Monthly Archives: May 2011

Post-Tornado in north Minneapolis: How to Help?

How to Help? Visitation Seniors prepare food for tornado relief workers at Church of the Ascension

How to Help? Visitation Seniors prepare food for tornado relief workers at Church of the Ascension

Many of you have inquired about how to help out in the wake of Sunday, May 22, 2011’s tornado that devastated many areas of north Minneapolis. While our monastery was left unscathed, we turn to the needs of our friends and neighbors whose lives have been completely upturned. We extend the following information for your hands on, in-person volunteer efforts, or for those wishing to make a financial contribution to aid the relief efforts:

The tornado Disaster Recovery Center at Farview Park needs volunteers Friday through Tuesday. Adult volunteers- groups and individuals – are needed as greeters, to assist with supply distribution and more. In addition, they welcome groups of teens (with supervision!) to assist with a community event on Saturday. Shifts are available:

* Fri 3-8pm.
* Sat, Sun & Mon 8:30am-1 or 12:30pm-5.
* Mon 11am-3:30pm and 3pm-9pm.

Email and include your phone number so they can connect with you regarding the details.


To make a financial donation – The Minneapolis Foundation has established the Minnesota Helps – North Minneapolis Recovery Fund to assist with both short-term and long-term housing and recovery-related needs on the North Side. To make a donation by credit card, visit or send checks for the recovery effort to The Minneapolis Foundation, 80 S. 8th St., Suite 800, Minneapolis, MN, 55402. People can also donate to the Red Cross at Please do not donate goods at this time.

For further ways to donate or volunteer, please check this sheet:
Thank you!


This information was compiled from posts at Urban Homeworks’ facebook page and at the City of Minneapolis‘ website.

Photo Gallery: Visitation Apostolic Service Project on the heels of north Minneapolis Tornado

A northside home hit by tornado on May 22, 2011

A northside home hit by tornado on May 22, 2011

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

On Sunday, May 22, 2011, a tornado ripped through north Minneapolis. The Visitation Monastery and St. Jane House were fortunate to be left unscathed. However, many homes were destroyed and lives were uprooted by the magnitude of this storm.

In the wake of this tragic natural disaster, six young women from Visitation School in Mendota Heights, MN, arrived for their Apostolic Service Projects. This year, the senior girls are present for a new level of urban immersion, while practicing Salesian Spirituality,  as they lend a hand to the tornado response teams.

Visitation Seniors and Sr. Karen transport food to 4th Precinct Police Headquarters

Visitation Seniors and Sr. Karen transport food to 4th Precinct Police Headquarters

I had an opportunity to travel through the northside community on Tuesday, May 24, and photograph the terrain, as well as these young women in action. Our Photo Gallery page includes these images in two new albums documenting the devastation to the landscape of north Minneapolis,  as well as the Visitation coeds preparing meals for the police officers working from our 4th precinct.


Visit our Photo Gallery by clicking here.

We are grateful for the outpouring of your support and  prayers for our community.


Previous Photo Gallery blogs:
“Images as Story: Introducing the Visitation Monastery Photo Gallery

Of Love: Signs and Second Comings

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

Wearing the niqab. (From "Faith of Muslims" )

Wearing the niqab. (From "Faith of Muslims" )

“The second coming happens every day. Every day we have the opportunity to see Christ in our midst.”

I was sitting in mass this morning at Church of the Ascension behind the Visitation Sisters, and felt myself nodding when Fr. Michael O’Connell uttered these words.

I wasn’t 100%  tuned in to the predictions made about the rapture occurring on May 21, 2011. But as the date approached – and the hour,  news channels and sources inspired a larger awareness of the possible event; it all piqued my curiosity. I was out running an errand around 7pm on Saturday evening, when I thought,

“Oh, it’s the time many people are preparing for as the second coming of Christ! I wonder where He is?”

