Monthly Archives: November 2014

THE VOWED LIFE — A Commitment to Live; to Share and to Act!

Sr. Suzanne

S. Suzanne signing the Book of Vows November, 2014

by Sr. Suzanne Homeyer, VHM

“Thank you, for your commitment!” was one of the final comments I heard on my profession day. They were spoken by one of my BOF (Best Oblate Friends) as he was leaving our monastery for the wintry drive back to Michigan after the festivities. Those words meant a lot to me that night and they still do — in fact, they mean more to me each day as I live this Visitation life and each time I renew my vows on the first day of the month — or each time I sign the community vow book on November 21st, when all other Visitandines and Oblates of St. Francis de Sales have their yearly renewal of vows.

“Signing the vow book is more than putting ink to paper…perhaps it is like writing ‘Live Jesus!’ on my heart.” – S. Suzanne Homeyer

This year our Renewal of Vows retreat gave me the time to reflect on how my commitment so many years ago was really a response to God’s promise that we find in the book of Proverbs:

“Happy the one who listens to me, attending daily at my gates, keeping watch at my doorposts; for whoever finds me finds life, and wins favor with the Lord.”

My understanding of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience has changed over the years.

S. Suzanne signing the Vow Book of the Monastery of Annecy, France in June, 2009 during the 400th Anniversary Pilgrimage.

S. Suzanne signing the Vow Book of the Monastery of Annecy, France in June, 2009 during the 400th Anniversary Pilgrimage.

On Poverty …

The first time I signed the Book of the Vows I knew I was promising to live as our neighbors here on the north side of Minneapolis. I knew, too, that I would probably not be spending my nights sleeping under bridges or in homeless shelters during the coldest Minnesota nights.  And our monastery was not cold and drafty — a concern my mother often voiced. During my years here I have struggled with whether to purchase something new, find the item at a thrift store or just do without. There is a difference between wants and needs. I may want a calf-length down coat but a warm wool jacket may be enough for doing errands or getting to church on a cold day. Could I attend a conference or workshop out of town and still be living my vow of poverty. A wise friend settled that in my mind by suggesting that if I attend the conference I might learn something to help me better meet the needs of those who come to our door! Isn’t that good stewardship?

On Chastity…

Being loyal and true to those I am in relationship is part of how I live my life chastely. I have to be authentically my self in how I interact with others. I often ask myself if I am being sincere, loving and as open with all others as I would like them to be with me. This type of transparency allows relationships to be nurturing for me and generative for others.

Sr. Suzanne reciting first vows in 1999 at Church of St. Philip parish in north Minneapolis

Sr. Suzanne reciting first vows in 1999 at Church of St. Philip parish in north Minneapolis

On Obedience…

From my first study of the vows as a novice I learned that obedience comes from the same root word as listening. I listen to God in His word, in the words of others and in my own heart. I pay attention to what I am hearing. I let it motivate me. If I do this prayerfully I find myself called to action.   I am not merely reacting to situations but acting as I am called to act by this God to whom I am committed. No matter what, I am committed. And God moves me forward in this commitment each day, each month and each year. Signing the vow book is more than putting ink to paper…perhaps it is like writing ‘’Live Jesus!” on my heart.

 

 

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Q & A with a Sister: On Vow Renewal

S Mary Frances first profession

Sr. Mary Frances Reis, 1957

On Friday, November 21, the Visitation Sisters will renew their vows publicly at a mass and celebration. In preparation for this event, blogger and Companion Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde had an opportunity to ask Sister Mary Frances Reis about this process of  of vow renewal. What follow is their Q and A.

Q: Sister Mary Frances, what year did you enter the Visitation Monastery?

SMF: I entered in 1957.

Q: In a sentence or two, how would you characterize that period in the Catholic church?

SMF: This time of 1957-62 was a time of sensing that the Holy Spirit was in the air. The churches were pretty into the ‘way we’ve always done it’ and then ‘whoosh’!!!  the Holy Spirit took over and John XXIII opened the windows of the Church and let in lots of fresh air!  So I would say that I and my confreres were precursors of the Renewal…kind of on the threshold of big changes in the Church.  Things changed radically in the next few years.

Sr. Mary Frances Reis, 1962

Sr. Mary Frances Reis, 1962

Q: When did you profess final vows?

SMF: I professed my final vows in 1962.  This was preceded by a year of postulancy, and year of novitiate, and 3 years of temporary vows.  These years were a sort of “engagement time” with lots of formation in the life and discernment along the way.

Q:  Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience are the vows that Visitation Sisters profess when they commit their lives to the Order.  Can you give us simple definitions, in your own words?

SMF: Poverty-Having all things in common as in the early Church.  Simplicity of life.  Sharing what we have.  

Chastity-this is the vow to LOVE.  I have always observed this vow as a call to relationship….I have had thousands of children as an educator, and in this neighborhood.   Sexuality is a precious gift, and through the many celibate relationships that I have had with both sexes, I have learned to love well.

Obedience-Root word is listening.  Listening to the Spirit in my deepest center, in that of the community and my superiors assists me in becoming who I am and becoming that well.

Q: When Francis de Sales and Jane de Chantal first established the Visitandines, they wanted only one vow, the vow of love. How do you embrace this vow and the ultimate shift to Poverty, Chastity and Obedience?

 SMF: As I ‘mature’ in my vowed life it becomes quite simple.  LOVE covers all the vows.  The three vows simply particularize ways to LOVE.

Q: I have heard stories about the ritual of having a burial cloth placed over you when a woman professed final vows as a religious — indicating a sort of death to your old individual self and identity. Can you tell me about this?

