Letting Go Lent_website

The Call to Let Go for Lent

Prior to the beginning of Lent, Sister Sheila Novak began to feel overwhelmed by the amount of “stuff” she managed to accumulate over the years. Now, compared to the average person, her pile of things would hardly be considered an accumulation; however, Sr. Sheila felt called to sort through her material possessions on account of her vow of poverty and desire for less clutter. A call she decided to share with her sisters during Lent through the Letting Go Lent initiative.

Traditional Lenten fasting includes abstaining from meat on Fridays, Ash Wednesday, and Good Friday and partaking in a personal penance like giving up chocolate or social media. Sr. Sheila explains, “Inviting my sisters to physically let go of unused, outdated items is a personal fast from materialism. Hopefully by donating the things that crowd our lives and offices, we can help other people.” While she acknowledges that decluttering is a different form of fasting, in many ways it mirrors forfeiting a bad habit for Lent. Jesus let go to show us how to live and we must let go of unneeded items to live like Jesus.

As the name implies, Sr. Sheila’s campaign will last until the conclusion of Lent. All donations collected from the sisters will go to a St. Vincent de Paul donation center in Milwaukee or Milwaukee Textile Recycling. Two weeks away from Easter, Sr. Sheila says she is blown away by the number of things her sisters have chosen to donate: “As we get older and our energy wanes, stuff starts to mound. While I expected a few donated items from each sister, I didn’t expect to be taking multiple runs to St. Vincent with my car stuffed with bags of donations. The letting go movement is moving in us!”

Sr. Sheila with one of the Let it Go! collection boxes

As a self-described saver, Sr. Sheila is using the motivation of her sisters and countless decluttering online resources as encouragement to let go of her own clutter. She admits she struggles the most with letting go of art pieces and photographs, but credits Letting Go Lent for giving her the tools to pare down her more sentimental collections. For anyone interested in letting go of clutter for Lent, Sr. Sheila suggests starting with the things that mean the least to you and asking yourself, “if I haven’t used it in six months, do I really need it?”  She also advises using the Letting Go Lent prayer and praying for the people who will benefit from your kind donation.

Lord, you let go to become like us. Your self-emptying is our call this Lent. It is so easy to hold on, store up, grasp because being empty handed is a vulnerable place to be. It stretches our faith in your Providence. It calls us to believe in what we cannot see. Open our eyes to see that our empty hands can be full of grace. It can make us more like you!

This Lent, we pray for the courage to take these words to heart and to be free of all that slows our following of you. We ask for your grace to do this and depend on your help. Supported by all those engaged in letting go, we trust our efforts will move us to take hold of you more radically. This is our offering, as we stand ready to give you all we have. In your name, we want to let go this Lent.


Prayer by Sister Sheila Novak, SDS

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