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“Windsock Visitation:” An Invitation to Respond to Art!

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Vis Companion

Windsock Visitation.McGrath

"Windsock Visitation" by Brother Mickey McGrath, OSFS

We all know this image. (Well any of us who have had the opportunity to spend any time with the sisters in their Northside monastery, visit this website, or read anything published by the nuns – will most likely recognize this image.) The painting by Brother Mickey McGrath, OSFS has become a kind of “logo” for the Visitation Sisters of North Minneapolis. But how many of us have ever stopped to truly ponder this picture? Ask ourselves what strikes us about the work of art? Contemplate what possible meaning the artist might be working to convey?

The following questions provide us with a way into such contemplative musing and artistic meaning -making. They are known as the Critical Response Protocol:

1. What do you notice?
2. What does this remind you of?
3. What emotion does it trigger?
4. What questions does this work raise for you?
5. What do you speculate is the artist’s intention?

As a form of prayerful meditation this day, I invite you to take five to seven minutes, and respond to these questions. Let the art speak to you; let any memories or emotions surface and be acknowledged. Pose as many questions as you are able. There are no wrong answers. You will find my own personal response entered in the comment section below. I invite you to do the same!

Happy Contemplating!

Door Ministry and the Mystery of the Visitation

Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

by Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion

Tattoo removal, housing crises, food shortages, gunshots wounds, popsicles, physical therapy and God were all topics of conversation for me between 11am and 1pm at the Girard House last Tuesday morning. I was at the monastery doing door ministry.

Following Centering Prayer each week, I make my way from St. Jane House to one of the Visitation Sisters’ locations. Sr. Katherine and I routinely connect for spiritual conversation and “Vocation Partner talk.” I look forward each Tuesday morning to the  spoonfuls of peanut butter and slices of banana that accompany these precious conversations with my dear friend and mentor,  “SK2.” We sit on the front porch, or head into the living room, or sometimes descend to her office in the basement, and we have our chats. In the process, I always feel the mystery of the Visitation at work.

"Windsock Visitation" by Brother Mickey O'Neill McGrath, OSFS

"Windsock Visitation" by Brother Mickey O'Neill McGrath, OSFS

Older woman. Younger woman. Each full of life. Something growing. Something trying to be born. There’s a prophetic and redemptive quality to all of our encounters, as we claim, consciously or not, our roles as Mary and Elizabeth and celebrate the divine life within — and the mutuality of our relationship.

On this particular Tuesday, however, when Sr. Katherine wasn’t available,  I found myself at 1619 Girard Avenue North, answering the door and experiencing the mystery of the Visitation in a whole new way.

“D” was from Tennessee. He was dressed in jeans and a white tee, rolled up over his shoulders, and excited to come onto the porch for a cool couple of moments. With a heat index of over 100 degrees, offering a glass of ice water was not only courteous, but a necessary consideration in this climate. He was full of smiles and an energetic spirit, shaking my hand, and repeating his 12 syllable name. “Tell the sisters ‘D’ says, ‘hi’!”

From the hallway, Sr. Mary Margaret appeared,  poking her head out, “Is that my “D”? she asked. She came out and the two embraced. Sr. Mary Marg looked intently at me and relayed their last encounter. “‘D’ was here the day I got home from the hospital. He helped move me back in!”

Sister and “D” reflected on their respective health situations, the challenges of physical therapy and the way our bodily injuries catch up with us over time.

When Mary Marg left to resume her tasks inside,  “D” and I were left to talk.

With two lightening bolt like tattoos marking his cheeks, his disclosed survival of being shot up down south, and the role of adult mentors – for good and ill – in our lives, we turned our conversation to surviving here. Now.

And we prayed.

“D” offered to read to me from the placard that is often handed out to anyone coming to the door of the monastery. The peace prayer of St. Francis de Sales:

Do not fear what may happen tomorrow; the same everlasting Father who cares for you today will take care of you then and everyday. He will either shield you from suffering, or will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace, and put aside all anxious thoughts and imagination.

