Monthly Archives: July 2011

What can I give?

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

“What can I give?”

I was sitting in mass at Church of the Ascension in north Minneapolis this morning, just a few rows behind the Visitation Sisters, and this question struck me.  Fr. Michael O’Connell was delivering his homily on the Sunday scriptures in the open door, fan-blowing church full of Summer heat, parishioners, and guests.

“What can I give? What may I offer?”

I’m not sure if father spoke these words verbatim, or if they just sort of gurgled up in my brain and spirit from the overall point of his message. It was hot. The air was so thick and heavy, clear focus in that space felt about as possible as moving quickly waist-deep through mud. Yet, the question and its counterparts persisted.

“I was holding Christ’s heartache in the wake of his cousin’s be-heading — understanding completely his need to step back — and simultaneously hearing of his immersion in the needs of the people: responding to their hunger and feeding the masses. I was emotionally and spiritually moved.”

The queries didn’t make complete sense in my mind. “What was the gospel reading again?” I asked, nudging Lisa, a friend to my right in the pew. “Was Jesus feeding a lot of people?” Lisa smiled and nodded, “Yes, it’s magic Sunday.”

Lord of the Dance  by Br. Mickey ONeill McGrath, OSFS

"Lord of the Dance" by Br. Mickey O'Neill McGrath, OSFS

She made me laugh, and I tried to articulate my reason for wanting to know. “I was stuck on His cousin’s death” I said, referring to the opening line about John the Baptist’s passing. The notion of a grieving Christ had given me pause; Jesus’ need to retreat and be alone moved me and the image and idea alone had stayed with me until Father began delivering his homily.

“What can I give? What do I have to offer?”

In the space of my northside parish, flanked by friends and family, folks from East and West Africa, dear faith alliances from south of the US border, and my European-descendent community pals,  these questions loomed. I was holding Christ’s heartache in the wake of his cousin’s be-heading — understanding completely his need to step back — and simultaneously hearing of his immersion in the needs of the people: responding to their hunger and feeding the masses. I was emotionally and spiritually moved.

I heard Fr. O’Connell talk about hunger here and in the horn of Africa; I heard him reference the thin line that we all walk around desire in our hearts and ache in our bellies; I gleaned the immediate literal needs of those without food and the spiritual want that so many of us suffer from; I was moved and found myself asking questions.

What can I give? What do I have to offer?

It was like a prayer in my own heart, perhaps, or maybe one that resounded in all the people gathered today, tuning into Matthew’s gospel and this homily. It repeated: In the face of such human hunger and need, what can I give, what do I have to offer?

I want very much to inspire the generous outpouring of inquiry, contemplation and action that moves us as a Catholic faith family to bring about the kingdom of God here and now;  I want such musings to inspire us to seek justice and equity for all. I want people to be quite literally “full” in the mutual exchange of giving joyously and receiving graciously.

These are my Sunday musings. This is my prayer as I enter the week:

What can I give? What may I offer?

Will you join me in this meditation?

VISTORY: Students Reflect on Service, Sisterhood and Salesian Spirituality

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

On the heels of a week long immersion in service, sisterhood and Salesian spirituality, otherwise known as VISTORY, a few of the 26 girls from Visitation schools around the country took time to reflect on their experiences in the Twin Cities, Minnesota. We applaud these young women and their parents, mentors and teachers who are cultivating their education and faith formation in and through the Salesian charism and tradition.

Check out the following video reflections from our YouTube channel that feature students from Georgetown, St. Louis and Mendota Heights Visitation Schools.

Blessings! Live+Jesus!

“At Visitation, we want to integrate service into our programs….” Sarah, Visitation Student

“At Georgetown Visitation they emphasize the little virtues; I think the quote is ‘doing little things with great love.'” Claire, Visitation Student

VISTORY: And now the Dessert Course…

by Sr. Suzanne Homeyer, VHM

Visitation Students volunteering at Kwanzaa's Northside Women's Space

Visitation Students volunteering at Kwanzaa's Northside Women's Space

My blog posts lately have been about my recent experience as a planning committee member and chaperone for VISTORY, which was held last week at the Convent of the Visitation School in Mendota Heights for students from Visitation high schools as well as our monastery here in north Minneapolis. The first one was called ‘Soup D’Jour’ and for some reason most of them have had a food or meal theme. It is perhaps time to consider the next course…dessert —- that oft so-sweet finishing touch to a sumptuous meal that could put us right over the edge….in need of a good nap.