Just as I posed the question, I turned the corner, and saw three women, dressed in all black, from head to toe. Only their eyes were visible through a slit in their head veils. These were three women of Muslim faith all wearing the niqab. Can you believe it? I ask God to show me where Jesus is, and the next second,  I see three Muslim women walking down the street. The whole thing struck me as funny and lovely, (and perhaps divinely appointed?) – all at the same time.

“So you are coming back as a Muslim woman? Clever, Christ! Clever!”


Following mass today, on May 22, I ran into Louise from Senegal. I made her acquaintance briefly last Sunday, as a visitor among the English, Spanish, French speaking congregants of Ascension. She and my husband, Francois, were visiting in their West African countries’ colonized language; the scene last weekend made my heart spin. I shook Louise’s daughter’s hand, “Bon jour Fatima” and  gleaned quickly the dynamic: daughter studying in the US, mom visiting to make sure all is well; both visiting church communities for prayer and support. As Francois and Louise shared stories about their journeys to this country, I told Fatima about the Visitation Sisters. I felt an overwhelming inclination to connect these women.

Today, on our second meeting, Louise confided in me. “I want a Christian community for my daughter, Fatima. She is with many Muslims right now.” Without a beat, I said, “Isn’t it amazing how big God’s love is? Of course Fatima will be surrounded with support.”

During the exchange, I saw the three Muslim women in my mind’s eye. I thought of Fr. O’Connell’s words. “Everyday we have the opportunity to see Christ in our midst.” I listened to this mom and looked at her beautiful daughter and tuned into the way I felt my heart expand.

It was Louise and Fatima’s second time coming to this particular catholic church that I attend. It was Love’s arrival and convergence, in my humble opinion.


In and through it all, I am reminded of the way tuning in to circumstances –whether it be through daily prayer or in the wake of possible fearful predictions —  all bring us closer to the heart of God, ultimately. Hopefully. This is my prayer and what I’m grateful for this day, the day “after the rapture,” so to speak,  the day I see Christ alive and at work in it all.

Will you join me in this prayer?

St. Francis de Sales on God’s Will

Posted by Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan, Visitation Alumna

I came across this writing of St. Francis de Sales. I found it particularly appropriate as we joyfully

St. Francis de Sales

St. Francis de Sales

anticipate our summer Come & Sees, and also with graduations upon us, both are crossroads for people to discern, make prayerful decisions about their next steps in life. Upon reading De Sales words, I thought how apt to offer some wisdom from a great spiritual father, and co-founder of the Visitation Order.

God’s Will

“Here is the most important point: find out what God wants, and when you know, try to carry it out cheerfully, or at least courageously; not only that, but you must love this will of God and the obligations it entails, even if it means performing the most menial tasks in the world the rest of your life, because whatever sauce God chooses for us, it should be all the same to us. In this practice lies the very bull’s-eye of perfection at which we must all aim, and whoever comes nearest to it wind the prize.

But be of good heart, I beg you; little by little train your will to follow God’s will, wherever it may lead you; see that your will is strongly roused when your conscience says: God wants this.

Live entirely for God, and since you have to take part in conversations and social gatherings, try to be of some use to others. Do not think that God is further away from you when you are in the midst of the busyness to which your vocation calls you then he would be if you were enjoying a tranquil life.

No, it is not tranquility which brings him close to our hearts; it is rather the fidelity of our love; it is not the feeling we have of his sweetness, but the consent we give to his holy will. It is more desirable that his will be carried out in us than that we carry out our will in him.

Once we have reached a decision in a holy manner, we must never doubt about the holiness in carrying it out; since it does not depend on us, this holiness cannot be lacking. To act otherwise would be a sign of great self-love, or of immaturity, or of a weak or foolish mind.

A hundred times a day let us look upon this loving will of God, and, dissolving our will into it, let us devoutly exclaim: ‘O goodness of infinite gentleness, how lovable is your will! How desirable your favors! You have created us for eternal life, and your maternal breast, overflowing  with incomparable love, abounds with the milk of mercy, either to pardon penitents or to perfect the righteous'”

Please know we, the Visitation Monastery of North Minneapolis, stand with you in prayer as you actively discern your next best steps!

