Monthly Archives: November 2015

On Pilgrimage: Reflections on Seeing Pope Francis

Pope Hopeby S. Karen Mohan, VHM

Until going to Philadelphia in late September,*  I had only seen one other Pope, and that was Pope (now Saint) John XXIII. I was 14 years old, with my Mom, my Aunt Ann and my Aunt Paddy on a special trip to Rome! We were all so excited! This took place before Pope John had “opened the window” of the Catholic Church to the modern world by convening the Second Vatican Council. The Holy Spirit was at work then and now, and we were travelling east to be a part of the energy and love surrounding Pope Francis’ presence.

 “[I]n the people, the care, the palpable faith “in the air”, I saw the power of the Spirit through this man of God and through the thousands of people standing in line with me.” — S. Karen

Driving straight through from Minneapolis to Philadelphia is a feat in itself– a 20 hour one! Travelling with three wonderful women and having the support of community, family, friends and fellow pilgrims – -all this added to our joy!   Our brother Oblates of St. Francis de Sales were offering us hospitality and we had our walking shoes and “regulation size” back packs ready.

“Life means getting our feet dirty from the dust-filled roads of life and history. All of us need to be cleansed, to be washed. All of us are being sought out by the Teacher who wants to help us resume our journey …   May this knowledge inspire us to live in solidarity, to support one another, and see the best for others.“  — Pope Francis

When I returned, people kept asking me, “Did you see Pope Francis?”   Well, I did see the Pope-mobile go by, and he must have been waving at me! However, in the people, the care, the palpable faith “in the air”, I saw the power of the Spirit through this man of God and through the thousands of people standing in line with me.

SKaren Mohan 1966 crop

S. Karen Mohan, circa, 1971


This unique moment in the life of the Church and of the world is converging with my own personal history.
When I made my first vows as a Visitation Sister at the St. Louis Monastery on June 6, 1966, the Church’s windows were being opened, the II Vatican Council was in session, and a young Jesuit in Argentina was living his commitment, preparing (though he did not know it) for this moment in history.

As Pope Francis said in Philadelphia to the Inmates of the Curran-Fromhold Prison, “Life means getting our feet dirty from the dust-filled roads of life and history. All of us need to be cleansed, to be washed. All of us are being sought out by the Teacher who wants to help us resume our journey …   May this knowledge inspire us to live in solidarity, to support one another, and see the best for others.“

May we do just that as we live our commitments, one day at a time.

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*Click to see photos from S. Karen’s trip to Philadelphia to see Pope Francis

Advent 2015: From Darkness to Light

The following comes from our community’s planning for this Advent 2015 season. We share to inspire your own planning and journey through this sacred time of year.

From Pax Christi USA

Theme: Through Darkness to Light

We are People of Hope because we believe in both the Promise of Darkness with its capacity for germination, its deep fecundity; AND we believe in the Promise of Light with its capacity for wisdom, guidance, warmth and its ever increasing understanding.

Can we experience such a life giving cycle when Darkness seems to engulf our world? How are we planting seeds of Hope right now?

The people of Hebrew Scriptures and ourselves and all people, hope for the same things: lasting peace, sufficient food, tranquil lives and an end to suffering. Early peoples were afraid that when the darkness came that was the end. They came to appreciate the cycle of life…the days, the seasons… from experience. Can we experience such a life giving cycle when Darkness seems to engulf our world? How are we planting seeds of Hope right now?

Another question we are asking: How can we take Advent to our neighbors?

Scripture

This liturgical year we use Cycle C in the lectionary. All Sunday gospel readings this year are from Luke. They are in a reverse-chronological order with the Second Coming of Jesus on the first Sunday and the Visitation on the fourth Sunday. The in between weeks are devoted to John the Baptist proclaiming the coming of the kingdom and the way to follow Jesus. John the Baptist points to Jesus, Light of the World, drawing us through the darkness (the shortest days of the year) to the ever-emerging light, all through the readings. We hear this theme repeated through the words of the prophets this year—Jeremiah, Baruch, Zephaniah and Micah. (This year we do not hear from Isaiah on Sundays as in other liturgical years.) The second reading on the Sundays from Paul’s letters encourage disciples to live in the way of following the Light of the World (Jesus.)

Resources

“The Promise of Light: Reflections for Advent and Christmas 2015.”  (Personal devotional resource of Pax Christi USA)  Individuals can reflect on the readings, the stories, and recall their own similar stories and encounters as well as receive an invitation to ask, “How might I be the “promise of light” in God’s world today?”

Fed by God’s abundance –A Holiday Outreach letter from S. Mary Frances

In Thanksgiving!

