Monthly Archives: October 2015

On Pilgrimage: Sr. Karen Mohan Reflects

Journey _ Photo_by_Melissa_Borgmann-Kiemde

“We shall not cease from exploration…”

by Sr. Karen Mohan, VHM

In my early years of teaching middle grade girls at Visitation Academy in St. Louis, I once decorated the September classroom bulletin board with the Chinese proverb, “A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins With a Single Step”. I’ve always been drawn to the theme of “journey” or “pilgrimage” as a metaphor for life, so much so that when I made my final vows as a Visitation Sister in 1971, the front of my invitation read, “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started, and know the place for the first time…” (T.S. Eliot)

With the “spiritual“ compass given us through our Baptism, we are active participants, and it is through our choices that our life pilgrimage reaches its goal.” 

What is it about a pilgrimage that is so evocative? Maybe it’s because our whole life is like a pilgrimage. The people, events and experiences on this journey are not “dumped” on us as if we were passive recipients of some destiny outside ourselves. With the “spiritual“ compass given us through our Baptism, we are active participants, and it is through our choices that our life pilgrimage reaches its goal.

When I hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, I was aware that it was essential to be very observant and deliberate about each “next” step. Other times, like when I was recovering from a broken ankle and had to keep my foot elevated for a few weeks, those steps became more like a metaphor for an inner walk that requires a different type of attentiveness.

Currently I’m doing some remote preparation for a golden marker moment on my life pilgrimage. Next June 6, 2016, I will celebrate my 50th anniversary of religious profession.   As part of this preparation, I will occasionally share some reflections on this blog about the  people, events and experiences of my life as a Visitation Sister. Please feel free to respond to my musings!

Karen Mohan, VHM

Sr. Karen Mohan

In the spirit of “pilgrimage”, I will end with one of my favorite poems from Wendell Berry:

We travellers, walking to the sun, can’t see

Ahead, but looking back the very light

That blinded us shows us the way we came,

Along which blessings now appear, risen

As if from sightlessness to sight, and we,

By blessing brightly lit, keep going toward

That blessed light that yet to us is dark.

A Hidden Ministry


Thank you Vince and Joe!

by S. Mary Frances Reis, VHM

Twice a year, Vince Woldock along with a fellow worker, delivers a cord of wood for our fireplace.  This came about because our friend, Joe Neumier, (who is himself an avid reader) saw a human interest piece about our monastery on channel 5.  It featured  “Reading Day by the fireplace.”  He was so impressed to see neighborhood kids from North Minneapolis enjoying the warmth of the fire and reading books that he started a tradition that has lasted some 20 years.

Our ministry of prayer, presence and hospitality is enhanced each day as we welcome women, men and children to our monastery.  Joe’s hidden ministry has been appreciated by us and our friends through the years.  Thank you, Joe!  May you be blessed by this kind, kind act.   You and Vince are in our prayers all winter long!


Vis Companion Profile: Bob Briscoe*

Bob Briscoe, Vis Companion

Bob Briscoe, Vis Companion

by Dave Nimmer, Guest Blogger

Bob Briscoe is a regular at the monthly, Monday-night Salesian Spirituality Meetings at the Visitation Monastery. He is one of a handful of men among a roomful of women and, along with his wife Khalilah, the former Chicago cop seems to fit right in with conversations about love, understanding and gentleness.

“We are companions on the journey, given to one another as helpers in doing God’s work.” — St. Jane de Chantal

“These monthly meetings lift my soul,” Briscoe said. “What is really good is to see the young people there, who are genuinely trying to help others in the community. That makes an old man feel good about the younger generation.”

The 73-year-old has nurtured his softer side but he is no pushover.  Briscoe defines what a good man is and what a good man does. He and his wife have been raising his 14-year-old grandson, Kameron, since his mother (Bob’s daughter Kontente) died. Briscoe and Khalilah have five grown daughters and two sons from previous marriages.

Bob and his wife Khalilah

Bob and his wife Khalilah

The wisdom he’s imparting to Kameron includes some of those “little virtues” that are the basis of Salesian thought and spirit: patience, humility, honesty.

