Monthly Archives: July 2016

World Youth Day Pilgrimage 2016

WYD Pilgrim: Aimee Fritsch

WYD Pilgrim: Aimee Fritsch

By Aimee Fritsch, Visitation Resident Lay Community

I can’t believe the day is finally here; I’m writing this blog post from 20,000 feet, on my way to Germany. I’ll be there for a few days before traveling on to Krakow, Poland, meeting up with a friend from college as well as 2 million of my new best friends, including Pope Francis!

World Youth Day, held every 2 or 3 years is a gathering of 16-35 year-old Catholics from all around the globe. It’s a week of chatecesis, community, and celebration. I had the privilege to go in 2011 when it was held in Madrid, and I can attest to how pilgrims take over an entire major city- it’s beautiful chaos.

This year, I’m so looking forward to that energy and community. Grad school, while a worthwhile endeavor, took a lot out of me this year. Studying systems of inequality and injustice while working in the field, like I do at Listening House, is a lot to carry. I’m looking forward to being rejuvenated by the enthusiasm that everyone brings to this gathering.

In a special way, I’m also looking forward to reuniting with friends from Italy and France I met in Madrid at WYD 2011- thanks to the power of social media we’ve stayed in touch, and plan on meeting up once we’re all in Krakow. Also, like most Millennials, especially Catholics, I’m a huge Pope Francis fan! With so many people I probably won’t even get close to him, but just to hear him speak in person, to celebrate Mass with him and the millions of others outdoors Sunday morning after an all-night vigil, and to get his blessing, I’m thrilled. It feels like history in the making.

Pray for me, as I go, as I’ll pray for you. And look for a follow-up post- I promise to share stories and photos once I’m back in the States!

Summer Reflections from the Monastery

S. Mary Frances and Ben; CYC

S. Mary Frances and Ben; CYC camp

Sr. Mary Frances Reis, VHM

Greeting to our Faithful web site and Facebook readers!

As I compose this overview of our summer on the Northside, we are grieving and praying with families all over who have known the tragedy and horror of violence these past weeks. Our prayers go across the river to Falcon Heights and St. Paul, down to Baton Rouge and over to Dallas, and now across the Atlantic to Nice, France; we lift the world over.

Here at the monastery, I characterize our summer days as “gently alive” — filled with “Hello’s” and “How are you’s?” on our front porch, from neighbors, and as we walk to and from the Girard and Fremont Houses of our Monastery.  Children often need a little help with their bikes, these days, hoping for a treat or drink to go with it when they stop by. Neighbors are tending to their yards and we, to our gardens.  Summer is a perfect time to bond with our families here!

And, yes, there is a spike in violent crime across the Twin Cities; our North Minneapolis community is no exception. While a very small percentage of Northsiders are responsible for the headlines you are reading, many neighbors carry the pain and sorrow of recent killings. On the heels of Jamar Clark’s death last Fall, our community has also experienced the murder of a grandmother shot in crossfire while sitting in a van at a stop sign, and a young man shot to death in the parking lot behind the Cookie Cart. Last week, on the heels of Alton Sterling’s and Philando Castile’s deaths at the hands of police, came the shooting of two toddlers seventeen blocks away. Too often in the coverage of these crimes we read: “No suspects in these cases.”

Pope FrancisAs I ponder the suffering of the survivors, I find some consolation in the words of Pope Francis:

 “I don’t know what to say to you, but the Lord does know what to say to you…All I can do is keep silence and walk with you all with my silent heart.” – Pope Francis

We trust that our prayerful presence and unconditional welcome helps to ease the pain while families and friends tell their Sacred Stories and seek justice for their loved ones.

We speak the victim’s names. We lift survivor’s stories. We open our hearts to all who grieve and hope. We pray.

Sr. Karen and her mom

Sr. Karen and her mom

Here are a few musings on our summer days, that extend our prayer and hope for the world:

  • Visitation High School Seniors helped us kick off the summer through their Immersion experience of two weeks. (See photo albums: Welcome Visitation School: Service Project at NAZ )

  • Sister Karen’s Golden Jubilee of Vows brought family and friends from near and far! What an opportunity to ‘showcase’ our beloved community here. (FB Photo Album.)

  • Our dear friend and mentor Sister Jean (of Cookie Cart fame and lots more) went Home to God in early June. People loved by her ‘came out of the woodwork’ to sing her praises and express their gratitude for her outpoured life, spanning over 35 years of tireless ministry. (Read more: “Madonna of the Streets”.)

  • YTM friends and Emily

    YTM friends and Emily

    We rejoiced in the opportunity to sponsor and send off young people to a variety of camps: Catholic Youth Camp in McGreggor, MN; Salesian Leadership Camp in Michigan; and Youth in Theology and Ministry Camp at St.John’s University in Collegeville, MN. The youth, vitality and energy of ‘our kids’ keeps us young! Thanks to the many benefactors that made these camps possible. (See pictures of: CYC Send Off; YTM presenters;; and #SLC2016 on Twitter.)

  • Bryce Johnson, husband of Jody , (Vis Companion team), retired after a rich and fruitful ministry in the Methodist tradition. Congrats, Bryce, and thanks for inviting us to celebrate in such a memorable way with you, your family and friends.

  • We hosted the celebration of a very special Quinceanera. Jennifer Meraz’ family and the Sisters planned a beautiful Mass and Fiesta to give her that extra ‘boost’ into womanhood. We love you, Jennifer! (FB pix.)