A tradition bridging and feeding communities

Greetings and Blessings to faithful visitors to our website, Facebook, Twitter, and on and on!

We are on the threshold of that time of year when we celebrate cherished holiday traditions with family and friends— a time to hold close the relationships we treasure. Over the years we and our neighbors here in North Minneapolis have ‘grown’ a cycle of traditions that have bound us together as community.

“Gain hearts by kindness.” — St. Jane de Chantal

Many years ago, as campus minister at Visitation Grade and High School in Mendota Heights, I coordinated many holiday outreach projects and was constantly amazed by the generosity of these young people and their families.

I will never forget the wise words of Archbishop John R. Roach at our all school Mass. Standing before the vast array of food that had been collected, he said,

“Young People, this is great, but I want you to know that while this abundance represents an act of charity and love, it is also a work of justice— an opportunity to see that all will be fed with God’s abundance.

Turkey Tuesday Abundance

Turkey Tuesday Abundance

When I moved to North Minneapolis to found an urban monastery with three other Sisters from St. Louis, Mendota Visitation followed us. My ‘guestimate’ is that roughly 80 percent of Mendota Vis outreach takes place here. This sharing of abundance continues to this day, and we and our neighbors in North Minneapolis are the grateful recipients of this outpouring of love as a bridge is built between our two communities.

For the past 25 years, Visitation has partnered with our neighbors carrying out a wonderful annual tradition to deliver about 125 Thanksgiving baskets to people in need of a good holiday family meal. Students pair off with neighbors, go to the homes and share a prayer along with a basket with groceries, a turkey and a baking pan. This tradition has brought folks together who might not otherwise have met.

After the turkey and trimmings have been enjoyed, the Sisters are still here to companion and affirm our neighbors in their goodness and love.

Several other community building traditions have grown up. As the holidays progress, we hope to share photos of some the activities as they unfold.

St. Jane de Chantal has a maxim that applies here: “Gain hearts by kindness.” Many relationships have grown and deepened through the years because of simple acts of kindness on the part of Mendota Visitation and many others. After the turkey and trimmings have been enjoyed, the Sisters are still here to companion and affirm our neighbors in their goodness and love. That is the joy of living here.

I want to thank ahead of time the hundreds (thousands?) of people who have helped us develop cherished holiday traditions with our neighbors! We call it HOPE! We call it JUSTICE! We call it LOVE!

Happy Holidays!

Mary Frances Reis, VHM

Praying Exodus: Reflections on God leading Community

Exodus Prayers: The sea of red and blue light along Interstate 94

Exodus Prayers: The sea of red and blue light along closed Westbound Interstate 94

by Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion 

“Exodus is a story of a people, not a person – that God leads in community.” – Amy Long, Women of Prayer discernment participant

With the whirring sounds of a helicopter overhead and the flashing lights of emergency vehicles passing outside our windows along Emerson Avenue North in Minneapolis, we convened a community of prayer, story, reflection, and song.  Our community of discerning women gathered at St. Jane House last night for session 4 of the vocation series entitled, “The Prepositions of Call: Reframing Suffering and Vocation.”

Against this backdrop of protest sounds and justice-seeking circumstances surrounding the shooting of Jamar Clark by a local police officer, we began our evening ringing the singing bowl and moving into silence.

“What path is God leading us on? How do we know the wilderness in our journeys? Where are our pillars of cloud and fire? How is this journey, that we are all on, a communal experience toward freedom?”

As facilitators for the series, S. Katherine Mullin, Karen Wight Hoogheem and I gave voice to our distraction, marking the reality outside our doors. In honor of Jamar Clark’s life, we had a candle burning for him and his family — and by extension, our human family the world over – from North Minneapolis to other communities knowing upheaval from violence –including Paris, Beirut, Russia, Libya, Afghanistan, Syria, Palestine, Yemen.

We entered into prayer.

As part of every session, a member of our series facilitation team leads the participants in a form of prayer — meant to inspire and support women in their “listening and leading from within.”  Last night’s experience of Lectio Divina was led by Karen, who took us through Exodus 13:17-22. In this Old Testament passage, we heard the story of Moses and the Israelites being lead out of Egypt. God takes them on a circuitous route through the desert, into the wilderness, revealing himself in a pillar of cloud by day – and fire by night.

Pillars of Fire, photo from protester camp on Plymouth

Pillars of Fire, photo from protester camp on Plymouth

As Karen lead, she invited us to see ourselves in the flight of the Israelites and immerse ourselves in the literal and imagined details of the scripture. She invited us to listen for resonant lines in the text and for God’s invitation to each of us in our present circumstances. She asked us to consider the ways we know suffering, and the way God is faithful to us in leading us along the road to freedom.

