Author Archives: Melissa

A Ministry of Warmth

12 year old Cemya enjoying the fire

12 year old Cemya enjoying the fire

by Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion

I imagine his hands. The gloved fingers wielding a chain saw that rattles and buzzes as a pine tree is leveled in the acreage outside his homestead. In my mind’s eye, I see the ax or mechanical splitter that he operates, separating the logs into firewood.

I can see her hands complicit in the intricate dance that is knitting choreography: moving her fingers and guiding needles that move wool strands – back and forth. Knit one, pearl two, in the creation of a warm, winter hat or scarf.

“Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours…
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.”
– 
Teresa of Avila (1515–1582)

We have an unspoken ministry that is part of our presence in north Minneapolis. It is a ministry of warmth — of fire, of gloves and hats and coats that, in our deepest hearts, extends God’s love and care to each of our northside friends and neighbors. It is a literal ministry that has grown organically from our prayer and presence in the heart of the city; one that invites each of us into deeper union and fellowship with one another, by virtue of tending to the temperature.

When the cold sets in, you may find Sr. Mary Margaret or Sr. Katherine at the hearth’s edge, stacking logs in the Fremont House living room fireplace, placing kindling in precise igniting points under the wood. Later, you may stumble upon any one of the Sisters poking the burning timber, stoking the fire to keep the living area bright and warm.

Christ’s hands: Vince Waldock delivers firewood to Monastery porch

Twenty five years ago, when our founding Sisters first arrived in north Minneapolis, they began these cold weather rituals. Living their Visitation charism, they invited those knocking at the door to come inside– to be their guest before the fire. Not unlike extending a glass of cold water in the summer’s heat, extending a seat by the fire in the monastery living room became a practice of their monastic hospitality and Salesian ministry in the winter.

Joe Neumier was tuned in to a Channel 4 news story about the Visitation Sisters’ ministry to children some twenty years ago, and was inspired seeing a child happy and warm sitting next to the Sisters’ living room hearth. He decided to send a truck load of firewood to the northside nuns. This Visitation friend was moved to contribute in this small way to the winter warmth ministry and presence of the Visitandines.

Sitting in the chapel last Saturday morning for prayer, I heard the sound of repetitive footsteps on the front porch of Fremont followed by an exclamation from S. Mary Frances: “The firewood is here!”

Punctuating our prayer was this delightful tale of how the firewood began to be delivered by Vince Waldock and Lawrence James — “Mr. Neumier’s firewood men from Little Falls.”

Pointing to the laborers, S. Mary Frances’ said, “This is just an example of the behind-the-scenes folks that make our lives so warm and inviting.” In addition, of course, we have the countless Visitation friends who provide warm coats and those knitting hats and scarves for our winter clothing give-away.

With Sister’s words, my imagination and prayer has taken off to visualize how intricate this web of charitable giving and heart-felt labor occurs.

Where do your hands take you? What ways do you work to make your community warmer? How is Love’s presence revealed through your small action this day? To echo Teresa of Avila: how are you Christ’s hands and feet?

LIVE + JESUS!

 

Commissioning Cody — Visitation Volunteer Intern Commitment and Blessing Ceremony

by Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion

Welcome VIP Cody! Photo by Brian Mogren

Welcome VIP Cody! Photo by Brian Mogren

One of the first things you might notice about Cody Maynus is his quick wit; the second is his penchant for all things gracious and hospitable. As a new member of our Visitation Community, we are so fortunate to have this fine fellow among us for this next year serving as a Visitation Volunteer Intern.

“I commit myself to be a stable presence, to practice hospitality, to honor holy flexibility, to “Live+Jesus!” in the northside.”

A month ago, we welcomed Cody formally to our lay community in a commissioning ceremony at Girard House, followed by a blessing of his new digs at Alafia Place with intentional community member, friend, flatmate, and northside minister: Heidi Schleif. What follows is Cody’s Commitment Statement, along with a link to “Welcome New VIP: Cody Maynus!” a photo album of the evening’s events.

We invite you to follow Cody as he makes his way on the northside — exploring Salesian Spirituality; living a life of prayer and service among the northside Sisters and friends; and weaving together his gifts of service, humor, wit, and words with his giant mystical heart.

Please keep him in your prayers, eh?

Live + Jesus!

