Monthly Archives: August 2010

“Considering our Neighbor:” A Prayer from St. Francis de Sales

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Vis Companion

St. Francis de Sales

St. Francis de Sales

August 30
We must consider our neighbor in relationship to God, Who wants us to love him … and we are to be interested in him even when this is distasteful for us. The resistance of the inferior part of our soul will be overcome by the frequent performance of good acts. To this end, however, we must center our prayers and meditations of the love of our neighbor, having first implored the love of God. We must ask for the grace to love especially those we do not like very much. (Letters 217; O. XIII, pp. 268-270)

What is it to open the door at the Visitation Monastery in North Minneapolis? What is it to open the door where you live? Who comes knocking or ringing the bell? Who is “the neighbor”? What do they look like? Sound like? What is brought or given by our neighbors? What is requested by them? Who are we in this equation? How are our interactions with the people alongside us in our communities –  mutually honoring or beneficial exchanges? When do these interactions fill us up with joy and gratitude? When do these exchanges feel “distasteful” — leaving us angry or frustrated?

Enter: St. Francis de Sales’ words.

daily_with_desalesToday, I’m praying with this text in mind.  Imploring the Love of God, I ask for the grace to love especially those who I don’t like very much (in my work place, on the street, in traffic, where I run errands). I am also asking God for the grace to see, with Love’s eyes, how I am neighbor to another. What I give, what I request, that I might participate in interactions with others that are life-giving, not life-taking.

Will you join me?

Peace. Prayers.
Amen.

The Real Thrill is not the Ride, but the People.

By Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan

Rayonna at Valley Fair

Rayonna at Valley Fair

After a grand outing to Valley Fair last week, Sr. Mary Frances shared the story about Rayonna.

“Rayonna lost her leg when there was no way to save her deformed foot and knee at birth.   From this she now wears an amputated device. The amazing thing is that when Shriner’s Hospital staff brought gifts from their giving tree at Christmas to the Visitation Monastery, Rayonna’s grandma told the story of her infant grandbaby. Shriner’s offered to take care of the child GRATIS. Rayonna is now 3 years old and she totally enjoyed Valley Fair with us! She is from Omaha, and she comes every few months to Shriner’s hospital for adjustments and needed medical support as she grows…..a real miracle story that took place at Visitation!”

Miracles such as bringing people together who need one another are not a rare thing at the Visitation Monastery. The story of Rayonna is particularly close to my heart as my oldest Finn, was born with a club foot and needed lots of medical support beginning at seven days old. We lived in California at the time and were introduced and blessed with amazing doctors and resources nearby. But I can still remember when I went in for my 20 week ultrasound and they told me he had a deviated ankle and foot my heart plummeted. Like Rayonna’s grandmother I wanted him to be able to enjoy life to the fullest, and I needed others to help me help him through this. Like Rayonna’s grandmother I too turned to the Sisters of the Visitation and others for their prayers. And like Rayonna, Finn is also thriving and I have a hunch would love a trip to Valley Fair some day!

“Constancy in Loving:” A Prayerful Invitation from Francis de Sales

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Vis Companion

St. Francis de Sales

St. Francis de Sales

August 25

Remember to keep in mind that all the past is nothing and that every day we should say with David, “Now I begin to love my God.” To work, to exhaust oneself for God, is love. Therefore, apply everything to this love – eating, drinking, repose. Be very devoted to Saint Louis and admire his great constancy in loving. (Letters 334; O. XII, pp. 367-368)

Ah, dear Francis, tell me this again: “The past is nothing”? That I might begin again, daily, in devotion, in letting go, in loving, in being — this is my prayer! What is it to put behind my failures, my shortcomings, my doubts, and turn, once again toward Love?

Kiemde familyThere are days that I could be eaten up by anger, by responsibility, by my lack of patience with the door bell, phone — an email asking for something more than it seems I am able to give.  I turn to Francis’ words here, and meditate for a moment on his invitation to work — to “exhaust oneself for God” and know that this work is Love.

I think of my three month old daughter, Marguerite Marie — who is all need and want and innocence in her little girl body — and what a joy it is to be her mom. I hold my husband and step-daughter in my prayers, and am reminded of all the ways that I’m called to be present with these beautiful souls. This life is gift, is work, is love.  (The bottles, the meals, the book-reading, the motivating, the bill management, the never-ending-teaching, the calendar-creating, the prep for what’s next.) It’s that which Francis affirms is exhausting, and is LOVE. And these words feel oddly renewing to me.

I so appreciate what he says next, “apply everything to this love – eating, drinking, repose.” I am reminded of Sr. Katherine teaching me about intention, focusing on each action as prayer, in the Salesian manner of living. I imagine Love flowing through me in each activity, as mundane as bottle making or sweet as putting my daughter down for a nap. Eating. Drinking. Repose. Amen!

daily_with_desalesCould my devotion to my family, to my faith, to my home life and community be akin at all to the saint that Francis points us toward? Are my efforts at loving in line with the constancy shown by St. Louis? I wonder, “Could my renewed efforts at love be in line with Christ’s?”

