Monthly Archives: February 2010

Snapshots from Saturday at St. Jane House

St. Jane House: A Place of Rest and Delight

St. Jane House: A Place of Rest and Delight

What a week at St. Jane House! On the heels of Wednesday’s rich and rewarding first discernment workshop held at the Visitation Sister’s lay retreat house, follows another workshop of sorts, engaging more young people from the Northside neighborhood.  The following  images –  taken and submitted by Vis Companion and SJH host, Brian Mogren,  document the second installment of the “Teen Cooking Class” held at this location. The ensemble, headed by Vis Neighbor and Companion Leo Johnson, had a special reason for learning to bake a cake from scratch: to celebrate participant Marilyn’s 18th Birthday! Check out the pictures. Stay tuned for the next installment of St. Jane House event snapshots!


Mixing it up...

Leo demonstrating a frosting technique

Leo demonstrates cake frosting technique

Taking at a turn at frosting the cake...

Teen participant taking a turn...

Sr. Mary Virginia helps with the birthday candle placement

Sr. Mary Virginia oversees the birthday candle placement

Happy 18th Birthday, Marilyn!

What a beautiful ensemble of young people!

Happy Birthday Marilyn!

Happy Birthday Marilyn!

Time to cut the cake: joyous bakers enjoy their creation...

Time to cut the cake: joyous bakers enjoy their creation...

Peace, Blessings,
Melissa Borgmann Kiemde
Vis Companion and Blogger

Making the most of Lent!

by Sr. Joanna O’Meara, VHM

St. Francis de Sales

St. Francis de Sales

“Lent is the autumn of the spiritual life during which we gather fruit to keep us going for the rest of the year. Enrich yourselves with these treasures, which nobody can take away from you and which cannot be destroyed. I am accustomed to say that we will not spend Lent well unless we are determined to make the most of it. Let us, therefore, spend this Lent as if it were our last, and we will make it well. Listen to the sermons, because holy words are pearls; they are ships of infinite mercy – the true ocean of the East.”  (Letters 329; O. XIII, p. 144)

The above quote from St. Francis De Sales is a timely reminder that Lent can lead us to a time of discovering the fruitful and abundant love God has for us. Francis calls us to “make the most of it.”  In a personally poignant way I have witnessed many moments during the week where ‘making the most of it’ happens out of the topsy-turvy messes of life, through unexpected encounters and stories shared that have been heart rending and uplifting.  Through it all, a common theme emerges. And yes, it has something to do with ‘making the most of it!’

Beyond the cantus firma

Beyond the cantus firmus: Tuning into God's resounding music

Last year at this time I was commuting to London regularly, a 2 hour round-trip from Oxford. I experienced both being in “commuting mode” amidst the hustle and bustle of London, and also “reflective mode” as I absorbed the people, places and situations that came my way.  Along the way, I came across a book which I am sure Francis and Jane would have given a book club honor to. In “The Enduring Melody,” author Michael Mayne  wrote about his life  journey as the “fixed song.” The idea came from early church music, plainchant, which had a single line of melody. From the 12th century onwards, harmonies began to be added to this “fixed song” or cantus firmus, culminating in the glorious polyphony of Byrd in the 16th century. Higher and lower voices wrapped round the tenor that “held” the cantus firmus.  Using this as a metaphor, Mayne went on to assert his belief that “the creation is an endless sequence of variations on the unchanging theme of God’s creative love.For him, this meant “not simply a vague concept of the transcendent, but that of the incarnate and affirming God: the Christlike God of the Word made flesh.” This was a cantus firmus metaphor of God’s wholehearted love.

Isabella and mom Ann participating in mass

Isabella and mom Ann participating in Wednesday morning Eucharist

This wholehearted love continues to be fashioned daily: in our first monthly dinner with a Hispanic family which included eating, playing, and last but not least, praying! Welcoming neighbors in need of prayer and support;  delighting in the witness of children at our weekly Wednesday morning Eucharist; one of our Sisters creatively using her gifts participating in a busy person’s retreat as a Spiritual Director. The ‘cantus firmus’ – the endless sequence of God’s creative love –  continues to reveal itself in very real, human encounters.

