Monthly Archives: November 2010

Snapshots from the Sisters: Turkey Meals Delivery Day!

In Thanksgiving!

In Thanksgiving: 140 Turkey Meals are delivered to Northside Neighbors

Posted by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Vis Companion

The following photos and text arrive from Srs. Mary Frances and Katherine as they reflect on last Tuesday’s annual Turkey Meal Delivery. The Thanksgiving Week event brings together these two former Visitation School teachers with their students in the sisters’ present North side neighborhood community.

Blessed be!

Reflection from Sr. Mary Frances on the Thanksgiving Basket Event:

“It was WONDERFUL on every level……Neighborhood women helped organize and ‘direct traffic’ and give out directions to the Vis students when  they arrived with 140 baskets and turkeys — complete with baking pans.  The boxes arrived beautifully packed with everything you could ever want for a complete meal!
My favorite part was the comaraderie between the Visitation students and our friends and neighbors in North Minneapolis.  One gentleman told me he has been doing this delivery with us for 15 years; the neat thing about that is that there is a mutuality and an ownership for this event by the community.

Vis Girls Turkey Day

"My favorite part was the comaraderie between the Visitation students and our friends and neighbors in North Minneapolis."

Students who delivered 25 baskets to Phyllis Wheatley Community Center (the oldest African American social service agency in Minnesota)  and 25 to Turning Point – were greeted by staff and clients alike and  given an excellent overview of their programs.

The Vis students “LIVE JESUS”  in a remarkable way….They are well prepared and ever so natural in their presence to each and every person. In one instance they delivered a box to a home only to discover the family had moved.  The woman currently living at the residence  asked if she could have a turkey.  The students came all the way back to the Monastery and then returned to give the woman her turkey….This is just one example of how they went over and above what was asked of them.
After the deliveries, everyone came back to Fremont House for Cookie Cart cookies and hot apple cider.

Now onward to the 600+ Christmas stockings the students will prepare for our children and those in the various agencies around the North side!”

Thanksgiving Leftovers

Posted here with Sr. Anne Elizabeth’s permission by Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan, Visitation Alumna
I prepared to write a blog about the concept and practice of leftovers, when lo and behold, Sr. Anne Elizabeth posted this inspirational blog on Wednesday at the Georgetown Visitation Blog. I promptly wrote her to request permission to repost as what she wrote spoke well. With a glad heart, she said post away! So a Happy Thanksgiving to all, may your gratitude abound in these days of leftovers, which will lead us into the preparation of the Advent Season.
As most of us in America celebrate the secular holiday of Thanksgiving, we might profit from adding a Christian flavor to our holiday and to all the days that follow.

“Dedicate yourselves to thankfulness. Let the word of Christ, rich as it is, dwell in you” (Col 3:12).

It is a good practice to pause as we celebrate Thanksgiving and to give thanks for the many blessings we have received. It is a better, practice, however, to make sure that the “leftovers” last all year long. Long after the last turkey sandwich (with stuffing inside) has been eaten and the remains of the pumpkin pie enjoyed, we might do well to savor the spirit of Thanksgiving in our daily life. Let us keep before our eyes, a deep sense of the Lord’s goodness to us in the many gifts we receive on a daily basis. Perhaps our Thanksgiving leftovers may last us the whole year through!
“Is it possible that I was loved, and loved so tenderly by my Savior, that He should have thought of me individually, and in all these details by which He has drawn me to Himself? With what love and gratitude ought I to use all He has given me?”
St. Francis de Sales

On Vow Renewal: Sr. Karen Reflects

by Sr. Karen Mohan, VHM

Francis de Sales and Jane de Chantal

"I have confirmed and renewed my vows..."

When the  Visitation Order began, our Founders chose November 21 (formerly the memorial of Our Lady’s “presentation” in the temple) as a day that the Sisters would renew their vows together in a devotional way.  In this 400th anniversary year of our Order, I felt specially united with my Sisters across the globe on our vow renewal day, knowing that we were all pondering the call of God in our lives and voicing our response to Christ’s love through this renewal.

At the conclusion of the retreat days, each Sister writes her vow renewal in a special “Vow Book”.  The short entry states,

“I have confirmed and renewed my vows on this day of the Presentation of Our Lady, Nov. 21, ____.  Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, Amen.”

