Monthly Archives: March 2011

Snapshots from the Sisters: Title This!

Photograph by Sr. Mary Frances Reis, VHM

As part of our ongoing interactive column, we invite you to title the following image. Who are these people? What do you imagine or suppose is their relationship? What do you notice about the circumstances? Can you imagine the conversation or thoughts of each individual? We welcome your responses! Be Creative!

Visitation Sister, Sr. Mary Margaret and Founder of From Death to Life, Mary Johnson

Visitation Sister, Sr. Mary Margaret and Founder of "From Death to Life," Mary Johnson

Post your creative captions below in the comments section. Thanks for playing!

The Hope Diamond

by Sr. Suzanne Homeyer, vhm

Paying attention to the light at the Basilica of St. Mary's, Minneapolis, MN

Lent is a time of many challenges;  a time to look at the things of our lives and to re-evaluate, learn to accept them, dare to change them and somehow let them work in us during these days to bring us to Easter transformed. Our Lenten darkness can be gradually cleared away, dissipated  and shed new light on things that really matter. Encumbrances can be things we carry with us — these could be physical, concrete ‘things’  like old journals and notebooks,  or they could be attitudes or fears.

On a recent Lenten afternoon I rediscovered a box of just such journals and notebooks in the inner recesses of my bedroom closet….I had a little time, and thought, “‘no time like the present,’ I might as well crack open one of these ‘ancient’ texts and see if it held a treasure for this Lenten afternoon.” A wise spiritual director /confessor once encouraged me to look for the nuggets of wisdom in my own life. That is how I chose to approach this journal…was there just such a ‘nugget’ in my own writings that could be mined this Lent?

Lent is a time for paying attention. It’s a time for moving from partial seeing to clearer vision, a time to realize we are only ‘seeing darkly as in a glass’  right now; we must have faith that there is more to come: the bright dawn of Easter is at the other end of this Lenten time! – Sr. Suzanne Homeyer

Surprise!  I was able to see in just a few sentences that my description of entering the Basilica of St. Mary in downtown Minneapolis on a bright sunny morning was just that —  a shiny nugget to carry with me during these Lenten days!

The darkness of late winter or early spring can sort of have us experiencing ‘night blindness’.  We move into a very dark place from the glare of the sun into an all encompassing darkness….as we move into this new space there is the sudden loss of anything tangible….a spacious void engulfs us. Then suddenly a small flicker of a candle on a side altar emerges…it is before an image..the image becomes clearer and guides our vision in another direction. Perhaps our eye is led upward and light streams down a string of origami peace cranes hanging from the high ceiling….suddenly there are more cranes…leading the eye to the bright brass doors of the tabernacle…more candles….tall candles….each standing on its own and yet a part of the whole flood of light now drawing me forward into the center part of the worship space…leading the way to my ‘usual’ seat….in the row just beneath the stained glass window depicting the Mystery of the Visitation….but where was that colorful clearstory glass panel  just a few minutes ago when I entered the building? How could I have missed seeing that? How could I not have been able to see it?

Lent is a time for paying attention. It’s a time for moving from partial seeing to clearer vision, a time to realize we are only ‘seeing darkly as in a glass’  right now; we must have faith that there is more to come: the bright dawn of Easter is at the other end of this Lenten time! What will I be able to see about my own life on that day? Will the nugget actually be the hope diamond?  That is my nugget of hope this Lenten afternoon!

Creighton Coed Reflects on his Spring Break Service Trip in North Minneapolis

Nine Creighton Coeds: Ryan, Katie, Amal, Emily, Hannah, Kelsea, Lauren, Majo, and Michael

Nine Creighton Coeds: Ryan, Katie, Amal, Emily, Hannah, Kelsea, Lauren, Majo, and Michael

Sunshine, warm weather, the beach, relaxation. These may be the images of a spring break well-deserved by hardworking college students, those who have toiled in the classroom and in the library for months on end. Indeed, spring break finally arrived the first week in March, but for a group of nine Creighton students, we did not end up on the beach, nor did we encounter warm weather, but we did get to see sunshine, and lots of it!

Prior to our trip, we knew little about the Visitation Sisters, little about St. Jane, and little about St. Francis de Sales. Yet quickly we learned their mission in action, and throughout the week,  what it meant to “Be who you are, and be that well.” – Michael Visenio

Twice every year, Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, organizes for its students service trips in both the fall and spring semesters, under the auspices of the Creighton Center for Service and Justice. Tuning in at the mosqueStudents are given the opportunity to go to one of 26 different sites — as far as Albuquerque, New Mexico, or as close as Omaha itself, in order to do service with various organizations and learn more about social justice issues in our community and abroad. For us nine Creighton students, we were given the opportunity to travel to chilly, yet sunny Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The nine of us ended up on the same trip together because we all expressed interests in a multicultural immersion trip that encompasses interfaith and multi-religious learning, education on poverty, experiences with homelessness, and direct service – all in one trip. Throughout the week, we learned about it all. We were excited to be in Minneapolis and to experience all the city had to offer. Yet one of the greatest experiences was meeting the Visitation Sisters of north Minneapolis, Brian Mogren of St. Jane House, and others in their circle.

