Monthly Archives: October 2010

Podcast of 3 Key Questions by Fr. Himes

Posted by Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan, Visitation alumna

Fr Michael Himes, Professor of Theology, Boston College, and all around good human!

Fr Michael Himes, Professor of Theology, Boston College, and all around good human!

I bring to you, great wisdom and entertainment in the form of Fr. Michael Himes, a brilliant professor from Boston College, my alma mater, and whose work on vocation we draw upon again and again. I posted the transcript of this talk last spring here. But now you too can have the joy of listening to Fr. Himes’ podcast, and hearing his voice by clicking on this link, which will bring you to Boston College’s Intersection Project, a Program for Theological Exploration of Vocation, originally funded by a Lilly Grant. I hope you enjoy this man as much as I do.

With that part 1, What brings you joy?

For Parts 2 & 3 of Fr. Michael Himes talk click here.

Trust in the Slow Work of God

By Bro. Mickey ONeill McGrath

By Bro. Mickey O'Neill McGrath

We continue with the exploration of discernment for our vocation, and with that I share one of my favorite prayers for our contemplation this week. It has long been a trusted prayer I reference at the turning points in my life. It calls me back to center, to calm, to trust that God is in it all with me as I become more authentically who God created me to be.


Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan, Visitation Alumna

Trust in the Slow Work of God

by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin 1881-1955, Jesuit, Paleontologist, Biologist, Philosopher, and Visionary

Above all, trust in the slow work of God

We are quite naturally impatient in everything

to reach the end without delay

We should like to skip the intermediate stages.

We are impatient of being on the way to something

unknown, something new. And yet it is the law of all progress

that it is made by passing through

some stages of instability-

and that it may take a very long time.  And so I think it is with you.

your ideas mature gradually – let them grow,

let them shape themselves, without undue haste. Don’t try to force them on,

as though you could be today what time

(that is to say, grace and circumstances

acting on your own good will)

will make of you tomorrow. Only God could say what this new spirit

gradually forming within you will be. Give Our Lord the benefit of believing

that his hand is leading you, and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself

in suspense and incomplete.

“What do you want for me, God?”: An Introduction to My Vocation Story

Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde

Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Vis Companion

Note: the following is the first in a series of vocation narratives, or memoirs, offered by Melissa and fellow bloggers.

Vocation does not mean a goal that I pursue. It means a calling that I hear. Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling me who I am. I must listen for the truths and values at the heart of my own identity, not the standards by which I must live—but the standards by which I cannot help but live if I am living my own life. Parker Palmer in “Let Your Life Speak

We all have a vocation. Each and every one of us. Whether we are religious or lay members of the world, we have a calling –something we have wrestled with consciously, or unconsciously, and found ourselves immersed in — a “life telling us who we are,” as Parker Palmer says. These days, I’m thinking a lot about my vocation and what my life has told, tells me.

In the Spring of 2002, whilst teaching at North Community High School in North Minneapolis, my life was sort of “screaming” at me. Immersed in a high poverty setting, (where I lost half of my students every year), attending to the development of relevant and hopefully inspiring curriculum for my students –as well as the content of their individual life narratives, gifts, skills and areas for growth – alongside my own — well, let’s just say I was a bit achy and itchy in my soul for what might be next.  I wasn’t wholly satisfied with my work in the classroom and the system in which I was operating; so I started writing letters to God. In these journal letters, I described my circumstances as a public school educator and I posed questions. “What do you want for me, God? What do you want me to do? Where do you want me to go? You know my heart, my longings and my desire to serve Love. Please guide me.”

TE Nebraska Trip - 003

"What do you want for me, God? What do you want me to do? Where do you want me to go?"

I was called to be an educator, without a doubt in my mind or heart. But surely, God would not want me to continue in a fashion where I was daily filled with despair — left with less hope and offering a diminishing amount of love, promise, and life-giving energy to myself and others?

