Monthly Archives: January 2011

Windsock Reunion: Snapshots and Reflections

Windsock Reunion: 21st Anniversary Celebrations!

Windsock Reunion: 21st Anniversary Celebrations!

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion, and Sr. Mary Frances Reis, VHM

On January 15, 2011, the Visitation Sisters hosted a reunion of the Windsock children and their families in honor of the Sisters’ 21st anniversary in their Northside neighborhood and the 400th year founding of the Visitation Order.

The Sisters began hosting Windsock twenty one years ago in response to the number of children coming to their door.  Sr. Mary Frances describes this 3:30-4:30 hour in the afternoon as “a special time for neighborhood children ages 5-12 to come for play, treats and prayer.” The nuns would hang a windsock on their front porch to let the young people in the Old Highland area know they were ready for them to visit. Thus, the program/play/prayer hour became known as “Windsock.”

A lasting bond...

"Blessed by these young lives..."

Sister elaborates, “Through this focused time with children we formed many relationships with [the young people] – and their families as well. Some of these [relationships] have lasted 20 years!”

Reflecting on the day, Sr. Mary Frances wrote, “it was gratifying to experience the spontaneous joy of those gathered – even those we had not seen for several years. They shared pictures and games and played doll house with their children, just as they used to do themselves when they came over. We have been blessed over and over by these young lives, and we trust that they have gotten some lessons for life from their time with us!”

A Windsock Family

A Windsock Family

Due to changing demographics in the Northside community and an increase in after school programs there has been an evolution in the Sisters’ venue for relating with children and their families. Sr. Mary Frances shares emphatically: We continue to have field trips, camp, Holiday Outreach, Familiy dinners, so the relationships continue!

Blessed be!


Enjoy the photos below snapped by Sr. Mary Frances Reis.

For more Windsock stories, check out the following:
“Windsock Visitation: An Invitation to Respond to Art” by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde
“Windsock Kids Reunion”
by Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan
“Teen Party Time: Snapshots from the Sisters”
by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde

Ten Qualities for Holy Living

Posted by Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan, Visitation Alumna

As we prepare our hearts for the excitement, the possibilities, and the welcoming of future Visitation

Visitation Windsock

Visitation Windsock

Immersion Program (VIP) participants I came across these sage Salesian words that outline our hopes for what VIP will be at it’s best. What follows is compliments of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales.

Salesian spirituality is optimistic. It affirms the innate, God-given dignity of each person. It believes in the possibility of living a happy, healthy and holy life on this earth.

Salesian spirituality is relational. Growing in holiness does not occur in a vacuum. Rather, striving for Christian perfection always takes place within the context of our relationship with God, ourselves and one another.

“Have confidence in the goodness. Love and compassion of God.”

Salesian spirituality is practical, down to earth. What follows are ten char- acteristics or virtues that can help us to grow in holiness, that is, to grow in right relationship with God, ourselves and one another.

  • First, have confidence in the goodness, love and compassion of God. Trying to live a holy life can be frustrating. After all, we are not perfect people. Sin, fear, weakness, temptation and hosts of other experiences can cause us to stumble or fall.

St. Jane de Chantal tells us, “Do not worry about your perfection, or about your soul. God will take care of it and fill it with all the graces” necessary for your growth.

  • Second, be humble: live in the truth of who you are in the sight of God. Name your weaknesses; name your strength; most of all, name your need for God’ s love, mercy, forgiveness and    justice. “Sometimes,” says St. Francis de Sales, “we so much occupy ourselves with trying to live like angels that we neglect to be good men and women.”
  • Third, be gentle: live in the truth of who you are in relation to yourself and others. Put yourself in others’ shoes. Treat others the way you want to be treated. Powerful is Francis de Sales’ insight: “Nothing is so strong as gentleness; nothing is so gentle as real strength.”

“Blessed are hearts that bend, for they shall never be broken.”

