Monthly Archives: May 2012

Visitation Snapshots: Preparing for our Feast Day

How do you celebrate the Feast of the Visitation?

How do you celebrate the Feast of the Visitation?

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

“…blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”,–Luke 1:42

This Thursday we celebrate the Feast of the Visitation, the story that is our order’s namesake, that anchors our charism and presence in communities all over the world — especially in north Minneapolis. This feast remembering Mary’s visit to her older cousin Elizabeth, who is six months pregnant, holds the beautiful tenants of our communities’ faith: for as members of the Visitation, we all work to tune into one another as vibrant, life-bearing, divinely-inspired creatures; we look for the Elizabeth in all who come to our door; we seek to be Mary, emulating her in relationship with each other — we look to receive the gifts of Our Lady and her cousin in how we are counseled, mentored, visited by all who knock and enter.

"Windsock Visitation" by Brother Mickey O'Neill McGrath, OSFS

"Windsock Visitation" by Brother Mickey O'Neill McGrath, OSFS

“…as members of the Visitation, we all work to tune into one another as vibrant, life-bearing, divinely-inspired creatures…”

In preparation for this feast, I offer a few snapshots of our Thursday Feast Day calendar that speak to me of the Visitation narrative:

–Thursday marks the Visitation Senior Students’ last day of service on the northside; we will have a ceremony honoring and acknowledging the way these young women have been among us for two weeks. Can you imagine the faces of Mary and Elizabeth as we convene at St. Jane House and reflect on our time together?

–Thursday evening we bury our longtime friend and prayer companion, Deacon Dale Timmerman, who passed away on the eve of Pentecost. Will you join us in celebrating Dale’s northside presence to us, along with his wife Nancy’s, as a Visitation one?

As we literally mark this feast day in our community, squeezing in a ritual of sorts in our afternoon prayer, we are joined by our newest community member, who comes to us from another religious Order altogether and creates for us another opportunity to be the Visitation. Sr. Mary Mao, our housemate and dear Maryknoll sister from China, who lives with our community while she completes her graduate coursework, allows us to breathe and receive Mary/ Elizabeth energy as women religious all over the world do. May we continue to grow in our relationship and be nurturing of life-giving love and witness to our Lord!

How do you see Mary and Elizabeth alive in your world, work, home? Join us in prayer, as we pause to thank God for all the ways that divine “Visitations” are a part of our daily lives.

Pentecost Prayers

Visitation Seniors and Sisters at St. Jane House for Service Learning 2012

Visitation Seniors and Sisters at St. Jane House for Service Learning 2012

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit
and began to speak in diffe
rent tongues,
as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. Acts 2:4

As we approach Pentecost Sunday and celebrate the birthday of our Church, let’s keep in prayer the gifts of the Spirit that each of us possesses. Whether that be to speak, literally, many languages and proclaim the Gospel in different tongues; or to serve in small, kind and humble ways, those in our immediate vicinity; or to lead largely in a post within or beyond the walls of church, carrying Christ’s example in our hearts, let’s be mindful of how Love and Spirit are at work.

On this Sunday, I will invite you each to pray especially, too, for those called into community with the Visitation Sisters as a way to live out the Divine’s Calling and the Spirit’s nudge in our lives. We are still seeking young women and men for the Visitation Internship Volunteer Program for this next year; we are grateful for your prayers this Pentecost Sunday!

holy_spirit_closeupThere are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone.
To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit. To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom; to another the expression of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit; to another mighty deeds; to another prophecy; to another discernment of spirits; to another varieties of tongues; to another interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing them individually to each person as he wishes. –1 Cor 12: 4-11

More Beauty

How will you make the world more beautiful?

A stunning question really, isn’t it? As today’s rains and last night’s thunderstorms soak into our spring soil promising the bounty of summer around the corner? How am I called to make the world more beautiful? You must see the origins of this question from one of my favorite bloggers Karen Maezen Miller.

Inner Beauty

Inner Beauty

Beauty is a value as an artist I treasure, both inside, and out, aesthetic and the intangible aspects of beauty. I have struggled with beauty since my alopecia has gone full throttle. Having hair or not having hair can be a profound impact on how I perceive myself and on how others encounter me. Shedding more traditional views of beauty has enlivened my spirit, emboldened me to be brave in situations where I might be tempted to shy away from a person’s gaze or unspoken question.

As my hair follicles begin to awaken, I hold hope. I have an awakened heart that has the capacity for beauty, I have open eyes that search for beauty, and I have hands willing to create beauty where one might not think there is any.

How are you making the world more beautiful today? Please share with us here.

Salesian Leadership – May, 2012

Leadership Group

Salesian Leaders 2010-2012

by Gilbert J. Gustafson, Leadership Development Consultant


On a beautiful May evening we concluded the second year of our course on Salesian Leadership with a group of leaders from the North Side of Minneapolis who are determined to be part of the healing of the community. The warmth and sunny-ness of the day were perfectly echoed by the warm and tender feelings expressed in the closing of this year’s exploration of leadership using Salesian principles. This course was funded by the 2010-11 Answering the Call campaign. One of the priorities of the campaign was to “Provide lay leadership training in the tradition of the Order’s founders, allowing others to be involved in the evangelization of the Sisters’ ministry.”