In my writing and beseeching, there are stops and starts, almost self-conscious pauses. Was I feeling badly for the outpouring of words on paper? Was my prose too filled with complaint or dissatisfaction as I described the conditions of my life? Surely, I had been so abundantly blessed in my birth and journey to date — given so much from loving parents and in and through my catholic faith, educational opportunities and work — that I wouldn’t be abandoned. (Was that my fear – rejection or abandonment from God?)  I couldn’t stop short in my writing and queries to the Divine, I had to continue in my prayers wondering about my next steps in this journey as a woman of love on the earth.

In an entry recorded on Saturday, June 1, 2002, I wrote, “I know if I were born a man, you would have me be a priest. Because I am a woman, do you want me to pursue becoming a nun?”

I remember writing the question down, and then immediately closing my journal. It was a terrifying notion, this nun business.  First of all, I wanted to be married and have kids. I loved men and dreamed of partnering with one and having a child or two someday. (I longed to parent – beyond the scope of the classroom, beyond working with and nurturing the beautiful young people in my classroom who I was privileged to teach. I longed for giving birth and the gift of raising a babe from infancy to adulthood.)

cross-in-handsIn an entry recorded on Saturday, June 1, 2002, I wrote, “I know if I were born a man, you would have me be a priest. Because I am a woman, do you want me to pursue becoming a nun?” -Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde

When I considered my calling to the priesthood, it felt so giant, real, awesome, but seemingly beyond my gender — according to the church powers that be.  I had reconciled my desire to preach –to lead a congregation in contemplative, prayerful thought and action — through my work as a classroom teacher. My love for scripture and desire to break open sacred texts for inspiration and life lessons translated well, on most days, to my tasks as an English educator.  Considering my recorded journal question, “[D]o you want me to pursue becoming a nun?” I wondered, too, how I could turn to another religious vocation because of the seeming limitations of my gender?  I simply thanked God for making me female, so that I never had to choose between marriage and a life as a celibate priest.  I set my journal down and went about my life.

For the record: At the time, I didn’t really know I was doing discernment work. At this juncture, I had never even heard the word “discernment.” But that would all change.

On Sunday, June 2, 2002, following mass at the Church of St. Philip in North Minneapolis, I was standing up on the alter, next to the piano with the rest of the choir members I sang with, when a small woman with gray hair and wearing a large silver cross approached me.

Sister Katherine

Sister Katherine

“Melissa, Hello. I’m Sister Katherine of the Visitation Monastery of North Minneapolis. We are having a ‘Come and See’ weekend for single young women. We are wondering if you want to come and see about being a nun.”

I about fell over. I was wrapping microphone cord around my arm at the time, and believe I almost tripped at Sister’s invitation.

Not only is God not subtle with me, but my life circumstances have never been, as they speak loudly trying to get my attention. Of course I would put my query out to the Beloved regarding my vocation, and of course I would receive this direct response! But the very next day? Whew.


Stay tuned for the unfolding of this vocation narrative, as I relay my discernment process, given the entrance of the Visitation Sisters in my life.

Prayers: “North Minneapolis Community Violence Report”

Mary Marg and Demetrius

"We must not let health inequity continue."

The following information was sent by our friends at the Northside Achievement Zone, and Northpoint Health and Wellness Center regarding the community in which we pray, live, worship, serve, love, and work. We hold this information about violence in our community in prayer, and invite your positive intentions as well.

“Violence in North Minneapolis continues to be a major concern for youth and families that live and work here. NorthPoint is especially concerned with the impact persistent and pervasive violence has on the health and well-being of the community and its ability to create quality of life outcomes for families and residents. When you examine the data that identifies life expectancies by zip code, it is a chilling fact that where you live in Minnesota matters. North Minneapolis is an area with the lowest life expectancy. We must not let that health inequity continue and that means that as a community, we must address community violence as a contributing factor.”
Deirdre Annice Golden, PhDLP
Director of Behavioral Health
NorthPoint Health and Wellness Center

For those wanting to learn more, we extend the following invitation, on behalf of NorthPoint. Click to download a PDF of Community Event below.