“I’m also trying to teach him the lessons that the sisters give to me,” Briscoe said. “I tell Kameron that you have to give back. And you can’t get discouraged in the bad or tough times. You can always give your troubles to God.”

Briscoe has known some tough times and good times in his life. He joined the National Guard after graduating from Corpus Christi High School in Chicago. After his discharge, he was a motorman on the “L” in Chicago. And in 1971 he was sworn in to the Chicago Police Department, working the streets for ten years as a patrolman.

He left the force in 1981 and spent several years as a construction laborer. He came to Minneapolis in 2006 and it was no accident that Bob discovered the Visitation sisters. He went to Catholic schools in Chicago and married Khalilah in Ascension Church in north Minneapolis.   That’s where he met Sister Mary Frances.

“She came right up and introduced herself to me,” he said. “And that was the beginning. Being around the sisters remind me of the first women in my life. They live those virtues they preach, right out in the community every day. And they do it for everyone they meet.”

Bob and grandson Cameron

Bob and grandson Kameron

Briscoe’s also serving the community as a member of the Minneapolis Police Conduct Review Panel since 2012.  The panel investigates complaints of misconduct and brutality and makes recommendations to the chief. The former cop sees the issues from both sides of the badge and he passes that perspective along to Kameron. “Be polite. Do not resist. Do not run,” he said. “And call me as soon as possible.”

The Vis sisters appreciate Briscoe’s presence at their functions, and what he has done for them personally. “He fills his day with meaningful activities,” said Sister Karen Mohan. “He took me to chemotherapy (for breast cancer) a couple of times and sat with me.

“He is simply a willing spirit, ready to do anything. He’ll come to help us put labels on our newsletters.   And he’ll be a surrogate father to his grandson.”

For Briscoe, the gain for his soul is worth any pain to his body. “Kameron helps keep me young,” he said. “His curiosity, the questions he asks, always keep me looking for answers. I am always telling him to pray and that helps me to remember to pray.”

* This is the first in a series of profiles by journalist Dave Nimmer featuring Visitation 
Companions and northside neighbors. We hope you enjoy these stories of our dear friends -- 
as they reflect the blessed community that surrounds the monastery and sustains us
 in our ministry of mutuality. 

Bridges Across the City: The Story behind the Invitation to Connect

Click for details or to register

Click for details or to register

“I think most of us have stories that break us open. The challenge is to find places that offer healing.”

– Maura Schnorbach, Social Justice Coordinator at St. Patrick’s Church, Edina

On Thursday, October 29, the Visitation Sisters and several northside neighborhood friends will travel to St. Patricks’ Church in Edina to share a meal, swap stories and spend a few hours together in prayer. If you are reading this, and are in the area, you are invited to come and be part of this evening!


The following reflection comes from Maura Schnorbach, the Social Justice Coordinator who has lead the collaboration between St. Patricks, the Sisters and neighborhood friends in bringing this Fall Forum evening together. We share this with her permission.


Maura Schnorbach

“Spending time with the sisters and neighbors has been a great blessing to all of us. We have felt privileged to have a glimpse of their lives in North Minneapolis.

Someone said at one of our gatherings at the Monastery, “it all starts with conversations”… The Pope has called us to, “encounter” one another. I feel that our gatherings at the Visitation Sisters’ Monastery have created a space to experience the sacred. This experience was only possible by the decades of work– [of prayer and presence]– by the sisters.


Part of my motivation to meet the sisters was dealing with an old friend’s daughter’s death. She was murdered last spring in St. Paul by her boyfriend. She was a year younger than my daughter (21). Although they didn’t grow up together, I am struck by how different their lives were. My daughter just graduated from UW Madison and is working on a Master’s Degree in Accounting. Michelle was an only child and left a baby behind. Her boyfriend will spend his life incarcerated. The death haunted me for several months, because I thought of the unimaginable loss…. Gun violence has become so routine in the US that I don’t think many of us realize that in some communities it is part of the landscape.