Service work

Participating in a service project

Prior to our trip, we knew little about the Visitation Sisters, little about St. Jane, and little about St. Francis de Sales. Yet quickly we learned their mission in action, and throughout the week,  what it meant to “Be who you are, and be that well.”

This quotation of St. Francis de Sales’ stayed in my mind throughout my time there, especially as we met the Visitation Sisters. North Minneapolis, a neighborhood where many would rather not settle down, was home to the Sisters. That itself amazed me, because they could be anywhere else in the world, but they chose to be there, striving against poverty or violence in the community, but also thriving with all the gifts the neighborhood has to offer. From the beginning, we learned the Sisters wanted to be an integral part of the community, from windsock time, to the various prayer groups throughout the week, to being open to guests who made their way to the Visitation Houses.

An inspiration: Vis Companion, Brian Mogren

An inspiration: Vis Companion, Brian Mogren

Brian, owner of the St. Jane House, was the perfect example of being himself, and being himself well. To love one’s neighborhood so much as to offer one’s house in order to bring the community together takes a special calling in life, and the task seemed to fit Mr. Mogren perfectly. I can’t remember one story or one memory about a gathering or party at Brian’s warming and inviting house that he didn’t thoroughly enjoy, and his pictures prove that continually. Brian, through being director of the St. Jane House, performs a ministry that is nothing short of extraordinary.

One final thing: if you were thinking about applying for the Visitation Internship Program, do it. If you really want to know what your year with the Sisters will be like, just spend a single day with them (we attended Ash Wednesday mass with them, and even better, we had them over for karaoke) and you will see how amazing they are both in their ministry and as friends. You’ll enjoy spending time with them, spending time at the St. Jane house, and spending time with the North Minneapolis community, all of which will prove to be a rewarding experience. After all, you’re taking advice from a guy who wants to apply to be a VIP himself one day.

Best Wishes,
Michael Visenio

To see more photos from the Creighton Service Trip, click here.

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Michael Visenio

Michael Visenio

Michael Visenio is currently a freshman undergraduate student at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, studying Biology and Psychology, in hopes of one day becoming a doctor, but also being able to take some time off to pursue ministry work. We are grateful to him, and to his fellow coeds for their journey to north Minneapolis to be among us as part of the Spring Break Service Trip, 2011. We await his VIP application for 2014!

Immersion: Spring Break Service Trip in Images

Thanks to Visitation Companion, Brian Mogren, for the following images documenting nine coeds’ trip from Creighton University to north Minneapolis for Spring Break, 2011. Here! Here!

Click to look more closely at each image. See Michael Visenio’s reflection on his urban immersion experience here.

Lenten Reflection: Energy

By Visitation Alumna, Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan

When you are in discernment you take note of how you feel? You note how your energy shifts with your considerations, your prayer, your actions. And how your offerings are responded to by your community, and the world at large. This dance of discernment is important considerations for our Lenten prayer where we offer up ourselves to be made whole and holier and to say our authentic Yeses to life.

St. Francis de Sales offers his wisdom still pertinent today: “We become like what we love.” Given this wisdom we need to chose with care what we love, how we love, and where we place our energies.

A wave of energy

A wave of energy

Often I notice people pushing themselves to complete something, to tend to a task, to do just one more thing before their day is done despite their exhaustion levels–when they may be better served to notice their energy level and postpone until they are better rested. When we are well rested, we are in a place for better discernment, and wiser decisions sprout from this place of calm. The Sisters build in punctuations of rest throughout their day when they pray the office. They build in rest throughout their weekly rhythms too when they have their shut-down Thursdays, which they use to rejuvenate their body, mind and spirit to better serve themselves, God and their neighbors. When we build in rest with our activities we build a song that we sing that is graceful and vibrant. When we ignore our needs, and ignore our energy levels, just to persist we lose our stride, our grace, and often build resentment.

  • So this Lent, how can you be more aware of your own energy levels?
  • How will this awareness better your discerned and holy life?
  • How can it help you grow your energy?
  • As St. Francis de Sales says, “We become like what we love.” So what do you love?
  • Is it worthy of your love?
  • Is it helping you to grow in the primary little virtues of gentleness, humility, and simplicity?

