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Follow Sylvania Franciscans as they blog about living their mission of joyful service to all people. Each week you can read a new entry from the personal journal of a Sister and how she applies Franciscan values to her ministry and the impact they have on the community where she lives. If you like what you read, comment back. We’re always looking for a good conversation.

Finding Perfection in the Imperfect

By Sister Nancy Surma, OSF 

Here I sit in northern Michigan, south of Traverse City by a half hour’s ride.  My brother and sister-in-law asked me to dog and house-sit while they spend a long weekend on Mackinac Island.  I gladly agreed, knowing this time of year is the height of the color season in this part of Michigan.  For weeks I’ve anticipated the time here—peaceful, away from the stress of work—with sunny skies that allow me to soak in the color and glory of creation that happens only in autumn. 

Alas, the reality has been somewhat different.  Dolly has been just what I have come to know over the years.  A golden retriever, she sleeps alongside my bed and looks up with big, beautiful eyes when it is time for food or a walk.  She is a fine companion.  It is the weather and my uninterrupted time that cross me up.  For the four days I have been up north, there has been a total of 27 minutes of sunshine.  The rest of the time has seen heavy clouds punctuated with occasional drizzle and one hard storm.  Where is the blue sky that was to offset the golden and red colors of the trees?

And the quiet and relaxation that I ached for has also been punctuated with a steady stream of emails and texts from work along with some phone calls to take care of necessary business.  Even the writing of this blog presses in, with its completion due just as I finish my time away.

How often I experience this same anticipation of perfection only to be brought low by the reality of imperfection.  It happens with projects I work on, activities I plan, flowers I tend do, sharing with friends I look to for understanding, and on and on.  I know the answer I should hold in my heart.  It comes in St. Augustine’s famous Confessions:  “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”  Yes, remembering that does help me to think of life beyond death, to the time when (I hope) I will see God face-to-face.  I know heaven will bring the satisfaction of every longing as we are filled with God’s love and life.

But how do I handle all this now while I live a life which I hope is many years away from ending?  As I drove through the gloom with the trees in various shades of autumn all around me, something came to my attention that offered something for the here and now.  The muted light gave the leaves a different look, almost a glow of golden light.  It was diffuse and subtle, not the riot of color I would have seen had a high pressure system been sitting overhead.  There was an aura of mystery and peace in the gentle tones.  The beauty was there, but it was different than what I expected and had to be approached through different eyes.

And my interruptions, what good can I find hidden in them?  That takes a longer time to tease out, a task I am not finished with yet.  I suspect it has to do with having meaningful work that is a blessing which allows me to participating in God’s work.  I guess I’ll have to ponder this more after I take Dolly out for a walk.  She’s stirring and looking at me with those eyes.
  1. Re: Good News

    Sr. Nancy, you are not alone. I am constantly trying to center myself. I rely on prayer, the sacrame

    --Jim B

  2. Re: The Stigma of Mental Illness

    Dear Karen, Thank you for sharing your reflection on depression in your blog. Beautifully, insightfu

    --Eileen Ripsin

  3. Re: The Blank Check

    Great reflective piece and calming to read at the end of the day, as we gather the energy to be like


  4. Re: ‘Gladdening our Hearts’ Texas Style

    Thanks for this great reflection on the simple gift of God's abundance: Grapes!! Let's hear it for

    --Sr Julie

  5. Re: A Life of Sharing

    Thanks for your beautiful reflection. August 10 brought back many special memories for me too.


Meet the Sylvania Franciscan bloggers. We invite you to join us helping the Christian community commit themselves to works that reverence human dignity, embrace the poor and marginalized, and respect the gift of all creation.

Sister Nancy Surma
Health and Human Services

Sister Nancy is a native of Detroit and was taught in grade school by the Sylvania Franciscans. Her early years were spent teaching and administering at the junior high and high school level. Life took a turn, as it so often does, and she served as administrator in four different Catholic colleges and universities, earning a doctorate in higher education administration along the way. She currently works for Sylvania Franciscan Health, the Sisters’ sponsored health and human service ministry, in the world of mission integration. Sr. Nancy lives with three other Sisters in a house that is filled with laughter and love.

