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Posted: February 23, 2012

CFUW-Cranbrook’s Woman of the Year

The 28th Annual Woman of the Year Award presented by the Cranbrook Club of the Canadian Federation of University Women will be awarded to Sister Nina Glinski, CND (Congregation of Notre Dame).

“Nominations for the annual CFUW-Cranbrook Woman of the Year Award are open all year long”, stated Woman of the Year Chairman Cathryn Henley, “but we remind and commit ourselves to a nomination drive in December & January of each year, as they close in mid-February. A committee is struck and nominations are read, discussed and then voted on. The process of creating a nomination requires the nominating committee to be organized and to intimately know the person they are writing about. All criteria required is the same as it was in 1984 when the Woman of the Year Award was conceived. The CFUW is non-political, non-religious and criteria can encompass work done by a woman anywhere in the East Kootenay. An education component is essential as that is one of the foundations of the CFUW nationally and the IFUW internationally”, claimed Henley. “All criteria is found on our website:’, added Henley.

This year, the club received three well presented nominations, two of which will be carried forward to 2013 as is the standard practice.

“This might be confusing at a glance,” stated Henley, “because we (CFUW) are non-political and non-religious, yet we are honouring a Roman Catholic Sister. Some of the reasons she was selected are because of her huge impact on everyone and anyone she has met, regardless of race, creed or social status, her ability to teach and create teachers, to instill self-respect in all she touched and her devotion 24/7 to the East Kootenay.

Although a Sister, Nina did not exclude anyone from her care and compassion. Nor does Nina wear robes, but rather looks like any area woman except for the constant glow that radiates from her. She was so open and trusted by everyone who met her, that hearing her speak at several Cranbrook and Kootenay area churches was common. One of the nominators, Arline Davis said this about Nina, “As a teacher she educates not only in the academic sense, but in the area of human development.”

Mary Fiorentino, the head of the nomination committee for Nina wrote, “I could fill pages telling of what Nina promoted in the community to enhance the lives of women, but I want to talk about Nina, the person. It is because of whom she is that she is able to fulfill the mission for which she came to Marywood Retreat Centre as co-director in the fall of 1996. She is an open, honest and trustworthy person; a born leader, charismatic and a great mentor, empowering others by drawing forth their giftedness. She invites, inspires, challenges and encourages everyone to teach and carry on some of the programmes she initiates. Nina is a great listener, very approachable and has a wonderful sense of humour. She treats all as equals and with dignity.” She is the true meaning of a teacher.                                                                                                          …2

Nina was born in Montreal in 1947 to a Polish immigrant who fled Poland via France and Britain while working on his doctorate in physics. He never saw his parents and sister again. He met, fell in love and married an Anglophone woman from Montreal. He transferred his family which grew to 7: one boy and 6 girls, to Ottawa where he eventually became a professor at the Ottawa University. “My dad taught us by how he lived”, said Nina of her father who died far too early in his late 50’s. “He treated everyone as equals, never disrespected nor slandered anyone”, she added. “We learned from him to respect all religions and cultures”, she confirmed.


Nina became a teacher at the Notre Dame High School after 2 years at the U of Ottawa, and then joined the Congregation of Notre Dame. After two more years of study to become a “Sister”, she travelled to Nova Scotia to study chemistry and sciences. Toronto is where she received her Bachelor of Education so she could teach at St. Patrick’s High School in Ottawa. After 10years, she realized her dream of working with rural adults by travelling through the farm communities that surround the Ottawa area. There, she held meetings and classes wherever and whenever she could to help these people find a higher meaning in their own lives. She continued her art of teaching and mentoring there and wherever she travelled. She learned from what she did, but craved more formal education.

With her Science degree and many other courses she graduated from St. Michaels’ Theology department with a Masters in Divinity. With that, she helped develop the Adult Faith Centre in Ottawa for 14years. “It was an all-faiths Centre for Spiritual Growth”, said Nina. It ran for 25 years altogether, closing in 1997.

Nina missed working with rural people and soon welcomed the opportunity to serve in a rural CND mission in the west and this brought her to Cranbrook. Here not only did she help those attending Marywood, but she opened her heart to everyone in need in the East Kootenay. Arline Davis said, “Anyone who falls into her shadow is aware of a dynamic personality moving in their midst. She provides a loving kindness towards everyone and lends a hand to all in need be it as small as a word of kindness or coat, shoes, or money for coffee. No one escapes her gaze and if neglect is seen, she works diligently to provide for that need.”

Colleen Doratti of Nelson said this about Nina, “It is apparent after meeting Nina that learning has been a lifelong love of hers. The fire in Nina, the gift that has helped so many over the years, is a combination of listening skills, her wide knowledge base and her heart wisdom. It is a fine art to listen deeply to someone sharing a joy, often sorrow, pain and loss and still offer hope. Nina, through her pondering questions, can often lead men and women to look at things from a new perspective … yet she knows the fine line between the call to engagement in another’s life and the discipline of withdrawal. This is how she gives the tools for empowerment. Nina helps people to see themselves, gives them space to know themselves, and encourages them to know themselves.”

Forever the teacher, Nina led many educational workshops throughout the year including evening discussions, weekend workshops and weeklong retreats. People from all over North America attended. Doratti added, “In an age of specialized skill sets, technology and growing isolation, Nina’s focus is more on the human need for relationship and building bridges of peace and justice.”

The most moving nomination letter came from Audrey Francis who first met Nina in October of 2003 at an Aboriginal Support Group. Mary, a victim of the Residential School era was extremely apprehensive of not only joining the ASG, but meeting a Nun due to her horrific experiences as a child. Much to her surprise she observed “this down to earth woman” who spoke of her experiences that brought her to the decision to become a sister. Audrey said “Wow!” and the beginnings of a long, trusting friendship was born. “Nina was there for me in the darkest of times in my work of learning to let go and move forward,” said Audrey. “Not once did Nina ever judge or distance herself from me. I finally realized what a wonderful woman she is, and how she has taught this once “lost soul” to love, to forgive, and again, to move on”, she wrote and signed her nomination as “a very grateful citizen of Cranbrook.”

The members of the Cranbrook CFUW welcome you to come to a ceremony we are hosting on International Woman’s Day, Thursday, March 8, 4 p.m. at the Manual Training Centre attached to the Public library in Cranbrook. Forever energetic, Sister Nina is presently in South Carolina and is very involved with missions there and in other States as part of her year-long working Sabbatical. Mary Fiorentino will accept the annual plaque on Sister Nina’s behalf.

Above photo: This is the first function Nina performed in Cranbrook before leaving on a year’s sabbatical. She is currently in South Carolina working with the rural people there and then will be in Florida doing the same.  She, at a healthy and energetic 65 years of age, is very involved with the movement towards less consumerism and buying locally. Photo submitted

By Cathryn Henley, President CFUW-Cranbrook

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