SMF: I loved the ritual of going under the pall. This is the way it worked:  on the day of vows, various Sisters gave me their prayer intentions on little slips of paper.  I put them in my big habit pocket.  It was a profound experience of community at its deepest level with all those intentions in my pockets-a reminder that WE are in this together.  Yes, it was a ritual of ‘death’ to self, but also a commitment to community.  I’m kind of a romantic at heart, but I did love the drama of this!

Q: Can you describe any private or public ritual you participate in now?

SMF: Ritual for Vows…We renew our vows once a month in community and once a year publicly.

Q: Tell me about the significance of  November 21st  as your annual date of public vow renewal.

SMF: The 21st of November is the Feast of the Presentation of Mary in the Temple;  it is a Memorial and not a Feast in the universal Church, but Jane and Francis chose this in its littleness…We make it a Feast!

Vis Sisters Cropped Capri

The Visitation Sisters, 2014. (Sr. Mary Frances is second from left.)

Q: How have the circumstances of living your vows changed as you made your way to this year of re-commitment?

As I renew my vows this year, I am more and more aware that I am one of the BAPTIZED — as is every baptized person.  We are all living out our Baptismal promises to be “Priest, Prophet and Queen.”  I love that I share this will all women, men and children…..

Q: What do you do to prepare for vow renewal?

Preparation takes place 3 days prior…We call it a ‘little retreat.’  It is a time to reflect more deeply on our lived experience and listen to the Spirit’s promptings in this life She has chosen for us.  To me the vows in any walk of life are expressions of God’s fidelity to US!

Q: What advice or thoughts do you have for other women and men who have professed promises or vows, for renewing them? Why do this?

Anniversaries are important……Taking time to reflect on our promises and how we have chosen to make life’s journey is essential.  We have ONLY ONE LIFE!!!  Live it well!

Q: As you invite people to “come as they are to live community in north Minneapolis” and found a Resident Lay Community alongside the Visitation Sisters, what would you say about vows, or commitments,  to inspire someone in their listening and discernment?

SMF: Francis and Jane would applaud our endeavors to found a resident lay Visitation Community!!!  They are excited and so are we!

On being still: Placing our worries at the feet of Jesus — and other prayerful stances

What prayerful stance am I called to?

What prayerful stance are you called to enact?

by Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion

I like the idea of God and I pressing our foreheads together. I lean in, Love leans closer. My eyes gaze down, and the Good Lord’s radiance heats up my head, in a way that makes me tingle all over. I’m delightfully still, not having to move backward or forward, but simply be in that intimate, physically real and imagined, posture of prayer.

Sometimes, when I sit to pray,  I close my eyes, and imagine traveling all the way out in the galaxy, to sit airily on one of Saturn’s rings taking in this glorious universe that God has made. I’m small and simultaneously in perfect awe of all that God has brought into being. I take a deep breathe, recognizing that this moment is comprised of eons of love and intention in order to be, and I feel held, and precious in the whole of my life circumstances.

Other times when I sit, I go with a recent experience in life — one where I have felt love and delight in God’s presence. Like this morning, when my 4 year old daughter said: “Mom, let’s play that game where I run by you and you grab me and say, ‘I’m never going to let you go.'” I’m complicit in this ongoing game of ours, and in following her lead, I realize that I may be enacting a similar game or request with God. As I reach out, embrace my wriggling 4 year old, and entertain squeals of delight enveloping her as a  precious child, I feel God doing a similar thing with me. “I’m never going to let you go” He whispers, and sounds a lot like me.

My typical “go-to” stance in Centering Prayer is this: laying everything at the feet of Jesus. I show up in my chair, chant the morning Psalm in the best way I know how, and then ask for the grace to sit still for the next twenty minutes. I breathe in and out deeply and am, more often than not, ecstatic to arrive in the chair and not have to solve one thing, make a next decision, or be “perfect” in any way shape or form. I just have to show up. And as I “show up” in my chair, I consciously try to lay down any thought or anxiety or recent drama that manages to worm its way forward in my consciousness. “Here you go, Jesus!” I say in my mind, and imagine  literally placing the worry at the toes, heels and ankles of God.

When my good friend  Karen and I reflect aloud about our prayer lives and attempts at faithful living, we often giggle. And this phrase and stance: “Put it at the feet of Jesus” is a delightful reminder and invitation to surrender and trust in God’s love and mercy for all aspects of our lives.

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As we make our way through this season of holiday prep and gratitude making, I invite you to consider your own prayer life. How are you positioning yourself? Where do you find stillness? What do you imagine Love inviting you to do? What do you want or need to place at the foot of the cross?

In the News: Star Tribune Article on the Visitation Monastery Minneapolis

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Click to read the full article at the Star Tribune.

On Saturday, October 25, 2014, the Star Tribune ran an  about our religious community’s presence in the heart of the city — spanning 25 years and leaning into the next two and half decades.

“Every neighborhood should have nuns in the hood!”

Journalists Joy Powell and photographer Leila Navidi captured our neighborhood and Sisters in a way that honors and reveals hope, love and reality. We are grateful for their narrative gifts and photographic eye. Their storytelling conveys our circumstances in a way that we are often not able to communicate by virtue of our commitment to anonymity and the “hidden” nature of our charism. We commend them for their journalistic integrity and again, say,
“thank you.”

Check out the article here: Nuns in the Hood: 25 years of doing good

See Leila’s pictures: Photo Gallery

Video: Nuns in the Hood: 25 years of doing good