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VISTORY: Students Reflect on Service, Sisterhood and Salesian Spirituality

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

On the heels of a week long immersion in service, sisterhood and Salesian spirituality, otherwise known as VISTORY, a few of the 26 girls from Visitation schools around the country took time to reflect on their experiences in the Twin Cities, Minnesota. We applaud these young women and their parents, mentors and teachers who are cultivating their education and faith formation in and through the Salesian charism and tradition.

Check out the following video reflections from our YouTube channel that feature students from Georgetown, St. Louis and Mendota Heights Visitation Schools.

Blessings! Live+Jesus!

“At Visitation, we want to integrate service into our programs….” Sarah, Visitation Student

“At Georgetown Visitation they emphasize the little virtues; I think the quote is ‘doing little things with great love.'” Claire, Visitation Student

VISTORY: And now the Dessert Course…

by Sr. Suzanne Homeyer, VHM

Visitation Students volunteering at Kwanzaa's Northside Women's Space

Visitation Students volunteering at Kwanzaa's Northside Women's Space

My blog posts lately have been about my recent experience as a planning committee member and chaperone for VISTORY, which was held last week at the Convent of the Visitation School in Mendota Heights for students from Visitation high schools as well as our monastery here in north Minneapolis. The first one was called ‘Soup D’Jour’ and for some reason most of them have had a food or meal theme. It is perhaps time to consider the next course…dessert —- that oft so-sweet finishing touch to a sumptuous meal that could put us right over the edge….in need of a good nap.

Being with high-energy, sometimes silly but more often, serious spiritual seekers for a whole week is very nurturing. My spirit was nurtured as with the students I heard speakers on the issue of immigration; baled hay and cleaned  stalls at a horse farm and created games and skits to share the week’s experience of Sisterhood, Spirituality and Service.
Pruning as spiritual process?

Pruning as spiritual process?

For me VISTORY came to such a finish —- true, it was exhausting….but more importantly it was a just plain sweet experience. Being with high-energy, sometimes silly but more often, serious spiritual seekers for a whole week is very nurturing. My spirit was nurtured as with the students I heard speakers on the issue of immigration; baled hay and cleaned  stalls at a horse farm and created games and skits to share the week’s experience of Sisterhood, Spirituality and Service.

Many cultures complete meals, not with something goopy or dripping with sugar or whipped cream but with crisp fruit and flavorful cheese.  I am relishing this finishing touch to the VISTORY 2011 feast.  I feel the exhuberance bursting forth from the girls as they return to school for another year of Living Jesus! in a Salesian environment and I am buoyed up by the certain feeling that I have that last week will bear much fruit in their lives and those of their friends and families. It has already done that for me. I have been renewed by the holistic offerings of VISTORY and challenged to go forth and share abundantly of the its fruits. Bon appetit!


To read other blogs by Sr. Suzanne, click here.

VISTORY “Menu”– Journal Entry from Sr. Suzanne

Sr. Suzanne and VISTORY students

What's on tomorrow's menu? Will it be the "same old same old" or an exciting, tantalizing soup d'jour?

Sunday, July 17, 2011
by Sr. Suzanne Homeyer, VHM
Building Blog inspired by Maya Angelou quote.


“The nights of  work, the hours of hope amount at last to this day of JOY.” –Maya Angelou


Time seems to pass quickly when you are into a particular task — even consumed by the task itself. Sometimes one prepares a wonderful meal, only to have it “disappear’ in a matter of minutes…But it’s purpose was served — people were nurtured — some were perhaps only fed…

A VISTORY "Meal:" Tuning into Marilyn Ochoa's Immigration Story

A VISTORY "Meal:" Tuning into Marilyn Ochoa's Immigration Story

What are your “nights of work”? What “hours of hope” can you identify, in the spirit of Maya Angelou’s quote? What tasks consume and inspire, feed or nurture you? How does any of this translate into “meal making” and enthusiasm for your life’s menu?

How often have our efforts fed or nurtured others? Were there leftovers to be shared? Did everyone save room for dessert? What’s on tomorrow’s menu? Will it be the “same old same old” or an exciting, tantalizing soup d’jour? Oh! The joy of cooking!

