Author Archives: Melissa

Interested in becoming a Visitation Companion? Sign up for the Fall Formation Cohort today!

Vis Companions PanoramaAre you a northside resident called to deepen your spiritual life? Does growing in faith alongside –and anchored by – the prayers of a religious, monastic community appeal to you?
Does study of Salesian Spirituality feel like the next step in your faith journey? Do you desire a community with whom you will serve, and reflect, on a regular basis?

Consider joining the Visitation Companions.

A new Vis Companions formation group is starting in October. The commitment is:

  • a monthly small group meeting, (usually on Saturday afternoons for nine months)
  • featuring:
    • input
    • prayer and study
    • and time for personal sharing and reflection.

For more information about Joining Visitation Companions, please contact Jody Johnson at jodyreis(at)yahoo.com or 651-219-3167

Visitation Volunteer Juste Reflects on her Summer with the Sisters

On Wednesday, August 31, 2016, the Visitation Sisters said, “goodbye” to Juste Siauciunaite. Juste had applied and come to volunteer with the community through the Visitation Internship Program from her home in Lithuania via London. The following video features her reflections on her time in prayer, study and service with the Visitation Sisters and northside community. We invite you to tune in. Live+Jesus!

 

Wisdom’s Elbows…

Sr. Katherine reads from the Wisdom of St. Jane

Sr. Katherine reads from the Wisdom of St. Jane

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

“Send Wisdom from heaven to be my companion, to teach me your will.”

These words, chanted during morning prayer, inspired our communities’ intentions this morning. As Sr. Mary Frances underscored their personal resonance, she named a universal condition that invites our care and attention, asking: How do we let the spirit of Wisdom in? In Frances’ reflections, I heard:

Certainly Wisdom companions us daily, but how do we acknowledge her? What prayerful patterns do we practice that invoke Wisdom’s presence and guidance in our lives?

Sitting next to Sr. Mary Frances on the bench in the chapel, eyes closed, I tuned into her spoken reflections and had this flash of Wisdom come into my mind’s eye. She was a fully formed woman with elbows. She appeared as a buxom female — draped in gleaning white fabric, like a choir robe — maneuvering into my heart space. “Let me speak!” she said, “Listen!”

***

At the breakfast table, following morning prayer, I heard Wisdom coming through the words of St. Jane de Chantal.

On this day following Jane’s feast, Sr. Katherine and I were reflecting on our co-foundress’ spiritual life, her grief and dryness in prayer, as well as her qualities as a leader: her compassion, empathy, and encouragement of others.  Over a plate of sliced mango and a cup of coffee, Sr. Katherine read to me from our founders’  Letters of Spiritual Direction.

St. Jane de Chantal

St. Jane de Chantal

In a letter dated July 22, 1619, Jane wrote from Paris to Mother Péronne-Marie de Châtel, the Superior at Grenoble:

“Don’t worry about your way. I see it and I know better than you do that it is a very good one. Trust me in this, I beg you, for God has given me enough light on the matter. Wasn’t His infinite goodness our only aim and rest? What further assurance do we need? Dearest, let us stay right there in complete self-effacement. We ought to be content to go on blindly, without knowing anything; it is enough for us that God is our God, our hope, our desire.” 

As Sr. Katherine gave life to Jane’s words, I saw Wisdom’s elbows make her way to us at the table. “Take note!” The spirit of Love poured forth through this letter from across the centuries.  Over fresh fruit and  a caffeinated beverage, I heard Wisdom’s guidance echoing through these compassionate and affirming words of our Co-foundress. “Be gentle with yourself. Trust. Listen. Don’t worry.”

***

For whatever perplexes you this day, challenges your heart or mind, I invite you to pause, and take note of the spirit of Wisdom companioning you. How do you notice her gentle encouragment showing up?  Anchored by the rhythms of prayer from our monastery to the cloister of your own heart, we invite you to be still and know that that you are companioned by God. That Wisdom, like our co-founder Jane, has elbows making their way into our contemplative hearts. We can trust that the spirit of Love, Hope, and Wisdom surrounds our deepest desires in doing God’s will.

