Monthly Archives: May 2015

On Service: Q & A with Vis Companion Heidi Akpaette

The following is the first in a series of interviews with Visitation Companions -- a lay 
community committed to the ministry of the Visitation through prayer, Salesian study and service.

The Call to Companionship

Heidi Akpaette, Vis Companion

Heidi Akpaette, Vis Companion

Q: In a few words, what inspired your call to become a Companion to the Visitation Sisters of Minneapolis? 

Heidi: I love the vision and mission of the Visitation Sisters and wanted
a tangible way to be involved.

Being a Companion offered me a way
to
invest in the community of North Minneapolis, grow in Salesian Spirituality, and be mentored
by the Visitation Sisters’ life.

Q: What is your favorite saying or teaching of St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal?

Heidi: I am inspired by the concept of gentleness-gentleness towards self and gentleness towards others.

On Service

Q: What does the word, “service” mean to you?

Heidi: Service is giving of myself to other people, causes, and missions. It is intentionally moving beyond my own agenda into the agenda of others.

Q: What images of your service come to mind?

Heidi: Learning from the Sister’s wisdom and being in their presence. Advocating for North Minneapolis and the Visitation’s vision of presence to the neighborhood. Bringing ideas and a listening to others on the St Jane House committee. Celebrating Mass with the Sister’s. Planting sunflower seeds. Really seeing people who have their lives on the Northside.

Q: What is the setting for a recent experience of your service?

Heidi: I am at the St Jane house with two other Vis Companions and one of the sisters, we are sitting around a table. We are relaxed in the shared knowledge of the Salesian charisms and our ideas for the St Jane house and it’s mission.

Gifts, Challenges, and Salesian Aspects of Service.

Q: What gifts do you bring to your service?

Heidi: A different generation of experience, a wide variety of connections, networking abilities, and joy in meeting together.

Q: What challenges have you encountered while serving?

Heidi: Not always having the energy to bring more the table and not always having enough space in my personal life from which to give.

Q: What gifts do you receive from serving?

Heidi: Relationships with people that I would otherwise not encounter-hands down that is the best gift.

Q: Where have you found God in your experience of serving?

Heidi: In others-I encounter the living God working and breathing in other people’s lives, sometimes by their actions and sometimes by their words.

Q: What aspects of Salesian spirituality were reflected or manifested in this service experience?

Heidi: Humility in learning from others, seeing the innate dignity in other people, being present with who I am with others doing the same, enjoying a sense of humor with others, and having grace for self in judgment-and challenging myself to grow in my weakness.

Nine Mendota Visitation High Seniors Encounter North Minneapolis Neighbors!

by S. Mary Frances Reis, VHM

Vis Seniors with some of our northside friends from Emerge and From Death to Life

Vis Seniors with some of our northside friends from Emerge and From Death to Life

For the past 20+ years the Sisters have sponsored an INNER CITY IMMERSION EXPERIENCE in North Minneapolis as one of the options for Senior Project. It has been a wonderful opportunity for service in this community and to experience another part of town!

The past three years we tried something new! We organized a mission trip right here North Minneapolis! Instead of going to Guatemala or Africa a group of 8 seniors discovered missionary territory right here in the city!

“Our prayer is that this will be an experience they can carry throughout their lives.” – S. Mary Frances

This year we have 9 Visitation women who will stay at our spirituality/retreat/meeting center in the neighborhood called the St. Jane House; a young adult Vis Alum will be staying with them and also and act as chaperone.

From May 26-June 4, 2015:

  • They will have a more in depth experience of our neighborhood and the people who are our neighbors;
  • They will have many opportunities to serve the community, to interact with young children, other teens and senior citizens;
  • They will have opportunities to spread the Salesian spirit of gentle presence.
  • They will have an opportunity to build community with one another and with the Sisters.
  • It will be lots of FUN & a great contribution to North Minneapolis!

Vis Seniors 2013 Service ImmersionGenerally, each day will begin with breakfast, prayer, and off to Northside Child Development Center for the morning where they will assist the teachers of 0-5 year olds. Over the lunch hour there will be speakers from the community to help them gain insight into the root causes of poverty, and also learn about many positive initiatives in place in our community. Afternoons include gardening, monastery jobs, help with computer skills at the local technology center, and maybe even Bingo at the Adult Day Care Center!

The students will prepare and serve their meals, have time to reflect on the day, and even go out on a police ride along! Visitation’s school motto is “NOT FOR SCHOOL BUT FOR LIFE.” Our prayer is that this will be an experience they can carry throughout their lives.

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Click to hear more from past Vis Seniors on their Service Immersion Experiences.

Click to hear more from past Vis Seniors on their Service Immersion Experiences.

Visit our Video page to hear more from past Vis seniors on their Apostolic Service Immersion experiences.

Heart to Heart: Reflections on a Women’s Retreat by Sr. Suzanne

by Sr. Suzanne Homeyer, VHM

Gathering Heart to Heart: Women’s Retreat at St. Jane House

!Hola! Me llama Hermana Susanna.