I was trying to find a way to hold a community conversation about violence and the intersection of hope and faith. At the same time, we wanted to focus on the Gospel, and not get into the, “left vs. right” political arguments. St. Patrick’s has a long tradition of holding respectful community conversations about important issues. We want to engage, challenge and invite people of faith to get involved. I also believe in the power of sharing stories and faith… Inviting the sisters to share their work seemed like the perfect fit. The sisters wanted to include their neighbors. We had several conversations to see if this could be a collaborative event that we could all create together.


Last year, we focused on elder issues on two evenings. One night focused on Homeless Youth and Affordable Housing. The previous year, we invited Fr. Larry Snyder. Our focus that year was pathways out of poverty. We featured:  Catholic Charities, Risen Christ, Cristo Rey, The Lift Garage and Finnegan’s Beer. Our goal is to focus on transformational justice work.


Date: Thursday, October 29, 2015Time: 6-8:00 p.m., Registration begins at 5:30 p.m.Location: St. Martin’s Hall, Church of St. Patrick-Edina, 6820 St. Patrick’s Lane, Edina, MN 55439

To register go to St. Patrick’s website at or call Maura Schnorbach in Social Justice at 952-941-3164. There is no cost, but reservations are requested by October 26.

==>Please feel free to circulate with colleagues, friends and neighbors.<==

“Fed UP” — Next “Movies with Jane” on Tuesday, October 20, 6pm

Join us for this documentary viewing.

Join us Tuesday, Oct 20th, at 6pm for Movies with Jane!

We have another Movies with Jane event coming up! On Tuesday, October 20, at 6 PM, I invite you to join us at St. Jane House to watch and discuss Fed Up, a documentary revealing the health facts behind processed food.

WHEN: Tuesday, October 20, 2015.
Doors open at 5:30pm; Dinner at 6pm; Film at 6:30pm
WHERE: St. Jane House: 1403 Emerson Avenue North, Minneapolis, MN 55411
This Movies with Jane event will be especially fun because we have two additional treats for the evening. First, we’ll be joined by Molly Mogren-Katt, Brian Mogren’s niece, who has personally talked to the filmmaker and has agreed to help lead the discussion. Second, we’ll precede the movie with a healthy, home-made dinner: we will provide squash soup and artisan bread, and you are welcome to contribute a home-made item as well if you would like.
Some of you are familiar with our Movies with Jane events, but for those who are not, Movies with Jane is a series of thought-provoking films shown at St. Jane House that inspire and challenge us to become better people. Our hope is that Fed Up will challenge us to see what we are feeding our bodies and inspire us to be a little kinder to ourselves.
I hope to see you there.
-Anna Dourgarian

Women’s Retreat registrations are being accepted!

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

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

Dear Friends,

As you may already know we try to have three mini-retreats that are follow-ups to the “Women’s Retreat” held last spring at Ascension. These follow ups are overnight on Friday until 3 pm on Saturday.
WHAT: Seasons of our Lives – Overnight Women’s Retreat
WHERE: St. Jane House, 1403 Emerson Avenue N, Minneapolis, MN 55411
WHEN: 5:30pm Friday to 3pm Saturday
October 23 and 24, 2015
February 26 and 27, 2016
April 8 and 9, 2016.
RSVP: to S. Suzanne by email or cell phone. (612)501-5096
We would like to invite you as a former participant to attend one of these retreats.  Jody Tigges and I will be leading the one Oct. 23 and 24. We will be looking at the Seasons of Our Lives –particularly autumn. There will be input, time for sharing, a creative project and some time set aside for being outside to experience this season.
Space is limited. Please contact me by e-mail or leave a message on my cell phone (612)501-5096 to sign up or if you have questions.
There is no charge for this time away…We will begin with supper at 6 pm and you may settle in beginning at 5:30 pm.
I hope you will prayerfully consider these mini-retreat options and choose one that works for you. Sisters and friends will facilitate.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Sr. Suzanne for the Sisters