I invite you all to find your own renewal in the words of St. Francis, in the example of St. Louis, in the prayer you have inside your own heart, meditating on your life and letting go.

You are love. You are loved.

Amen.

Extending the Monastic Walls

By Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan

What does an urban monastery look like? What does it look like to extend its walls to include its neighbors, to invite others into their prayerful presence of daily personal and communal prayer? What does it mean to invite others into their playful presence, their joy? In North Minneapolis it looks like an outing of fifty neighbors and sisters going to Valley Fair. Or marking the start of the school year with a back to school party including fifty families. Then there is also a group that will go to visit a farm, as summer winds down. This upcoming week is a full week at the monastery for them and their neighbors!

It seems counter cultural for a monastic nun to have such a far reach, but it is this wisdom that makes the Visitation Nuns of

Exuberant Joy! Valley Fair

Exuberant Joy! Valley Fair

North Minneapolis so effective and the relationship with their neighbors, their communal and personal prayer, and one another so strong and vibrant! Sister Katherine says, “That the trip to Valley Fair is one of the most anticipated events of the year.” Sister Suzanne and Sister Mary Frances organize the trip to Valley Fair. This is an annual event for the past decade, and this year 50 North Side Neighbors who the Sisters know will hop on a bus at 10 am for the fair grounds after each family does an hour worth of neighborhood clean up. The Sisters busily pack lunches the night before to be eaten on the fair grounds just outside of the gate since you can’t bring food inside. They pray each year that there is no rain, and they return back to the neighborhood at 5pm thrilled and exhausted. This year The Convent of the Visitation School donated the red and white water bottles, one for everyone attending the outing.

The Sisters understand that in order for them to hold the hope of a grander vision for themselves and for their neighbors they need to be engaged in the greater world. They’ve positioned themselves to be portals. Portals into the lives of their neighbors and their struggles and joys, and portals that extend the other way into what is possible, what exists outside of North Minneapolis. They know the more that they take the time to walk into events that are community building and fun, the stronger their monastery grows and their community that they live in becomes. When people know one another, they look out for one another. When they look out for one another, everyone is safer, happier, and healthier. Experience monastic life that is truly steeped in tradition and radiates wisdom and joy in how it extends its prayerful walls!

Do you have a joyful story about an experience with a Visitation Sister? With a nun? What and who do your walls extend to provide shelter, friendship, love, and prayer? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section? Please share.

In Prayer: Be a Testimony of Hope to the World!

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Vis Companion

Sr. Marlene Weisenbeck, Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration

“We must get the word out that Jesus is the center of our lives, that generosity and goodness are what the world thirsts for, that difference, diversity and dialogue are not dirty words but central to Trinitarian life at the heart of human relationships in community. We must be a testimony of hope to the world.” Sr. Marlene Weisenbeck, Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration

These words, from the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) president, speaking at the closing of the Dallas Conference last Friday, inspire my prayer this day.

I wonder:
How do I make Christ the center of my life? What actions (and non-actions) does this inspire?
What do difference, diversity and dialogue sound like, look like in my community?
How do I embrace these as gifts from God?
What is the Trinitarian life at the center of all relationships? How do I recognize it? What is this mystery that informs, inspires, sustains my vision and my capacity to love?
How am I a testimony of hope in the world?

I invite you to pray with me today. Consider these questions; conduct your own compassionate investigation around this idea of “being hope” in the world.  Join me in holding all women religious, our male counterparts, and all who profess allegiance to this blessed, growing, aching, moving, evolving faith community called the “church” — that we might be signs of HOPE, LOVE, CHRIST in our midst.

Amen?
Amen.

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To read the entire article about Sr. Weisenbeck’s address, click here.
For more information on the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, Leaders of Catholic Women Religious in the United States, click here.


Neighborhood Night of Peace: Photos by Sr. Mary Frances!

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Vis Companion

On Wednesday, August 4, 2010, the Visitation Sisters, in collaboration with Masjid An-Nur (Mosque of the Light), and the Ascension and Basilica Churches, hosted the Neighborhood Night of Peace party in North Minneapolis. Over 500 people turned out for this annual event, which is always held the eve following respective Northside neighborhoods’ “National Night Out” parties. Every year: a meal is served; games are played; there are speakers; and door prizes are given out – as well as school supplies to the first 150 young people who show up.

S. Mary Frances

S. Mary Frances

According to Sister Mary Frances,VHM, the evening is “A wonderful opportunity to bridge city and suburb!”