Live+Jesus!

Praying with Art: An Invitation to Encounter Love

by Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion

Inspiration by Anne Goetze

“Inspiration” by Anne Goetze

I’ve never been to Annecy, France.  But I can imagine it. Cobblestone streets. Turquoise winding river. Stone arches bridging water. That pristine lake.  The Alps. The 14th, 15th, 16th century architecture: stucco and brick exterior walls, some vine-covered in my mind’s eye.  A red door here. Tiled roof tops.  All buildings close-pressed to one another. If I squeeze my eyes closed tightly, I imagine hearing the buzz of cafe chatter; I feel the Lake Annecy breeze on my face and note the click of heels on narrow paved walks. Perhaps an echo of chapel bells rings off of the mountains. There is a calling to this city, to this landscape, that I know in my own prayerful meditation.

Artist Anne Goetze knows this calling. She has made it part of her life’s work to bring the beauty of not only this place, but of a particular community of people, to all of us.

In her mixed media art form, combining photography, ash and oil paint, Ms. Goetze brings alive this landscape of our founders, St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal. In addition, she has captured the community of Visitation Sisters living there cloistered in our Order’s first monastery.

Praying with Art:  ‘Confering’ /’S’entretenir’ by Anne Goetze

"Confering" by Anne Goetze Annecy Nun Series (with permission)

“Confering” by Anne Goetze Annecy Nun Series (with permission)

When I look on this particular photographic art piece, ‘Confering’ /’S’entretenir,’ by Anne Goetze, I’m struck by the two central figures, clad in all black. Their back sides to me, they are shrouded by veils and near-floor-length skirts. They seem to be leaning in, and as the title suggests: conferring.  I notice my own impulse to lean in. I want to hear them.

On either side of this path, I note the grey and brown hues that frame them, flecks of blue and green pepper the wall and walkway. A stone building with high windows is ahead. The burnt orange of fall foliage appears, too, dusty, cloud-like in the background. My eyes return to the central figures.

Two Visitation Sisters conferring.

For a split second, I think about my mom, in Nebraska, standing at her sink, perhaps contemplating the fullness of the day. My mind darts back to north Minneapolis, to S. Mary Margaret McKenzie and the last time I saw her at Girard House monastery. A fleeting smile on her lips, her downward gaze as she chimed the bell announcing the start of Salesian Monday night. I see S. Mary Frances, then, in the Fremont chapel, it’s Saturday morning prayer and we share raised-eyebrow-smirks, and suppress giggles –some line catching each of us during the chanting and reflection on psalms.

Images of each of these north side Visitation Sisters rush into my mind. S. Katherine, in her swivel chair in the basement office, ever intent and sweet-spirited, as we review engagement efforts and our social media work. S. Karen, post-prayer, coming into close proximity to whisper or share her own fervent noticing of Love at work. Sister Suzanne on a shut-down Thursday, breaking bread with me at the north Minneapolis cafe that goes by this same name, and detailing a moment from her winter journey to Rome. I can see S. Mary Virginia in my mind’s eye, smiling as she comes in to kiss my cheek and offer her ever ready embrace of me, my daughter, husband, following mass at Ascension. And there’s my new friend, Brenda, walking me to the door after a visit to the community, to hug me out, and bid me a warm good bye until we meet again.

Ms. Goetze’s image depicts our religious counterparts an ocean and continent away, but the Sisters’ activity connects here, in the intimacy of my own heart and lived experience – locally. I know this encounter of conferring,  of being companioned and companioning. Despite their faceless presentations, these Sisters come to me fully imaged, featured, in my own holy encounters with northside nuns — with members of my family and local community.

As I pray with this image this day, I invite you into this kind of contemplative stance. I encourage your own close encounter, conferring with the art, taking note of what it stirs in you. How does this Visitation depiction speak to you? What does it say to your longing, to your own lived experience encountering Love?