Each year as I open the book to “my page”, I marvel at God’s fidelity to me all these years!  I also think about some “marker” renewal times in my life, such as the thrill of writing my vows in the very book that St. Jane de Chantal used to write her vows in Annecy!

cross-in-hands“To open this book is to see my life commitment inscribed, and to write those words once more …is to let my heart be reminded that it is Jesus who invites each of us into a life of deep union with him…” – Sr. Karen Mohan

In a recent visit to our Georgetown Visitation Community, I looked at the first American Visitation Vow Book honored in their chapel, a testimony to the providence of God inspiring these late 18th century Visitation Sisters to live the Salesian charism in the “new world”.  And as I wrote  my vow renewal in our Minneapolis Vow Book, a gift from our Georgetown community when we were established here 21 years ago,  I studied the cover design that our dear friend, Brother Mickey McGrath, created for us .  To open this book is to see my life commitment inscribed, and to write those words once more –this year coinciding with the feast of Christ the King, is to let my heart be reminded that it is Jesus who invites each of us into a life of deep union with him; it is Jesus whose love renews and provides me with what I will need to become his presence in our world, and it is Jesus whose forgiving love lifts me up and brings joy to my days.  It’s no wonder that St. Francis de Sales wisely talked about all three vows being rolled up into one:

Baby Marguerite Marie embraces the Sister's cross on Vow Renewal Day

Baby Marguerite Marie embraces the Sister's cross on Vow Renewal Day

“We have no bond but the bond of love which is the bond of perfection”.

We strive to live and hand on this message of love to the next generation with trust and hope.   The presence of baby Marguerite Marie Kiemde and her parents, who joined us for Eucharist with Fr. Kevin Cullen, SJ, on our special day brought home to me that the vow of love expressed in many walks and ways of life is what directs all of us through our baptismal calling. This is a blessing to carry us all though this week of Thanksgiving!


Unity in the Heart of God: Contemplative Prayer

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Vis Companion

Unity in the Heart of God

sacredheartLove unites all, whether created or uncreated. The heart of God, the heart of all creation, and our own hearts become one in love. That’s what all the great mystics have been trying to tell us through the ages. Benedict, Francis, Hildegard of Bingen, Hadewijch of Brabant, Meister Eckhart, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Dag Hammarskjöld, Thomas Merton, and many others, all in their own ways and their own languages, have witnessed to the unifying power of the divine love. All of them, however, spoke with a knowledge that came to them not through intellectual arguments but through contemplative prayer. The Spirit of Jesus allowed them to see the heart of God, the heart of the universe, and their own hearts as one. It is in the heart of God that we can come to the full realisation of the unity of all that is, created and uncreated.  –– Fr. Henri Nouwen

This prayerful reflection by Fr. Henri Nouwen showed up in my inbox last week, right around the time that I received an email from St. Jane House host and manager, Brian Mogren,  announcing the two year anniversary of Centering Prayer* at the Vis Sisters’ lay retreat space. The convergence of Fr. Nouwen’s identified mystics with the information about the contemplative prayers who convene weekly for communal, centering action is no small coincidence. In my mind, they are communicating similar things:  that the process of going deep within, quieting oneself to hear the voice of the Divine and tune into the sufferings and joys that unite us in Love is what draw us further into our faith, and helps define us as a mystical people. We strive to reside consciously in the heart of God, to recognize our belovedness, to see our common humanity and oneness with all of creation.

Centering Prayer GroupPrayerful Questions:

What contemplative practices inform your life?

Have you considered joining the Tuesday morning Centering Prayer group at St. Jane House?

How do you align yourself with Love and suffering in all of creation?

Happy Contemplating!


For more information on Centering Prayer at St. Jane House, please click here.

Thanksgiving Bridges

By Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan, Visitation Alumna

In cities with literal bridges, we live and work with the sisters who form bridges between these two cities constantly.

Sister Mary Frances just wrote to share with us that: “The Students from Mendota Heights Visitation, where Sister Mary Frances and Sister Katherine both taught, are preparing Thanksgiving Baskets for 125 families. The meals include all the fixings for a traditional feast day meal, complete with the turkey and pan!…

“They are also preparing 600 personalized Christmas stockings for agencies and neighborhood children! The students from The Convent of the Visitation in Mendota Heights, come over on a regular basis and assist the sisters in many of their activities.”