Being with high-energy, sometimes silly but more often, serious spiritual seekers for a whole week is very nurturing. My spirit was nurtured as with the students I heard speakers on the issue of immigration; baled hay and cleaned  stalls at a horse farm and created games and skits to share the week’s experience of Sisterhood, Spirituality and Service.
Pruning as spiritual process?

Pruning as spiritual process?

For me VISTORY came to such a finish —- true, it was exhausting….but more importantly it was a just plain sweet experience. Being with high-energy, sometimes silly but more often, serious spiritual seekers for a whole week is very nurturing. My spirit was nurtured as with the students I heard speakers on the issue of immigration; baled hay and cleaned  stalls at a horse farm and created games and skits to share the week’s experience of Sisterhood, Spirituality and Service.

Many cultures complete meals, not with something goopy or dripping with sugar or whipped cream but with crisp fruit and flavorful cheese.  I am relishing this finishing touch to the VISTORY 2011 feast.  I feel the exhuberance bursting forth from the girls as they return to school for another year of Living Jesus! in a Salesian environment and I am buoyed up by the certain feeling that I have that last week will bear much fruit in their lives and those of their friends and families. It has already done that for me. I have been renewed by the holistic offerings of VISTORY and challenged to go forth and share abundantly of the its fruits. Bon appetit!

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To read other blogs by Sr. Suzanne, click here.

VISTORY “Menu”– Journal Entry from Sr. Suzanne

Sr. Suzanne and VISTORY students

What's on tomorrow's menu? Will it be the "same old same old" or an exciting, tantalizing soup d'jour?

Sunday, July 17, 2011
by Sr. Suzanne Homeyer, VHM
Building Blog inspired by Maya Angelou quote.

***

“The nights of  work, the hours of hope amount at last to this day of JOY.” –Maya Angelou

***

Time seems to pass quickly when you are into a particular task — even consumed by the task itself. Sometimes one prepares a wonderful meal, only to have it “disappear’ in a matter of minutes…But it’s purpose was served — people were nurtured — some were perhaps only fed…

A VISTORY "Meal:" Tuning into Marilyn Ochoa's Immigration Story

A VISTORY "Meal:" Tuning into Marilyn Ochoa's Immigration Story

What are your “nights of work”? What “hours of hope” can you identify, in the spirit of Maya Angelou’s quote? What tasks consume and inspire, feed or nurture you? How does any of this translate into “meal making” and enthusiasm for your life’s menu?

How often have our efforts fed or nurtured others? Were there leftovers to be shared? Did everyone save room for dessert? What’s on tomorrow’s menu? Will it be the “same old same old” or an exciting, tantalizing soup d’jour? Oh! The joy of cooking!

Visitation Monastery: Summer 2011 at a Glance

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

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

by Sr. Mary Frances Reis, VHM

As they say in our neighborhood, we are “Blessed and Highly favored”; the list below of several of the summer events/happenings is not exhaustive, but gives a glimpse of the fullness and fruitfulness of our life “in the ‘Hood”—graced in so many ways!

  • May 13-14-Brother Mickey McGrath, OSFS, renowned artist and retreat director led 65 community women in a week-end gathering and retreat at Ascension Catholic Church. (see photo gallery album)
  • May 10-We ‘graduated’ 12 men and women from the community who engaged in a year long course in Salesian Leadership. (see photo gallery album)
  • Visitation Seniors with Visitation Sisters

    Visitation Seniors with Visitation Sisters

    May 23-June 3 – Six Visitation High Seniors joined us for an urban immersion experience which introduced that to the neighborhood and gave them multiple opportunities to serve. (see photo gallery album)