As a Lenten treat I leave you with a gracious poem By Billy Collins entitled The Lanyard. (I confess, it is a favorite of mine!–So real.) I do this because as a human being loved by our parents, loved by a gracious God, what we create in our gratitude of this love may seem little, but as St. Jane advises: “We cannot always offer God great things, but at each instant we can offer him little things with great love.”

We invite your considerations, your discernment, how you are aware of your energy in the comments section should the spirit move you to share. Or any thoughts you may have.

Daily with De Sales: Madonna Meditations

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

Madonna by Brother Mickey McGrath, OSFS

“Think for a moment of the piety of the Madonna when the angel told her that the Spirit would overshadow her. What sentiments of humility, confidence and courage! At the very moment when she understood that God had given her His heart, that is, His Son, she gave herself to God. Her soul was flooded with charity, so she could say with the sacred spouse, “…My heart trembled within me, and I grew faint when he spoke.” [Sg:5:4] As far as we are concerned, we receive a similar grace in Communion, because not an angel but Jesus Christ Himself assures us that in it the Holy Spirit descends on us. Heavenly power covers us with its shadow and the Son of God really comes to us. He can say that He is conceived and born in us. Truly then, the soul can respond with the Madonna, ‘I am the servant of the Lord; let it be done to me as you say.'” [Lk 1:38] (Spiritual Directory, Art. 12) – St. Francis de Sales

I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about “the piety of the Madonna” as Francis invites us to do above. In fact, even stopping right now to disclose this fact, I chuckle to myself imagining the world famous pop star in lieu of Mary, mother of God, who came onto the scene four centuries after our co-founding saint!  But I digress. I like this assignment of St. Francis de Sales’. I like whenever I’m instructed to PAUSE. To consider. To meditate on the nature of grace, goodness, God’s presence among us.

I like this assignment of St. Francis de Sales’. I like whenever I’m instructed to PAUSE. To consider. To meditate on the nature of grace, goodness, God’s presence among us.

In this case, we have the image of Mary to reflect on. As Francis so beautifully notes, we are invited to consider her “humility, confidence and courage” as she is visited by the angel and receives the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Heart of God. Can you even imagine this experience? I mean, honestly. Stop for a minute and put yourself in this woman’s shoes. Fathom a spirit/ creature/ angel (winged being?) showing up to tell you that you will bear a child and it will be God’s son. It’s a trip, isn’t it? I, for one,  have to suspend a whole lot of disbelief to even get there. But my imagination loves such assignments, and I relish the opportunity to “go there” in not only my brain, but in my heart.

Francis’ follow up instructions to this meditation on Mary, is a gift, as he brings us back to the heart of the mass, and the very tangible, real experience we all have in receiving Holy Communion. We taste. We see. We eat. We swallow. And maybe we know: we are receiving the body of Christ. We are consuming the very meal that reminds us and connects us to our purpose and path, our unity in Love and Love’s presence among us.

What I so deeply appreciate in St. Francis de Sales words here, is the way he makes accessible this experience of Mary in a weekly, maybe daily opportunity, through Communion. So while I might never “get” the Mary encounter wholly, I do have this experience of the incarnate blessing whenever I process forward to receive the Eucharist. I have only to tune my heart and mind toward this grace, this goodness, and realize my own spiritual blessing and call.

daily_with_desalesWhat I so deeply appreciate in St. Francis de Sales’ words here, is the way he makes accessible this experience of Mary in a weekly, maybe daily opportunity, through Communion. So while I might never “get” the Mary encounter wholly, I do have this experience of the incarnate blessing whenever I process forward to receive the Eucharist. I have only to tune my heart and mind toward this grace, this goodness, and realize my own spiritual blessing and call. Christ is conceived and born in us; in me. To echo St. Francis: “Truly then, the soul can respond with the Madonna, ‘I am the servant of the Lord; let it be done to me as you say.'” Do you believe this? Can you hear your own expression alongside Mary’s?

As we journey through this Lent, I invite each and everyone of us to consider this grace and  to fathom our alignment in Christ’s birth and life among us. If the “yes” of Mary seems too remote and surreal for you, consider the way you extend your hands or your mouth and receive the body of Christ at mass. Do you see the way Mary’s “yes,” and your “Amen” proclaims the glory of God and that the Divine is here and now, inspiring our next steps? Can you, too, appreciate St. Francis de Sales invitation to reflect?

I hope so.

Lenten Blessings to all!

Meet Sr. Karen Mohan!

Sr. Karen Mohan, vhm

Sr. Karen Mohan, vhm

When I was growing up in a Mississippi River city at the “Gateway to the West,” I could never have imagined that I would end up near the origin of the “Father of Waters,” right here in Minneapolis. Can you guess my birthplace? Yes, my family is from St. Louis, Missouri, and Sister Karen Mohan is my name.

