Monthly Archives: May 2017

The Gentle Strength of Gerry McKay — Vis Companion and Friend

Gerry McKay at the Neighborhood CleanUp (right in glasses)

by Dave Nimmer,* Guest Blogger

To say Gloria “Gerry” McKay has roots in her North Minneapolis neighborhood (old Highland) is something of an understatement.  McKay has been there longer than most of the trees on the north side.  She moved into her house on Fremont Avenue with her parents in 1928 – when she was two months old.

“I feel spiritually enriched by the Sisters. They show me, and all the others they’re connected with, kindness, gentleness and an open heart.” — Gerry McKay

This past Mother’s Day, she celebrated her 89th birthday and the 28th year of living alone in the family home.  And the week before her birthday, McKay was on a ladder trimming a tree next to her driveway.  She still drives a car, runs her own errands and more than occasionally pitches in with teenagers in a neighborhood cleanup.

“[Gerry] is a deeply spiritual person who knows the God who lives inside of her…and her neighbor.  She’s a steadfast family member and a loyal neighbor, who has a wry wit and a ready smile.” — Sr. Suzanne Homeyer

“I am pretty good at taking care of myself,” McKay says.  “Over the years I learned how to do a lot of things”  They include painting storm windows, shoveling snow, trimming trees, tending gardens nd hanging Christmas lights and watering grass.

In fact, she was watering grass when she first met the Visitation Sisters, several years after they moved into their house on Fremont Avenue..  Katherine Mullin noticed McKay in the yard and went over, said hello and invited her to meet the other Sisters.

Gerry McKay accepted the invitation and she’s been involved with the Sisters ever since, attending the monthly Monday Salesian meetings and becoming a Vis Companion (people who deepen their commitment to the Visitation Monastery, through, prayer, study and community service).

“I feel as though I’ve been adopted by the Sisters,” McKay says.  “They kind of adopted the whole neighborhood.  Everyone around here seems to know them and they seem to have a calming influence on those they meet.”

Gerry shares a thought at Salesian Monday Night

Calm, conscientious and confidant aptly describe Gerry McKay: the life she’s lived and the woman she’s become.  She grew up in a family with six siblings, five sisters and a brother.  “You better believe we raised him right,” she says, with a smile.  “He turned out to be a good and gentle man.”

And McKay turned out to be a very good daughter.  She attended Ascension Elementary School, Franklin Junior High and graduated from North High School. She got an award at North for never being late for class or missing a day of school.  She spent a year at the College of St. Catherine, planning to be a nurse.  Because her father was a contractor and frequently away, McKay had to quit and come home to help her mother, looking after her and the rest of the family.

She did it without resentments and found her role satisfying.  Over the years, she cared for her mother, two sisters and brother, who lost a battle to esophageal   cancer.  “I discovered I could be there when the going got tough,” she says.  “I always seemed to find the strength I needed.” She’s been the executor of three of their estates.

What McKay finds from the Sisters is another kind of strength.  “I feel spiritually enriched by them,” she says.  “They show me, and all the others they’re connected with, kindness, gentleness and an open heart.”

Sister Suzanne Homeyer says she draws inspiration from McKay: a single woman, growing old gracefully, taking care of her house, doing her own yard work, getting involved with her community and being unafraid.

“She is a deeply spiritual person,” says Homeyer, “who knows the God who lives inside of her…and her neighbor.  She’s a steadfast family member and a loyal neighbor, who has a wry wit and a ready smile.”

YouTube Channel: Tune into a video recording of the Interview with Gerry here.


* This is the eleventh 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. 

Prayer Books Come and Go…

by Sr. Suzanne Homeyer, VHM

Grandpa Albert’s German Prayer book

This is the prayer book that my maternal grandfather, Albert Krueger, brought to the ‘new world’ when he was just 13 years old in 1912. It is typeset in the old German print style and doesn’t have pictures. There are some great hymns in it that I do remember Grandpa singing as he worked in the garden or as he relaxed with his Prince Albert cigar after a hard day at work!

What items remind you of your life – past or present?  Will they be part of your legacy?

Why is this blog about books and cigars appearing now on the Visitation Monastery website?

This weekend is the Sisters’ Annual Retreat for women in the neighborhood and the facilitator has asked us to bring an item from our own history — past or present to be shared in small group. Karen Westbrooks is known for creative ways for getting women to share their personal stories! She has been a speaker several

Liturgy of the Hours prayer book

times for our group and we are looking forward to “OWNING HISTORY AND HARNESSING HOPE” — a presentation she put together after a visit to the Smithsonian’s Museum of African American History and Culture.

