Monthly Archives: October 2016

Door Ministry Changes Lives: OURS, 26 Years ago!

Turning Point Friends: Sr. Mary Frances, Marsha, Dr. Peter Hayden

by Sr. Mary Frances Reis, VHM

Twenty six years ago, on our one-year anniversary in the neighbhorhood, a gentleman by the name of Peter Hayden came to our door with a gift of individual filet mignon steaks for each of us. He also had a request. He told us he had a volunteer opportunity open. We could not imagine what four Caucasian Catholic Sisters could offer Turning Point, a culturally specific African American drug treatment program.

Dr. Hayden’s answer: PRAYER.

Without prayer and spirituality there is no recovery. If you make a commitment to pray daily for my Turning Point Family, we will mow your grass, shovel your walks, move your furniture, load your wood. You name it.”

Thus began a relationship with Turning Point that has lasted twenty six years.   We pray daily for the grace of sobriety for each client, and our brothers answer our calls for help on a regular basis. One of the most humorous was when we accidently landed our car in a snow bank; with one swift lift, three guys freed our vehicle!

(For me, personally, this initial encounter with Peter was a confirmation from the Holy Spirit that we are exactly where She wants us to be.)

Receiving this gift...

Receiving this gift…*

Each year Turning Point honors us Sisters with a gift in appreciation for our prayerful presence. This year it was presented at the Alumni Celebration held at the Urban League*. The beautiful rug we received is a loving and gentle reminder of where we all began: answering the door, welcoming in Jesus. Isn’t it a beautiful marker that might serve as a “welcome mat” for the most seeking among us?

Please join us in prayer for Turning Point — this wonderful organization in our community, that reaches and welcomes and affirms all those in our community desiring transformation, recovery!



*Click to see more pictures from this Turning Point event.

Our Friends: The Ochoa Family

By Dave Nimmer, Guest Blogger

The Ochoa Family

The Ochoa Family

When Maria and Pedro Ochoa came to Minneapolis in September, 1994 – having fled the turmoil, unrest and violence in their native Guatemala – they were seeking a better life for themselves and their family.

Since then, they’ve learned English, found a job, got an education, secured a driver’s license, bought a house and, oh yes, raised four children. One of them has a bachelor’s degree from St. Catherine’s, one is enrolled at the University of Minnesota and two are attending Benilde-St. Margaret’s High School, with plans to go to college.

“The Ochoa’s are people of integrity and goodness and faith. They are bringing up their children with values. They are the kind of people we want in the United States.” –S. Mary Virginia speaking to the Ochoa immigration attorney

That’s not bad for a family the U.S. government was seeking to deport in 2007 (Pedro, Maria and the oldest daughter, Marilyn). Not only did they not get deported, they became U.S. citizens, thanks to their dogged persistence and perseverance and a little help from the Visitation Sisters.

The family first met the Sisters at Ascension Church in 2003 and they sponsored the Ochoa girls to the Catholic Youth Camp on Big Sandy Lake near McGregor, MN.   Marilyn recalls they had a fine time and tried to repay the Sisters by doing chores around their house.

Pedro Jr., 14, remembers getting gifts from the Sisters, including Halloween costumes, swim togs and school supplies. “I think I always got my school supplies from the Sisters,” he says. “I don’t think we ever bought ‘em.” He’s now a freshman at Benilde-St. Margaret’s and his sister, Andrea, is a senior there, with plans to become a pediatrician.

Another daughter, Silvia, 20, is attending the University of Minnesota, majoring in economics. Marilyn, 24, has an undergraduate degree in theology and chemistry from St. Catherine’s University and now works at North Point Clinic. She’s planning to attend the University of Minnesota and enroll in the School of Pharmacy.

Pedro Ochoa, Sr.

Pedro Ochoa, Sr.

Pedro Sr. works for a medical company, Mar Cor, that makes filtration and purification systems, some of which are used in portable dialysis machines. For Pedro, this is the job he’s wanted after years of working for firms where he waxed floors, cleaned buildings and catered meals.