Images as Story: Introducing the Visitation Monastery Photo Gallery

Will Wallace and Sr. Mary Frances celebrate the Northside Leadership Pilot Program

Photo Gallery Feature: Will Wallace and Sr. Mary Frances celebrate the Northside Leadership Pilot Program

We are happy to announce that we have launched a new page here on our website! As a way to continue telling our story – in and through photographed images,  honoring the many beautiful people that we engage and that grace our doors daily – our dedicated web team has created a Photo Gallery page. We are grateful to our design team, including Bob Mueffelmann, Jenny Larson, and Brigid Ryan-Ling for this new addition to our website.

Perhaps you will find yourself among these snapshots? Maybe you will see an old friend? Or maybe you will be inspired by the face of Christ among us, as we all live and serve and love each one who comes to our door?

Check out our new page by clicking: PHOTO GALLERY.

Today’s uploads include images from:


Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion


I am the gate for the sheep.

"I am the gate for the sheep." - John 10:10

by Sr. Suzanne Homeyer, VHM

Each Fourth Sunday of Easter since entering the monastery I have reflected upon the days when I was a shepherd of sorts. I spent several months before coming to Minneapolis in rural Wisconsin, living with my sister and brother-in-law and my mom on an ostrich farm.  One of the most joyful and relaxing times of my day was my early morning prayer time, which I combined with my ‘job’ of feeding the sheep.  I took a lawn chair into the pasture area and spent some quiet time with Baaa, the male sheep  with the deep voice and Baaa, the female who spoke in a much higher register!

I wonder if Jesus thinks about us as leaving a bit of our unsavory odors on his hand? Or,  if he is somehow comforted as he caresses us — his beloved flock— much the way I feel comforted when I scratch the ears or rub the neck of a favorite pet? – Sr. Suzanne

One of the daily meditation guides I use now had a brief commentary on today’s gospel that spoke of Jesus, the Good shepherd sitting on hillside watching his flock. The author encouraged readers to imagine Jesus with his hand on the nape of the neck of the sheep.  I paused in my prayer and recalled the times so many years ago when I sat in my lawn chair in the field with my hand on the soft, wooly neck of Baaa or Baaa. It was a lovely feeling. I noticed, however, that after these moments of gentle caressing my hand felt greasy (from the lanolin in the sheep wool).  Sheep smell pretty bad; my hand had enough of an odor to cause our German Shepherd to look up as I passed him on the way back to the house.  Thank goodness for ‘mud rooms’ and ‘farmers’ soap’ — I knew I could always wash up before going in to the kitchen and breakfast!

I wonder if Jesus thinks about us as leaving a bit of our unsavory odors on his hand? Or,  if he is somehow comforted as he caresses us — his beloved flock— much the way I feel comforted when I scratch the ears or rub the neck of a favorite pet?  I am so soothed by those actions and I like to think we have that effect on the Good Shepherd!

Mary & Self Care

Written by Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan, Visitation Alumna

In the month of May when we celebrate Mary, Jesus’ Mother, our own mothers, and women in general, I

Jesus Meets his Mother by Mickey McGrath

Jesus Meets his Mother by Mickey McGrath

pause to consider what might it look like for Mary to take care of herself. This notion is not lost on me as I welcome our fourth son born just two weeks ago into our family. Nor is it lost on me when I consider the origins of Mother’s Day, which is to celebrate the power of the woman, a call to be active and energized and empowered, not to just rest and be pampered as Hallmark might have us think, or commercials may depict. Or when I think about the role models I have in the Visitation Sisters who are active, present, and prayerful women in North Minneapolis.

So how can Mary be our guide to self care so that we may aptly be the most we are called to be as women, as people in this world? When I contemplate this question undoubtedly prayer comes to mind, she made time in her daily life for prayer or more aptly saw her daily life activities as prayer, whether it was cooking, cleaning, laundry, care for the young or the elderly in her household, setting appropriate challenges and limits for her precocious and vivacious son, Jesus.