****

See this work at the Basilica of St. Mary.

Pray to Love: The Annecy France Nun Series

Photographic Paintings by Anne Goetze
Exhibit:  April 9—May 22, 2016
Reception: Sunday May 22, 4:30pm with talk at 5:30pm
For more information: Basilica of St. Mary event listing

Inspired by the Local Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.

“I watched, I admired, and now I pray for the Holy Spirit, who makes diversity a way, come and let us follow.” – S. Katherine

As we mark this holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr,  we celebrate the way his legacy is being born out in our local community, giving rise to a new generation of leaders. Here’s a link to an inspired article and companion video piece from the Star Tribune featuring six of these voices of leadership.

“May our existence be filled with windows — for all the world to see/ the beauty that lies inside of us, even when we are under heat…” Brittany Lynch, poet

 

O, Emmanuel: A child is born…

by Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion 

For a child is born to us, a son is given us;
They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero,
Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.Isaiah 9:5

We’ve been waiting. We have been practicing patience. Our friend Mary is 40 weeks along and ready to give birth. It’s game-on mode. There’s been this business of the census and all the crazy travel in the past weeks –Joseph trying to secure accommodations. And here we are: Christmas.

In my prayer this past 24 hours, I am fixated on the details of birth. I keep imagining Mary going into labor. Her belly squeezing; the uterine muscles contracting, and someone rubbing her lower back. I imagine her pacing, perhaps walking the circumference of the room, or making laps outside her birthing space. Maybe it’s still daylight. It’s hot, the roads are dusty, that one little lamb flanks her heels as she paces. He knows.

I keep remembering my own labor and delivery– getting checked into St. Joseph’s Hospital in downtown St. Paul, being wheeled to my room; walking the length of the corridor in hopes of furthering the process of cervical dilation, and the ultimate next step…

Giving birth is an experience that every parent is intimately familiar with.

“..the time came for her to have her child,
and she gave birth to her firstborn son.”Luke 2:6-7

Can you enter into the details? I invite you to imagine what is between these two lines in Luke’s gospel: “the time came,” and “she gave birth.”

Mary’s water breaks. She is fully effaced and dilated. Jesus moves down into the birth canal. Mary pushes. And breathes. And pushes. Someone is holding her hand. That sheep is bleating in the back ground. And finally: he is born!

What Luke doesn’t fully describe are some of the richest aspects of this narrative; the imagined details are what hold HOPE for me. God doesn’t avoid the birth canal. He comes to us through this very real, human process by which we all arrive: labor, groaning, a physical expansion, birth.

***

Everywhere I turn these days, the gritty hope of birth is close at hand. Labor, groaning, expansion are bound up in the reality of the mundane, the tragic, the inexplicable, and the awesome. With our “O, Emmanuel” chant, hope accompanies all maneuvering, listening, and digesting of the day’s reality.

The Syrian refugees at the border. O Emmanuel. The Black Lives Matter marchers at the Mall and Airport. O Emmanuel. The presidential candidates sharing their political position on immigration. O Emmanuel. The police officers trying to keep us safe. O Emmanuel. The CEO trying to discern responsible environmental standards. O Emmanuel. The public school teacher seeking stillness in the face of the fall curriculum. O Emmanuel. The frustrated, hungry, angry boy open to the jihadist’s message. O Emmanuel. Earth herself turning on her axis with her changing atmosphere. O Emmanuel.

As we mark this hour of the Incarnation unfolding, I invite you to consider the gritty details of birth before you. Where is God entering in your life? What labor pains are present in your circumstances?  How is physical expansion palpable in your circles? What headlines invoke your song of chant and praise: “O, Emmanuel”?

O, Emmanuel: a child is born to us this day!

 

Open the Door III: Listening with Compassion in the Year of Mercy

Open the Door BannerWe are sharing information on an upcoming retreat open to people who are discerning their vocations.

Experience a variety of prayer forms from the Catholic tradition and beyond, and take time to discern next steps (work, relationships, religious life, vocation, creativity).