I handed “D” his requested bus token, and he gave me a hug. And my heart was full.

The encounter rejuvenated and reminded me of how precious little moments in our day can be. While I wasn’t able to connect with Sr. Katherine that day, I did connect with another human being, and in the process felt God’s loving hand in my life.

I hope it was the same for “D.”

Visitation Snapshots: Preparing for our Feast Day

How do you celebrate the Feast of the Visitation?

How do you celebrate the Feast of the Visitation?

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

“…blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”,–Luke 1:42

This Thursday we celebrate the Feast of the Visitation, the story that is our order’s namesake, that anchors our charism and presence in communities all over the world — especially in north Minneapolis. This feast remembering Mary’s visit to her older cousin Elizabeth, who is six months pregnant, holds the beautiful tenants of our communities’ faith: for as members of the Visitation, we all work to tune into one another as vibrant, life-bearing, divinely-inspired creatures; we look for the Elizabeth in all who come to our door; we seek to be Mary, emulating her in relationship with each other — we look to receive the gifts of Our Lady and her cousin in how we are counseled, mentored, visited by all who knock and enter.

"Windsock Visitation" by Brother Mickey O'Neill McGrath, OSFS

"Windsock Visitation" by Brother Mickey O'Neill McGrath, OSFS

“…as members of the Visitation, we all work to tune into one another as vibrant, life-bearing, divinely-inspired creatures…”

In preparation for this feast, I offer a few snapshots of our Thursday Feast Day calendar that speak to me of the Visitation narrative:

–Thursday marks the Visitation Senior Students’ last day of service on the northside; we will have a ceremony honoring and acknowledging the way these young women have been among us for two weeks. Can you imagine the faces of Mary and Elizabeth as we convene at St. Jane House and reflect on our time together?

–Thursday evening we bury our longtime friend and prayer companion, Deacon Dale Timmerman, who passed away on the eve of Pentecost. Will you join us in celebrating Dale’s northside presence to us, along with his wife Nancy’s, as a Visitation one?

As we literally mark this feast day in our community, squeezing in a ritual of sorts in our afternoon prayer, we are joined by our newest community member, who comes to us from another religious Order altogether and creates for us another opportunity to be the Visitation. Sr. Mary Mao, our housemate and dear Maryknoll sister from China, who lives with our community while she completes her graduate coursework, allows us to breathe and receive Mary/ Elizabeth energy as women religious all over the world do. May we continue to grow in our relationship and be nurturing of life-giving love and witness to our Lord!

How do you see Mary and Elizabeth alive in your world, work, home? Join us in prayer, as we pause to thank God for all the ways that divine “Visitations” are a part of our daily lives.

Windsock Reunion: Snapshots and Reflections

Windsock Reunion: 21st Anniversary Celebrations!

Windsock Reunion: 21st Anniversary Celebrations!

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion, and Sr. Mary Frances Reis, VHM

On January 15, 2011, the Visitation Sisters hosted a reunion of the Windsock children and their families in honor of the Sisters’ 21st anniversary in their Northside neighborhood and the 400th year founding of the Visitation Order.

The Sisters began hosting Windsock twenty one years ago in response to the number of children coming to their door.  Sr. Mary Frances describes this 3:30-4:30 hour in the afternoon as “a special time for neighborhood children ages 5-12 to come for play, treats and prayer.” The nuns would hang a windsock on their front porch to let the young people in the Old Highland area know they were ready for them to visit. Thus, the program/play/prayer hour became known as “Windsock.”

A lasting bond...

"Blessed by these young lives..."

Sister elaborates, “Through this focused time with children we formed many relationships with [the young people] – and their families as well. Some of these [relationships] have lasted 20 years!”

Reflecting on the day, Sr. Mary Frances wrote, “it was gratifying to experience the spontaneous joy of those gathered – even those we had not seen for several years. They shared pictures and games and played doll house with their children, just as they used to do themselves when they came over. We have been blessed over and over by these young lives, and we trust that they have gotten some lessons for life from their time with us!”