This notion is very Salesian to see your daily life activities as prayer, St. Francis de Sales says: “The soul which holds itself ready and open to do God’s will on any occasion, can do this even while sweeping the floor.”

The second image that comes to mind is that she made time for her kinswomen, such as traveling while pregnant to visit her cousin Elizabeth also pregnant. This too holds Salesian roots that I am certain St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal drew from when envisioning the order of the Visitation. It is no small feat Mary undertakes during the days of travel then, over hills, on foot or with the help of a donkey it would take some gumption to withstand the rocky roads and the hike while pregnant, and wisdom to know that this time with a dear friend is worth the travel. I just had this gift given to me by one of my dearest girlfriends who traveled with her 10 month old from Santa Fe to Saint Paul to spend some time with me and our newest child. Or when Sister Katherine came to visit us in the hospital. I can’t tell you what salve for the soul it is to spend time with my close kinswoman.  This is also illustrated in the people who appear on the doorstep of the Visitation Monastery daily and the stories and prayers that come from each encounter is recognizing the holy and the divine in each person.

As Sister Katherine shared, “Today, V. came to our door to ask prayers about his anger issues.He said that this feeling of anger blocks him from loving his wife and children. His honesty caught me off guard. I prayed with him in the chapel and as he left I thought he is well on his way toward wholeness; he identified what was holding him back from peace of mind. Will you join in the prayer for him.”

The third way I imagine Mary took time to care for herself was watching how she filled her mind and heart, and with what thoughts. I believe our thoughts shape how we experience our future, and I imagine Mary envisioned loving images even when the temptation of anxious thoughts were great. Buoyed by her faith, and her relationships with others, I believe she rose to her highest potential. Mary lived out of her greatest hopes, her deepest love for self, God, and others, and this my friend could be her lasting guide to us… an invitation to care for our own minds and hearts by being selective with what and how we fill them.

So dear friends, let us make this our practice to love what is before us, and in doing so may we grow to be more like Mary each and every day and not just in the month of May.

Welcome to our newest Visitation Companions: The Soucherays!

posted by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

Phil and Deb Soucheray, Vis Companions

Welcome Phil and Deb Soucheray, Vis Companions

On Monday, May 9, 2011, we concluded this year’s Salesian Spirituality evenings – focusing on Spiritual Friendship – with a presentation and celebration centering on this charism of our co-founders, Sts. Jane de Chantal and Francis de Sales.  Visitation Companion Jody Johnson and Sr. Karen Mohan co-presented on the presence of Mary in our lives and Our Lady’s role as a spiritual friend. We concluded our evening formally welcoming Deb and Phil Soucheray to the Visitation Companions.

What follows are the Soucherays, in their own words, reflecting on the questions, “Why Salesian Spirituality?” and “Why Visitation Companions?”

Join us in welcoming them to this burgeoning community of lay men and women!
Live +Jesus!

In her own words, Visitation Companion, Deb Soucheray:



How did I get involved with the “nuns in the hood,” St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal?  It all began around 2004 when Vicki Bailey, the mother of a friend of my son, Philip, invited me to begin helping with the four parties a year that she throws for the children of the [Visitation Sisters’ northside] neighborhood – Back to Summer, Back to School, Halloween and Valentines Day.  I have been helping with them ever since.  Along the way, I saw Salesian spirituality in play.  I wanted to know more.

Two years ago I attended my first Salesian Conference at Visitation. That lit a fire to learn more about St. Frances and St. Jane that continues to burn. And since then, I have been reading, studying, praying and evangelizing.  I have enjoyed introducing Salesian Spirituality to others. I gave the book, “Set Your Heart Free” to my cousin, Mary, for Christmas.  She loves the prayers and has given the book to about 10 of her friends.  And I’ve also given it to many other friends and relatives.