  • Fourth, be patient. Wanting things too quickly can be counterproductive. Be patient with yourself. Be patient with others. Take things as they come. Remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day. St. Jane de Chantal observes that anything “borne quietly and patiently is a continual, very powerful prayer before God.
  • Fifth, live in the present. Don’t dwell in the past. Don’t obsess about the future. Carpe diem, that is, seize today, master the moment! “To advance well,” St. Francis de Sales recommends, “we must apply ourselves to make good way on the road nearest to us, and to do today’s jour- ney.”
  • Sixth, roll with the punches. Pick your battles. Be steadfast on principle, but flexible in detail. “Blessed are hearts that bend,” observes St. Francis de Sales, “for they shall never be broken.”
  • Seventh, do little, simple things well. Why wait for some one-time opportunity to do one great thing and risk missing the countless opportunities each day to perform simpler ones with great attention, passion and zeal? “We cannot always offer God great things, says St. Jane de Chantal, “but at each instant we can offer little things with great love.”

“We cannot always offer God great things, but at each moment we can offer little things with great love.”

  • Eighth, remain focused on your own happiness, health and holiness. You can’t give what you don’t have. We can be so concerned about others’ welfare that we neglect our own. St. Francis de Sales cautions us: “Do not sow crops of good intentions in your neighbor’s garden; rather, cultivate your own with diligence.”
  • Ninth, strive for balance. Avoid extremes. “Salt and sugar are both excellent things,” claims St. Francis de Sales, “but too much of either spoils the dish.” Food for thought.
  • Finally, make and maintain good friendships. Don’t be a lone ranger. Seek out others in friendship who can support you, encourage you, understand you and challenge you in your desire to grow in happiness, health and holiness. The book of Sirach (6:16) says it best: “A faithful friend is the medicine of life and of immortality.”

Welcome to Newest Visitation Companion: Ms. Jody Tigges

A Visitation Embrace: Sr. Suzanne and Jody Tigges

*A Visitation Embrace: Sr. Suzanne and Jody Tigges

Posted by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Vis Companion

On Monday, January 24, 2011, the Visitation Sisters of North Minneapolis, along with their lay community, welcomed the newest Visitation Companion, Ms. Jody Tigges. On this Feast Day of St. Francis de Sales, and in this 400th anniversary year of our order’s founding,  we celebrated the commitment Jody Tigges is making to this community; we celebrate and honor her fervent prayers and attention to “Live + Jesus!” in accordance with our Salesian charism.

To hear more from Jody about her journey discerning a commitment to Salesian Spirituality and choosing to become a Visitation Companion, read on:

Why did I choose to become a Vis Companion? – Response from Jody Tigges

Why did I choose to become a Vis Companion?  That was the most recent assignment given to me by my mentor/companion and spiritual director [Sr.] Suzanne [Homeyer].  A short, simple-looking question with no short or simple answer.  I will try to paraphrase here.

Attentive to the Call: Sr. Katherine, Vis Companion, Kim Jakus, Sr. Karen

Attentive to the Call: Sr. Katherine, Vis Companion, Kim Jakus, Sr. Karen

Salesian Spirituality chose me long before I had ever even heard what it was, and long before I met Sr. Katherine at a Discernment Series in 2005.  I had gone to the discernment series with a short list of things I was going to discern, Salesian Spirituality was not on my list.  I was intrigued by ‘something’ that Sr. Katherine had about her, some presence, and I wanted to find my version of that something. (Imagine Bumblebee on a nectar overdose meets serene, peaceful looking nun.) I didn’t know much about the ‘Nunz in the Hood’ or Salesian Spirituality, but that night I began my first step of finding out more.

"I choose to answer the call"

"I choose to answer the call"

Vis Companions has not been some goal or benchmark for me; rather it is a natural extension of being called to explore my spirituality and to share my own unique gifts and talents with others so as to fully live out that spirituality. It isn’t a destination but a continuous journey and a renewal of commitment each day to living my spirituality. I choose to become a Vis Companion to answer the call, because it is just that – a call; a call for me to deepen my spirituality, to be in relationship with the Vis Sisters, to work side-by-side with the neighbors, to bring awareness of the work the Nuns do on the north side, and to be what God has made me in all of my complex and blessed humanity.