A Windsock Family

A Windsock Family

Due to changing demographics in the Northside community and an increase in after school programs there has been an evolution in the Sisters’ venue for relating with children and their families. Sr. Mary Frances shares emphatically: We continue to have field trips, camp, Holiday Outreach, Familiy dinners, so the relationships continue!

Blessed be!

****

Enjoy the photos below snapped by Sr. Mary Frances Reis.

For more Windsock stories, check out the following:
“Windsock Visitation: An Invitation to Respond to Art” by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde
“Windsock Kids Reunion”
by Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan
“Teen Party Time: Snapshots from the Sisters”
by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde

Windsock Kids Reunion Saturday, Jan 15

Written by Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan, Visitation Alumna ’93

Windsock Time, Reading Time

Windsock Time, Reading Time

The Visitation Sisters are looking forward to reconnecting tomorrow afternoon to those children, now adults, who over the past 21 years played at the Sisters’ home in the late afternoon of most days.

“Children should be allowed to be children. No child should ever bear the burden of adult concerns until they are ready.” -For the past thirty-five years, Jonathon Kozol has been an advocate for children.

For the past 21 years the Sisters have been advocates for the children in their neighborhood, providing a space of safety, play, and joy. A sacred place where children can just be children for awhile. When the windsock is out the children knew it was time to come to the Sisters home for activities. The Sisters spread and share their gentle strength with new generations by example and relationship and for this St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal must be beaming, their vision born 400 years ago alive and strong today! Join us in celebrating these children, now adults, and these Sisters still going strong like their windsock that continues to blow in the wind, and remains strongly anchored in Salesian spirituality.

“This is the place of our delight and rest.” -St. Jane de Chantal

Are there children you hold in prayer today? Any children you wish to ask the nuns to hold in intention that you celebrate in your own life? Please add to them to the comments section.

Visitation Windsock
Visitation Windsock by Brother Mickey McGrath

The Dollhouse in the Chapel

At Girard House, if you take the back stairs (the “servant stairs,” in the old days) from the kitchen to the second floor, you find yourself in a small alcove with chairs in a half-circle around an altar: the Chapel. You cannot rush through this quiet room: pause, bow to the tabernacle, and savor the peace. I always find myself thinking, “I’ll just stay here, please,” and I have to summon the strength of will to move on to the next room.

Across from the altar is a dollhouse. It is lovely, with elaborate furnishings and details like books on a table and a basket of toiletries at the foot of a bed. On the roof is a shiny plaque that reads, “In Loving Memory of Kerry: January 10, 1971 – November 17, 2012.”

Why is there a dollhouse in the Sisters’ Chapel?

Meet Priscilla, the dollhouse creator and a member of From Death to Life, an organization that seeks healing for parents of victims and perpetrators of gun violence. From Death to Life meets regularly at St. Jane House, the retreat home associated with the Visitation Monastery. That is how Priscilla came to know the Visitation Sisters. After the loss of her son, Priscilla found a beautiful expression of her mourning: a dollhouse model of the Sisters’ home. She created the dollhouse with her own hands and imagination, channeling the spirit of the monastery.

On the ground floor, the home features a kitchen and chapel, the two rooms we are most familiar with at Fremont House. Upstairs is the Sisters’ living area, a bathroom and bedroom, which remind me of St. Jane’s quote as she walked into her first monastery: “This is the place of delight and rest.” On the bedroom wall is Brother Mickey McGrath’s famous painting The Windsock Visitation, whose original version hangs in the living room of Girard House. My favorite part is on the chapel wall: a surreal photo of the Visitation Sisters themselves.

I reach out with prayers for Priscilla, her son, and all the members of From Death to Life. I cherish the dollhouse as a reminder of the gentle peace and beauty that the Sisters offer to neighbors in their home.

Day of Prayer: Sunday, September 13, 1-4:30pm

JOIN US!