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Sister Karen Zielinski
Health and Spirituality 

Sister Karen J. Zielinski, OSF was director of communications for the Sisters of St. Francis of Sylvania, OH from 1991 to 2008.  She is now director of Canticle Studio, a creative office of products which focus on spirituality and health.  She lectures on chronic disease and coping strategies and has lived with multiple sclerosis (MS) since 1975.  She lectures on the spirituality of disability, women's prayer, and topics of wholeness. Most recently, Sister Karen authored Hope and Help for Living With Illness a book on dealing with sickness and disability. The book is available on Amazon.

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Sister Ann Carmen Barone

As Vice President for Mission and Ministry, Sister Ann Carmen Barone is responsible for developing consciousness of the Franciscan mission and for ensuring its implementation and integration into the community of Lourdes. Sister Ann Carmen also supports the other Vice Presidents and the President in their mission-related activities.

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Sister Nancy Linenkugel
Franciscan in the Marketplace

Sister Nancy Linenkugel has served in healthcare administration, education and leadership for the Sylvania Franciscans.  She is an accomplished cello player and a member of the Washington D.C.-based Medical Music Group, made up of doctors, nurses and medical professionals from around the country.  Sister Nancy is currently the chair of the department of health service administration and director of the graduate program in health services administration at Xavier University in Cincinnati.  She has served on the Sylvania Franciscan Leadership Team, was president of Chatfield College in Cincinnati, president and CEO of the Providence Health System and Providence Hospital in Sandusky, Ohio, and vice president of St. John Medical Center in Steubenville, Ohio.  

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Sister Sharon Havelak
Justice and Peace

Sister Sharon is an artist, educator and long-time peace activist, who currently oversees All Good Things, a store/gallery/gift shop featuring art by the Sisters, handmade soaps and lotions, and Fair Trade products.* She also serves as the coordinator of the Sylvania Franciscan’s Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation efforts, and teaches art history at Lourdes University. She keeps her creative juices flowing by painting on silk scarves.
* All Good Things gallery is located in our Sylvania Franciscan Village and many of the items are sold on our website.

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Sister Pam Nosbusch
Hospice Chaplain

Sister Pam is native of Hopkinsville, Kentucky.  She is a Chaplain with Gentiva Hospice in Nashville, Tennessee and is a Board Certified Chaplain with the National Association of Catholic Chaplains.  Previous ministries include Theater Arts and Music Education and Pastoral Associate in Catholic parishes.

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Patrick Mills
Spiritual Enrichment

Pat is a husband and father living in Sylvania, Ohio. He has worked many years for Owens Corning in Toledo and elsewhere. He leads programs there for recruiting and developing talent early in their career, primarily for engineering and operations. As Pat and his family moved around the country, he has been blessed to fellowship in Cursillo, Christ Renews His Parish, bible studies and liturgical music ministry. He presently serves on the Sisters of St. Francis of Sylvania Associate Advisory Board, Chairs the Associate Spiritual Enrichment Committee and is a member of the Expansion Committee for Feed Lucas County Children. Pat is a pilgrim on the journey.

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Sister Lois Anne Palkert
Health and Human Services

Sister Lois Anne has had the opportunity to serve in a variety of ministries, initially as a teacher in Detroit and Toledo.  She transferred her teaching skills into formation ministry in Sylvania, then to Lourdes College where she was Director of the Lifelong Learning.  She then moved into parish ministry and served as a Director of Faith Formation and as a Pastoral Associate in two rural parishes in Minnesota.    From education she transferred to healthcare ministry and currently serves as the Director of Mission Services at St Joseph Regional Health Center in Bryan, Texas.

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Sister Julie Myers
Religious Vocations

Why did you come to religious life….why do you stay?  As Vocation Minister for the Sisters of St Francis, Sister Julie addresses these simple questions that hold deep meaning and more in her blogging and in her monthly “Letter from the Vocation Minister” found on the Vocation link of the Sister’s Website.  We are all called by God to be our best selves and to serve God in ways far beyond our imagining.  Sister Julie has lived her calling as a Franciscan through the ministries of Vocation Minister, Physical Therapist Assistant, and as Sacristan for the Motherhouse Chapel.

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