  • June 4-Our dear friend Vickie Bailey and her daughter Betsy provided a party for the neighborhood children to “Get ready for Summer”….Teens ran the games which included prizes like jump ropes, beach towels, chalk….everything “summer”!  About 50 participated.
  • June 5 – We joined the communities of Ascension and St. Phillips as the churches ritualized the merger of the parishes.
  • June 5 Visitation Senior Graduation– Sr. Mary Frances was honored to lead the invocation and blessing at this event.
  • Quinceanera! Sr. Mary Virginia, Sylvia Ochoa and Sr. Katherine

    Quinceañera! Sr. Mary Virginia, Sylvia Ochoa and Sr. Katherine

    June 11-Two of our sisters played honored roles in the Quinceañera of Silvia Ochoa. (see photo gallery album)

  • June 11-17-Three Teens from North Minneapolis joined 50 others at the Salesian Leadership Camp in Michigan.  Sr. Karen, who founded the camp 22 years ago, joined them for the week.
  • Mid June -YTM-Youth in Theology and Ministry – a two week experience at St. John’s University was attended by two of our teens. (see photo gallery album)
  • June 10-We were honored to join St. Jean, founder of the Cookie Cart-an employment bakery for youth- as she was celebrated for her selfless ministry.
  • June 12 – We joined From Death to Life, an organization of men and women who have lost children to violence on our streets, in a Peace/Prayer walk which circulated throughout the neighborhood.
  • June 19-24 – Ascension Church and Visitation Monastery sponsored 70 children for a week long camping experience at Catholic Youth Camp.  Even the rain did not deter them from having an experience of a lifetime!
  • June 20-24-The Sisters traveled to St. Louis to join 50 other Visitation Sisters for the last hurrah of our 400th Anniversary of the founding of the Order.
  • June 26– We Sisters have our annual Corpus Christi procession in which we take the Blessed Sacrament to places of violence and tornado destruction and pray for peace in our community.
  • Our Salesian friends and neighbors Linda, Bianca and Dorice join us for dinner

    Our Salesian friends and neighbors Linda, Bianca and Dorice join us for dinner

    July 6 -We will prepare an ethnic dinner for some of our neighbors and friends from Mendota Visitation. This dinner, which will be served at our monastery, is purchased by the latter and is an opportunity to bridge communities.

  • July 16-23 – Sr. Suzanne and 3 neighborhood teens join Visitation students from around the country for VISTORY: a week of sisterhood, Salesian spirituality and community service.  This event rotates cities each year and this year and is being held in the Twin Cities. (see photo gallery album)

    UPCOMING Dates; Consider Joining us…
  • July 29-30 – Catholic women ages 18-45, who are discerning religious life,  are invited to join the Visitation Sisters of Minneapolis, MN for their Come and See Weekend.
  • August 3 Neighborhood Night of peace, an event that draws 400-500 people-will be held at Ascension Church.  We partner with Ascension, Basilica and Mas Jid Anur to provide a free supper, games,  prizes and community speakers.  As the title connotes, this is just one effort to bring people together in harmony and peace.  We’ll keep you posted…Perhaps you’d like to volunteer!
  • August 13 – We will have our annual “Back to School Party” for the children in the neighborhood and beyond.  Vickie Bailey and friends provide a fun way to get ready for school and to get all the supplies they need…
  • August 27-Last but not least!  SR. KATHERINE’S JUBILEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!

SOUP D’JOUR — Journaling in the VISTORY Tradition

The following blog post is the first in a series about VISTORY: Visitation in Service to Others through Responsive Youth.  We welcome Visitation students from around the United States to Minneapolis on Saturday, July 16, 2011.
VISTORY 2010: Students in Camden, NJ

VISTORY 2010: Students in Camden, NJ

by Sr. Suzanne Homeyer, VHM

Daily journaling has been an integral part of VISTORY. For the past several years I have been the one to introduce participants in this week- long adventure of Sisterhood, Salesian Spirituality and Service to the fine art of journaling.  As a former journalism teacher I always begin my presentation with the 5W’s of a good news story…Who, What, Where, When and Why (and sometimes How).