Discernment Evening: An Intimate Inquiry of the Heart

Joyful Discerners

Joyful Discerners

Wednesday evening at St. Jane House in North Minneapolis, marked the first of three discernment workshops, entitled, “Following the Spirit,” that the Visitation Sisters are facilitating for young adults. Convened in the lay member retreat space were 23 people hailing from various parts of our globe,  all currently residing in the Twin Cities area. Vis Companions Brian Mogren and Melissa Borgmann were present to participate in and help capture the richness of the evening.


“Your wisdom overwhelms, Lord: too much to understand!” – Psalm 139

The evening session opened with Sr. Joanna, VHM, leading our group of 23 discerners in a communal prayer; all were invited to collaboratively participate in reading Psalm 139:

"What kinds of things are you discerning?"

"What kinds of things are you discerning?"

You search me, Lord and know me.
Wherever I sit or stand,
You read my inmost thoughts;
Whenever I walk or rest,
You know where I have been.
Before a words slips from my tongue,
Lord, you know what I will say.
You close in on me,
Pressing your hand upon me.
All this overwhelms me–
Too  much to understand!

What IS discernment?

What IS discernment?

Where can I hide from you?
How can I escape your presence?
I scale the heavens you are there!
I plunge to the depths you are there!
If I fly toward dawn,
Or settle across the sea,
Even there you take hold of me,
Your right hand directs me.
Psalm 139: vs. 1-12

Following the psalm, everyone was invited to move through introductions, locating themselves inside this larger topic of “discernment,” sharing any current life circumstances, and posing their own respective questions or thoughts, grounding their spiritual decision-making.  Some of the questions surfaced include:

"Where is God's voice in this, and where is mine?"

"Where is God's voice in this, and where is mine?"

“What is Discernment?”

“How do I pursue certain things, goals, dreams?”

“What do I let go of?”

“What is my role in this city?”

“What relationships am I called to build — or  let go of?”

“Where is God’s voice in this and where is mine?”

One member of the room, Cody, offered this statement, paraphrasing a quote he’d read on the wall of the St. Jane house bathroom:

“Be who you are, and be great at it!”

Knowing the Visitation co-founder, St. Francis de Sales’ words: “Be who you are and be that well,” I smiled hearing this translation. Cody’s updated version of one of the Vis Sister’s mantras is an aspiration for all who are contemplating their life journeys, their identities, and purposes here on the planet!


As this discernment series unfolds, we invite your prayers for the participants. Perhaps you find yourself keenly drawn to such prayerful decision making? Maybe compassionate inquiry –  regarding your own purpose and path – speaks to your current life circumstances? Know the Sisters will welcome you into fuller participation. Come and join us!


The next Following the Spirit” discernment evening workshop will be held on Wednesday, March 24, from 7-9pm. The topic will be “Discerning with a Salesian Heart” lead by Sr. Mary Virginia, VHM.  To join us, contact Sr. Joanna  at, or call: 612.521.6113.

The Nearness of the Word

by Sr. Karen Mohan, VHM

S. Karen

S. Karen

Today is a landmark day for me, for I am stepping into the world of the BLOG!  Our Visitation community launched into this world last month on the feast of our Founder, St. Francis de Sales, thanks to a team of “vocation partners” who are committed to helping us get the word out about our inner-city monastery. We want others to know that there are religious communities of women committed to living a contemplative life in an urban setting with a special heart for those marginalized and disenfranchised by society.  The scripture readings for the first Sunday of Lent lend themselves to sharing about our life.  As St. Paul writes in his letter to the Romans,

“The Word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart—that is, the word of faith….”  (Rom. 10:8)

Open to the Word

How do I experience the Word near me?

How do I experience that Word near me?   There is nothing contrived about how this occurs. It is as simple as being open and willing to let life lead me to God.   I will share three vignettes from yesterday that became portals for St. Paul’s text about the nearness of God. Hopefully these stories will encourage you to recognize how near God’s Word is to you!