I choose to become a Vis Companion to answer the call: a call for me to deepen my spirituality, to be in relationship with the Vis Sisters, to work side-by-side with the neighbors, to bring awareness of the work the Nuns do on the north side, and to be what God has made me in all of my complex and blessed humanity.” – Jody Tigges, Vis Companion

Fellow Vis Companion: Leo Johnson

Fellow Vis Companion: Leo Johnson

In trying to find a focus for my study, it soon became apparent to me that simplicity was my first step, my foundation so to speak. I realized that clutter, too many things, and too much busy-ness were blocks to my ability to fully hear and heed the voice of God, which in turn blocks all other areas. By choosing simplicity, I now have a firm foundation on which to practice the other virtues of Salesian Spirituality.

In choosing to become a Vis Companion, I am choosing to say YES to the next step in my spirituality, the next step on my journey. The call is gift, the call is sacred, I am blessed. It feels like coming home.


* All photos taken by Phil Soucheray, Visitation Companion.

Visitation Internship Program-Launched!

By Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan, Visitation Alumna ’93

The Invitation:
There is a movement of the spirit that is bringing young adults together in urban neighborhoods for

Joyful Discerners

Young adults in discernment

prayer, community, and simple living.  We, the Visitation Sisters of north Minneapolis, are responding to this movement and offer young adults the chance to  join us for a year of service to those who are often economically and socially challenged.

“It is bad enough that people come hungry to our door. Now they come very, very cold with that same need. We often have a fire going and they hang out for a while longer than usual. I can tell when they get up to go that it has been the conversation, just an honest open back and forth that warms them as much as anything.” Sister Katherine Mullin

In Thanksgiving!

In Thanksgiving!

Visitation Internship Program (VIP)
The mission of VIP is to give young adults the opportunity to extend the ministry of the Visitation Sisters, which is to Live Jesus in north Minneapolis. This is done through community living, development of relationships, Salesian Spirituality, and an internship of ministry within north Minneapolis.

Women and men between the ages of 20-35 who have finished college or who have taken a year off from their studies or work to spend a year of direct service to those in need are welcome to apply. VIPs will have the opportunity to develop some life skills through simple living in a Christian community and through a relationship with the Visitation Sisters of north Minneapolis.

1.   The VIPs live in an intentional VIP community and commit to community nights once a week with their house, and then also with the Sisters on a regular basis.

2.  The VIPs serve in a ministry within the north Minneapolis community, one that fits the intern’s gifts and talents and the needs of the north Minneapolis community.

3.   The VIPs learn Salesian spirituality through the Visitation Sisters, the Visitation Companions, north side neighbors, and through study and retreat opportunities.

4 . The VIPs are offered spiritual direction, vocational discernment, and prayer opportunities through the Visitation Sisters.

Applications are available now for August 2011-Summer 2012. For more information and to apply please go to our website: VIP

We invite you to consider this program with the Visitation Sisters if it speaks to you, or to invite others you know who this might be a best next step for them in their journey. Help spread the word and the good news that VIP is here!

On Retreat: Salesian Prayer from the Baja Peninsula

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Vis Companion

On Retreat in Cabo San Lucas

I write today from a balcony, overlooking the Sea of Cortes in the Baja peninsula of Mexico. Cabo San Lucas is a lovely place to blog from!

My daughter Marguerite Marie sleeps in the next room, and I am pool side, reading a book my spiritual director, Sr. Mary Margaret lent me entitled, “A Retreat with Francis de Sales, Jane de Chantal, and Aelrud of Rievaulx: Befriending Each Other in God.” It is all quite lovely. Sun. Ocean. Sleep. Words. Prayer. Love.