S. Mary Frances and Cody

Commitment Statement,
by Cody E Maynus:

“In the strong name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

In the presence of Almighty God, my family and friends and these Sisters of the Visitation, I commit myself

  • to be a stable presence — grounding myself firmly in the north side of Minneapolis, locating myself gently between Word and Sacrament, surrounding myself with community, and rooting myself to the life of this monastery;

Cody in Vis Community

  • to practice hospitality – loving the Christ in every person whom I encounter, even and especially those most difficult to love;
  • to honor holy flexibility — allowing the Spirit of God the room to upset my plans and preconceptions; and
  • to “Live Jesus” in the northside — to cultivate the virtues of Salesian spirituality: patience, simplicity, gentleness, interiority, joy and hope.

I will endeavor to do these things relying on the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Elizabeth, St. Jane, St. Francis, St. Hildegard, and the whole company of saints in light.”

Signed: Cody E Maynus, Sr. Mary Frances Reis
September 12, 2014.

See photos of the Commissioning and House Blessing at: “Welcome New VIP: Cody Maynus!” a Flickr photo album.
Follow Cody at his blog: Come, Oh Thou Travellor Unknown
To read more about Cody, see his About page Bio.


An Open Letter to the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales’ Novices

Oblates and Sr. Karen.  Top, L-R: Joe, Craig, Jordan, Chris, Jim; Seated, L-R: Joe, S. Karen, Fr. Mike

Oblates and Sr. Karen at St. Jane House
Top, L-R: Joe, Craig, Jordan, Chris, Jim; Seated, L-R: Joe, S. Karen, Fr. Mike

Dear Novices of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales,*

We love you.

On behalf of the Visitation Community, I extend gratitude for your visit and spirited presence among us for the week celebrating our 25th Anniversary in north Minneapolis. We are so lucky that Fr. Mike Newman, OSFS, was able to come for a week and tote all of you along! What a director you have for your novitiate! St. Jane House experienced a new level of Salesian presence with all of you in residence.

I try to imagine our founders, St. Jane de Chantal and St. Francis de Sales, moving about in the week of your visit; their smiles, laughter, sighs, and joy with our time together. Can you see this?

You are welcome back anytime. In the meantime, you remain in our prayers as you make your way through your novitiate year. We hold Fr. Mike, especially, in his role as Novice Master. Blessings as you pursue the vocation to “Be who we are and be that well!” as St. Francis de Sales counseled.

LIVE+JESUS!

Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

 

*For more on the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, visit their website.
**To see more photos of the Oblates’ visit to the Twin Cities, visit our Flickr Album, “Oblates Among Us”.

 

Giving Thanks for 25 Years

"We the church of the People of God -- need to be standing in the near north." --Archbishop Roach, October 2, 1989

“We the church of the People of God — need to be standing in the near north.” –Archbishop Roach, October 2, 1989

So we had a party. Or rather, a WEEK of parties: merry-making, reflecting, celebrating, giving thanks, and marking our call to found a monastic community in the heart of north Minneapolis twenty-five years ago. From Monday to Sunday, our Salesian friends, family, neighbors, collaborators, and benefactors descended on our little corner of the northside, and together, we gave thanks for one another, and the Spirit at work in all of our lives calling us to “LIVE + JESUS!”

Week Overview:

  • Monday 9/29: Brenda Lisenby arrived for Monastic Immersion Experience. Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, Fr. Mike Newman, and six novices arrived to spend the week, staying at St. Jane House. 
  • Tuesday 9/30: Fr. Mike and the guys spent the day with us, hearing our history and doing service around the monastery.
  • Wednesday 10/1:  Sr. Mary Mao returned from New York.  The novices spent the entire day at Visitation School and Convent in Mendota.
  • Thursday, 10/2:  Foundation Day — Liturgy of Hours, Mass, Festive luncheon with representatives from each of our monasteries (Georgetown, Brooklyn, St. Louis) and Mendota Heights Visitation school, our Companions, Intern and the Oblates.
  • Friday, 10/3:   The novices and Fr. Mike joined us for Morning Prayer, meals, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and Mass.
  • Saturday, 10/4 the BIG DAY: Celebration at Capri Theater with emcee Fr. Michael O’Connell, a slideshow by former Vis Neighbor, Jenny Larson,  and keynote by Fr. Mike Newman; dancers from Lundstrum Center of Performing Arts; followed by an intimate pizza party at Girard and Brother Mickey presenting us with a new painting. The Novices and Mike joined us for Morning Prayer/Communion Service and were on deck the entire day to help in countless ways. 
  • Sunday, 10/5: Church of the Ascension went all out to celebrate us!  Mass, gifts, reception.The Novices prepared our evening meal and farewell party/prayer; and the Sisters shared vocation stories with the novices in their own discernment. 