“As I look forward to companioning VISTORY students and helping them discover this really fine art of writing,  my own thought is that perhaps journaling, journalism , and journey come from the same root word…” – Sr. Suzanne Homeyer, VHM

These words function as a trigger for the students to begin a reflection on their day’s activities. “Who have they met or served?”  “Why did I react like that?” or maybe “What is God saying to me in this?”  Such triggers help the thought process and begin the serious look at our daily experiences…our own life’s journey.

As I look forward to companioning VISTORY students and helping them discover this really fine art of writing,  my own thought is that perhaps journaling, journalism , and journey come from the same root word…I have seen a form of that someplace in my own life’s experience…..When I was on pilgrimage in France for the 400th anniversary of our order I often saw the phrase d’Jour on lunch or dinner menus…as in “soup of the day.”  Maybe this relates to the words highlighted above? Journaling can be quite productive if it is done on a regular, if not day-to-day basis. Journalism is responsible for giving us the daily news…by means of photojournalism….broadcast journalism and the printed word. And we move through life day by day…our journey is gradual with time for experiencing, reflecting upon,  and getting to know ourselves and our God as we move on.

As twenty-six high school students who have journeyed to the Twin Cities from around the country to be part of VISTORY (Visitation in Service to Others through Responsive Youth)  move through next week they will be blogging on this website, preparing YouTubes,  and maybe even Tweeting on Twitter. You can be a part of this journey.

ps. I checked with Webster about word derivations. Bingo!  Old French and Latin root meaning daily or day.  Have a good one!

“Fishing in Troubled Waters:” Francis de Sales on Anxiety

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

St. Francis de Sales

St. Francis de Sales

July 10
With the single exception of sin, anxiety is the greatest evil that can happen to a soul. Just as sedition and internal disorders bring total ruin to a nation and leave it unable to resist the enemy, so also if our heart is inwardly troubled and disturbed, it loses both the strength necessary to hold on to the virtues it has acquired and the means to resist the temptations of the enemy. We then use up our energies fishing in troubled waters, as they say. (INT. Part IV, Ch. 11; O. III, p. 311)

It’s been a long time since I’ve been fishing. Growing in up in Nebraska, just a stones throw from the Elkhorn River, and spending many summer nights on the shores of the Lewis and Clark Reservoir at our family’s cabin, I know a bit about this sport. As early as eight, I recall learning about the process of fishing: acquiring and placing worms (minnows, corn, leeches) as bait -oh-so-artfully -on a hook attached to a vinyl line and pole and then casting this into the water to wait, and hope for a bite. It’s a glorious sort of outdoor activity for the patient, contemplative sort. FISHING! I mean, Jesus’ best friends were fishermen, right? They were out casting their nets, working to catch fish and feed the masses.  My father and uncle, a priest, have a weekly routine engaging in such activity. Fishing is a calming endeavor that anyone with gear near a body of water may partake in and then simultaneously experience the graces of the  social time or period in solitude.

Anxiety accelerates our doubt. It triggers a collapsing of faith, not unlike dominoes falling, where suddenly everything that we trust in, believe in, eludes us.

Boy-Fishing-I-0St. Francis de Sales draws on the fishing experience as a metaphor in today’s “Daily with de Sales” reflection. Instead of highlighting the calming experience that is fishing in tranquil waters, our founding saint draws on the experience we all know inside of turbulence. Whether we are a fisherman or not: we can all fathom what it would be like to sink our bait into troubled waters. We can picture how a churning lake or a rough rapid river might make any one of our bellies stir. We can see our lines bobbing up and down and the uneasiness of whether we could possibly be successful at catching anything in such conditions. If our experience or imagination takes us to fishing inside a boat, then our unease might be doubled by virtue of fearing for our own safety. These are troubled waters, people! Who can feel safe, secure, confident of a positive, successful outcome in the face of trouble that looks like heaving water overwhelming us and our fish?

Anxiety. That’s what Francis likens to this troubled water fishing metaphor. And it’s an apt one, in my opinion. When we are in trouble, we lose sight of what we know and believe in — our hearts quake, fear, tremble; as St. Francis states: “if our heart is inwardly troubled and disturbed, it loses the strength necessary to hold on to the virtues it has acquired.” In addition, Francis underscores another consequence:  our hearts lose “the means to resist the temptations of the enemy.”