The Spoon and the Cherry Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

The Spoon and the Cherry Minneapolis Sculpture Garden--a creative bridge

This is a bridge that was both intentionally and naturally formed when Sisters Mary Frances & Katherine joined The Visitation Monastery in north Minneapolis. They brought with them the awareness of this community and the invitation for the students of Visitation to extend their relationships outside of their classrooms with their classmates into the wider Twin Cities Community. It is a bridge that flows both ways, that creates a synergy of awareness, good will, education, and most importantly relationships.

When I was a student at Visitation I had the good fortune of being invited into the varied activities of the Sisters in north Minneapolis;  I remain grateful for the organic, authentic relationships present there and a way for me to enter into relationship with the neighbors of their rich and diverse community. At the time our main focus was working at a day care center, and I enjoyed being with the sisters, the neighbors, and the larger community. When I returned back to the Twin Cities after 12 years of being away, a close classmate of mine mentioned that she adopts a family at Christmas. I called Sister Katherine to inquire if there were any other families in need of a “Christmas adoption.” It was close to Christmas, and Sister Katherine said what they needed were stocking stuffers and could I supply them with some of those? This call placed me back in relationship with the Sisters and the bridge I first traveled as an 8th grader I crossed gratefully again finding the gratitude, grace and hospitality flourishing at the Monastery and the community that surrounds it near and far.

As we prepare our hearts for Thanksgiving, and heighten our awareness toward our gratitude, the Visitation Sisters of north Minneapolis continue to invite us into relationship with ourselves, with our families, and with our neighbors. May we travel the bridges we need to literally and figuratively to meet one another.

Please take a moment to share in the comments section what you are grateful for this Thanksgiving. And also, the bridges, or the relationships you give thanks for having in your life. (At my son’s Thanksgiving liturgy this morning, he was thankful for nature and stars, another boy for deer meat, and another for everyone in the whole wide world.) I am thankful for the Sisters, the neighbors of north Minneapolis, and our first Thanksgiving in our new home with all my boys.

Happy Thanksgiving!

“Faith and Imagination” Series Invitation: Shane Claiborne Speaks

Posted by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Vis Companion

I’m extending the following opportunity for readers of this blog to join me in hearing Christian activist and best-selling author,  Shane Claiborne speak at Hopkins High School Auditorium on Thursday, November 18, 2010 at 7pm. This is part of the Twin Cities’ “Faith and Life Lecture Series: Public Conversations Where Faith Comes to Life.” It’s free and open to all.

As this blog is devoted to contemplative reflection and writing that makes visible the Salesian charism that anchors the Visitation Sisters in their urban ministry of prayer and presence, this address of Mr. Claiborne’s feels to me to be part and parcel of the Sister’s way of living in North Minneapolis.  As we all reflect on how we are called to live and be — following our faith and the Spirit — the rich example of “urban monk” Shane Claiborne provides us with further rich, contemplative fodder.

"Urban Monk" Shane Claiborne

"Urban Monk" Shane Claiborne

About This Talk:
Christians are meant to be radical non-conformists, interrupting the patterns of our world with prophetic imagination. Shane will share stories of contemporary communities who are living with beautiful creativity and sometimes getting in a little trouble for it. After all, the Kingdom of God is not just something we hope for when we die, but something that we are to bring on earth as it is in heaven. Let’s turn off our TVs, pick up our Bibles, and rethink the way we live.
From Faith and Imagination: Creating a Holy Counterculture

If this resonates with you and you are free tomorrow evening, please join me there! Address and contact information follow.

Faith & Imagination: Creating a Holy Counterculture
Shane Claiborne
Date:  Thursday, November 18, 2010 – 7:00pm
Location:  Hopkins High School Auditorium
View Larger Map

Kairos Ramblings

by Sr. Suzanne Homeyer

Christ the King

The Feast of Christ the King - Stained glass window in St. Paul Seminary, Ottowa, Canada

This time of the year is often called the ‘end time.’ And it certainly is the end of the growing season (except for the evergreens); the end of fresh cut flowers (except for the beautiful apricot tea rose stubbornly clinging to the bush in the Fremont House’s alley garden); the end of the season for some team’s hoping for a playoff game or two…and the end of the liturgical year.  This ‘end time’ in the Church Year is really not an end…it is a time of reaffirmation of our faith…it is more accurately described as KAIROS time…it is a time that is a time out of time with the chronological time of the world.