“I like the company,” he says, “because when you’re in the medical field there’s always business and customers. And you are helping sick people. I’ve been to a clinic to see those we are helping with our dialysis machines. I always try to do my best.”

Doing his best didn’t stop U.S. immigration authorities from starting deportation proceedings, contending the Ochoa’s no longer needed asylum in the U.S. and had no green cards.

The family hired a lawyer to make their case: They were working, paying taxes, obeying the laws, raising good children, being helpful neighbors and honoring their new country. The lawyer cost money and so would someone to translate Spanish documents into English and vice versa. Enter Sister Mary Virginia Schmidt.  

“She speaks and understands Spanish really good,” Ochoa says. “When we were threatened with deportation, she was right there by our side. All our documents had to be translated and that would have cost us a fortune. Sister Mary Virginia did that for nothing.”

She says the pleasure was hers.

“Their lawyer asked me why I was doing this,” says Schmidt. “I replied that the Ochoa’s are people of integrity and goodness and faith. They are bringing up their children with values. They are the kind of people we want in the United States.

“When they (authorities) dropped the deportation orders, Pedro and Maria took me to lunch and we celebrated. The day they became U.S. citizens, I wasn’t there. But we (the Sisters) celebrated with them later.”

Sr. Mary Virginia and Sr. Katherine on the day of Sylvia Ochoa's quiñcinera

Sr. Mary Virginia and Sr. Katherine on the day of Sylvia Ochoa’s quiñcinera

Schmidt says the family continues to be involved with the monastery. “Whatever the event, they are here. They help us in our monastery and show up for everything, including the Halloween costume giveaway.”

The Ochoa’s have lived on the Northside for 15years, well aware of the crime that sometimes plagues the neighborhood (Pedro’s car windshield has been smashed a half-dozen times). But they have no plans to leave.

“The transportation is good (bus). We have some fine neighbors,” says Ochoa. “And we’re following the advice we got from the Sisters: It doesn’t matter where you live. It’s how you live that matters.

His family is the living proof.


* This is the ninth 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. 

“All in the Family”

by Sr. Karen Mohan, VHM

Sr. Karen and Sr. Susan Marie

“In the footsteps of St. Francis de Sales”: Sr. Karen and Sr. Susan Marie on the Old Town Annecy Bridge

Trips to special places are not complete until a photo is taken at a memorable location.

Two of the photos shown here are from a favorite “photo op” site in Annecy, France, birthplace of the Visitation Order.   Sr. Susan Marie from our Visitation Monastery in Brooklyn, my brother Michael, a faculty member at the St. Louis Visitation, and I are standing on the bridge in front of the once -used prison built in the canal in old town Annecy. St. Francis de Sales visited prisoners there, we are told. The three of us had spent this hot summer afternoon  “in the footsteps of St. Francis de Sales”, and we even took a cruise on Lake Annecy. My joy expanded as we explored our Salesian family roots together before beginning a workshop on the Treatise on the Love of God.

Michael and Sr. Susan Marie

Michael and Sr. Susan Marie

Being there with Michael, Sr. Susan Marie, three other Visitation Sisters and other “Salesians” made it feel like my own version of “All in the Family”!

We spent a week of study and prayer with lay and religious members of this “family”. Our “household” included a retired professor from Ireland, sisters from Madagascar, lay women and men belonging to the Society of St. Francis de Sales, priests and brothers from S. Africa, India, Brazil and even a bishop from the Philippines! All of us were hoping to deepen our understanding of this 400 hundred-year-old masterpiece on love. Thanks to the efforts of several American

"All in the family."

“All in the family:” our global Visitation “household”! 

Oblate of St. Francis de Sales scholars and the generosity of their superior general, Fr. Aldino, this hope was realized.

The week included prayer, input and small discussion groups, and opportunities to explore the town.

This “All in the Family” study week offered me a unique way of appreciating the Spirit alive and active through my broader Salesian family….and that was a blessing.



To read other blogs by Sr. Karen Mohan, and other community members on their pilgrimage experiences, click here.