That is how I began the most recent Women’s Overnight Retreat at St. Jane House. Each year for Mothers’ Day we Sisters invite the women of our neighborhood to participate in an all day retreat in honor of their nurturing presence on the north side. As a follow up we host three overnight retreats during the year for groups of 5 – 7 women who had been part of the larger gathering.

The final follow-up overnight was Bi-Lingual. That’s right, I did say Bi-Lingual. Sr. Mary Virginia and I gathered the women together for reflection, sharing and prayer. This is the first time we hosted a bi-lingual retreat. Luckily Sr. Mary Virginia was born in Mexico and speaks fluent Spanish. I studied Spanish for two years when I was in high school— that was in the early 60’s and it is only by the grace of God that I could remember how to greet the retreatants in Spanish!

“We were not only able to converse and share stories, but to laugh and cry together. We admired the beauty of each others’ lives.”

The Holy Spirit is alive and well and was very present to those of us gathered: a mother and daughter from Peru, a mom from Guatemala, a French-speaking neighbor from Nigeria, two long-time African-American neighbors and the two gringas!’ We were not only able to converse and share stories, but to laugh and cry together. We admired the beauty of each others’ lives. We worked creatively alongside one another. As part of our retreat time tougher, we created mandalas as a way of getting deeper into our own hearts — where God’s spring of love meets each of us.

“Loving Ourselves Where We Are On Life’s Journey” was our theme. We are all in mid-life someplace and regardless of our chronological age it is an appropriate time to look at where we have been, where we are now on our life’s journey,  and to appreciate how God has worked with us along the path from then until now. Joyce Rupp’s Book Dear Heart, Come Home includes poetry and journal entries, as well as reflection questions, and it is well worth the read — or at least a serious look-see by anyone needing affirmation of God’s love for them at this point on their journey.

Our closing ritual of the retreat was an affirmation circle. Each woman spoke to every other participant — affirming a quality or strength she had come to learn over the past 24 hours.

My personal ‘take-away’ from the retreat was hearing and understanding (with my limited knowledge of Spanish) that I was appreciated by my Peruvian friend because our hearts spoke to each other during the entire retreat and we didn’t need words to communicate God’s presence and love in our lives! The language of the heart promises to enrich all of our future retreats and I look forward to my next retreat and the experience of cor ad cor loquitur.

****

Engagement Resources:
To learn more about making a retreat at the monastery, click here.
For more about our ministry through St. Jane House, click here.

Breaking Bread Visitation

by Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion

How many ways are there to make community?

How many ways are there to be community?

Cheesy grits topped with cajun shrimp. An herbed biscuit paired with a freshly brewed cup of coffee. Fruit, yogurt and granola parfait next to a side of over-easy eggs. All served on an outdoor patio along West Broadway in North Minneapolis. It’s not the usual scene for our communion table, nor typical Eucharistic feast — but it is where I experienced a sacred meal this past Monday morning that took me into the heart of a Eucharistic celebration. Together, with members of the Visitation Community, in the heart of the northside community: we broke bread; we enacted a sacred ritual.

As riots were breaking out in Baltimore last week and protest marches were held across our nation, a northside organization called Appetite for Change held a grand opening for its latest operation called “Breaking Bread Cafe.” With its mission to “use food as a tool to build health, wealth and create social change,” the cafe opened just three blocks north of the monastery — almost like a prayerful response to the unrest in our world. This is where Sr. Katherine Mullin, our monastic immersion resident Brenda Lisenby, Visitation intern Cody Maynus and I dined on Monday morning.

We sat outside on the patio facing west Broadway,  our dining area sharing a border with the headquarters for Minneapolis Public Schools — situated across the street from Shiloh Temple — where Barway Collins’ funeral service was held two days prior. Together, in this space, we broke bread.

Breaking Bread Cafe: serving "Global Comfort Foods for breakfast and lunch."

Breaking Bread Cafe: serving “Global Comfort Foods for breakfast and lunch.”

In the literal sense, we split an herbed biscuit and savored bites of the comfort food. In the figurative sense, we became Eucharist for one another– sharing stories, our joy, our heart’s questions and longing. We talked about poverty and violence. We mused on missionary work and ministry. We reflected on sustainable programming and our roles in service work. We wondered about past, present and future vocations.  We laughed at ourselves and said “Amen” — all in the space of an hour spent leisurely lingering over our communion food.

It makes me wonder: How many ways are there for us to enact the Eucharist?  To be the body of Christ — communion, community,  food –for one another? As we go about our respective days, in what ways do we consciously “LIVE+ JESUS” – as our co-founders St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal urged?

And: when Appetite for Change’s founders had the vision for “Breaking Bread” as a youth training and employment program, who came up with the name? How many religious and secular traditions have bread at the center of transformation and healing? These questions, this meal, still continue to feed me and inform my prayer. I encourage your own contemplations of holy dining experiences, at this new northside cafe, and at your own local tables.