SOUP D’JOUR — Journaling in the VISTORY Tradition

The following blog post is the first in a series about VISTORY: Visitation in Service to Others through Responsive Youth.  We welcome Visitation students from around the United States to Minneapolis on Saturday, July 16, 2011.
VISTORY 2010: Students in Camden, NJ

VISTORY 2010: Students in Camden, NJ

by Sr. Suzanne Homeyer, VHM

Daily journaling has been an integral part of VISTORY. For the past several years I have been the one to introduce participants in this week- long adventure of Sisterhood, Salesian Spirituality and Service to the fine art of journaling.  As a former journalism teacher I always begin my presentation with the 5W’s of a good news story…Who, What, Where, When and Why (and sometimes How).

“As I look forward to companioning VISTORY students and helping them discover this really fine art of writing,  my own thought is that perhaps journaling, journalism , and journey come from the same root word…” – Sr. Suzanne Homeyer, VHM

These words function as a trigger for the students to begin a reflection on their day’s activities. “Who have they met or served?”  “Why did I react like that?” or maybe “What is God saying to me in this?”  Such triggers help the thought process and begin the serious look at our daily experiences…our own life’s journey.

As I look forward to companioning VISTORY students and helping them discover this really fine art of writing,  my own thought is that perhaps journaling, journalism , and journey come from the same root word…I have seen a form of that someplace in my own life’s experience…..When I was on pilgrimage in France for the 400th anniversary of our order I often saw the phrase d’Jour on lunch or dinner menus…as in “soup of the day.”  Maybe this relates to the words highlighted above? Journaling can be quite productive if it is done on a regular, if not day-to-day basis. Journalism is responsible for giving us the daily news…by means of photojournalism….broadcast journalism and the printed word. And we move through life day by day…our journey is gradual with time for experiencing, reflecting upon,  and getting to know ourselves and our God as we move on.

As twenty-six high school students who have journeyed to the Twin Cities from around the country to be part of VISTORY (Visitation in Service to Others through Responsive Youth)  move through next week they will be blogging on this website, preparing YouTubes,  and maybe even Tweeting on Twitter. You can be a part of this journey.

ps. I checked with Webster about word derivations. Bingo!  Old French and Latin root meaning daily or day.  Have a good one!

ROAD TRIP TO ST. LOUIS: Sr. Suzanne Reflects on Summer Service

by Sr. Suzanne Homeyer, VHM

Painting: A Corporal Work of Mercy. Doing Little Things with Great Love.

What would summer be like without a road trip? I know what part of my summer was like with a road trip. This year I took a road trip with a Visitation Companion and 11 high school girls, another Visitation Sister and a high school counselor! It was fun, Fun, FUN!!!

VISTORY is an annual service trip for students from Visitation High Schools around the country. For about a week each year 30 – 50 students from St. Louis, Washington, DC and the Twin Cities travel to a host city for a time of getting to know each other, learning more about Salesian spirituality and serving the elderly, homeless, those on the margins and those in the streets.

I have been part of VISTORY since 2004 and I have always enjoyed traveling and working with a variety of adult chaperones. Sometimes I invite the mom of a participant to help; sometimes another sister and sometimes a former participant. This year I advertised to members of our Visitation Companion group and Nancy Timmerman stepped forward.

I was immediately excited because Nancy had organized many service trips before when she and her husband served as the deacon couple at a church in Forest Lake. They participated in a service trip to Guatemala with a group from St. Philip Church. There will always be glitches on such a trip but Nancy was a seasoned chaperone and able to go with the flow.

We were not exactly Thelma and Louise riding in a top-down convertible…two adults curled up with several sweaters in an air-conditioned coach bus complete with bathroom on board! Getting there was half the fun. It gave the opportunity to connect with the Vis contingent from Mendota Heights.

Corporal Works of Mercy as Service Theme

Sharing a meal during the Special Olympics Gametime

Every Eucharist is a rehearsal for the heavenly banquet. Students and volunteers share a meal.

The Corporal Works of Mercy was the overall theme focused on by the student/faculty planners from St. Louis Viz. Of course, feeding the hungry at soup kitchens or sorting clothing to be distributed to new admissions at a home for troubled youth or cleaning and organizing school classrooms at an inner city parish school with no maintenance budget are in line with what someone would list as the corporal works of mercy. Taking care of infants and children of working parents at a combination pre-school/day care is a modern version of caring for orphans and widows perhaps. Planting a memorial garden was certainly a way for caring for the dead and painting a mural as a way to beautify the surroundings for homeless city dwellers.