Br. Mickey McGrath OSFS

Br. Mickey McGrath OSFS

This Sunday, September 13, 2015, from 1-4:30pm, our good friend and Oblate of St. Francis de Sales, Brother Mickey McGrath will be leading a Day of Prayer as part of the celebration of 2015 Year of Consecrated Life.

You know Brother Mickey McGrath as the artist who painted the Windsock Visitation which hangs at our monastery and anchors our webpages. He is as an award-winning artist and author who speaks on the connections between art and faith.

This Sunday’s Day of Prayer event is sponsored by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and local religious. Please join us! All are welcome!

WHAT: Day of Prayer with Members of Consecrated Life

WHEN: 1 to 4:30 p.m; Sunday, September 13, 2015.

WHERE: St. Mary’s University Center, 2540 Park Ave., Minneapolis, MN

RSVP: Registration is not required, only requested for help with planning. RSVP online. This event is FREE.

This event will include a panel response, small group sharing and prayer.

More information: Find more resources on the 2015 Year of Consecrated Life

Sacred Places and Artwork in our Monastery

by Sr. Mary Virginia Schmidt, VHM

As we continue to mark our twenty fifth year in north Minneapolis, as an inner-city monastic presence, we highlight sacred elements of our community. This blog features images of artwork in our Fremont and Girard Houses that comprise some of the inspiring spaces where we pray daily.

Perhaps this work might move you, too?  We invite you all to come and see it in person!

Come and pray with us this year!

WINDOW OF VISION This stained glass window was created and installed in the Girard House dining room by John and Mary Scanlon in 2008. A piece of purple glass with an unusual image in its coloring the resembled a Visitation of Mary and Elizabeth was the inspiration for its creation. This gift and its presence in our house offers inspiration and hope.

WINDOW OF VISION
This stained glass window was created and installed in the Girard House dining room by John and Mary Scanlon in 2008. A piece of purple glass with an unusual image in its coloring the resembled a Visitation of Mary and Elizabeth was the inspiration for its creation. This gift and its presence in our house offers inspiration and hope.

PEACE POLE...Around the year of 1998 we planted a peace pole in our backyard at the Fremont House. One of our Visitation Neighbors, Paulette Sankofa, had a project to spread these peace poles throughout our neighborhood. She knew that being a gentle presence was our focus as it was hers: An alternative to violence around us.

PEACE POLE*
Around the year of 1998 we planted a peace pole in our backyard at the Fremont House. One of our Visitation Neighbors, Paulette Sankofa, had a project to spread these peace poles throughout our neighborhood. She knew that being a gentle presence was our focus as it was hers: An alternative to violence around us.

CRUCIFIX The bronze crucifix, created by our artist-friend Rob Nicpon, is in our chapel at Fremont. Having worked on it for several months in our monastery, he felt that it had a lift of its own with us. He gave it the title: That We May Live. The stories around this crucifix abound.

CRUCIFIX*
The bronze crucifix, created by our artist-friend Rob Nicpon, is in our chapel at Fremont. Having worked on it for several months in our monastery, he felt that it had a life of its own with us. He gave it the title: That We May Live. The stories around this crucifix abound.*
STAINED GLASS WINDOW IN THE CHAPEL
Donated to us by the artist Ditriech Spaun, and hung by him in our chapel on Fremont behind the Crucifix, this window could depict a flame, a flower, a dancer. For each one who gazes at it, it is a symbol that draws one into mystery.

 

A VISITATION  Brother Michael McGrath, OSFS, who created for us the "Windsock Visitation" that hangs in the Fremont living room, also created a Visitation that hangs in the stairwell at Girard. The women in the painting could be of any ethnic background. He had heart that teh initial experience of pregnancy is like a butterfly, here depicted under Mary's heart.

A VISITATION
Brother Michael McGrath, OSFS, who created for us the “Windsock Visitation” that hangs in the Fremont living room, also created a Visitation that hangs in the stairwell at Girard. The women in the painting could be of any ethnic background. He had heard that the initial experience of pregnancy is like a butterfly, here depicted under Mary’s heart.