As the scripture was repeated, the darkness of the Israelites path at night came alive in my mind. And too, was this flicker of light from fire, the smell of smoke in close proximity, the palpable feeling of anxiety that comes with uncertainty and next steps, and this potent question, “Will you follow me into this wilderness, into freedom, Melissa?”

The whole time, the whirring of the very real helicopters overhead buzzed in my ears; the faces of men, women, and children, who were marching along Plymouth Avenue when I made my way in traffic an hour earlier, came into my mind’s eye.

Together, in prayer, we asked, “What path is God leading us on? How do we know wilderness in our journeys? Where are our pillars of cloud and fire? Where is liberation? How is this journey, that we are all on, a communal experience toward freedom?”

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This Saturday, Visitation Sisters all around the world will renew their vows. As they make their way toward this feast day, they remind me, and all of us, of our commitments before God. And too, of God’s faithfulness to us.

Join me, the Women of Prayer, the Visitation Sisters, Jamar’s family, and people grieving life lost to violence all over the world, in the prayer of Exodus. Together, let us recall that our journey toward liberation is bound up in God’s love and promises for all of us.

The Law of Hope: Our friend Dorice Law interviewed*

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Dorice Law: Chaplain, counselor, confidant

By Dave Nimmer, Guest Blogger

Dorice Law leads a life that’s taken her in different directions and destinations. The 60-year-old grandmother has an office in St. Louis Park, a job in Bloomington, a divinity degree from St. John’s in Collegeville, a home in Plymouth and friends on Facebook.

But her heart remains in North Minneapolis, among the friends at Visitation Monastery and the faithful at Ascension Church, where she first met the sisters as they were discerning what their future would be. “I approached them right outside the church,” Law recalled, “and I told them, “Well, Lord knows we need you right up here.”

Law was born in Chicago, the seventh of eight children. She moved to Minneapolis when she was 16 and graduated from North High School.   But she went to Catholic schools in Chicago and was nurtured by the women of the church.

“I grew up standing behind a nun’s big, black skirt and feeling safe and secure,” she said.   “That was the way the world looked to me.”

That confidence enabled Law to raise three children, go to college, earn two master’s degrees, teach in high school, recruit for a community college, run her own insurance agency and, now, serve as a chaplain to a senior-living facility in Bloomington. It’s the role she was made for: Chaplain, counselor, confidant.

“I am convinced that I am good at this because people need someone to pray with them – for them. Since I was a kid, I could pray at the drop of a hat.”

“My personality is to be honest and frank and I am that way with the people at Friendship Village (where she serves as chaplain).   I tell them it’s impossible to shock me, that they can tell me the truth. Everyone wants to be loved and understood.”

For those closer to the end than the beginning, Law has a message of hope. “I tell them all that is God is good. All that is bad is NOT God.”  Her spiritual work is about grace, forgiveness and trust in a loving God.

That doesn’t surprise the Visitation sisters. “Dorice was someone who welcomed us and kind of introduced us to North Minneapolis,” said Mary Frances Reis.   “From the very beginning, on a Sunday morning outside of church, I thought of her as transparent, honest, generous and genuine.”

That hasn’t changed in 26 years and neither has Law’s commitment to the nuns and their ministry.

“I had always made a commitment,” she said, “that anything and everything the nuns had going I’d be a part of. I think I was at their very first study group on the Virgin Mary. This is a place where you can be yourself, speak your mind and not worry about a kick-out.”

The sisters not only didn’t kick her out, they took her in – into the family. Law recalled she got dressed for her wedding in 1991 at the Fremont house. The marriage lasted eight years; the fealty to Visitation is everlasting.

Law’s always believed the nuns accepted her for who she is, how she is and as she is. She said it was the recommendation letter from Sister Mary Frances that facilitated her acceptance into the School of Theology at St. John’s.

Although Law doesn’t live in North Minneapolis any longer, two of her children and her sister do and she’s over there every Sunday morning for church. She’s aware of the neighborhood’s pride, promise and possibilities.    She’s also concerned about the guns, gangs, drugs and violence.

The legal system makes it difficult to change things, Law said. “Once the man is a felon, he is effectively separated from his family. You don’t rent a place where the father is a felon. And if you have a job not making enough to pay the rent, it’s hard to have any hope.”

Hope is what Dorice Law is all about.

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To see a video of the interview with Dorice, visit our YouTube Channel.
* This is the second 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. 
LIVE + JESUS!