After Morning Prayer on Saturday, I drove our hybrid car downtown for an errand and for a short swim at the local “YMCA”.  As I prepared to turn right from a one-way street on to another, I discovered that the huge charter bus to my left was also beginning to turn in the same direction, unaware of my vehicle.  Its back right wheel was inches from the driver’s door, and the bus was beginning to “squish” the front of our Prius.  I blared the horn, and after what seemed like a very long few seconds, the bus driver stopped and jumped out of the bus full of cheerleaders from Omaha — en route to the Minneapolis Convention Center for competitions!   In my heart I felt “cheered on” by heavenly cheer leaders !  I crawled out of the car on the passenger’s side, relieved that no one was injured. The car was in remarkably good shape as well!   “The Word is near you….”   Yes indeed, and as the day progressed, so did my gratitude as my heart rested in the protective love of God.

Later that morning, one of our friends came to share about her recent pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Annette had just returned from a pilgrimage that combined study, prayer and touring of the biblical sites, especially those of the Gospel.  Annette’s love of the Lord, her friendship with us and her obvious awe over visiting these sacred sites struck a chord within me.  Although I have never been to the Holy Land, I have been on pilgrimages, and I believe that life is a sacred journey, one that has a destination.  Writing on this blog today honors the sacred  “40 Day Pilgrimage” that we are beginning as people of faith who hope to be renewed for celebrating the Holy Days and Easter.   Let us walk it together and help each other meet Jesus on the way.  For he is as near as the brother/sister at my side or in my consciousness.


The Word IS near...

The “pilgrim company” was particularized last night for me as my community of seven  beautiful women of faith sat around the roaring fire in our living room and had a communal “lectio divina” on  this Sunday’s Gospel : Luke 4:1-13.     Using a simple method that allowed for each one to share if she chose,  the  Gospel came alive for me through the openness  of each Sister’s encounter with the Word.   The Word IS near….as near as my  community member… as near as the child in Haiti whose photo in today’s paper draws us into his plight… as near as my bedroom  vigil light lit in the early hours of this  day invites me to place the day, the world, into God’s hands.

I welcomed this “nearness” on this Sunday when, 80 years ago on February 21, my great grandmother, Pauline Maloney, died.  I never knew her, but I did know her daughter, Uceyle Pauline O’Connell, who died 38 years ago today, February 22.   I am named after each of these women:  Karen Pauline Mohan.  The years pass but the nearness of God’s Word continues to convey the presence of the Holy One among us.  My life as a Visitation Sister offers me a lifestyle that supports the daily welcoming and savoring of this Word.  Perhaps it is a lifestyle that will “fit” you!

Mass at the Monastery

A Simple Alter

A Simple Altar and Invitation to Participate in Breaking Open the Word

Speak, Lord, I love to listen to your voice. See, Lord, here I am.

It’s Friday, February 19th, 11am,  and Sr. Mary Frances is intoning the opening song at this Lenten season service. We are gathered in the chapel of the the Visitation Monastery on Fremont Avenue in North Minneapolis, where Fr. Jim Radde, S.J. has come to preside.  Mass has begun with a simple sounding of the sisters’ gong. Sr. Karen has provided some welcoming remarks to the community gathered, tuning us into today’s scripture and the themes we are sinking ourselves into at the start of this season. I sit next to my husband, Francois Kiemde, in this cozy, prayerful space, and we sing as a community in a psalm-like response to Sister’s opening a cappella melody.

Speak, Lord, I love to listen to your voice. See, Lord, here I am.

I sing and I smile.  Sr. Katherine is to my right, and I’m aware that I am sandwiched between the man that I adore and have committed my life to, and a nun who warms my heart and models a deep contemplative way of being in the world for me. Next to her is yet another lay member of this community, a woman out of work, who has come to pray. I feel so lucky to be sitting precisely here, in this spot, on this first Friday in Lent.