One service opportunity was definitely based on an understanding of the theology of the works of mercy…if not actually Jesus’ words. Several hours were spent by all of the students and chaperones together with a group of 18 to 30 year old Special Olympians and their parents. After a few anxious moments by all, the margins disappeared…in fact, at one point there were more outfielders than spectators. A surprise storm forced everyone inside for the game but spirits weren’t dampened. Everyone was close together and the Visitor’s team definitely had the advantage —- some of them had been playing together with the same volunteer coaches for 15 years and their team had won some Special Olympic awards in baseball!

The pictures below show the entire the VISTORY team with the St. Louis Special Olympians in the gym, an after dinner water balloon game on the soggy grass, and the pot luck meal with our new friends and their families and coaches, cooks and a myriad of other folks. Looking around the dining room I was reminded of a friend who says that every Eucharist is like a rehearsal for the heavenly banquet…and this really was a heavenly banquet here on earth!

Vistory 2017

For more pictures of VISTORY and other summer activities, visit us at our, Instagram and Flickr pages.

We are taking Visitation Volunteer Applications!

VIP Promo VistoryAre you a young adult considering life after graduation? Does the idea of service and prayer, in the heart of the city, bring something alive in you? Are you called to explore your spirituality and be part of a social justice movement? Consider joining us, the Visitation Sisters, for a year of service, study and prayer as a Visitation Intern in north Minneapolis. We are taking applications now for September, 2017.


To hear more about the program, tune in to VIP Anna Dourgarian reflecting on her year with the Visitation Sisters in north Minneapolis.

Update: News from the Northside*

by Sr. Mary Frances Reis, VHM

“As we settle into a time of transition from a full and fruitful year to a season of planning and “planting” for the coming year, we are grateful for our Visitation way which calls us to live in the PRESENT MOMENT and to treasure the graces in the relationships.  Our daily rhythm of Eucharist, Liturgy of the Hours, personal prayer and door ministry keeps us centered on Living Jesus in a profoundly incarnational way in the midst of the city!”

A Few Highlight of  “the year that has been”:

The St. Jane House, our urban spirituality center, served as the gathering place for women’s retreats, men’s spirituality & centering prayer groups, several high school and college inner city immersion experiences, discernment evenings, leadership training, From Death to Life meetings, etc., etc. (We even had a baby shower there!)

  • What does the future of the Visitation Community look like?

    What does the future of the Visitation Community look like?

    Our Visitation Internship Program (VIP) was launched this year, and two lovely young women recently completed their year of community service and in-depth experience of our charism.

  • Children and their families enjoyed a myriad of activities: field trips as diverse as the Holidazzle parade, the Children’s Theatre, Minnesota Science Museum, & The Minnesota History Theatre, parties sponsored and run by Vicki Bailey and friends of Mendota Visitation, etc., etc.
  • Mendota Visitation seniors were pioneers during their community service weeks here from May 21st thru May 31st. Instead of going to Guatemala, they came to North Minneapolis!  It was a great Mission Trip right here in the city!!!  The school motto “Not for School but for Life” was in full swing.

A few Highlights of summer 2012:

  • Our dear Sister Karen recently completed six years of selfless and Spirit-filled leadership of our community.  Sister Mary Frances succeeds her and will endeavor to follow her example of empowering the gifts of each of our Sisters and lay counterparts.
  • CYC Campers at Send Off

    CYC Campers at Send Off

    Thanks to the generosity of many benefactors & volunteers, we were able to send 75 children and 7 teen “Counselors in Training” to Catholic Youth Camp in McGreggor, MN; 4 teens to St. Louis to participate in Vistory, a program which brings Visitation students from around the country together to serve and learn about Salesian spirituality; and 2 teens to an intensive program at St. John’s University:  YTM, Youth in Theology and Ministry . . . As Father Michael O’Connell often says, “Our youth are our future.”  We are grateful for opportunities to affirm and form them in positive ways.