This year we designed our monthly sessions to reflect on the leadership our participants provide in their families, at work and in the community. We explored styles of communication and how to deal with differences. We also examined how to be fully present to others. In the center of our season we introduced “Lectio Divina” (meditating on the Word of God) as a means of spiritual nourishment. In our first season we initiated Centering Prayer and made repeated use of this prayer form in season two.

At the final session we reflected on what has been learned and how we have grown in being a leader. Each participant spoke movingly of how she or he has implemented what has been learned. Each spoke of how she or he intends to continue to grow as a leader moving forward. At the end of the evening we commissioned one another to continue on as faith filled leaders by signing one another on our senses, hearts, shoulders, hands and feet. The combination of silent gesture and spoken word perfectly captured the truth that authentic leadership is lived out both in word and action.

“Praise of Wisdom” — Celebrating the Feminine Form in Scripture

Corein Brown

Corein Brown

This Easter season, Seeing the Word at Saint John’s School of Theology·Seminary is reflecting on the faces of women illuminated in The Saint John’s Bible. These often overlooked Biblical women exhibit remarkable faith, courage, and love.

As I welcome my stretch marks, I cannot help but see them in this illumination and wonder what Wisdom, this female servant of God, might have to say to all of us women, and our ever shifting and expanding bodies.”

Corein Brown

This week our friend Corein Brown, graduate of Saint John’s School of Theology·Seminary and Research and Communications Associate for the Collegeville Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research, shares a reflection on recognizing the dignity and wisdom of women, worthy of entering deeply into a relationship with God, knowing that it will stretch them as it brings new life. (Sirach 24)

We hope you enjoy this audio and visual reflection as much as we did!

Seeing the Faces of Women – Seeing the Word & The Saint John’s Bible – Praise of Wisdom from Web Coordinator on Vimeo.

Join us for “For the Bible Tells Me So” at St. Jane House: Tuesday, 5/15, 6pm!

Kelly Schumacher, Vis Intern

Kelly Schumacher, Vis Intern

An Invitation from Kelly Schumacher, Visitation Intern:

You’re invited to join us at St. Jane House on Tuesday, May 15th for a screening of For the Bible Tells Me So, a film about the intersection of religion and homosexuality in the U.S.  This is the next in our series, “Movies with Jane” featuring thought provoking films that inspire and/or challenge us to become better people!


6:00pm – Doors open to St. Jane House, 1403 Emerson Ave N

6:30pm – Film begins, followed by discussion

Limited to 20 people. RSVP here or to When we hit capacity we will start a waiting list.

About the film: Can the love between two people ever be an abomination? Is the chasm separating gays and lesbians and Christianity too wide to cross? Is the Bible an excuse to hate? Through the experiences of five very normal, very Christian, very American families — including those of former House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt and Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson — we discover how insightful people of faith handle the realization of having a gay child. Winner of the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the Seattle International Film Festival, Dan Karslake’s provocative, entertaining documentary and informed by such respected voices as Bishop Desmond Tutu, Harvard’s Peter Gomes, Orthodox Rabbi Steve Greenberg and Reverend Jimmy Creech. Feel free to let Brian or Kelly know if you have any questions. Peace!


May Alter: Honoring Mary so alive in all of our hearts!

by Sr. Suzanne Homeyer, VHM

At the very beginning of the beautiful month of May I received an invitation I couldn’t refuse. A friend invited personal reflections on Mary, the Mother of Jesus, during this traditional month of celebration, reflection and special devotion to her.

Being raised in another faith tradition didn’t stop me from celebrating the month of May in a special way. Growing up in an ethnic neighborhood in Chicago was an entre for me to do so. Ours was one of two Protestant families on the block and all but one of my grade school friends were Catholics. Each year the month of May would come and the preparations for May altars began. I’m sure little girls all over the world make sure their bedrooms are extra neat and their dressers cleared off for the special little altar that will be a temporary home for Mary.

Sr. Suzanne Homeyer, VHM

Sr. Suzanne

“Several times during the month my Catholic friends (and the other Presbyterian girl) and I would stand in front of my dresser and sing Immaculate Mary and during those years I learned the Hail Mary by heart.  What was missing, of course, was a statue or depiction of Mary. But that didn’t seem to matter to my friends. Mary was somehow present in our gathering as little women.”

My bedroom was no exception. My mother had the best flowers of all the mom’s in the neighborhood so, of course, we would have the May altar in my bedroom.  Great- Grandma’s hand-crocheted doilies were carefully arranged on top of the dresser and the special vases that I had purchased with my allowance came out of the bottom drawer for the occasion. I helped Mom choose some particularly gorgeous blossoms and arranged the little nosegays just so….

Several times during the month my Catholic friends (and the other Presbyterian girl) and I would stand in front of my dresser and sing Immaculate Mary and during those years I learned the Hail Mary by heart.  What was missing, of course, was a statue or depiction of Mary. But that didn’t seem to matter to my friends. Mary was somehow present in our gathering as little women.