What is it to attend mass at the monastery?
What does it mean to participate in any service with the Visitation Sisters of North Minneapolis?
Why come to church here?
What calls me, or any person for that matter, to be present at 16th and Fremont Avenue North?
What might possibly inspire a single woman to come and commit her life to this place, this monastic order, this manner of prayerful living?

These are some of the questions I hold, meditating, reflecting on Friday’s experience.


Participating in Mass: Melissa Reading from Isaiah

Participating in Mass: Melissa Reading from Isaiah

Fr. Jim improvises an opening prayer, and we turn to the day’s scripture readings. Sr. Karen has asked me, prior to mass, to read from Isaiah. I do so with joy, hope, a pride for proclaiming and participating in this worship experience.

Cry out full-throated and unsparingly,
lift up your voice like a trumpet blast…

We move from Isaiah to the psalm to Matthew’s gospel. And right around the time that we are about to hear Fr. Radde’s homily, two people from the neighborhood ring the doorbell; Sr. Mary Margaret excuses herself to tend to them. Fr. Jim pauses with such intention, then. He is filling in at the last moment for the bishop, who was slated to say mass this day. Jim discloses his recent wrestling with the day’s scripture, his attempt at composing something meaningful to share with us, and his own process of easing into Lent. It’s his transparency, his honesty, his open inquiry about the scripture and this season, that pull me further into this reflective moment. The homiletic experience at the Vis Monastery is already one of my favorite aspects of attending mass here. To have today’s rounded out with this man’s intro warms all parts of my own human heart and modest attempts at unpacking scripture for myself. I appreciate deeply all who takes stabs at reflective meaning-making — anyone who works to apply gospel narratives to our own immediate circumstances.


When my husband asked me, just two weeks ago — before our first joint experience at mass at the monastery, where it would all take place, and what church would be like, it gave me pause.

“Where are we going to mass, honey? Who will be there? What should I expect?”

Since Francois’ questions were posed, I’ve been marveling and mulling over what mass at the Visitation monastery really means, what it entails, why I love it. I tried to answer him:

“Well, service is usually held in their living room. The sisters are there and then the presiding priest. Depending on the time of day, there may or may not be anywhere from 1 to 15 additional people in attendance: neighbors, lay members, friends, folks who come from all over to be part of the mass. Afterward, the sisters always offer a light meal of some kind.” I paused, then added: “It’s very intimate. At the time of the homily, you are always invited to speak your own thoughts, questions or connections to what has been said by the priest. It’s like the best kind of faith group. It’s sort of what I imagine the early church to have been like: Christians, apostles congregating in their homes, to tell stories, break bread. I hope you love it.”


Mass in the Living Room of the Monastery: Congregants pray "Our Father"

Mass in the Living Room of the Monastery: Congregants pray "Our Father"

Here we are two weeks later with Fr. Radde, about to break open the text with our Jesuit presider, and I’m mindful of how all these ideas are swirling in this present moment. My Catholic, West African husband, the nuns of North Minneapolis, a beloved Jesuit priest hailing from North Dakota, my fellow sister-seeker, and my Vis Companion self, all in the larger context of this urban center with neighbors at the door.

Sr. Mary Margaret returns, having handed out a couple bus tokens, and Fr. Jim is speaking.

In his homiletic musings, Father draws on a text written by a fellow Jesuit. He is evoking the narrative of a young girl named Pamela from Northern Uganda, as it is relayed in a book he’s been reading. The title of this work is “They Come Back Singing: Finding God with the Refugees.” It’s Fr. Gary Smith, S.J.’s journal composed while living in East Africa for the last several years. Jim reads from it, and connects it with his own Lenten questions and today’s scripture. He is bringing Pamela to mass; bearing witness to her own kind of incredible, mind-blowing journey, as we embark on our own in this season. Fr. Radde then extends space and opportunity for all of us to add our own thoughts.

We listen. We connect. We question. We speak aloud our own prayerful contemplations.