A Few Highlight of “things to come”:

  • We recently welcomed the first participant into our Monastic Immersion experience, a 6-month stay in our monastery.  Not unlike St. Jane de Chantal, Marsha West, who hails from Forks, Washington, has had many life vocations as wife, mother, grandmother, widow, and on and on! She brings many gifts our way and we are happy to share our life with her.  Welcome Marsha!
  • We are in the process of interviewing New VIPs for the coming year.
  • Our dear Maryann Pearson has “retired” as coordinator of the Visitation Companions, our lay community.  Thanks to her untiring dedication, we have about 15-20 members!  Jody Johnson has accepted the role of coordinator and will work with Sr. Mary Frances and Linda Goynes to keep the movement growing.

*Published in our Summer Newsletter – which you can view in its entirety here.

How does this garden grow? Putting down roots in north Minneapolis

"bloom in the garden..."

"bloom in the garden where He has"

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

“Truly charity has no limit; for the love of God has been poured into our hearts by His Spirit dwelling in each one of us, calling us to a life of devotion and inviting us to bloom in the garden where He has planted and directing us to radiate the beauty and spread the fragrance of His Providence.” –St. Francis de Sales

I’ve been doing a fair amount of gardening lately. Last weekend, I rented a sod cutter and took up a 6′ x 20′ stretch of grass and clover with the intention of putting in a perennial garden. The goal of having plants return each spring, enlivens me; the labor necessary to make this happen is staggering and also invigorating. I have to really work the soil and tend to the roots I put down  if I really want things to grow — if I’m invested in the future of this garden. The garden’s sustainability, tender beauty now and in days to come,  requires not only my diligence, but the support of knowledgeable beings, ongoing attention, and faith.

“I feel like one of the Sisters’ tender shoots that has blossomed, in many ways, by virtue of their love and special care.” — Melissa, Vis Companion

This process takes me closer to my beloved Visitation Community. I think of how their presence in north Minneapolis is akin to that of a gardener’s. For the last twenty three years, the Visitation Sisters have been putting down roots, cultivating soil, tending to young seedlings, nurturing mature plants, and celebrating the harvests of their labor. They have done all this work quite literally in their back yard gardens, as well as figuratively, in their ministry of prayer and presence — living the Visitation charism. And the Sisters, not unlike their soil, many landscapes and neighbors, have been transformed by the process.

What does the future of the Visitation Community look like?

Visitation Senior Service Immersion Project, Class of 2012

They take my breath away, these gardening nuns. I ache with awe, wonder, love, joy —  such deep appreciation for how they have nurtured me, personally,  over the past decade or so. I feel like one of their tender shoots that has blossomed, in many ways, by virtue of their love and special care. I know I am one among many, hundreds, thousands, millions? of people that has felt touched by this community, inspired to return time and again, not unlike a perennial plant or being.

This gardening analogy takes me into the heart of my contemplative prayer today. As I think of soil, sun, seed, questions rise up in my soul:

  • What does the future of this monastery in north Minneapolis look like?
  • What seeds have been planted that are deeply rooted after twenty three years?
  • What perennial plants exist on a literal level, and how do they manifest in a figurative way?
  • Who are the community members, friends, lay associates, companions, discerning individuals that feel called to return and thrive in this spiritual setting?
  • What does God’s garden look like at 16th and Fremont and 17th and Girard?
  • How do other literal and spiritual gardeners join the ranks of these sisters to continue to plant and nurture life, and in turn, be nurtured, even transformed, by it?

Everywhere I turn in the Visitation Community, I feel like I can point to other “seedlings”, if you will….

  • The countless seniors from Visitation School in Mendota Heights who come each spring and spend two weeks in service…
  • The Vistory women who travel from all over the US to participate in Salesian Camp and are involved in the sisters’ urban ministry of prayer and presence…
  • The Salesian Leaders who have been cultivated by the sisters as they  nurture their visions for the northside…
  • The hundreds of children and teens who have been sent by the nuns to Catholic Youth Camp…
  • All of the windsock ministry children and their families…
  • The Visitation Intern Volunteers…
  • The former Visitation Neighbors…
  • The new Monastic Immersion women…
  • The list goes on and on…..

Will you join me in prayer this day as we hold images of a thriving garden, a peaceful, beautiful kingdom where Love may reign and the divine may be known — all in the space of north Minneapolis and beyond — extending the Visitation charism to “Live Jesus!”