According to Sister Mary Frances,VHM, the evening is “A wonderful opportunity to bridge city and suburb!” She adds, “[This year] a mission group from Spicer, Minnesota, did a terrific job helping out — along with 2010 Visitation Graduates, Maddy and Clare, who ran games for the youth.”

Present and busy among the masses,  Sister Mary Frances,VHM, handed out door prizes and snapped pictures of community members. What follows are images from our beloved documenting sister. Maybe you see yourself here, or someone you know?

Enjoy! LOVE! Live+Jesus!

Neighborhood Night of Peace: Sharing the good word!
Neighborhood Night of Peace: Sharing the good word!
Facepainting!
Facepainting!
Love!
Love!
Longtime friends from Ascension

Longtime friends from Ascension

Ready to take flight!
Ready to take flight!
Maddy and Clare, Visitation '10 Grads, did a phenomenal job running the games
Maddy and Clare, Visitation ’10 Grads, did a phenomenal job running the games
We love our neighbors!
We love our neighbors!

On the Feast of St. Jane de Chantal: A Reflection and Prayer

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Vis Companion

St. Jane de Chantal

St. Jane de Chantal

“When shall it be that we shall taste the sweetness of the Divine Will in all that happens to us, considering in everything only His good pleasure, by whom it is certain that adversity is sent with as much love as prosperity, and as much for our good? When shall we cast ourselves undeservedly into the arms of our most loving Father in Heaven, leaving to Him the care of ourselves and of our affairs, and reserving only the desire of pleasing Him, and of serving Him well in all that we can?” – St. Jane de Chantal

Today is the day we celebrate the Feast of our co-foundress, St. Jane de Chantal, in the United States. As I reflect on this woman’s life, I’m moved by her faithful example and it informs my prayer and writing.

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A Monday night gathering of Salesian Companions.

A Monday night gathering of Salesian Companions

Maybe it was the Fall of 2004 or 2005 that I first really heard the story of Jane de Chantal. I was sitting in the living room of the Visitation Sisters’ Monastery on Girard Avenue in North Minneapolis. It was a Monday night, and the Salesian Spirituality group was convened under the auspices of our lay Visitation Companion leaders,  Maryann and Jeff Pearson. As always, the evening began with a light soup supper, and was followed by a presentation co-lead by a Sister and another Vis Companion. There were small group discussions on the topic for the eve and then closing prayer.

On this particular night, it was former Urban Homeworks neighbor and Northside resident, Kim Jakus, co- facilitating with Sr. Mary Virginia. There were maybe 25 to 30 familiar and new faces spilling over from the living and dining room spaces and filling the main floor of the monastery. The night got underway with Kim telling a story. Unbeknownst at first to me, it was the tale of Jane de Chantal’s life and calling.

I’m struck by how the details of her early journey give rise to her ensuing purpose: serving the poor and fashioning a life of prayer in the midst of unceasing activity.  The letters of spiritual direction from this period between Jane and Francis are especially inspiring to me, as a lay woman, because I am so taken with how their depicted friendship reveals a transformation of their hearts, a healing of a broken spirit, and a love that transcends typical bounds.

"Love! love! love! my daughters; I know nothing else." -Jane de Chantal

"Love! love! love! my daughters; I know nothing else." -Jane de Chantal

I remember that evening because I was so moved by this opening narrative, and how Kim told it.  It was like Ms. Jakus was sharing the tale of a close personal friend of hers. I sat rapt by the story of Jane: a woman who was married to a beautiful, but philandering fellow; a gentleman who completely had her heart, and to whom she bore several children.  I heard details of their life and love together:  the two children they had who died in infancy, the babe he fathered with another woman; her steadfast devotion to him, and faith in God. I was told about her husband’s early death, when he was shot in a hunting accident by a friend. I leaned in to glean how this woman coped in the wake of all this, especially his passing; I wondered how she moved on? Kim told us how Jane worked to simplify her family’s life, selling possessions, and ultimately moving in to her father-in-law’s home to assume care-taking responsibilities there. I related the narrative of this woman to a member of my own family, whose husband was also shot in a hunting accident. I felt my heart expand with empathy for the way she loved and remained committed to this man and their family. I grieved with her his loss, and the agony she must have known in his cruel, premature passing. I was beyond curious – desiring further details about her life.

Kim went on to share the rest of Jane’s story with ease and familiarity. The years it took for her to forgive the man who killed her husband; the ache she knew grieving and wondering why God had dealt her this cruel hand; her constant prayer in the midst of so much activity;  the gift she received in the spiritual friendship and correspondence  with a bishop called Francis de Sales — and ultimately, how it all lead to her eventual calling to begin something anew: co-founding the religious order of the Visitation of Holy Mary for women desiring consecrated life.