CHRISTMAS CRECHE Soon after we had arrived in north Minneapolis, we received a gift from Brother de Paul, who was a tireless worker in Haiti. This creche, carved from one piece of wood in Haiti's worst slum, has been the centerpiece for every Christmas celebration since then. Ask Sr. Mary Frances Reis why she likes this carving so much; she would love to tell you!

CHRISTMAS CRECHE
Soon after we had arrived in north Minneapolis, we received a gift from Brother de Paul, who was a tireless worker in Haiti. This creche, carved from one piece of wood in Haiti’s worst slum, has been the centerpiece for every Christmas celebration since then. Ask Sr. Mary Frances Reis why she likes this carving so much; she would love to tell you!

CRUCIFIX IN THE DINING ROOM AT  FREMONT A most precious gift to us from our St. Louis Community as three of the sister left there to come to Minneapolis, is this wood crucifix. It was probably carved by a prisoner in jail where our monastary chaplain was also a chaplain, so somehow this crucifix was in the sacristy for many years. What happened to the prisoner that he did not finish the work? There is no insignia and no crown of thorns. On the back is written a prayer by St. Francis de Sales and signed by of the members of the community at the time.

CRUCIFIX IN THE DINING ROOM AT FREMONT
A most precious gift to us from our St. Louis Community as three of the sister left there to come to Minneapolis, is this wood crucifix. It was probably carved by a prisoner in jail where our monastary chaplain was also a chaplain, so somehow this crucifix was in the sacristy for many years. What happened to the prisoner that he did not finish the work? There is no insignia and no crown of thorns. On the back is written a prayer by St. Francis de Sales and signed by of the members of the community at the time.

 

From the Archives…
To read more about the Crucifix by Rob Nicpon, click here: Newsletter from Summer, 1998.
To read more about the Peace Pole, click here: Newsletter from Summer, 1999.

 

 

 

 

Catholic Youth Camp-Place of Beauty, Love, Faith and Fun!

by Sr. Mary Frances Reis, VHM

In the past few days I began reading Brother Mickey McGrath’s (of Windsock Visitation painting fame!) most recent book.  It is a spiritual Journey in images and text depicting the life of Dorothy Day entitled Saved by Beauty.

As I pondered and prayed with Brother Mickey’s book, I was mindful of our neighborhood kids that we  sent off to camp earlier this week to bask in the beauty of our Minnesota lakes and God’s creation.  Thanks to the amazing generosity of many benefactors and friends, we were able to send 75 children and seven teens (who will train to be counselors) to Catholic Youth Camp for a whole week. Located midway between here and Duluth, our children were in the midst of storms and rainy days.  The excellent camp director Natalie King was so proud of her counselors and cooks who managed to make it a great week for the children in spite of the weather!   She had only praise for the children who were such ‘good sports’ and did not lose their enthusiasm for one minute.

CYC Campers at Send Off

CYC Campers at Send Off

In her June 20 blog post updating parents and readers of the campers’ activities, Ms. King writes,
“We started the day with morning Holy Ground (and prayed that the power outage would be over quickly!) and then moved into some exciting indoor activities. Groups rotated from  paper airplane making to water trivia, to board games and then to relay races that had campers going from one pile of goofy clothes and hats to the next, trying to be the first in full costume to complete the race.”

Later, after the power outage and flood warnings, Camp Director King relays, “We are not just a community that PLAYS together, we are a community that PRAYS together!”

Having been a counselor and water safety instructor for many years, I am committed to providing this experience for inner city children and youth.  Without the generosity and care of so many, this would not have been possible.  So a HUGE THANK YOU to everyone!  And children, we are proud of you that you ‘hung in there’ through wind and rain and storm, and that you managed to have a great time!

Ah, yes, we are all SAVED BY BEAUTY if we have the eyes and hearts to see it!  Happy Summer!

(Be sure to check out the camp website:  www.cycamp.org)