Town Hall Shiloh_revWe invite you to join us for a Town Hall presentation of the “North Minneapolis Community Violence Report,” authored by Dr Oliver Williams, Executive Director of the Institute on Domestic Violence in the African American Community and Professor of Social Work at the University of Minnesota; Dr Esther Jenkins, Professor of Psychology at Chicago State University, Dr William Oliver, Associate Professor at Indiana University, and Marcus Pope, M.ED, Associate Director of the Institute on Domestic Violence in the African American Community. The authors will discuss prevalence, risk factors, prevention and recommendations with the Northside Community.

Town Hall Meeting at Shiloh Temple PDF

Wrapped in Faith

Sr. Karen Mohan, vhm

Sr. Karen Mohan, vhm

By Sr. Karen Mohan, vhm

FAITH PLEASES GOD.  That is the inscription on my new blanket.  Whose faith?  Mine?  Or the one who made this soft new covering for my bed?  Or the young man who gave it to me?  Or the one in whose honor it was given?   I am reflecting on these questions as I put the blanket on my bed this week to ward off the inevitable Minnesota winter soon to be upon us.

This recent gift to me is a replacement gift.   15 years ago, our neighbor, Sharon, crocheted a special afghan for each Sister in our community, and gave us her labor of love — in our favorite color — as a Christmas gift.  I had used my green and yellow afghan ever since, and it served me well throughout our long Minnesota nights.  When Sharon died very unexpectedly last summer, I wanted to give this afghan to one of her grandchildren.  Mario, the oldest, wept when I handed him this treasured memento of his grandma.  Tears filled my eyes as well; for our community’s friendship with Sharon and her husband, George, had been strong and enduring.  After 45 years of marriage, George died in March and Sharon four months later.

Afghan 001

“Let the Sisters always try to fall asleep with some good thought.”

Two weeks ago Mario arrived at our back door with a very special gift, a blanket that he and his wife had purchased at a craft fair. On one side of the blanket the recurring word, FAITH, is printed in the  multi-colored pastel fabric.   The other side is a solid color, a slate blue, and it contains one phrase embroidered in its corner:


That’s the message that Mario chose for me to be wrapped in each night.  That’s my gift from Sharon, renewed in her grandson’s generosity.   And now that is part of my night prayer, a prayer of gratitude for my faith and a petition that my faith may be renewed and strengthened at rest and in rising.

Mario’s generosity leads me to recall two guidelines from the spiritual directory for the Visitation way of life:  “Let the Sisters always try to fall asleep with some good thought” … and “at the end of each day, the Sisters should thank God for all God’s blessings… for the gift of their vocation, for preserving their life this day, and for providing for all their needs by God’s loving goodness.”

It is good to give and to receive.  It is a blessing to have friends who care and to have a way of life that fosters a relationship with God.  It is a joy to witness others’ “faith that pleases God”. Thank you, Sharon. Thank you Mario.  Thanks be to God.

Daily with DeSales: Goldberg Guides Discernment

By Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan, Visitation Alumna

I am reading Thunder and Lightning by Natalie Goldberg, a New York born Jewish writer who found her calm center in Zen. (This is also who I had the joy to study with this past September at the Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, NM.) Goldberg writes about the creative life, the writing life, in her chapter, An Old Friend from Far Away. She uses the illustration of author Ted Solotaroff’s book The Truth Comes in Blows where in his books creation he discerns to throw out the first 300 pages written to get to the making of his own book. The first 300 pages!:

“Notice that Solotaroff took a cue–after his own great effort–from someone else. Don’t always expect to get full understanding from yourself. There is a balance that we all have to learn: write, read what we have written, listen to ourselves, step away, talk to a few writing friends we trust, dive down again. And like, Solotaroff, we must be willing to throw a lot away, no matter how much hard work we’ve put into it. That work is not wasted. It’s the path that leads to the entryway.”

Ahhh, so true, Goldberg’s words remind me of De Sales A Short Method to Know God’s Will, which we posted in October in preparation for our first Discernment Series evening. After our own great effort of weighing our options, we too must not expect to “gain full understanding from ourselves,” we must incorporate prayer and invite God into our discernment. Otherwise it becomes just a decision.