Francis Jane Heart PrayerIt’s the early section of Jane’s life that always strikes me when I reflect on her journey.  I think it’s because I’m so taken by the fact that a woman who married and had children, and who lost seemingly so much in the death of her partner, realizes and grows tremendously through it all and goes on to found a religious order for women. I’m struck by how the details of her early journey give rise to her ensuing purpose: serving the poor and fashioning a life of prayer in the midst of unceasing activity.  The letters of spiritual direction from this period between Jane and Francis are especially inspiring to me, as a lay woman, because I am so taken with how their depicted friendship reveals a transformation of their hearts, a healing of a broken spirit, and a love that transcends typical bounds. Francis and Janes’ manner of practicing hidden, inner virtues  -of humility, obedience, poverty, even-tempered charity, and patience — that are central in their relational manner of “living Jesus” are also key elements in this story that challenge me in my own current journey.

On this feast day, I invite you to reflect on St. Jane’s story, and consider what strikes you about her path. How is it similar to your walk, or of someone’s close to you?  I encourage you to recognize the moments of great suffering and loss in your own life, and how God’s love is at work. I ask you to consider the role of a friend, mentor, spiritual guide or counselor in seeing you through to your next purpose or highest calling. What is this next discernment for you? I invite you to pray a special prayer dedicating your life in gratitude and service for something that honors your deepest convictions. Are you, or someone you know, like Jane, seeking a consecrated life? Could this be with the Visitation Sisters of North Minneapolis? What is your prayer?

Happy Feast Day of St. Jane de Chantal! Blessings on your prayerful reflections!

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Other sites with info on St. Jane de Chantal
Catholic Encyclopedia
Catholic Culture.org
Catholic Online

Catholic Fire

Salesian Spirit

By Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan

Georgetown Visitation's Sr Philomenia & pups Gabe and Nicholas

Georgetown Visitation's Sr Philomenia & pups Gabe and Nicholas

I attended The Salesian Conference this year at Georgetown Visitation as it capped off a wonderful week gathering around increasing our vocations to the Visitation Order. The Salesian Conference used the story of the Visitation to highlight the little virtues apparent in the Visitation Order today. Wendy M. Wright’s talk on “The Visitation as Community,” explores how “the spirit of the Visitation comes alive in people as they relate to God and, especially, with one another.” She said, “a way into this spirit is to practice the little virtues of gentleness, kindness, patience, cordiality, simplicity, and humility with yourself and others” as a means of letting go of the little things in order to be present to the bigger things in life. Different situations call for different virtues. As we practice the little virtues this also helps with our larger discernment.

St Francis de Sales says In the Devout Life, that when you are discerning something in your life, the first thing you do is pray about it. The second action is to seek sage council, do not just speak to people who will tell you what you desire to hear, but who will gently challenge you, perhaps someone who will gently remove a thorn. The third act is once you have prayed about it, and sought advice from a wisdom figure in your life, you do not look back! You trust the discernment.

The last step is typically where I get tripped up in my own discernment. My imagination is at times so strong that when I find

The view to my left, Sister Katherine at the Vocation Federation.

The view to my left, Sister Katherine at the Vocation Federation.

myself in the transition space, the sacred liminal space, of not yet to the other side of a decision, but having left the post I held, and after a prayerful discernment I look back at the “what could have beens.” With the paths not chosen, I gently torture myself out of the peace I sought with the decision made. This torture leads me into the memories of my past, and the visions of my future. This takes me out of the peace found in the present moment. When I am out of the present moment I am no longer alive to the graces that present themselves. The graces that God blesses us with in the present, in our daily life, gently and graciously guiding us into the promise and blessings of our future.

May we learn to live the spirit of the Visitation daily, with grace and trust that the little virtues will lead us deeper into this relational mystery and all its blessing.

Snapshots from the Sisters: Title This!

On Wednesday, August 4th, the Visitation Sisters, in collaboration with many Northside friends, hosted the Neighborhood Night of Peace at the Church of the Ascension. Present among the masses was one busy Sister Mary Frances,VHM, handing out door prizes and snapping pictures of community members. What follows is one of the many images that she captured; this one of a little girl with her face freshly painted. Care to give it a creative caption? We welcome your inspired thoughts!
butterly face

What creative caption do you give this photo? Record below in the comments section.

You are Invited: Salesian Conference 2010

visitConvent of the Visitation School will once again be a host site for a live simulcast of the annual Salesian Conference, which will be held on Saturday, August 7, from 8 a.m. – 2 p.m. All are invited to join friends of Visitation for this special event. (See map below)

VIS LogoIn this year of the 400th anniversary of the founding of the Order of the Visitation, it is most appropriate that the Salesian Conference will focus on the theme of the Visitation as mystery, as community, as commitment.  Joseph Chorpenning, OSFS, Wendy M. Wright and Joseph Boenzi, SDB, well known for their scholarship in all things Salesian, will provide the keynote presentations.


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