary School in Winnipeg, the last in Canada still run by the Sisters Servants.

Final vows typically come five years after a Sister Servant makes her first vows, but Schietzsch requested an additional sixth year to discern further and pray over her calling. At the time, she was struggling to discern whether she measured up to a life permanently and forever devoted to serving God.

“I think my greatest battles, as they often are, are internal battles,” she said. “There’s always been the fear of ‘Am I enough for God?’ The things, the personality, and everything that goes along with me — is it enough to do this and live this life for God?

“I know God is all loving, all forgiving, and He accepts me as I am even when I don’t accept myself. But there’s one thing with saying that and another thing with actually experiencing and knowing that. I needed that extra time to pray over these doubts and ask God if these thoughts were true.”

That additional time in prayer only reassured her. She came to realize that what mattered most was knowing that God called her to religious life, not whether she felt perfect enough for it.

“That love and desire I had to serve God when I was 12 is still there; it’s maybe a less teenaged version of it, but it’s still there,” she said.

“And I know that God doesn’t call me to be ready, God calls me to come. Jesus said to his disciples ‘Come to me,’ and he says the same to all of us. Even with all of the baggage, all of the gifted and not so gifted parts of myself, He loves and accepts me just as I am.”

She sees her final vows as a reciprocation of that unwavering love:

“God’s love is eternal, and by me saying my vow to God — poverty, chastity, and obedience in perpetuity forever — I, in some miraculous way, get to participate in the eternity of God as well.”

As the youngest sister in her religious community, Schietzsch knows the reality of declining vocations — particularly in highly secularized countries like Canada. While she may be an anomaly among her age group, she firmly believes that many young people are still being called to religious life.

“That desire for truth, life and God is always there in all people,” she said. “It’s just when there’s so many things going on, so many distractions … it’s difficult to find God in this world of turmoil. People have so many options and so many things at their fingertips today, it’s overwhelming. Whether you’re involved with the Church or not, with so many possibilities it’s hard to see God in anything.”

Her advice to anyone trying to discern God’s will in their lives is not only to find time for silence and contemplation outside the hustle of modern life, but also to seek relationships with others that go beyond the artificial and often-isolating world of social media.

“There’s always that barrier in the online world. Now people spend more time with friends online than in person, and it can take away opportunity to really know people heart-to-heart,” said Schietzsch.

“That makes things difficult when it comes to experiencing God too. God cannot be understood through saying ‘Alexa, teach me about God.’ You need that heart-to-heart connection. If you don’t spend that time in prayer, you will never know when God speaks. But if you keep your faith, keep looking and keep knocking, God will find a way.”

She is looking forward to returning to her roots and celebrating her final vows in the church of her childhood.

“It’s quite unique in this day and age to have a celebration of final vows. It’s not something people see all the time,” she said. “I want to celebrate this not just with my sisters, but with my whole church family. The best way to do that is in the parish where I grew up.”

Archbishop Michael Bzdel, CSSR
Archbishop Michael Bzdel, CSSR
Winnipeg, Manitoba
The late Archbishop Emeritus Michael Bzdel, CSSR was a distinguished priest, Bishop, Archbishop, teacher, spiritual leader and friend especially to the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate. Throughout his priestly life he worked alongside the Sisters in support of their ministries of educating the young, caring for the sick and providing spiritual comfort to the elderly.  Archbishop Michael fell asleep in the Lord during the Easter Season in April 2012 however his legacy of caring for the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate lives on.  Recently through the generosity of the Estate of Archbishop Michael the Lubov SSMI Foundation set up its first Endowment Fund.   May his memory live on through the annual disbursement from the Archbishop Michael Bzdel Endowment Fund.   For more information about the endowment and how you can help contact the Lubov SSMI Foundation
Carpathia Credit Union
Carpathia Credit Union
Winnipeg, MB
Creating a strong sense of community is what Carpathia Credit Union has done for the past 75 years.  Today, Carpathia continues to help preserve, promote and enhance Ukrainian culture and heritage especially through their community financial support.
 