Like Goldberg notes that there is a “balance we have to learn,” so does De Sales note this balance, he tells us to seek sage counsel from not just people we know who will tell us what WE WANT to hear but will tell us with loving honesty what we need to hear in this discernment. Sister Anne Elizabeth from Visitation Georgetown likened it to someone gently pulling the thorn out for us. We must intentionally chose these sage people for the discernment at hand.

We must “listen to ourselves,” perhaps it means reading out loud from our journals to hear our own voice and thoughts. By doing this we bring the discernment into a neutral ground and closer to ourselves, we hear our voice with our own ear, in a way that we can not when we just journal and do not take the time to read aloud what we wrote. And then as Goldberg and De Sales counsel we must be willing to “throw a lot away,” to “not look back after our

A Celebration of Saints by Brother Mickey ONeill McGrath

A Celebration of Saints by Brother Mickey O'Neill McGrath

discernment is made.” This time is not wasted as Goldberg advises, it brings us closer to the “entryway” of our own lives.

As we prepare for our next gathering this Monday night, November 1, seeing Goldberg reiterate De Sales wisdom is refreshing. I hope you are able to join us as we consider more wisdom from Fr. De Sales, Fr. Himes and other sage figures on the Feast of All Saints Day, a day we celebrate for all Christians who have died in a state of grace. Bring your grace, bring the loved ones you carry who have gone before you, and bring your discernment of your heart and pray and learn with us at St. Jane House.

Happy Discernment! Happy letting go of 300 pages, or that which holds us back from the new life that awaits us in our discernment. The new energy that awaits us in our creative lives. In our letting go and tuning into our inner callings we will answer the world’s needs with our innate gifts.

A Reflection on Friday’s Scripture: Peace!

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Vis Companion

Melissa reading over Scripture

Reading over the Scriptures

I am preparing for 12pm mass this Friday, October 22, 2010, at the Visitation Monastery. Goodness, how I look forward to this experience in the living room of the Vis Sister’s home! It’s not like any other service I am able to attend. (I have written of this in the past.) Today, I turn my mind and heart to the scripture readings for this upcoming liturgy. I consider how this text is speaking to me.

I slow my mind down. I read. I work to defer judgment.  I make note of lines that stand out. I connect these words to lived experiences. I register what emotion they elicit. I wonder to myself. I pose questions. I speculate on what Love’s message is for me. I consider my faith community and possibilities of this text for the world at large. It’s a prayerful, critical response process to the Bible, this holy and sacred literature.

I notice.….from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians:

“live in a manner worthy of the call you have received,
with all humility and gentleness
preserve the unity of the spirit
through the bond of peace”

I notice.…from the Gospel according to Luke:

[Jesus said to the crowds]:

“Why do you not judge for yourselves what is right?
If you are to go with your opponent before a magistrate,
make an effort to settle the matter on the way;

When Paul speaks of living in a manner worthy of the call a person has received — with a humble and gentle nature, my mind goes initially to St. Francis de Sales, our co-founder. St. Francis so beautifully exemplified gentleness in his life and expressed his motivation for living his faith out this way.  He spoke of this virtue as flowing from and modeled by our Trinitarian God:

St Francis de Sales

Gentle Saint: Francis de Sales

“I would rather account to God for too great gentleness than for too great severity. God the Father is the Father of mercy; God the Son is a Lamb; God the Holy Ghost is a Dove;” –St. Francis de Sales

Next, Desmond Tutu flashes in my mind. I am reminded of how struck I was in the Spring of 2008, when I saw him on two occasions speaking in the Twin Cities: his sweet, spirited, and simple demeanor. He exemplified humility and gentleness, a peaceful presence in the midst of some charged circumstances and challenging questions – posed to him in the large venues in which he spoke. “What do you think of Black on Black crime?” asked a young man in the Red Wing juvenile detention center. “What are your feelings or thoughts about President Bush?” asked the contentious (?) MPR host, Kerry Miller. Oh, goodness!  To each, the archbishop leaned in, smiled and offered a response from his first hand experience that was kind and thoughtful. I can only imagine St. Francis’ thoughts about Archbishop Tutu’s responses, which were so poised, honorable, and filled with integrity, humility, and characteristically gentle humor. (But this story is an entirely other blog.)