I cracked this text by Creighton Theology Professor and Salesian Spirituality expert, Wendy M. Wright,  yesterday morning before heading out into the sun with my family. It was actually my almost-eight-month-old daughter who pulled the slim volume from my beach bag. Rumbling through its contents, she skipped over the rattle, rubber blocks, play rings and beads and a bottle and with her chubby baby fingers brought the paper back book out and up close to her face. I started laughing at the sight of her. I bent down and asked her, “What did you find? Is this a book that interests you? Do you know that the woman you are named after was inspired by these people? Do you want to read this with mommy?”

Marguerite Marie Kiemde

Marguerite Marie: What did you find?

I bent down and asked her, “What did you find? Is this a book that interests you? Do you know that the woman you are named after was inspired by these people? Do you want to read this with mommy?”

Now, at eight months old, I am clear that my daughter has little comprehension of my literal words’ meaning. However, it doesn’t stop her father and I from having conversations with her. And on this day, I thought perhaps, maybe, on some level, she was attempting her own conversation with me, and with the Salesian founders that grounded her namesake, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque.

I took the book from Marguerite and opened happenstance to “Day One of the Retreat.” There I found a prayer that I chose to read aloud to Maggie. I share this with you today, wherever you may be, with a full heart, and gratitude to Dr. Wright for her inspired, creative text and tribute to these holy men and women.

Thank you Wendy M. Wright!

Thank you Wendy M. Wright!

Gracious God,
you call us each by name.
But you do not simply call us alone,
you call us with each other.
You stretch out your hand
and ask us to take it.

We stretch ours out in return
and find they are clasped
to sister, father, son,
neighbor, wife, [husband], and friend.

How we hold each other
is how we hold you.
We have only one pair of hands,
not two.
The same pair of hands does all the holding.

Take our outstretched,
intertwined hands.
Teach us truly to understand
that in the art of holding one another
we learn what it is to touch you.

As I extend these words today, I am mindful of my baby girl. I am grateful to Sr. Mary Margaret for this book and for her spiritual guidance and friendship these past ten years. I hold North Minneapolis and the Visitation Community and Companions in my heart; I center myself in the richness of this Mexican resort and seascape – recognizing the interconnectedness of it all. I see the hands of a tiny child in my midst and I recognize how they are intertwined with our spiritual ancestors. I honor these words, this place and this prayer infusing my heart, body and mind with some semblance of God. I am grateful for how it all helps me retreat and experience the Divine, the Holy in my midst. I hope this is helpful to you.

Happy Prayers and Contemplations wherever you are!

As the Sisters, say, “Live+Jesus!”


Windsock Kids Reunion Saturday, Jan 15

Written by Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan, Visitation Alumna ’93

Windsock Time, Reading Time

Windsock Time, Reading Time

The Visitation Sisters are looking forward to reconnecting tomorrow afternoon to those children, now adults, who over the past 21 years played at the Sisters’ home in the late afternoon of most days.

“Children should be allowed to be children. No child should ever bear the burden of adult concerns until they are ready.” -For the past thirty-five years, Jonathon Kozol has been an advocate for children.

For the past 21 years the Sisters have been advocates for the children in their neighborhood, providing a space of safety, play, and joy. A sacred place where children can just be children for awhile. When the windsock is out the children knew it was time to come to the Sisters home for activities. The Sisters spread and share their gentle strength with new generations by example and relationship and for this St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal must be beaming, their vision born 400 years ago alive and strong today! Join us in celebrating these children, now adults, and these Sisters still going strong like their windsock that continues to blow in the wind, and remains strongly anchored in Salesian spirituality.

“This is the place of our delight and rest.” -St. Jane de Chantal

Are there children you hold in prayer today? Any children you wish to ask the nuns to hold in intention that you celebrate in your own life? Please add to them to the comments section.

Visitation Windsock
Visitation Windsock by Brother Mickey McGrath

In the News: St. Jane House Friends Mary and Oshea

Posted by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Vis Companion

Mary and Oshea

Oshea Israel and Mary Johnson: Son, Mother

Being part of a ministry of prayer and presence, the Visitation monastic community of North Minneapolis means being tuned into the Divine at work in our immediate neighborhood and surroundings. The St. Jane House, under the auspices of Vis Companion, Brian Mogren, creates an extension of our charism and fosters relationships that flow from Salesian principles, allowing our faith to expand and flourish. St. Jane House allows us to Live+Jesus beyond the doors of our monastic walls into this space of lay ministers and companions.