Years later, while taking instructions to become Catholic, I had the opportunity to ask my priest-catechist ‘any question’ I might have about the faith. A somewhat lengthy discussion on praying ‘to’ (my word) Mary and the Saints followed. This wise man asked me if I ever asked my deceased Grandmother or other relatives for help with a particular situation in my life. Of course I did! (not only asked; but I counted on them!)

I still have my May altar. There will be a flower or two. They will never be as lovely as my mother’s and I might hum a few lines of Immaculate Mary. And I still have the sense of being united with my friends and others, honoring, not a statue or picture but the Mary who is so alive in all of our hearts and the memories of my now deceased Mom, Grandma and Great-Grandmother who are always present in my spirit.

“Rapture of Being Alive”

Posted by Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan, Visitation Alumna

I have worked in vocation work for nearly a decade. I have heard many definitions of what vocation means, a holy calling, answering a holy longing, “where our great gladness meets the world’s greatest needs,” that one call leads to another and to another. While all this holds true, I stumbled upon a definition I have never entertained before found in the book I am reading, Broken Open by Elizabeth Lesser who references the wise and gracious Joseph Campbell, who I have delighted in reading since graduate school but never did my eyes read this vantage point on vocation which he shares.

Lesser writes: “Joseph Campbell spent more than half of a century mining the wisdom repositories of religion, myth, and art. At the end of Campbell’s long career, when Bill Moyers asked him about the meaning of life, Campbell surprised Moyers by saying that it isn’t meaning people have been seeking down through the ages but something he called the ‘rapture of being alive.’…Campbell affirmed that each human being–whether from ancient Greece, or tribal Africa, or modern America–is not really hankering for a special vocation or an Earth saving mission or some scholarly understanding of enlightenment. Rather, what we want are vibrant, full-bodied experiences of being alive. And if a desire to serve humanity or to find God comes from a rapturous engagement with life, then our service and our search will bear fruit. But if we try to love or lead, or work or pray, from a dry well, then we will serve a bitter cup to those around us and never really live the life we were given.” p. 49

“People say that what we’re seeking is a meaning for life.

I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking.

I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive…

so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.” -Joseph Campbell

Sr. Karen joins the dancing

May: A Month Celebrating Mary!

Our Lady of Guadalupe by Brother Mickey McGrath, OSFS

"Our Lady of Guadalupe" by Brother Mickey McGrath, OSFS

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

It’s May, friends! A month during the liturgical year when Catholics devote time to our Blessed Mother. I’m pausing today to think about the various ways I do this, and considering ways that I might grow in my prayer and devotion to Mary. Perhaps some of this will resonate with you?

I started my day driving across town in traffic that had me honking — within four blocks of my St. Paul residence – after being cut off in my lane, en route to the Monastery. Immediately, I heard: “Time to pray.” Without much thought, I began a decade of Hail Mary’s that brought a calm to my angered spirit. I found myself smiling, eased up on the gas pedal, and released my grip on the wheel as the words, “Full of grace, the Lord is with thee” went through my mind and heart.

As a pre-teen and adolescent growing up in northeast Nebraska, Mary made few appearances in my prayer life. It was at my friend Jeanne Pfiefer’s house, however, that the rosary became part of my spiritual consciousness. Following meal times at Bud and Alice’s house, where their combined brood numbered ten, we were invited to clear dishes and then return to the table, where our litany of Hail Mary’s began. I remember being 14 and thinking, “Huh. This doesn’t happen at my house.” Jeanne seemed a little pink in the face the first time I was invited to join in the prayer, (an apologetic or self-conscious peer?); but I reveled in the experience. I loved sitting at the table with the Pfiefer-Ramaekers clan and being included in this holy ritual that seemed to anchor their family. It was an “out of the ordinary” thing for me, and I marveled at how Bud and Alice lead their choir of children in this manner.

It would be 16 years later before those rosary experiences would come home to me again and inspire my faith life and thinking in a new way. At the untimely death of Jeanne’s parents, I heard her older brother bring up this rosary ritual during the eulogy of Bud and Alice.

Oldest living son Terry Pfiefer recalled the story, asking his step-father why he and his mother insisted on this after-dinner prayer each night. “Why do we pray to Mary?” he asked.

Bud responded, “Well, think of when you want something really badly. Do you come to me first, or go ask your mom?”

Terry laughed, “Right.”

Bud continued, “It’s not that much different in my mind with God. When we want something in prayer, or really need help, we can go to our mother, Mary, and ask her to intercede on our behalf.”

That explanation has stayed with me ever since.


  • I wonder, what Marion prayers are part of your faith life?
  • How does the rosary inspire or inform your spiritual routines?
  • Who else likes to pray the rosary in traffic or while they are in tense spots?
  • I wonder if the Vis Sisters might list  all the Mary-directed prayers that are part of their office?

During this month of May, I am striving to tune in and engage Mary more in my heart and mind. Will you join me in this intentional manner of prayer?


Resource Links:

How to pray the rosary

Marian Prayers (EWTN)