The doorbell rings again, and now joining our worship space is a familiar face; a dear, dreadlocked man with a sweet smile and sincere desire to pray with the sisters. He sits down next to Fr. Radde in our small little prayer room that is the chapel.

I tell you, my head spins, my heart breaks open and falls further in love with this kind of Eucharistic service. My husband takes my hand and squeezes. There’s just so much room at this place for people –for voices, for stories, for our utter humanity to be present and convened in one deeper intention: to pray and meditate together for a moment. We are participating in a gospel narrative of our own: loving radically as we witness simply to one another.

Speak, Lord, I love to listen to your voice. See, Lord, here I am.

I return to that opening song intoned by Mary Frances. To the questions I’m attempting to answer. Why come here? Who is here? What is here? I invite you all to come and see for yourself.

In prayer and Lenten Journey contemplation,
Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde,
Vis Companion, Blogger

To find out more about mass times and presiders, please click here to see the schedule. You can also be added to the emailed mass schedule through the Monastery’s list-serve, by emailing:

Discern Your Next Best Step

Stained Glass Window of "Visitation" at Monastery in North Minneapolis

Stained Glass Window of "Visitation" at Monastery in North Minneapolis

On this first day of our Lenten journey, as we travel from the depths of winter to the promise of spring, we enter a liminal space, a time of being in the sacred in-between. Lent is time of becoming, shedding all that hinders us from greater love of God, Self, and Others, letting go of that which holds us back from becoming our best selves, and humbly and gracefully bowing before our own humanity. This can be both rejuvenating and uncomfortable. During this forty day journey of prayer, meditation, and becoming we will take some moments to look at discernment and its tools and gifts that can aid us as we make the ascent to spring when all things are made new, when all is resurrected in holiness.


It can be a challenge to discern your next steps in life. I have often found it helpful to refrain the idea of your “NEXT step” to the idea that you are asked to consider your next BEST step, as that is what the Lord asks of us. To choose the best step before us that will make us more human, more of whom we are called to become, more loving of God, self and others. Sometimes your next best step may not make sense to others close to you. It must however, give you some peace and some joy as you move toward it.

I know I have struggled with decisions when two good options present themselves to my good fortune.

  • Discernment, the act of prayerfully considering your options to make a decision is based on your interior responses to the outside world you live in.
  • Discernment does not occur with a good and a bad option at hand, for that decision to most is obvious, but with two goods. When we are presented with two goods, that is when we are called to slow down in our daily living to decide which choice before us will lead us toward more life.
St. Francis de Sales

St. Francis de Sales

On Wednesday night, February 24, 2010, the Sisters of the Visitation begin a three part series of discernment evenings for young adults, assisting them in considering their next best step. I have found discernment easier to do on the bigger questions and opportunities in life if I have been doing it in my daily life before the fork in the road arises. St. Francis de Sales taught a radical thought of his time, that God is found in the ordinary, in the practical, he said, “In life we are only asked to do ordinary things, but extraordinarily well….The soul which holds itself ready and open to do God’s will on any occasion, can do this even while sweeping the floor.”  St. Ignatius of Loyola put this sentiment another way to hold an attitude of “finding God in all things,” this includes our daily lives, not just our big decisions!

I had the good fortune to be educated not only by the Visitation Sisters of Mendota Heights, but also the Jesuit Priests of Boston College. There, I learned a tool that Ignatian Spirituality uses for discernment called, “the Examen;” an ancient Christian practice of prayer. St. Ignatius told his men that they could miss daily mass if they had to, but not to ever miss doing the examen. By using the daily examen as a tool for discernment you begin to gently notice the patterns and invitations of your life, and when the moments arise to take your next best step they are gentler, clearer, and more connected to your heart.

How to do an examen? What does it look like?