Lubov SSMI Foundation thanks Carpathia Credit Union for understanding the importance of supporting the work of the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate.  Over the years Carpathia has provided sponsorship support for events and programs at Holy Family Home and Immaculate Heart of Mary School.    Thank you Caparthia for being such a community leader.  Carpathia was one of the first to step up and sponsor our Perogy Supper Miracle event in support of the school.
 
We are very grateful and fortunate to have Carpathia Credit Union serving our financial needs and generously serving our community.  Together we are making an impact on the lives of children by providing them with an education and also caring for the sick that include promoting our Ukrainian culture and heritage.
 
Thank you Carpathia Credit Union.
 
Dauphin Committee Commemorates the Sisters
Dauphin Committee Commemorates the Sisters
St. Paul's Home, Dauphin Manitoba
On Sunday, July 31, 2016  members of the Ukrainian Catholic Church of the Resurrection in Dauphin, along with prominent community members and guests witnessed the unveiling of a special sculpture commemorating the 88 years of services that the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate have given to the community.  The piece is entitled The Compassion:  Faith - Hope - Love created by Don and Shirley Beggs of Studio West Limited.  The Sisters began their minitry in Dauphin and area in 1928 and continued until recently.  The Dauphin community wanted to ensure a lasting tribute was created as a reminder of how the Sisters were key constributors to the foundation on which Dauphin was built.  
Making a difference..one hat at a time
Making a difference..one hat at a time
Winnipeg, Manitoba
When she picked up a knitting book and taught herself to knit at the end of October, 2015 little did she know that her efforts would produce close to 80 hats and help bring joy to those living at the Home of Hope in Ukraine. Meet Natalie Tataryn, someone who felt compelled to do something for the girls living at the Home of Hope, a safe house in Ukraine that is a mission of the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate.  The house is home for over 20 young women who are hoping to get a good start in their adult life.  Many of them come from orphanages, or challenging family situations.  The Sisters through Home of Hope are providing the girls with life skills and opportunities to get a post secondary education. Natalie especially feels a bond with the girls because she was born in Ukraine, however she was adopted by a family in Manitoba. She wonders what her life might have been like if she did not have the opportunity to live in Canada.  Through Natalie's knitting efforts she has raised $1,000 for the Home of Hope.  Thank you to all that have supported Natalie by donating wool and purchasing her hats. Thank you especially to Natalie for her dedication and desire to make a difference.  
Mr. Jerry Kruk
Mr. Jerry Kruk
Winnipeg, Manitoba
There are some people that cross our paths, leaving such a mark that is everlasting.   Mr. Jerry Kruk was one of those individuals who gave of his precious time unconditionally.  Throughout his life he was a leader that really made a difference be it as President of CAA Manitoba, or as an avid volunteer, as a father or friend.  Unfortunately, Jerry’s life on this earth was completed on January 22, 2012.  To honour his years of volunteerism especially his many years on the board of Holy Family Home, one of the key ministries of the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate, CAA Manitoba made a significant contribution to the Sisters.  The plans were already in the works for the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate to create their Foundation so the gift was desiganated to the Lubov SSMI Foundation. What a privilege it was to receive this gift in memory of Jerry Kruk, a person who spoke often of the important work that the Sisters do.  His legacy lives on thanks to CAA Manitoba and their support to the Lubov SSMI Foundation. 

thank you for leading the way to help build the new Lubov SSMI Foundation

P.M. Associates Ltd.
P.M. Associates Ltd.
Winnipeg, MB
Creating a new venture requires vision, trust, risk taking and prayer.  The Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate through their connections with the laity on their Boards at Holy Family Home Inc. and Immaculate Heart of Mary School were introduced to Dal McCloy and Philip Cesario from P.M. Associates in 2011.  Little did they know that this meeting would be life-changing for their community.  
 
P.M. Associates is a leader in the project management industry with years of experience completing the development of capital projects for public and private sector clients throughout Canada.  However, their involvement with the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate was driven by their commitment and volunteer experience with working extensively with not-for-profit organizations.  
 
