Daughter of God
by Maria Brounstein, grade 10
As Christians, we are invited by Christ to a life of discomfort, courage, and radical love. Christ said, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). As Christians, we are called to sacrifice, to be courageous warriors of heaven, and to defend the broken and downtrodden. In this age, Christ’s command is increasingly difficult to follow. Despite this, holy men and women of God are emerging from among us. An outstanding example of this is a woman who impacted my life and the lives of countless others. Her name was Michelle Gelineau. Michelle served God faithfully and promoted the culture of life through all her words and actions.
On July 10, 1966, baby Michelle was born to an unmarried teenage girl. Little Michelle’s mother chose life for her baby in a time on the brink of Roe v. Wade. Less than two weeks later, Michelle was adopted by two kind and loving parents. Michelle’s early childhood was spent happily with her four adoring brothers and doting parents. Michelle knew from an early age that her life was a gift. Although her adopted parents were divorced when she was quite young, Michelle knew that God’s will was for her to share the gift of His love with others. After graduating high school and getting married to the love of her life, Michelle attended medical school and became a pediatric nurse. She wanted to share with new parents the beauty and joy of their little children. Michelle embraced new life in her own home by welcoming five lovely daughters into the world.
Although working full-time and raising a family was difficult, Michelle felt called to do more. She loved to participate in her parish’s many ministries. After much prayer, Michelle decided to begin giving talks to teenage girls about the beautiful gift of their femininity and sexuality. She told them of the beauty and responsibility of being a woman of God. Michelle loved talking with the young girls and mothers. However, speaking before large groups was often difficult for Michelle, but with God’s help, she persevered. Michelle was also blessed with a beautiful voice and she used it for God’s work. Michelle recorded songs and stories for faith formation classes. Later, she began to play and sing for daily Masses. Before long, she was leading music on Sundays. She was later asked to lead music for the parish’s Vacation Bible School. This would mean leading worship in front of more than 900 children, adults, and youth, year after year. Michelle was nervous and reluctant to accept. Still, she prayed about it and felt God calling her to that ministry. Through her continued “yes” to God, thousands of young people witnessed her love of God and constant joy. The children loved her, and she quickly grew to love the service to which God had called her. Through her service at Vacation Bible School, Michelle found in her heart a desire to call young people to Christ. So, she decided to begin her own organization.
Michelle wanted to help youth and children develop a daily prayer life. So, she founded a ministry called Give Him Five. Give Him Five teaches and encourages children to give God at least five minutes of their day in private prayer. Michelle started in her parish and went forward from there. She developed a website, store, and audio series. She went on to create kits for families and parishes. These kits included prayer books and cards, rosaries, and holy water for daily prayer. Michelle went on to write and record a song called “Give Him Five.” Hundreds of children have gained a personal prayer life through Michelle’s Give Him Five ministry.
In early 2018, Michelle contracted a bad cold. It did not go away for a few weeks. Michelle went to the doctor, expecting to be diagnosed with bronchitis. Instead, she was told that she had terminal cancer. Michelle discovered that she had only a few months to live. The first thing she said upon receiving her diagnosis was, “I just hope that no one is angry with God.” Even in such a time of crisis, Michelle’s focus was on Christ and others. Michelle was given the option of chemotherapy, which would relieve her pain and give her a little bit longer to live. Michelle and her husband prayed about this option and ended up turning it down. Michelle felt that God was calling her to be a witness of joyful suffering and that her every moment on Earth was for His glory. Michelle shared her final journey with others through online video posts. Michelle’s constant joy in the midst of her suffering inspired everyone she knew and many who had never met her. She continued her work in music ministry until the cancer took her voice away. In the later months, Michelle could not eat or drink without excruciating pain. Through it all, her spirit of love and joy never broke. At last, after months of suffering, Michelle passed away quietly, surrounded by family, on July 18, 2018. She had loved greatly and had been greatly loved. Her funeral was perhaps the greatest witness to the impact of her life. More than a thousand friends, parishioners, family, and coworkers attended. Michelle’s life in service of God would not be forgotten.
Michelle Gelineau’s life began with an act of love by her mother’s choice of life. From then on, she took the gifts she had been given and used them for the work of God. She made it the goal of her life to help others, both spiritually and physically. Michelle constantly followed the call to deny her own needs for the love of others. When she came to a time of suffering, Michelle “took up her cross” and turned it into a chance to be a witness to others. Perhaps the best way to sum up Michelle’s life is a line from her “Give Him Five” song. It states, “It’s good to be alive, when I live my life for Jesus Christ.” Michelle did indeed live and die for her Savior. Her incredible witness will never be forgotten by all those whose lives she touched.
© 2018 Maria Brounstein. Published with permission.