  1. Become aware of God’s presence. No matter where you find yourself, office, classroom, mountain top, car, call to heart and mind the Lord.
  2. Review the day with gratitude. Using your five senses recall the gifts of the day—the smell of your morning coffee, the feel of your feet in the dirt, the meeting of a good friend, the touch and scent of a flower. Recall your strengths that God has given you to more fully participate in life and thank God for the big and small moments of your day.
  3. Pay attention to your emotions. Ask God to shed light on your actions, your emotions, your intentions so you can look on them with love and honesty.
  4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it. As you look over your day, what situation or moment calls your attention to pray more deeply, to see where Christ was inviting you to respond with more compassion, or where you wavered to help, or where your heart may have been divided in a particular situation. Ask for guidance, wisdom, and insight so that you may continue to love yourself and your neighbor as you love your Lord, more deeply and more truly.
  5. Look toward tomorrow. As you close your prayer, finish with a heart to heart talk with Jesus about your day, and ask for guidance on your tomorrow.
Finn chosing what to hold on to, as he carefully  selects a rock...

Finn chosing what to hold on to, as he carefully selects a rock...

The examen is one way to practice being attuned to the present, and finding God in the moments of our daily life. As you practice the examen you too will find your own rhythm with it.

Just as the Sisters of North Minneapolis Visitation meet each Monday morning to prayerfully look at their needs, their emotions, and the work’s week, so can a family use the examen to consider the pulse of the family, the needs, and the opportunities before them. It can be done as simply as what are the highs and lows of our day and where was God in those moments? Active discernment is like dating someone or considering what religious community to join:

and what to let go of, as he throws a rock away.

and what to let go of, as he throws a rock away.

  • *you take note of your feelings when you are with them,
  • *you ask are they bringing out the best in me, and I in them,
  • *you note the moments when you feel most alive,
  • *and recall the moments of frustration or tension and ask what was going on in them.

Eventually when it comes time to marry, join religious life, or remain single, you have a plethora of information, of moments to base your heart’s decision on, and so when it is time to say yes, you can say it with a resounding yes. As you live into this major life decision you continue to recommit to that yes, sometimes consciously and sometimes unconsciously. On the easy days you do not notice the recommitment, on the tougher days you make a conscious effort to say yes.

And so I part today’s blog with a resounding, “Yes!” —  that you,  too, can choose your next best steps with grace, insight, and wisdom this Lenten Season. Or more eloquently put by St Francis de Sales, “Think only of Today, for when tomorrow comes it too will be called today, and then we will think about it.”

Happy Discernment during this Lenten Season,
Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan
Visitation Alum ’93 & Blogger


RESOURCES for the Examen:
For a more thorough guide on the above adapted Examen steps please see the following website, Jesuits for the New Orleans Province.
Another incredible resource on the examen is an article Rummaging for God: Praying Backwards through Your Day
By Dennis Hamm, SJ

“Following the Spirit” – An Invitation To Young Adults

Calling all young adults! Are you a young adult wondering what your next step in life might be? Would you like help in figuring out how to proceed on the path related to your career, school, or life?

Discerners following the Spirit...

Discerners following the Spirit...

Please consider joining us at one of the upcoming “Discernment Evenings,” entitled, “’Following the Spirit’—Helping Young Adults Figure Out Their Next Steps.”

Description: Young men and women between the ages of 20-40 are invited to attend one or a series of evening sessions designed to give them tools to help them discern—or recognize—their next steps related to a job change, educational choice, or vocation.

Details: “Following the Spirit” sessions will be led by Sisters Joanna

People of all ages work to follow the Spirit!

People of all ages contemplate their paths.

O’Meara and Katherine Mullin of Visitation Monastery of Minneapolis. Each session will include a presentation, small group conversation and prayer. Sessions are independent of each other, so participants may attend one or all three sessions. ADMISSION IS FREE. Refreshments will be served.

Event Dates: “Following the Spirit” sessions will be held on the following dates and times: Wednesday, February 24, 7:00-8:30 p.m.; Wednesday, March 24, 7:00-8:30 p.m.; Wednesday, April 28, 7:00-8:30 p.m.

Location: St. Jane House, 1403 Emerson Ave. N., Minneapolis, MN, 55411, United States

View Larger Map

Contact: Please R.S.V.P. to Sister Joanna O’Meara at or Sister Katherine Mullin at For further information call 612-521-6113.