At St. Jane House: Ministry of Prayer, Presence

At St. Jane House: Ministry of Prayer, Presence

One beautiful and rich example of this expansion of our Salesian-centered friendships at work, is with the “From Death to Life” (FDTL) ministry of Mary Johnson and Oshea Israel that occurs at St. Jane House.

In a recent edition of the Catholic Spirit newspaper, reporter Dave Hrbacek wrote a lovely article covering the FDTL ministry of reconciliation and healing for mothers of murdered children,  acknowledging this powerful network anchored in the space of love and relationships at the Visitation Sister’s retreat space.

At the center of this compelling story about the power of forgiveness is the St. Jane House in north Minneapolis, which is part of the ministry of the Visitation Sisters. – Catholic Spirit Article

We invite you to check out the article, and to hold Mary Johnson, Oshea Israel, and all the other mothers and sons and daughters in your prayers. May this kind of transformational work continue to flourish through their witness, and may we continue to see the way such relational, healing work is possible through faith and radical witness to grace. May St. Jane House thrive as Mary, Oshea, and the “From Death to Life” community thrive.

Mary Johnson, Founder: From Death to Life

Mary Johnson, Founder: From Death to Life

“I just absolutely marvel at how [Mary Johnson] was faithful to God’s grace. It’s that step-by-step faithfulness that leads people to forgiveness. When you think of something that powerful happening because of Mary’s forgiveness, you have to be overwhelmed at the love God pours out on this earth through his forgiveness.” – Sister Mary Margaret McKenzie


To Read other blogs about Mary and Oshea, see the following:

Encountering the Face of Forgiveness

Claiming Connection: Finding Family, Hope and Faith with a Man who Committed Murder

Contemplating the Holy Family

Daily with De Sales: Love, Obedience and Liberty

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Vis Companion

St. Francis de Sales

St. Francis de Sales

All that we do must be motivated by love and not force. We must love to obey rather than fear to disobey. I leave you the spirit of liberty; not the liberty that excludes obedience, because this would be a liberty of the flesh, but the true spirit of liberty which includes obedience. When you have to omit your practices of piety for a just and charitable reason, I want you to make use of this occasion as a kind of obedience; then love will compensate for the spiritual exercises you have missed. (Letters 234; O. XII, p. 359)– St. Francis de Sales

I am really moved today by Francis de Sales’ words on fear, force, love, liberty and obedience. This isn’t a string of words I’m used to throwing around in one short sitting. But here, this Salesian prayerful prose has me contemplating a message of inspiration, liberation, wonder, that makes something smile big inside me. My heart is happy as it resonates with the instructional phrases:

be motivated by love and not force,

love to obey rather than fear to disobey.

Who likes to obey rules?

Who likes to obey rules?

Maybe this is simple logic to you: loving vs. fearing. But 400 years after Francis wrote these words, delivered his homiletic musings, there is something keenly new and fresh to me in them. These phrases feel alive with a new and radically compassionate and loving perspective. Love. Not force. Love. Not fear. What is it to obey Love and have this kind of disciplined reverence give way to an emancipated space?

Who likes to obey rules? Who among us likes to be told what to do? How to be in the world? Who desires constraints and subverting one’s will to something seemingly “over” us? – Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde

Who likes to obey rules? Who among us likes to be told what to do? How to be in the world? Who desires constraints and subverting one’s will to something seemingly “over” us? I look no further than my own little girl, Marguerite Marie, who, at  seven and half a months has begun to demonstrate a great dislike for any and all kinds of constraint. I place her in her high chair to offer a meal, and she writhes. I locate her little body inside the car seat straps and she wiggles and squirms and sometimes screams in response to the restraints. I look at her and I know myself. Rules, to me, always give rise to a kind of reactionary distaste for seemingly being held back. How do we express our authentic, divine selves in the wake of such “confinement”?


