by Dave Nimmer,* Guest Blogger
Spring has been a long time coming this year, and I particularly welcome the season at the Visitation Monastery of Minneapolis. Spring suits the homes on Fremont and Girard with their gardens, trees, and neighbors. Sometimes when I come over for evening prayer, I spend 15 or 20 minutes on the back step of the Fremont house, looking over the garden. It’s a peaceful and mindful place: neat rows, green shoots, colorful flowers. I love the contrast from Fremont to Girard, where mulch and flowers replace a lawn; in the shade of the afternoon, it looks like a forest floor.
The garden has always attracted my attention for its eclectic nature, from tulips to tomatoes. The cool thing is they’re all mixed together, in the same patch of ground. The garden becomes a metaphor for the neighborhood in its diversity of colors and cultures. The neighbors seem to respect the garden. It doesn’t get trashed or trampled. They volunteer to weed, mulch, and hoe under the guidance of Sister Katherine Mullin.
Around the side of Fremont house are Sister Mary Margaret McKenzie’s rose bushes. She has minded, nurtured, and observed the roses for more than a decade. This year the task falls to Sister Brenda Lisenby, probably with a little advice now and then from Sister Mary Margaret.
This spring, the vitality of the garden reflects the liveliness of the neighborhood.
Last weekend, the Minneapolis-St. Paul Home Tour featured the Fremont house (probably the only house with a chapel!). Hundreds of visitors enjoyed the old architecture and recent renovations: the engraved banister, the oak floors, the chapel that used to be a library with four motorcycles. Newcomers were introduced to the gentle presence of the Sisters, and old friends took the opportunity to drop by and say hi.
A few blocks away, Cookie Cart celebrates its 30th anniversary on West Broadway Avenue. Three decades ago, Sister Jean Thuerauf’s brainchild became a permanent bakery to provide teenagers with lasting and meaningful work. This year the non-profit Cookie Cart will employ 200 teens working 30,000 hours, and 65 of the young men and women will complete a leadership training course. Sister Mary Frances Reis spoke at an anniversary ceremony early last month, praising Sister Jean for her savvy and spirit. “We arrived a year after she got started,” Reis said, “and we were equally glad to see each other on the North Side.”
Down the street from the Cookie Cart is the Breaking Bread Café, a child of the Appetite for Change nonprofit. I can sit at a table on their patio and order a late breakfast of scrambled eggs, toast, and bacon. I like to sit outside on Broadway, combining spring and the street. Like the Cookie Cart, Breaking Bread is about more than food: it creates a gathering place for neighbors, offers new jobs, and trains local residents.
I go back 30 years with the Fremont house, when Sister Mary Frances and I were asking a Minneapolis City Council committee for a conditional-use permit so four nuns could live in a single-family house. We were lobbying rookies, but we prevailed. Three decades later, so have the Sisters, so has their garden, and so has the neighborhood.
LIVE + JESUS!