Web Site:

“Seeing in Winter” – A Poem by Sr. Joanna O’Meara, VHM

“By now, it should go without saying that what the oven is to the baker and the berry stained blouse is to the dry cleaner, so the window is to the poet”
– Billy Collins, Poet Laureate

Seeing in Winter

-Sr. Joanna O’Meara, VHM

I know by seeing that we wait in due reverence.

Etched into the once green earth

layers of ice & snow heaped in rhapsody.

Gathering momentum as days & weeks pass,

the human will of shoveling, salting, heaving

and manipulating demands triumph.

Nature sees its own time.

The blade of grass holding its breath

waiting to return,

the once soft pleasing dirt,

cement like in its determination

waiting for the signal to emerge.

Forget trespassing this season,

learn to look with astonishment

at the slow, gravitational

movements earthwards.

For all that we are called to,

it just may be this winter seeing.


Sr. Joanna O'Meara, Contemplative, Poet, Woman of Prayer

Sr. Joanna O'Meara, Contemplative, Poet, Woman of Prayer

With this blog entry comes the first of many entries from the Visitation Sisters themselves. We are delighted to feature their voices here. Sr. Joanna O’Meara is the youngest and most recent member of the Visitation Monastery of North Minneapolis.  Her poem exemplifies the contemplative, prayerful approach to seeing and being in the world; this approach is at the heart of the Salesian charism.

Recipe for New Nuns?

Last Saturday, a small group of teenage girls,  Visitation Companions, and Visitation Sister, Mary Virginia, convened at St. Jane House (SJH) for an afternoon of cookie baking. Vis Companion and SJH host, Brian Mogren, took a photo  documenting the occasion, and emailed a few words about the collaborative experience to fellow Vis Companions. Melissa received his email and it inspired her to ask some prayerful questions and post the following blog.

Cookie Baking Crew at St. Jane House

Cookie Baking Crew at St. Jane House

As I think about the 20-40 year old women who are being called into the Visitation Monastery of North Minneapolis, as part of the “seven new sisters vocations initiative,” I wonder how each and every one of these kinds of communal, collaborative events, like cookie-baking, is a part of this invitation?

Could one of these cookie baking young women someday be a Vis Sister?

Is one of the girls’ present or future friends or family members a possible candidate for the Vis Monastery?

Will a woman see this image — conveying collaboration, relationship and creation– and be moved to inquire further about SJH and the VHM order?

Do one of the Vis Companions pictured, Leo Johnson or Jeff Pearson,  possibly  know one of our future Vis Sister friends?

Can the act of baking cookies be a prayerful activity, that draws in women volunteers who might discern the monastic life?

Before I met my husband, I started making soup. I declared to a small group of friends that I wanted to marry, and asked for recipes that somehow might be connected, on a figurative level, to a partner and represent or convey elements of partnership. The first soup I made was “Italian Wedding Soup.” I meditated a lot on the recipe, the ingredients, and the process of cooking, and asked that the action of preparing homemade soup be a prayerful action in and of itself,  inviting my life partner into my immediate world.

Melissa alongside her recently married husband, Francois

Melissa alongside her recently married husband, Francois

I made a lot of soup. Italian Wedding Soup. Chicken Chili.  Three Pepper Sausage Potato Chowder. Squash.  I passed it out to friends. I attached little cards to each container, asking each person, “Please pray for my husband.”

I did this for a couple months last winter. I was “marrying ingredients,” musing about how meatballs and spicy chicken might reflect some aspect of this fellow. It was pure fun. Pure prayer. Delight.

I invite all readers, all friends to the Visitation order, and all cookie-bakers,  to consider doing the same thing. Bake. Pray. Ask:

How is baking sweet things akin to calling in a sister to North Minneapolis?

What aspects of these cookies might reflect these seven new women?

Will an oatmeal nun emerge in our midst? A chocolate chip sister come forward?

Will there be any ginger or spice in one of the discerning crew?