“This ‘end time’ in the Church Year is really not an end…it is a time of reaffirmation of our faith…it is more accurately described as KAIROS time…” – Sr. Suzanne

The liturgical readings are really preparing us for eternal time….when there is no beginning and no end to our faith journey. In the readings of these next few weeks we are treated to glimpses of Jesus no longer seen as only a prophet living in a fixed time and place but Jesus as Christ, the Messiah…one who always was and always will be.

It is this Christ who takes us with him through these last few weeks before the Advent of a new preparation  for the Incarnation of God in the world. This Christ is one who talks about Kingdom, describes what eternity is like and helps us to celebrate with him his feast —- the Feast of Christ the King.  We are all promised the evergreen of the pine, the inclusivity and equality of the Kingdom and the blessing of Paradise. We have only to believe in the promises and vision of Jesus and follow…


Daily with DeSales: On Descent and Virtue

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Vis Companion

St Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal

St Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal

Let us set out to practice certain virtues that are adapted to our weakness and that have more to do with descending than climbing. They are patience, tolerance, the service of others, humility, gentleness of soul, affinity, putting up with one’s imperfections and similar small virtues. I do not say, of course, that at times it is not a good thing to elevate ourselves by means of prayers, but this must be done slowly, slowly. (Letters 190; O. XII, p. 205)

How many ways do we try to ascend? As humans, our egos demand that we are seen;  this elementary desire to be noticed often parallels an essential desire to be upwardly mobile. Achieve! Achieve! Achieve! Win! Win! Win! Earn! Earn! Earn! We all know the inner, perhaps unexamined, mantra imbedded in our psyche.

Mary Marg and DemetriusWhat messages do we internalize in a fast-paced culture often dominated by economic gain and materialistic goals?

“I am worthy if I make a lot of money. I’m more lovable if I am successful at my job. I will be happy if I possess these items.

(Boats are nice. New clothes make me feel pretty. A diamond bracelet would rock.)

It’s sort of maddening. It’s sort of sad. It’s so completely our human condition.

Enter these words of St. Francis de Sales: “practice virtues that are adapted to our weakness and that have more to do with descending than climbing.”

What? What radical thought! Who wants to admit or examine weakness? (Especially their own?) Who, in their right mind, wants to go DOWN, rather than up? There’s no light at the bottom. No glory. It’s often muddy there. An odor of  the mundane permeates the bottom. Certainly, the descent doesn’t make me more attractive. Going down, I won’t be driving a Mercedes. Help!

cross-in-handsBut St. Francis’ message for us is anchored completely in that of Christ’s: in His life, His words and example. De Sales’ naming of the virtues we are called to practice are modeled perfectly by God’s beloved son. (We can glean the Divine’s daughter here, too). Gentle. Patient. Tolerant. Serving others. Humble. This is where we find gain: in the ironic turn of surrender, of letting go, of losing ourselves to Love and to service — to that which is so much larger than anywhere our egos may want to soar.

I process this message, this reminder of simplicity in living these virtues and not working so diligently to ascend, and I see my dear friends, the Visitation Sisters. Dwelling at 15th and Fremont, 17th and Girard in North Minneapolis, answering the door to their neighbors, living on alms, praying four times a day: these northside nuns exemplify a living that’s rooted in Christ’s message and De Sales’ gentle reminder. It’s a radical way to live, a powerful response to God’s invitation to us all.

Can you hear Love’s invitation to you? What does your heart say? How does your mind respond? Are you ready to answer this call?

Blessings and prayers to you this day.

From Doing to Being

by Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan, Visitation Alumna

What do you do? What do you want to do? What do you want to be when you grow up? What will you do next? As a culture we are conditioned from a young age that we value productivity, accomplishment, doers. This is all good and well until we lose our center, until we can no longer find our calm, and our days become a blur instead of intentions. We are conditioned to define ourselves by our professions instead of by our character. I want us to take the time this week to consider how much of our days, our selves, our being is wrapped up in our doing?

“Now as they went on their way, he [Jesus] entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:38-42).