Archbishop Desmond Tutu responds to a question

Archbishop Desmond Tutu exemplifies gentleness and humility

I hear St. Paul’s words as the writer extends them: “preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace” and consider the South African Noble Peace Prize winner an exemplary model of what Paul writes.

My heart leaps a bit thinking how connected Luke’s words are in the Gospel reading to those scribed to the Ephesians. The peace process that we know of in our souls, in our most core, essential spirit, strikes me as what Christ wants to remind us of, and what Paul invites us to align with, given our blessed and unique calls.

“You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky;” Jesus says, “Why do you not know how to interpret the present time?” and “Why do you not judge for yourselves what is right?”

Christ validates our intuitive knowing, alongside of, or stemming from, our way of moving through the world based on our observations. And then He challenges us to apply these ways of knowing – and being – to our communications in charged and challenging spaces.

“[M]ake an effort to settle the matter,” He instructs.  It feels connected to Paul’s validation of our vocations, our callings here, as Christians, as people of love, justice, peace: “[L]ive in a manner worthy of the call you have received… bearing with one another through love.”

Do you know of the Truth and Reconciliation hearings of a post-apartheid South Africa? Can you recall the role Archbishop Tutu played in these public sessions where victim and perpetrator convened, crimes were confessed, and forgiveness extended? Years of violence, civil rights violations, racist separatist laws were acknowledged. Human rights violators began to look compassionately at their own cruel actions. Can you fathom this kind of work abroad? How about in your own community? Does your imagination and faith allow for practical applications of this kind of merciful, honorable, and gentle work? In your church? Home? Your own heart? Do you believe you have a calling to be such a person of peace, justice, reflection and reconciliation?

cross-in-handsI stop here and smile, my heart full of possibilities where these texts are concerned, and how they might be realized in my immediate life. Any grievance I have filed against another, any angry action I have taken against another, I have room to see. I close this reflection imagining St. Francis’ spirit alive and guiding me, the sweet laugh and peaceful model of a living Desmond Tutu inspiring me. I will continue to try to live my call as a woman of hope, peace, justice, prayer, and action.

How does this scripture speak to you today?

Happy Contemplating!

Daily with De Sales: Loving Ourselves, Loving Each Other

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Vis Companion

St. Francis de Sales

St. Francis de Sales

October 17
Jesus Christ Himself said, “Love one another. Such as my love has been for you, so must your love be for each other.” [Jn 13:34] You must give a lot of thought to this statement, because it means that we must love others more than we love ourselves. The Lord always put others before Himself and still continues to do that, making Himself our food every time we receive Him in the Blessed Sacrament. In like manner He wants us to love others and even to prefer our neighbor to ourselves. (Spiritual Treatises IV; O. VI, p. 57)

Love our neighbors more than ourselves, eh? It’s a tall charge. There’s an assumption in this statement, that first, we have a sense of love for ourselves — that we recognize we are divinely made. But this can be a tall order for many humans. There’s a lot of information coming at us that reminds us we are not all that fabulous. So how to love not only ourselves, but another, and then do that well? Whew. Extend our hearts more for others? God help us!

And that’s exactly what God does.

Enter prayer. Enter Jesus, His Son. Enter the reality of our neighbors, and that thing called Divine Grace.

In prayer, we may encounter our vulnerabilities, our beseeching selves, our deepest wonder and ache put before the Lord. Yet here, too, we receive greatly, as we empty and unfold our lives and longing before our Creator, and are filled with something akin to gratitude, joy. Love.