What items remind you of your life – past or present? Will they be part of your legacy?

I imagine my great nieces and nephews someday looking at the prayer book I use for the Liturgy of the Hours and wondering about their Aunt Sister Sue.


In the News: Vis Companion Linda Goynes Featured

We are thrilled to share this story of our good friend and neighbor,
Linda Goynes, who is featured in this month's Minnesota Good Age Magazine. 
Reprinted here with permission of the author.

Worth the wait

Linda Goynes, Visitation Companion

By Dave Nimmer

At a time when most senior citizens are thinking about selling their houses, downsizing to a townhome or heading to assisted living, 64-year-old Linda Goynes just bought her first house in December on Newton Avenue in North Minneapolis.

“I looked at three other houses,” she said, “but when I came to the one on Newton Avenue, I dropped to my knees. I did. I said, ‘Thank God. This is the house.’ For one reason or another, it just felt like home.”

The one-story house was built in 1918 and features two bedrooms, a dining room, living room, kitchen and bathroom. Goynes admitted the real selling point was the sun porch. She’s also got a washer, dryer, snow blower and room for a small garden.

 “I was at rock bottom at one time and here I am with a place to call my own.” – Linda Goynes

Being a happy homeowner was not in the cards for Goynes 25 years ago. She’d been divorced, battled a cocaine addiction and lapsed into a coma, following a heart attack. Doctors told her she’d die if she continued to use the drug. She said she made a bargain with God, promising she’d change her ways if she recovered.

And she did.

Challenges along the way

In 1996, she met her second husband. They moved into a house next door to the Sisters of the Visitation on Girard Avenue North. Goynes stayed clean but her husband was using drugs and, occasionally, selling them, too.

“I never knew what was going to happen. One day I’d be on the ground in handcuffs after a police raid,” she said. “And another we’d be robbed by somebody looking for a drug stash or the money. But I always had the Sisters to talk to, and I never felt alone.”

With help from the Visitation Sisters, Goynes ended up moving out of their rented house into an apartment in 2008; White died in 2015. Ironically, he also loved the Sisters, shoveling their walk., attending some of their neighborhood meetings and even putting up their Christmas tree every year. But he couldn’t stay away from heroin.

“Linda is one of the most courageous women I know,” said Sister Katherine Mullin. “She knew she had to leave him after all those years of his addiction. She made her decision, found an apartment and kept it together.”

Working and saving

Now Goynes has found a home and, along with it, peace of mind. “After my struggles and trials, I’m grateful to have a house at this time in my life,” she said.   “I was at rock bottom at one time and here I am with a place to call my own.”

She’s been saving for this place for several years. Goynes, who joined Ascension Catholic Church is 2010, has been working there as a pastor outreach assistant: organizing luncheons, setting up for funerals, arranging the food shelf, changing the candles and opening the church. In her spare time, she also helps the Visitation sisters in their monastery/home a few blocks away from the church.

“If ever we needed help with some event, celebration or some project, Linda has been there,” said Sister Mullin.

Gratitude Always

I’ve had the opportunity to see Goynes at work, for the sisters and the church. What I’ve noticed is her steady demeanor. She’s helpful, hopeful, purposeful, soulful and joyful. For almost 20 years, I’ve asked her how she is. Her answer is always the same. “I’m blessed,” she says.

She’s caused me to change my reply when someone asks how I am. My standard answer was one I took from my father: Always room for improvement, he’d say. For the past couple of years, when someone asks the question, I now reply, “It’s a good day.” It’s even a better day when I get to see Linda Goynes.

Salesian Monday Night: Divine Hospitality

Welcome to the Monastery!

Please join us for 2nd Salesian Monday night on May 8th. Our topic is Divine Hospitality, featuring Dave Nimmer and Sr. Mary Frances.

This year’s Salesian Spirituality series is entitled, “LIVING JESUS AS WE MOVE THROUGH OUR DAILY LIFE.” We invite you to join us for food and fellowship, input and reflection, before closing our evening with prayer.
Monday, May 8, 2017
6pm: Dinner
6:45pm-8pm: Presentation and PrayerCome for either part, as you are able!
Visitation Monastery — Girard House
1619 Girard Avenue North

Minneapolis, MN 55411

Questions? or to RSVP: Call Sr. Suzanne at 612-501-5096.