Who can feel safe and secure, confident of a positive, successful outcome in the face of trouble that looks like heaving water overwhelming us and our fish?

daily_with_desalesI translate “the enemy” in this case to DOUBT. I think of that infamous scene between Peter and Christ in the bible, when Jesus invites his friend to walk toward him on the water, and as Peter progresses forward, he starts to doubt and he sinks.
Anxiety accelerates our doubt. It triggers a collapsing of faith, not unlike dominoes falling, where suddenly everything that we trust in, believe in, eludes us. We sink. It’s like we expend our energy fishing in troubled waters, as Francis states. We are participating in an endeavor that fuels our uncertainty and it’s as successful as fishing in troubled water: nothing is caught or gained, save for more fear and doubt.

[W]hen it comes to experiences that trigger our anxiety, the point is to pause and see what’s occurring. Name it. Take a breath. Recognize that when our heart rate rises and our souls are troubled to such an extent that we feel doubt looming, and love seems to be at a great distance, that these are precisely moments when we need to lean into God’s abundance.

So what’s the solution? Are we not called “to fish” so to speak — or engage in our life as usual? I think when it comes to experiences that trigger our anxiety, the point is to pause and see what’s occurring. Name it. Take a breath. Recognize that when our heart rate rises and our souls are troubled to such an extent that we feel doubt looming, and love seems to be at a great distance, that these are precisely moments when we need to lean into God’s abundance. We need to recall the simple virtues that sustain us in faith, service, and hopeful living.

This is my prayer for today. This my hope for myself, and for any and all who read this and desire calm, simplicity, trust. May we all fish in calm waters! May we realize the treasures present in our mere attempts to live and love and serve well.

Mary and Jesus at the Playground: Poems as Response

Artwork by Brother Mickey O'Neill McGrath, OSFS

Artwork by Brother Mickey O'Neill McGrath, OSFS

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

Last Tuesday, I posted a blog inviting readers to remember times from their childhood when they played with a parent; I invited you to go so far as to imagine Mary and Jesus at play – through this door of memory. The comments this blog received were compelling to me; and one in particular gave me great pause in considering the humanity of Christ’s mother. I contemplated parenting and childhood from many perspectives: the joyous, somber; the unhealthy, the restorative; the humorous and haunting. I wondered about a child’s life with an alcoholic mom or dad while simultaneously considering what it would mean to parent a prophet or king like Christ.

What follows are my own creative responses to the three female readers who posted snapshots from their young lives in the comments section, and how I conceive of Love at work in the midst of their tales. Thank you Betty Lou Miller, Jody Tigges and Pat Black for your words. I composed and extend these with sincerity.

Flappable Mary: Mother of Christ
She drinks when she gets anxious.
It was a lot to say “yes” and all, you know?
Gabriel, his message, the pressure.
Now what?
Jesus cries a lot at night.
Joseph is deep in slumber.
She feels alone.

Mary and Jesus pay the bills
On Monday mornings mom tallies the IOU’s.
She asks me to count how many coins are in the jar.
I am instructed in currency and debt collection and told that even though there might not seem enough,
There is.
“God provides.”
My heart heaves considering the weight of these words.

Mary and Jesus at the Beach (Mary at the beach, Jesus in water alone.)
He bobs up and down in the water,
(Clearly before He knew he had the power to walk on the troubled sea)–
Someone yells, “Jump!”
Mom is clueless on shore.

Crazy what being alone and almost-drowning teaches you at a young age.
Preparation for later in life, eh?

Our Lady,  Patron Saint of Bed-Wetters
“Pray to her so that she’ll wake you up in the middle of the night when you have to pee.”
That’s what my mom told me.
“Hail Mary, full of grace..”
Over and over again.
It worked.

The Body of Christ in a Marshmellow

I wonder if Christ ever made s’mores over a campfire?

As a little girl, I loved playing priest.
Consecrating bags of marshmellows while mom made dinner.
The eucharist can be squishy.
Like us all?
“Do this in remembrance of me.”
Pausing from her pan of fried chicken, I presented my mother as a minister would:
“The body of Christ.”
Her mumbled nodding response makes me happy.