Looking Back at Vis Neighbors: Our First Lay Community

First Vis Neighbors Commissioning Ceremony,  Winter, 1994 Newsletter

Introducing VISITATION NEIGHBORS…the Seeds of Tomorrow’s Flowers (from News From the Northside, Fall 1994 — lead story)

by Sr. Suzanne Homeyer, VHM

This blog is indeed a ‘back story.’  All any of us have to do when we want to see where we are today is to look back and see God’s presence along the way.  Some call it Providence…some prefer the term serendipity and others just coincidence.  This is the back story on the Visitation Companions…it is mainly the history of the beginnings of Visitation Neighbors and the current news of the presence of Salesian Spirituality alive and well-lived for over 20 years in the lives of Trish Kloeckl and Lorilee Lambrecht, the founding mothers of our monastery’s first lay community.

“My own formation in the order took place alongside the formation and spiritual growth (and stretching of consciousness) of the Visitation Neighbors.” – S. Suzanne Homeyer, vhm

When I arrived at the monastery in 1995, the Visitation Neighbors were already established and part of the on-going ministry and presence of the Sisters here on the North Side. How did they come to be? My own formation in the order took place alongside the formation and spiritual growth (and stretching of consciousness) of the Neighbors. Over the years there have been 19 or 20 adult members and 4 youngsters that were Neighbors.

“It all began with…”  as Trish tells the history, her “time on the north side… living with friends and volunteering many places working with neighborhood residents.” Trish shared her idea of a lay community with Sr. Jean of the Cookie Cart and together they “walked the idea/vision over to the Vis Sisters and invited them (the Sisters) to become the ‘new stewards of the vision’….Shortly after that time, I moved in with the Sisters for 9 months and the idea/vision continued to unfold.”

An Invitation to Vis Neighbors copy

An Invitation to Vis Neighbors from Community Newsletter, 1994

The Sisters agreed to explore a new expression of the Salesian charism and the following invitation was issued in the community’s newsletter:

Lorilee Lambrecht had attended Mendota Visitation High School. Non scholae, sed vitae (not for school but for life) was etched on the keychain she still used from her Vis High years…I know it isn’t just a slogan to the Sisters.”

“After traveling extensively through the United States and living overseas… I was discerning about living in a base-Christian community to help support the lifestyle changes that were occurring in my life as a result of my mission experiences in Guatemala,” Lorilee reminisced. “Three words began to draw me to the Visitation Order and the North side: community, spiritual formation and family…I asked God to be obvious in showing me His will…within days the Vis Minneapolis newsletter was in my mail box….When the invitation came from the Sisters regarding their new lay group, my heart joyfully responded in an instant…I knew. We met, we knew this was it…we began the journey of faith.”

“I am so grateful for how Divine Providence moved and graced my story with the presence of the Sisters and their spirituality that has assisted me through many stages of my life as I move toward deeper integration and living in the Presence of God.” –Lorilee Lambrecht, Vis Neighbor

Vis Neighbors today:  Lorilee, S. Suzanne, Trish

Vis Neighbors “Selfie”  today:
Lorilee, S. Suzanne, Trish

Some 20 years later Lorilee, Trish and I gathered to share a simple meal in Trish’s southside Minneapolis home.  In anticipation of that sharing Lorilee wrote, “We have been through so much life together and we are still best friends.” As we prepared supper, ate and prayed together I saw the truth in that statement .  The three of us recalled fond memories of Vis Neighbor days, my time as a novice, their many ministry activities in the ‘hood and so much more.

Trish is now living just down the street from another community seeker she had first come to know on the north side.  She is still blessed to have her professional calling as an Occupational Therapist as well as her love of nature and inviting others to do wilderness challenges. She continues to encourage family, friends and neighbors to commit to community; to struggle to build community; to live community and to call others to the joy of life lived in community AND she still knows it is the Holy Spirit that breathes it all into being.

Lorilee lived in the inner city for nine years and when she moved out of North Minneapolis to Mendota Heights where she grew up she feels she “was fortunate to be situated very near Visitation Monastery Mendota. I am so grateful for how Divine Providence moved and graced my story with the presence of the Sisters and their spirituality that has assisted me through many stages of my life as I move toward deeper integration and living in the Presence of God.  Thomas Merton says that ‘every moment plants a seed in a person’s soul.  I had many beautiful experiences that were planted in my spirit during my time as a Vis Neighbor.  The seeds of those experiences continue to flower within my life.” She was inspired to establish Grace Center in Guatemala, a community for women and children needing supportive community, medical and spiritual services. She also finds herself a very busy mother who is involved in a variety of “callings” and interests as a wife and as a parent to three children Sophia (16); Annalisa (13) and Moses 12.”

“All the Flowers of All the Tomorrows are in the seeds of today.”
News From the Northside, Fall of 1994.

Click here to read the original Newsletter article: News From the Northside, Fall of 1994

5 Responses

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  1. I am so grateful for this blog and grateful that two courageous women founded our first lay community and that they still LIVE JESUS in their respective vocations…After 50 years, the dream of Pope John XXIII that we would enter in the age of the laity is finally being realized in countless lay communities around the world! I am so happy that we are in the flow of the Spirit! Yes, Jane and Francis would be thrilled!!!!

  2. I knew you, Sr. Suzanne, were writing this blog and visited with Lorilee and Trish to get their recollections, but I had no idea that your words would be so apt, so spirited and at the same time give such history. The Spirit was so obviously directing your words. We are still engaged, aren’t we, in forming Christian community, “Salesian style” with and among our extended community? What will be next is surely building on what has been — and that feels right!

  3. Blessed indeed to share part of my Salesian journey with Trish and Sue (and heard so much about Lorilee) and continue to thank the Lord for their courage and commitment. Though I am far away and miss you very much, the Salesian joy that radiates from Minneapolis can be felt in California.

  4. AMEN!
    I imagine Jane and Francis just nodding and smiling. “Yes, we started this; and before us, those blessed first century apostles and disciples…”
    Thanks for your comment, SMF!

  5. Jeff, I imagine you radiating that Salesian JOY wherever you go!
    Love! Holy Week blessings!
    -Melissa

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