River imagery still gets my attention, and kayaking, swimming and riding my bike along the Mississippi River Parkway near us are leisure activities I really enjoy! I also appreciate the stillness of water with its invitation to open my heart to the depths of love that God offers.

I treasure the moments to meet Jesus in personal and communal prayer and in the wonderful people who come to pray or just be with us. You’re welcome, too! – Sr. Karen Mohan
Vis Companion, Leo Johnson, and Sr. Karen

Vis Companion, Leo Johnson, and Sr. Karen

My education at the Visitation Academy in St. Louis was the beginning of a long and blessed calling to “Live Jesus,” the motto of our order. My undergraduate degree in English and my graduate degree in Spirituality have enabled me to serve the Lord as an educator and spiritual guide.

I treasure the moments to meet Jesus in personal and communal prayer and in the wonderful people who come to pray or just be with us. You’re welcome, too!

Lenten Reflection: Lean into the Light

Saturdays Moon

Saturday's Moon

Written by, Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan, Visitation Alumna

I spent the evening with the Sisters on Tuesday reviewing priority deadline VIP applications, which we are thrilled with receiving and launching our next steps. They in turn surprised me with a blessing underneath their sacred picture of the Visitation, as I go forth in my last month of pregnancy. I felt loved and “dressed in blessings” as Sister Katherine so poetically put it, and deepened my reverence for these holy women who embrace life on every level. From the children, teens, and parents who come to their door daily with their needs and prayers to the conception of new ideas for their monastery informed by their relationship with their neighbors and larger community circles. They are women of deep faith, exuberant joy, and holy celebration that encourage those they encounter to lean into the light, to turn toward joy. Even nature invites us to do this as we celebrate the biggest full moon in twenty years tonight.

In Lent we are asked to lean into the light. We are implored to do this, amongst the death of the self to give birth to community, amongst the tragedy and sadness pouring out of Japan to give light to the stories of doctors and nurses who bravely choose to stay and tend to patience who await rescue near Fukushima Dailchi, or amongst our own family needs that ask us to slow down take note, and walk with those we love. This is not always easy. It is a challenge of the heart to not wallow in our sadness or despair, but to find the seeds of hope to cling to and grow, to find the spark that if given more oxygen will burn into flames of vibrant life. If we choose to nurture light, life, and joy in our Lenten prayer and practice our Easter resurrection will be all the more glorious, all the more vibrant, all the more life giving and this my friends will bring us great joy and God great gladness.

“Go there with an open, joyful heart as often as possible; if not always joyful, at least go with a brave and faithful heart.” – St. Francis de Sales

  • How are you called to give voice to hope in your life?
  • To recognize joy?
  • To speak of what gives you light?

If the spirit moves you we welcome your comments below.

Snapshots from the Sisters: Title This!

Photo by Sr. Katherine Mullin, VHM; posted by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

This was snapped on Tuesday evening at the Monastery. Care to provide a creative caption? We welcome your words!

Care to provide a creative caption?

Care to provide a creative caption?

Meet Sr. Mary Virginia Schmidt!

Sr. Mary Virginia Schmidt, VHM

Sr. Mary Virginia Schmidt, VHM

My name is Sister Mary Virginia Schmidt. I was born and raised in Mexico the only daughter in a family of five brothers. When I was 14, we moved to the United States and I was educated by the Visitation Sisters in St. Louis, Missouri. I  went on to receive my bachelor’s degree at Manhattanville in New York. I continued my studies at St. Louis University and St. Xavier College, earning two masters degrees. After resisting the religious tug for years, I decided to give in to the calling my senior year in college. I entered the Visitation because the sisters I had in high school were the ones I knew and loved best. They had a lovely, gentle and unpressured spirit that drew me once I finally made up my mind to try the religious life.

I try to reach out in the community by teaching Spanish and theology to 4th grade and high school students. And it was recently my distinct pleasure to lead my religious federation committee in writing the booklet “Justice Shall Flourish: Changing the World From Within.”

“After resisting the religious tug for years, I decided to give in to the calling my senior year in college. I entered the Visitation because the sisters …had a lovely, gentle and unpressured spirit that drew me once I finally made up my mind to try the religious life.” – Sr. Mary Virginia on why she chose the Visitation Order
How does one become a nun?

How does one become a nun?

During my free time, I thoroughly enjoy reading Don Quixote and other novels, listening to public radio and watching movies.

I have a heart for peace and equality. I am certain that God is with and in the world, inside of every person. I feel strongly that God wants us to be happy and to love one another that he wants us to live in union with him. I take daily inspiration from my neighbors who are so brave, so humble and so faith-filled.