What I like most about Salesian Spirituality:

1.    I’m allowed to be human – not to worry about imperfections – repent and move on.

A Visitation embrace

A Visitation embrace

2.    Salesian Spirituality, through the themes presented by St. Francis and St. Jane, gives me a roadmap for living life.  One theme, Number 6, is particularly meaningful for me. It is “We cannot always offer God great things, but at each instant we can offer him little things with great love.” When I first started coming to North Minneapolis to help with the children’s parties, I looked at the Nuns’ mission as so overwhelming. How can they possibly help all these people? Then I read Theme #6.  And I began to see it in action here – most recently just this past Saturday.  The doorbell rang. A young homeless man, Jonathan, with a tiny dog he called Tony, stood there. He was invited in, and given lunch. Tony got some water and food, too!  It was “a little thing” done with great love.  As for us, we were oohing and aahing over the adorable little dog! It certainly is not a one-way street.

3. Theme #3 is “Let us belong to God … in the midst of so much busyness.” St. Francis teaches that “the practice of devotion has to be adapted to the strength, life situation and duties of each individual.”  In other words, I try to be mindful of God as much as my life allows.

I want to become a Vis Companion because I have a strong desire to continue learning about St. Francis, St. Jane and Salesian Spirituality.  I also like hanging out with the Nuns and seeing all you warm, wonderful people at the Monday and Sunday meetings.


In his own words, Visitation Companion, Phil Soucheray:

Sr. Mary Virginia welcomes Phil

Sr. Mary Virginia welcomes Phil

I think I’ve been a Vis Companion for as long as I can remember. I just didn’t know it. My mother, Susan, a Vis graduate, introduced all of her children to Salesian spirituality as we were growing up. But it was cloaked heavily in the standard rules of the Catholic Church, and so it wasn’t until I was an adult that I came to understand the particular nuances and value of the wisdom behind Francis and Jane’s form of spiritual journeying. Today, I enjoy a strong faith and I identify innately with what Francis and Jane teach. And I know it was my mother’s gift to me.

So becoming a companion is in a major way simply a formality for me. The thing that makes this form of commitment so special for me is that I am doing it with Deb, my wife of 32 years. I feel safe in saying that faith has always played a central role in our relationship. We might not always have been on the same leg of our respective journeys. And I’m sure we won’t always be going forward.

But I also am firmly convinced that we are more closely linked together than we have ever been before and that becoming Vis Companions strengthens that bond.

Live Jesus.

To see more photos from this evenings’ celebration, check out our album on Facebook. Click here.

The Road to Emmaus!

The following originally appeared at “QueenMab Contemplates…”

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

I love this Gospel story….

Not because the disciples are clueless, but because I feel so much like them: wondering, trying to make sense of it all…. Death? Where’s the dude? There have been these reports….We miss him….What do you know of his life? Have you heard anything?

And Jesus is here the whole time, loving. Walking. Leading, offering insights….
And voila! An action they experience together: BREAKING BREAD! and their eyes are opened. They sort things out.
Oh. It just makes me really happy. And helps me form my prayer:
God, open my eyes. Help me to see your face. Trust you. Let me walk this road to Emmaus and realize….

Questions for your own contemplation:
1. How do you “see” and experience Christ alive and in your midst?
2. What “death” are you mourning where you might experience the resurrected Christ?
3. Where do you “break bread” and see Jesus’ face across the table? What does this Love look like?

On Mentorship: Thoughts from the Hawthorne Huddle

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

Melissa with Visitation Sisters Mary Margaret, Mary Frances, Katherine, Mary Virgina and Karen on her 40th Birthday at St. Jane House.

Melissa with Visitation Sisters Mary Margaret, Mary Frances, Katherine, Mary Virgina and Karen.

What does the word “mentorship” mean to you? What images or associations come to mind? Who has mentored you in your life/ work/ journey? Who have you mentored along their path? What have the consequences been in and through these relationships?

These are some of the questions that I’ve been sitting with in the days leading up to this one, when Sr. Suzanne Homeyer and I had the opportunity to co-present on a panel at the General Mills sponsored “Hawthorne Huddle” meeting in north Minneapolis. The opportunity to reflect and share on this topic inspires me in my writing this day.