"Be motivated by love and not force."

Enter St. Francis de Sales’ words. Enter the gospel. Enter the life and model of Christ. Enter the contemplative and rule-bound rituals of centering prayer, Buddhist meditation, Eucharistic adoration. Enter the traditions of praying the office: consider how these intersect with the traditions of Islamic prayer.  All of these provide entree points for understanding and living constraints joyfully. All give way to an emancipatory condition of our hearts, spirits, minds. We know a transcendent love with such mature, chosen obedient living.

“When we begin to choose freely living and seeing and working through this lens of emancipated Love, one not bound by the fear of rules or constraints, we are truly free to experience the Divine indwelling.”

As a baby, Marguerite Marie can not “know” in the full rational or spiritual sense how constraints work to unearth her spirit. Albeit, at this juncture, she’s pretty much being confined to protect her divine little body and soul.

"We must love to obey rather than fear to disobey."

"We must love to obey rather than fear to disobey."

But as she grows, as we all grow, we step into a fuller understanding of this kind of faith life. When we begin to choose freely living and seeing and working through this lens of emancipated Love, one not bound by the fear of rules or constraints, we are truly free to experience the Divine indwelling.  Think of this kind of disciplined practice as the “high chair of your love life” – or the “car seat for your faith life navigation” – if you will.

Can you fathom this? Can you find examples from your own life that speak to the truth of De Sale’s words? How does any of this reflective pondering resonate with your lived experience? I welcome your words, witness as response! I hope this makes you smile, on some level, too.

Blessings to all this day!

Celebrate: A gaggle of kids with the Sisters

Posted by Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan, Visitation Alumna
Sisters & Kids Christmas Cocoa 2010

Sisters & Kids Christmas Cocoa 2010

The Sisters with kids and neighbors is not an uncommon site. In fact it is their way of living in community at large. In between Christmas and the New Year, the Sisters invited our families over to celebrate, a new brood gathered. This included, Brigid Ryan-Ling our marketing consulting extraordinaire, Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Vis Companion, and myself. As I sat amidst their Christmas decorations, their buoyant laughter and joy, and the realistic way they engaged seven children five years old and under with games, cookies and cocoa, I became deeply aware of how this monastery honors and holds sacred celebrations. They celebrate life of all ages, they welcome people from all backgrounds, and they take time to celebrate the little things. They are able to do this with such reverence and joy because of their rooted traditions, their commitment to prayer, presence, and relationships. I felt honored, held, and celebrated. My kids reveled in their joy, their singing and their love.

As I left the monastery that night, my son, Liam, and I walked past the peace pole that is decorated by Christmas lights and a star atop, and Liam replied, “I really like that star,” noting their constant celebration and hopeful expectation of peace.

What are you holding in prayer this week that you wish to celebrate? We invite you to share again in the comments section. These intentions will be gathered and shared with the Sisters and those that surround themselves with the Sisters to hold in prayer and intentions this week with you. Where is your star anchored, lit, and celebrated?

Teen Party Time: Snapshots from the Sisters

Posted by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Vis Companion

Jenga anyone? Sr. Karen and teenage friend at play

Jenga anyone? Sr. Karen and friend

The Windsock Visitation is virtually a trademark image that communicates a sweet, but perhaps not very well known fact about the Visitation Monastery in North Minneapolis. For years, the way that the sisters would communicate to the many children of the neighborhood that they were available for hosting them for play, snacks and educational games, would be to hang a windsock on their front porch.

Today, given the shifting demographic and waning number of young children knocking on the monastery door in their  immediate Old Highland neighborhood, this ritual has gone by the way side. In its place,  has become a new ritual involving an older group of young people where by the sisters have “Teen Time.” Our beloved sisters host dinner and discussions, bowling and art outings with a group of engaged teenagers from North Minneapolis.

The following images, courtesy of Sr. Mary Frances, document a recent holiday party with this dynamic group of teens. How blessed are we?