Meditating on the Blessed Sacrament, as St. Francis de Sales suggests, we may enter into the mystery that is Christ’s love for us. “This is my body.” If we allow our minds, hearts and imaginations to fathom the fullness of this Sacrament — what the Eucharist holds in story, in sacrifice, in symbol — we may discover a staggering Truth about Love. Its humble forms. Its power to heal and transcend all human limitation and knowing. Its ability to enter our bellies and blood veins in an act of nourishment beyond the physical form – to the spirit level.

daily_with_desalesOpening the door to our neighbor, and letting this humble, awesome information inspire our perceptions, we may discover the Grace and the capacity then to love more. To see the bread of life in one another. In the stranger. In the angry driver. In the worker behind the Subway sandwich counter. In the person next to us in the pew on Sunday morning.

It’s something to consider. I offer St. Francis de Sales’ daily meditation to you all with a simple prayer:

Loving God, help me to know your awesome power, seeing your Divine goodness in all who I encounter – starting with the person in the mirror.


Feast of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

By Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan, Visitation Alumna

In this month where the pinnacle is Hallowed Eve, where the veil between the

Finny's second Halloween where he chose to go as himself, 2006.

Finny's second Halloween where he chose to go as himself, 2006.

spirit world and our world is thin and we are able to mingle more readily with those saints and souls that have gone before us, there has been much talk about what we will become for Halloween in my household. Liam wants to be a bat! Not Batman like I’d hoped given we have the costume, but a bat. Finny wants to be Wolverine at least for his school party, but is uncertain if this costume will suffice at night. At night he may have to be Darth Vader. Kieran will be one of the cast off costumes of the older boys: a lion, a monkey, or a bear.

It brings me back to the box of costumes my mom collected and kept in our basement storage room, the bottom shelf atop the peeling brown linoleum with the chipped pink painted walls. Each October that box would be dragged out and the moldy, dusty costumes that my siblings outgrew were presented to me as possibilities for the holiday. This box held the three clown suits my oldest sister and two brothers wore with elastic gatherings at their openings and sun faded polka dotted fabric, suede cowboy vests and chaps and guns my three brothers wore, the last minute ghost costumes transformed from an old linen sheet, and my father’s old clothes for dress up. I am not sure I relished wearing the discarded costumes the way Sister Katherine did today dressed as St. Margaret Mary at

St Mary Margaret and the Sacred Heart by Brother Mickey McGrath ONeill

St Margaret Mary and the Sacred Heart by Brother Mickey McGrath O'Neill

Visitation Mendota Heights, MN to help the students celebrate this Saint’s feast day. To me her joy and willingness to do this comes as no surprise, and I wonder if I could have mustered the same joy over some of those costumes? Or if Kieran will? (May I be compassionate toward him if he is not, and desires his own.) To hear that Sister Katherine would take the time to celebrate a Saint who brought the devotion of the Sacred Heart back into practice and importance in the Catholic Church at a time when the Church was being challenged further illustrates traits I love about her and her community, their deep faith and devotion, and that she enjoys some mischievous fun.

Imagination in Salesian Spirituality is one of it’s core traits. St. Francis de Sales claims: “love has a wonderful power to sharpen the imagination so that it can penetrate beyond itself;” (Treatise, vol. 1, p. 250) adding that this love and imagination brings compassion. In Alexander T. Pocetto, OSFS, paper Compassionate Love and Salesian Spirituality he further explains De Sales quote:

“Compassion makes us reach out in love so that we readily identify with those who suffer, and we become like them. It makes us experience what they are experiencing but not merely for the sake of the experience or the pain, but so that we will be moved to alleviate their suffering and pain or at least to help them bear with it and make sense out of it.

“His insights on how to practice real poverty in the midst of riches is an excellent example of the power of compassionate love:

‘Love the poor and love poverty, for it is by such love that you become truly poor. As the Scripture says, we become like the things we love [Hosea 9:10]. Love makes lovers equal. “Who is weak and I am not weak?” says St. Paul, and he might have also said, “Who is poor and I am not poor with him?” for love made him like those he loved. (Devout Life, III, chp. 15, “How to Practice Genuine Poverty Although Really Rich”, p. 165)’

“Compassionate love exemplifies our solidarity with others and especially makes us realize our common human vulnerability, our mutual interdependence and our need to be with those who are suffering. It makes us see the interconnectedness of our lives. Our Saint [de Sales] stresses this in the same passage on how to be poor despite the fact that we may be materially wealthy:

‘If you love the poor you will share their poverty and be poor like them. If you love the poor, be often with them. Be glad to see them in your own home and to visit with them in theirs. Be glad to talk to them and be pleased to have them near you in church, on the street, and elsewhere. (Loc. cit.)’