Do we take time to slow down and let our business and busy-ness fall away? Or do we clutch to it to keep our mind from settling? Do we take the time when we feel rushed and hurried to stop even for a moment to connect to our breath–our way of being alive at our core? Or do we find that we have hurried through our day only to no longer see who is before us? Who is within us?

When Jesus was asked, “What do you do Lord?” He replied, “Come and see.” Jesus invited his friends into being with him, into relationship, into taking the time to witness, participate, and stay with him to learn. Do we invite others into our way of being? Are we open to seeing and living their way of being when invited? Do we make the time for this? As we consider our vocations, our way of being in the world, may we consider if it is a true way of being, or solely a source of doing? How do we strike this holy balance? St. Francis de Sales wisdom comes into play here, he said, “The soul which holds itself ready and open to do God’s will on any occasion, can do this even while sweeping the floor.” Again, it is a way of being while we are engaged in our doing.

The Sisters intentionally build time to be into their day with the punctuation of praying the offices. It keeps a balance and anchor

Artist Brother Mickey ONeill McGrath

Artist Brother Mickey O'Neill McGrath

to their doing. As a mother, I often fall into the Martha-ness of my days, and long to be reminded on these days that it is Mary’s way that builds, keeps, and holds memories. My husband, Peter is great at this, the tasks can fall away in place of some fun. I foolishly need to be reminded often that the tasks fall away in a day or so, but the conversations, the being with another, lingers, lasts, holds steady. Now with our fourth baby on his/her way in April, I find my multi-tasking ways sloughing off because for some reason this pregnancy I can no longer hold two thoughts and do more than one thing well. As my frustration with this melts away, I recognize the gift, I am being invited into a deeper awareness of being. Instead of resistance may I embrace it, instead of doing may I learn at a deeper level how to be, and instead of clinging to old habits may I embrace this new invitation!


“Direction of Intention:” According to Io Palmer and Francis de Sales

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Vis Companion

St. Francis de Sales

St. Francis de Sales

My God, I give you this day. I offer you, now, all of the good that I shall do and I promise to accept, for love of you, all of the difficulty that I shall meet. Help me to conduct myself during this day in a manner pleasing to you. Amen. – St. Francis de Sales

I had dinner recently with my dear friend, Io Palmer. Ms. Palmer hails from the most curious lineage that has always tickled something wild and excited in me. As the daughter of a Jewish Buddhist woman, partnered with an African American male artist, born in Greece, Io has always intrigued me. It’s not simply her rich heritage and cultural background, but the way her parents, place of birth and her journey has informed her life, her faith, her calling in this world as an artist and educator. Like all good friends do, Io makes something inside me tick. I am inspired as I learn from her.

Last Saturday evening, I sat across the table from Io and listened as she posed the thought-provoking-large questions that I’ve always known to come from her mouth and mind.

Artist, Educator, Io Palmer

Artist, Educator, Io Palmer

“Do you ever think about your purpose?”

There were three of us gathered at the table. Our other friend, also an artist – provocative and reflective, was inspiring the conversation on the heels of Io’s query.

As the responses surfaced, we came back around to Io’s confession around her latest prayerful ritual that begins her day, and buoys her activity through the evening.

“I get in the shower each morning, and I repeat this mantra: May all my thoughts, words and actions come from a place of love.” And then she added, “May every action be a prayer of Love in the world.” Io elaborated: “I modified this second mantra from a B’Ahai saying. I repeat these as I drive to school or walk into teach a class.”

I was sort of stunned. Not because this kind of talk was unusual for our table. But because of how strongly these words of my Jewish-Buddhist friend Io’s resonated with my own spiritual practices and catholic faith. They smacked of Salesian spirituality and of what I’ve learned from the nuns. I could just hear St. Francis de Sales in his Direction of Intention Prayer. And I smiled.

I could travel around the world in this conversation, from Greece to France to Washington State to China to Argentina to South Africa to North Minneapolis, and find a connecting line of love, of prayer, of faith. From Ms. Palmer’s place of birth to her places of travel and teaching, work and love — to the spaces of St. Francis de Sales’ and the Visitation sisters’ places of travel and teaching, work and Love. Through it all, I am inspired by the universality of “directing our intentions;” no matter our faith or background, there’s a desire to focus on our calls, our purposes as people, and to meditate on Love and what it means to be agents of good will in this life.