  • We had our very own version of Summer Olympics for our families! Vicki Bailey outdid herself once again with fun, games, prizes in the form of household goods and summer toys, complete with an Olympic medal for each participant and a door prize for each family! Kudos, Vicki !!! You are the best! Thanks for helping our kids to be kids! (FB pix.)

  • Juste and neighborhood children

    Juste and neighborhood children

    Juste Siauciunaite, our summer guest from Lithuania, brings joy to our community and to our Somalian children as she teaches them English 3 times each week. She and Sister Karen even took them to their first ever 4th of July Fireworks display! (FB Pix.)

  • Sisters Mary Margaret and Brenda attended the Monastic Institute at St. John’s University focusing on Monastic Profession. Sister Silvie from our Georgetown Visitation joined them.

  • In all of this summertime activity, we continue to make pilgrimage with Heidi Schleif, our resident lay community co-founder, and her friend Monica, as they make the Via de Compestela (FB pix.)

  • Of course summer will not be complete without a family outing to Como park and our annual Back to School party!

  • Within the next few weeks, Sr. Karen will be traveling to Annecy, France for a special conference on the Treatise on the Love of God by St.Francis de Sales. Bon Voyage, Karen!

We’ll cap off our summer with an intensive community day to reflect on the quality of our Visitation way of life in this urban setting. (Read more about this in our latest newsletter.)

May Jesus Live in each of your hearts and those of our families and loved ones!


Madonna of the Streets

By Sr. Mary Frances Reis, VHM

From the archives: Sister Jean and a community of friends at one of our first Christmas Liturgies in the 'Hood. The presider, Father Greg Tolaas, has also gone home to God.

From the Vis archives: Sister Jean and a community of friends at one of our first Christmas Liturgies in the ‘Hood. The presider, Father Greg Tolaas, has also gone home to God.

We first met Sister Jean Thuerauf in August 1989 at her first Cookie Cart Bakery she started in North Minneapolis. “If you are moving to North Minneapolis you need to meet Sister Jean,” advised our friend, Dick Rice. As we walked into the un- air-conditioned bakery that 90+ degree day, Sister Jean exclaimed, “Welcome, you’re here!!! I have been praying for 3 years that God would send a community of Sisters with whom I could pray. You’re here!!!” We had never met Sister Jean, nor she us. Thus began as 27 years relationship; she introduced us to the ‘Hood and we shared our life of prayer and community with her. Confirmation of the Holy Spirit on both sides!

“Welcome! You’re here!!! I have been praying for 3 years that God would send a community of Sisters with whom I could pray. You’re here!” – Sister Jean

Sister Jean, the “Mother Theresa of the Northside,” completed her earthly mission on the Northside on June 10, 2016, but her presence is felt and the miracles she lived by keep happening. Here’s one of them:

We had received word that Sr.Jean was dying the morning of her passing. That very day, at 12:00 noon, three men were in our chapel where we were anointing and blessing them for the work they were about to begin: meeting young teens affiliated with gangs on our streets, usually armed, and offering them friendship, love and jobs. When we shared the news of Sr. Jean’s imminent passing, the tears flowed. You see, these were Sister Jean’s 1st Cookie Cart kids.

(Desmond, Jimmy and Thomas had helped paint the first Cookie Cart — an actual cart built by a friend; baked cookies with Sr. Jean at her home, rolled the cart around the neighborhood, sold the freshly baked cookies @ $1.00 per 7, and earned enough money-$5,000- to help her open her first ‘real’ bakery on Emerson Avenue North.)

Upon hearing that Sister Jean was dying, the men accepted our invitation to take them over to Catholic Eldercare to thank her, before she breathed her last, for caring more about them than anyone they had ever known. We arrived an hour too late, but we did go up to her room and give our condolences to her nieces as they packed away the few belongings she possessed in a few brown paper sacks. Among these was Sister Jean’s ‘Star’ (a meteor that had fallen from the sky) that she had shown these kids many times, reminding them that we are all made of star dust.

These men had experienced the unconditional love of Sr. Jean, as did hundreds of Northsiders who met her on the streets, welcomed her into their homes, and, yes, baked those delicious cookies.

As one of the ‘Originals’ shared a prayer, one thing was certain. These men had experienced the unconditional love of Sr. Jean, as did hundreds of Northsiders who met her on the streets, welcomed her into their homes, and, yes, baked those delicious cookies.

desmond and thomas

Desmond and Thomas were among the first Cookie Cart kids. They are pictured here at Jimmy’s funeral.

The following week, Jimmy, Desmond, Willie and Thomas came to Sr. Jean’s wake, reminisced with her family and friends, and searched through photo albums to find their pictures and treasure Sacred ‘Sr. Jean’ Stories. “That’s the day she gave us all bikes!” “ That’s the day she gave me a birthday gift”….and on and on. There was energy throughout the Church that evening-an energy born of the LOVE Sr. Jean had for each of these kids and many like them- now 40+ years old. We re-lived it with them and praised the God Who was/is her first Love.

There is both a poignant conclusion to this short tribute to Sr.Jean. The day after her funeral, Jimmy died suddenly and tragically. Many questions surround his passing, but there is no doubt in my mind that Jimmy was welcomed into the Kingdom with unconditional love by Sister Jean. She cherished her Cookie Cart kids. May she and Jimmy know the full embrace of our Loving and Compassionate God.