“For the poor, we can readily substitute others that are on the fringes of society or who are suffering from physical or mental pain.”

Happy preparation for your own Hallowed Eve! May the heart of Jesus inspire you as it did St. Margaret Mary as it does the Sisters of the Visitation. May our own Sacred Heart of Jesus Devotion lead us to love as He does, and through this love may it lead us to compassion of our brothers and sisters so that we will be inspired to advocate for change as the North Minneapolis Visitation Sisters and their Neighbors do daily!

On Spiritual Friendship

St Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal

St Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal

by Phil Soucheray*

The following was submitted by Visitation friend Phil Soucheray on the heels of his experience at the Salesian Spirituality evening, Monday, October 11, 2010. We welcome Phil as a guest blogger to these pages.

A group of Visitation friends is meeting monthly again this year for pot luck, fellowship and growth.  We got together last Monday night and were introduced to the theme for this year — “Spiritual Friendship.”

Now, this is a topic that has a lot of dimensions. That was clear just from the conversation that was generated among the 30 or so men and women who were on hand at the Girard house. Some of the clearest questions that seemed to surface included, what is the nature of spiritual friendship? How does it differ from other forms of friendship? What’s my experience of spiritual friendship? And how can I make it better? If that’s not a plateful I don’t know what is — all from just the first night. The good thing is we’ll have the benefit going forward of two masters of this form of friendship — St. Francis and St. Jane.

Who are your Spiritual friends?

What is the nature of spiritual friendship?

As I reflect on the notion of spiritual friendship, I am immediately struck by those I count as friends in this area of my life. More and more, thankfully, there is Deb, my wife. I point to my mom, God rest her soul, who was an unabashed spiritual explorer throughout her life and wasn’t afraid to share her discoveries. And there’s my brother in faith, Bert, who has proven himself to be one who will stand my side, joyfully and prayerfully, in tough times. May I only hope I’m thought of the same way on his side.

But when it comes to the Visitation sisters in community on the north side, there is a unique lens that I love to look through. Never before have I had the privilege of getting to know a group of people who at once so clearly stand as a single social organism motivated by a shared desire to grow closer to God through community, but at the same time stand so clearly as individuals — each allowed, indeed encouraged, to be themselves and sharing their unique personalities with us.

Never before have I had the privilege of getting to know a group of people who at once so clearly stand as a single social organism motivated by a shared desire to grow closer to God through community, but at the same time stand so clearly as individuals — each allowed, indeed encouraged, to be themselves and sharing their unique personalities with us. – Phil Soucheray on the Visitation Sisters of North Minneapolis

Sr. Mary Virginia, VHM, Phil's Spiritual Mentor

Sr. Mary Virginia, VHM, Phil's Spiritual Mentor

I know some of the sisters perhaps better than others. But I love them each for the particular individuals that they are. Each presents to me a unique face of Jesus which inspires me to examine myself to see how I am doing in becoming a fully human, fully loving, person, acknowledging my known flaws and being humbly open to having those I’m not quite so sure of exposed for my improvement.

St. Francis and St. Jane teach that is through these types of encounters that God visits. I am certain they are right and I only pray that I‘m awake enough, moment to moment, to welcome the visitor when he, or she, comes.



Guest Blogger, Phil Soucheray

Guest Blogger, Phil Soucheray

Phil is a St. Paul native with ties to Visitation that go back more than 40 years. He’s been married to Deb, a lass from Hastings, MN, for 32 years. He’s been engaged in his spiritual exploration for about 35 years, but wasn’t consciously aware of it until about 1985.  Currently, Phil participates in the Visitation Companions formation group meeting once a month at St. Jane house, in addition to the Monday evening Salesian Spirituality convenings. Sr. Mary Virginia serves as Phil’s spiritual mentor.