When: Friday, January 29, 5:30 – 6:15 p.m., arrival, and soup and bread dinner;
6:30 – 8:30 p.m. welcome and opening session
Saturday, January 30, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Location: Sisters of St. Joseph Provincial House
1880 Randolph Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55105

Cost: $25 for the retreat
$35 additional for overnight (optional)

Contact: Sister Katherine Mullin, katherinefmullin@gmail.com or 612-636-1822

Register online today: Open the DoorIII Retreat 

DOWNLOAD PDF ==>Open the Door III Retreat

Praying Exodus: Reflections on God leading Community

Exodus Prayers: The sea of red and blue light along Interstate 94

Exodus Prayers: The sea of red and blue light along closed Westbound Interstate 94

by Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion 

“Exodus is a story of a people, not a person – that God leads in community.” – Amy Long, Women of Prayer discernment participant

With the whirring sounds of a helicopter overhead and the flashing lights of emergency vehicles passing outside our windows along Emerson Avenue North in Minneapolis, we convened a community of prayer, story, reflection, and song.  Our community of discerning women gathered at St. Jane House last night for session 4 of the vocation series entitled, “The Prepositions of Call: Reframing Suffering and Vocation.”

Against this backdrop of protest sounds and justice-seeking circumstances surrounding the shooting of Jamar Clark by a local police officer, we began our evening ringing the singing bowl and moving into silence.

“What path is God leading us on? How do we know the wilderness in our journeys? Where are our pillars of cloud and fire? How is this journey, that we are all on, a communal experience toward freedom?”

As facilitators for the series, S. Katherine Mullin, Karen Wight Hoogheem and I gave voice to our distraction, marking the reality outside our doors. In honor of Jamar Clark’s life, we had a candle burning for him and his family — and by extension, our human family the world over – from North Minneapolis to other communities knowing upheaval from violence –including Paris, Beirut, Russia, Libya, Afghanistan, Syria, Palestine, Yemen.

We entered into prayer.

As part of every session, a member of our series facilitation team leads the participants in a form of prayer — meant to inspire and support women in their “listening and leading from within.”  Last night’s experience of Lectio Divina was led by Karen, who took us through Exodus 13:17-22. In this Old Testament passage, we heard the story of Moses and the Israelites being lead out of Egypt. God takes them on a circuitous route through the desert, into the wilderness, revealing himself in a pillar of cloud by day – and fire by night.

Pillars of Fire, photo from protester camp on Plymouth

Pillars of Fire, photo from protester camp on Plymouth

As Karen lead, she invited us to see ourselves in the flight of the Israelites and immerse ourselves in the literal and imagined details of the scripture. She invited us to listen for resonant lines in the text and for God’s invitation to each of us in our present circumstances. She asked us to consider the ways we know suffering, and the way God is faithful to us in leading us along the road to freedom.

As the scripture was repeated, the darkness of the Israelites path at night came alive in my mind. And too, was this flicker of light from fire, the smell of smoke in close proximity, the palpable feeling of anxiety that comes with uncertainty and next steps, and this potent question, “Will you follow me into this wilderness, into freedom, Melissa?”

The whole time, the whirring of the very real helicopters overhead buzzed in my ears; the faces of men, women, and children, who were marching along Plymouth Avenue when I made my way in traffic an hour earlier, came into my mind’s eye.

Together, in prayer, we asked, “What path is God leading us on? How do we know wilderness in our journeys? Where are our pillars of cloud and fire? Where is liberation? How is this journey, that we are all on, a communal experience toward freedom?”

***

This Saturday, Visitation Sisters all around the world will renew their vows. As they make their way toward this feast day, they remind me, and all of us, of our commitments before God. And too, of God’s faithfulness to us.

Join me, the Women of Prayer, the Visitation Sisters, Jamar’s family, and people grieving life lost to violence all over the world, in the prayer of Exodus. Together, let us recall that our journey toward liberation is bound up in God’s love and promises for all of us.