As a seasoned Board member for various organizations in Winnipeg Dal McCloy knows what it takes to develop a strategic map to guide organizations on a path that can turn a vision into a reality.  Working with the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate and their team of laity, Dal created a Fund Development Strategy that suggested the Sisters create a Foundation.  The strategic plan that was presented in January 2012, helped lay the cornerstone for the Sisters to create the Lubov SSMI Foundation Inc.  
Thank you P.M. Association especially Dal and Philip for generously sharing your expertise with Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate. 
Roman & Maria Halkewycz
Roman & Maria Halkewycz
Winnipeg, MB
Imagine having to recreate your life three time to ensure that your family is well taken care of and safe.  That was the situation for Roman and Maria who have recently celebrated their 72 years of marriage.  When they made their life commitment in Ukraine, little did they know that their journey would be long-lasting, and filled with many moments of joy, pain and fear.   Relying on their deep faith and hope, Roman and Maria left Ukraine in 1944, and eventually settled in New York with their young family.  After years of working hard, they were able to establish their American life which ultimately led them to retire in Winnipeg.  Upon retirment they remained extremely active especially in their church.  Roman helped organize a seniors group at his parish and held leadership positions for close to 30 years.  Roman and Maria lived  at Holy Family Home for the past couple of years. On February 18th Roman's earthly life came to an end.     "I cannot compain about our life.  It has been long and good even though there were times of hunger and moments of fear that we might not see tomorrow.  We were and are grateful for the many blessings that we have received.  Holy Family Home is one of those blessings especially at this stage in our lives.  At this place we call home, we are able to continue to nurture our deep faith, keep our Ukrainian heritage spirit alive and gather regularly with family.  All of these elements have been important to us and bring us much joy." - Roman Halkewycz (age 96) On February 18, 2014 Roman past away.  May his memory live on through all those whose lives he has touched.
Rt. Rev. Mitrat Gregory Oucharyk
Rt. Rev. Mitrat Gregory Oucharyk
Winnipeg, MB
A long-time supporter of the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate was the Rt. Rev. Mitrat Gregory Oucharyk who recently passed away in January at Holy Family Home.  Throughout his priestly life Rev. Mitrat Oucharyk worked alongside the Sisters encouraging and supporting them in their various ministries.   His commitment to the work of the Sisters was confirmed when he made a major gift to the newly created Lubov SSMI Foundation. Rev. Oucharyk was one of the first major donors to the Foundation. How appropriate it was that gifts in memory of Rev. Mitrat Oucharyk were made to the Lubov SSMI Foundation. Thank you to all those who made contributions; it is through your support that the memory of Rev. Mitrat Oucharyk will live on.
Sister Frances Byblow
Sister Frances Byblow
Winnipeg
One time General Superior of the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate, Sister Frances Byblow, celebrated her 94th Birthday on May 9, 2018.  Throughout her life, she has unconditionally shared her love for God’s people as a teacher, superior and worldwide leader.  Today she lives at “Bethany Home” in Winnipeg where she devotes her time for prayer and meditation.  Although not physically able to venture out like she once did, she still continues to minister to others through her blog “Stories of Joy."  Sr. Francis also tries to stay informed about the latest developments with her community such as the Holy Family Home expansion project.  She also finds time to promote the causes for canonization of at least two Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate – Blessed Josaphata and Blessed Martyr Tarsykia.  At breakfast, on the morning of her 94th Birthday, Sr, Francis told her Bethany Home community of Sisters that she would already like to invite them all to her 100th Birthday celebration in six years!  
Sr. Janice Soluk
Sr. Janice Soluk
Winnipeg
Farewell to Founding Chair Sr. Janice Soluk dedicated her time unconditionally over the past 5 years as the Lubov SSMI Foundation, Chair of the Board of Directors.  As the first Foundation Chair, her leadership has help create and establish the Lubov SSMI Foundation as the resource to support the funding needs of the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate ministries.  This past July, the Sisters Servant of Mary Immaculate met in Rome for their General Chapter Meeting where the new General Council was selected for the world.  Sister Janice Soluk has been elected to the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate General Council which means that she has had to give up her position as Chair of the Lubov SSMI Foundation Board.  We are very grateful to Sister Janice for living up to the title of Heart of Community especially over the past five years as she represented our new Foundation.  We thank her for helping put into place a solid beginning for the Lubov SSMI Foundation. 

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Heart of our Community

Sr. Emily Schietzsch
Sr. Emily Schietzsch
Winnipeg
Celebrating Her Final Vows