I think about definitions of mentorship. I think about experiences. I think about how to talk about the consequences and impact of such a thing.

"Following the Spirit" Discerners- including former student, Joy Chaney

"Following the Spirit" Discerners- including former student, Joy Chaney

A google search for the definition of “mentorship” brings up the following wikipedia entry:

Mentoring” is a process that always involves communication and is relationship based, but its precise definition is elusive. One definition of the many that have been proposed, is:

Mentoring is a process for the informal transmission of knowledge, social capital, and the psychosocial support perceived by the recipient as relevant to work, career, or professional development;mentoring entails informal communication, usually face-to-face and during a sustained period of time, between a person who is perceived to have greater relevant knowledge, wisdom, or experience (the mentor) and a person who is perceived to have less (the protégé)”.[1]

My mind goes immediately to a quote that grounds me in my thinking about the topic.

Windsock Reunion FamilyNo significant learning occurs outside of a significant relationship.”
– Dr. James P. Comer, Yale University


I am sitting in the convention center on my first day of employment with the Minneapolis Public School district and the words of Dr. Comer are flashed on the screen above. I pause as these words resonate within me. “Yes,” I think. “No significant learning occurs outside of significant relationship. I would not be a teacher were it not for the significant space and rapport I shared with Ms. Diane Rood, my English, speech and drama teacher at Norfolk Catholic in Norfolk, Nebraska.”

As a teacher, I want nothing more but to create a safe space, similar to the one afforded me as a student, where my learners can take risks, pose and wrestle with large life questions and grow in knowledge of themselves and life-long callings. I want to forge significant relationships within my classroom so that significant learning might take place.

A Mentoring Relationship: Sr. Suzanne and collaborator at the NetWork for Better Futures

A Mentoring Relationship: Sr. Suzanne and collaborator at the NetWork for Better Futures

“Be who you are, and be that well!”
–St. Francis de Sales, Co-Founder, Visitation Sisters

Working at North High in Minneapolis with the many blessings and gifts of the students I was privileged to teach, came many challenges that hindered my capacity to create such mentoring, educational space. Data I collected during my third year on staff shed light on one of the challenges inherent in my post. I began the school year with 124 students on my roster. By January, 63 of these young people had transferred or dropped off my roll, replaced by 57 new students. The 50% mobility rate mirrored the graduation rate hovering around 47%.

How do you create a safe communal learning space of educational excellence and engagement when the community is in such flux – when your learners are so highly mobile? Losing half of my students every year became a “problem” that I sought counsel on. The mentorship and presence of the Visitation Sisters of north Minneapolis was a saving grace for me.  As an urban educator seeking ways to remain  positive and loving in that dynamic setting, I found the sisters modeling a calm, delightful and joy-filled presence in the midst of an often chaotic community that seemed scarce on resources.

Vis Companion, Leo Johnson, and Sr. Karen

Vis Companion, Leo Johnson, and Sr. Karen

As a contemplative order of nuns just two blocks from the doors of the school, the Visitation monastery provided me a space of reflection and sanctuary. On days when I couldn’t find the beauty or light in a child, when I felt my eyes and spirit diminishing in their capacity to see grace and gift in a learner, I sought retreat within the sisters’ prayerful space. I found their mere presence and anchored, contemplative structure to be a mentoring one that buoyed me in my ability to continue and continue well. Grounded in the Salesian charism of their founders, Sts Francis de Sales and Jane de Chantal, the sisters showed me a way to “be who I was, and be that well.”

I strive to live their motto daily “Living Jesus” or “Living Love” in spaces beyond the walls of North High. The sisters continue to mentor and ground me, as I strive to be a similar presence and agent for other people in the world around.


Your comments or stories about how the nuns have mentored you, or inspired your mentorship are welcome below in the comment section.



1. a b Bozeman, B.; Feeney, M. K. (October 2007). “Toward a useful theory of mentoring: A conceptual analysis and critique”. Administrative and Society 39 (6): 719–739.