Visitation Monastery: Summer 2011 at a Glance

Will Wallace and Sr. Mary Frances celebrate the Northside Leadership Pilot Program

Will Wallace and Sr. Mary Frances celebrate the Northside Leadership Pilot Program

by Sr. Mary Frances Reis, VHM

As they say in our neighborhood, we are “Blessed and Highly favored”; the list below of several of the summer events/happenings is not exhaustive, but gives a glimpse of the fullness and fruitfulness of our life “in the ‘Hood”—graced in so many ways!

  • May 13-14-Brother Mickey McGrath, OSFS, renowned artist and retreat director led 65 community women in a week-end gathering and retreat at Ascension Catholic Church. (see photo gallery album)
  • May 10-We ‘graduated’ 12 men and women from the community who engaged in a year long course in Salesian Leadership. (see photo gallery album)
  • Visitation Seniors with Visitation Sisters

    Visitation Seniors with Visitation Sisters

    May 23-June 3 – Six Visitation High Seniors joined us for an urban immersion experience which introduced that to the neighborhood and gave them multiple opportunities to serve. (see photo gallery album)

  • June 4-Our dear friend Vickie Bailey and her daughter Betsy provided a party for the neighborhood children to “Get ready for Summer”….Teens ran the games which included prizes like jump ropes, beach towels, chalk….everything “summer”!  About 50 participated.
  • June 5 – We joined the communities of Ascension and St. Phillips as the churches ritualized the merger of the parishes.
  • June 5 Visitation Senior Graduation– Sr. Mary Frances was honored to lead the invocation and blessing at this event.
  • Quinceanera! Sr. Mary Virginia, Sylvia Ochoa and Sr. Katherine

    Quinceañera! Sr. Mary Virginia, Sylvia Ochoa and Sr. Katherine

    June 11-Two of our sisters played honored roles in the Quinceañera of Silvia Ochoa. (see photo gallery album)

  • June 11-17-Three Teens from North Minneapolis joined 50 others at the Salesian Leadership Camp in Michigan.  Sr. Karen, who founded the camp 22 years ago, joined them for the week.
  • Mid June -YTM-Youth in Theology and Ministry – a two week experience at St. John’s University was attended by two of our teens. (see photo gallery album)
  • June 10-We were honored to join St. Jean, founder of the Cookie Cart-an employment bakery for youth- as she was celebrated for her selfless ministry.
  • June 12 – We joined From Death to Life, an organization of men and women who have lost children to violence on our streets, in a Peace/Prayer walk which circulated throughout the neighborhood.
  • June 19-24 – Ascension Church and Visitation Monastery sponsored 70 children for a week long camping experience at Catholic Youth Camp.  Even the rain did not deter them from having an experience of a lifetime!
  • June 20-24-The Sisters traveled to St. Louis to join 50 other Visitation Sisters for the last hurrah of our 400th Anniversary of the founding of the Order.
  • June 26– We Sisters have our annual Corpus Christi procession in which we take the Blessed Sacrament to places of violence and tornado destruction and pray for peace in our community.
  • Our Salesian friends and neighbors Linda, Bianca and Dorice join us for dinner

    Our Salesian friends and neighbors Linda, Bianca and Dorice join us for dinner

    July 6 -We will prepare an ethnic dinner for some of our neighbors and friends from Mendota Visitation. This dinner, which will be served at our monastery, is purchased by the latter and is an opportunity to bridge communities.

  • July 16-23 – Sr. Suzanne and 3 neighborhood teens join Visitation students from around the country for VISTORY: a week of sisterhood, Salesian spirituality and community service.  This event rotates cities each year and this year and is being held in the Twin Cities. (see photo gallery album)

    UPCOMING Dates; Consider Joining us…
  • July 29-30 – Catholic women ages 18-45, who are discerning religious life,  are invited to join the Visitation Sisters of Minneapolis, MN for their Come and See Weekend.
  • August 3 Neighborhood Night of peace, an event that draws 400-500 people-will be held at Ascension Church.  We partner with Ascension, Basilica and Mas Jid Anur to provide a free supper, games,  prizes and community speakers.  As the title connotes, this is just one effort to bring people together in harmony and peace.  We’ll keep you posted…Perhaps you’d like to volunteer!
  • August 13 – We will have our annual “Back to School Party” for the children in the neighborhood and beyond.  Vickie Bailey and friends provide a fun way to get ready for school and to get all the supplies they need…
  • August 27-Last but not least!  SR. KATHERINE’S JUBILEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!