I’m serious! I am laughing! I am praying.
Can you imagine this? Can you see these new women? Are you thinking of your own ingredients and recipe?

Love to you all!

Melissa Borgmann Kiemde
Visitation Companion

What Gives You Joy?

Liam as Boy Spiderman!

Liam as Boy Spiderman!

I asked my two year old today, on the eve of his third birthday, what he wants to be when he grows up? “Do you want to be a doctor like Poppa Vince?” I asked.

To which he strongly replied, “No mama I want to be a boy!”

As the Visitation Sisters of North Minneapolis descended on Mankato State University this past weekend to share who they are and what they are about at the Vocation Fair, I am reminded of Fr. Michael Himes’ Three Key Questions* talk he first gave at Boston College, my alma mater. Fr. Himes gracefully puts discernment around vocation into sharp focus with the following three simple, yet complex questions: Does this way of life bring you joy? Are you good at it? Do other people need you to do it?

Fr. Himes believes, as do I, that if you can answer, “yes” to these three key questions you are onto your vocation – in so much that it leads you to becoming more human, and more of who you are called to become in God’s eyes. Or, as St. Francis de Sales put it, “Be who you are and be it perfectly well.” Or, as my two year old stated with emphasis, “I just want to be a boy!”

When I think of my vocation, my calling, my life’s work, at its core it seems to be about creating community. I love bringing people and resources together to do great things, endeavors – that without the synergy of one another – could not be created. Now this for me has taken on many different forms: from working at Jesuit Universities, to writing, to teaching, to tutoring, to working with the sisters, to being a wife, to mothering. The last being one of the most demanding answers to my call I have said wholeheartedly, “yes” to — and sometimes struggle to keep in balance with the other ways my vocation is being called into action. Overall, my vocation gives me joy—that deep-seeded feeling of wholeness. Sure, sometimes I am not always happy, and sometimes I have hard days when I am living out my calling, but overall I live it joyfully.

Happy Birthday to Josh!

Happy Birthday to Josh!

And, as I watch the sisters live their vocation, I see them overall live it joyfully; they are one of the most joyous religious groups I have had the privilege to befriend. Take for instance, Wednesday: they hosted a birthday party for their neighbor, Josh, who turned ten. This is not to say that their lives are all about celebration—but through their prayerful presence they do look for moments to name and honor ways to bring about joy. Even if on some rare days it is hard to be the only sister at home to respond to the many needs of the community —as was the case last week when many of them were away for a much needed regrouping time. I can empathize with those left behind to care for all that needs caring for; my husband travels often and I am left at home with three kids four years of age and younger—on these days I sometimes have a hard time living my call to motherhood joyously.

When I worked with college students around discerning their call, we would start with a simple exercise: What did you want to be when you were little? The answer to this seemingly simple question, can offer great insights into your own life. For one colleague of mine, he wanted to be a truck driver, and now he runs international service programs. “What is the connection?” you might ask. The idea of going places, delivering goods, and meeting people was all there in that initial impulse of his as a child. For me, I wanted to be a writer from an early age. I love hearing people’s story, and how they got to where they are, and what they love doing. I love writing about it, researching it, and learning about different ways of being in the world. Writing allows me to do this; writing allows me to create community. I still have my first notebook filled with stories and drawings that I wrote at 7 years old.

Sr. Katherine and a young woman in prayer

Sr. Katherine and a young woman in prayer

As I watch the sisters live their vocation in the urban monastery of North Minneapolis, I am in awe of how their presence and talents create an amazing synergy with their neighbors and with those beyond their neighborhood. Perhaps this is part of the reason why I am attracted to them, and honor and respect their way of life, and truly hope and pray that seven more good visionary women come to join them in these coming days. ….Are you one of these women?

Mother Teresa said, “Many people mistake our work for our vocation. Our vocation is the love of Jesus,” and the Visitation Sisters live this vocation powerfully!

*This talk was later shared with many other Jesuit Universities around their vocations grants funded by Eli Lily Foundation.  For more resources, you can also go to The Boston College Intersections Project