For those unable to be physically present with us, we invite you to visit any of the above links to photos of our guests, and video of our speakers, story-sharing, and reflecting. We are grateful for the work of so many hands, and the faith that has brought us to this moment. We don’t stand alone.

Cheers!

If the above links are too much to navigate, you can view documentation at:

LIVE + JESUS!

Celebrating our 25th Anniversary in the Heart of north Minneapolis

Today, the Feast of Guardian Angels, we mark our 25th year as a monastic community in the heart of north Minneapolis. The following history and images come from our archives, and are accompanied by pictures snapped at today’s Foundation Day mass.

25th Anniversary Mass

Foundation Day Mass 2014: A panoramic shot of our Salesian community gathered at Girard House.

***

From the archives: Founding Sisters "bond" with community members.

1989: Founding Sisters “bond” with local members of the police force.

On September 29, 1989, Sisters Mary Margaret, Karen and Mary Virginia said tearful good byes to their beloved St. Louis Visitation to come to establish, with Sr. Mary Frances, the Visitation Monastery of Minneapolis.

“Directed by the Holy Spirit through the ten years of discernment that preceded this foundation, we came with no other plan than to be faithful to our monastic way of life, which is centered on prayer and community, and to welcome and listen to those who came to our door. (Jesus promised us He would be there!) By faithfully listening to our neighbors, our agenda began to gradually unfold.”
- S. Mary Frances reflects on the founding of the monastery in our fall 2013 newsletter

Fr. Mike Newman, OSFS, presides at our Foundation Day mass with guests from our Visitation and Salesian Communities across the United States.

Fr. Mike Newman, OSFS, presides at our Foundation Day mass with guests from our Visitation and Salesian Communities across the United States.

On October 2, 1989Feast of the Guardian Angels,  Archbishop John R. Roach commissioned the Sisters to bring the gentle, non-violent charism of their founders to this inner city community. In his words, “I am happy I am sending the angels with you!.”

 

Click here to read more about the “Quarter-Century Marking”  of our northside ministry of prayer and presence: Fall 2013 Newsletter

 

Click here to see more photos from today’s Foundation Day Mass. 

Salesian Second Mondays Begin! This Year’s Theme: “Holiness is for Everyone”

On Monday, September 8, 2014, the Sisters and Visitation Companion Coordinator Jody Johnson convened our annual Salesian Second Monday series. This monthly event runs from September through April and includes a light pot luck supper and fellowship; followed by guided conversation around a topic related to Salesian Spirituality; and closes with Night Prayer. This year’s theme is “Holiness is for Everyone.” All are welcome!

Drawing from the Vatican II emphasis on the laity, as well as the writings of St. Francis de Sales, we are considering what it means to be holy in any walk of life. We reflect on how Salesian virtues may be expressed in different kinds of vocations.

To kick off the season focusing on (what the Church calls) the “universal call to holiness“, each Visitation Sister shared from her life, offering us some grounding insights on this theme.

Click to hear Visitation Sister Suzanne Homeyer offer a few stories that illustrate holiness.
To watch more of the Sisters reflecting on this theme of “Holiness is for Everyone”, tune into our Visitation Monastery YouTube Channel.

Remaining Salesian Second Monday Dates:

Monday, October 13, 2014
Monday, November 10, 2014
Monday, January 12, 2015
Monday, February 9, 2015
Monday, March 9, 2015
Monday, April 13, 2015

Join us!

 

What we see: Prayer in a time of violence

Peace of Christ

Peace: Wednesday Noon Prayer Intention

by Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion

I imagine him standing at his kitchen sink. Maybe he’s stirring up a glass of orange juice to go with a late morning lunch –something to satiate his thirst before he has to go to work. From the kitchen window of his garden level apartment he sees a police officer shoot a young man running the other direction. It’s noon on Saturday, August 9, 2014,  and the community of Ferguson, Missouri, is about to change. This citizen, who goes by the name “Bruh” @TheePharoah on Twitter, has a literal grass-roots-level view of his neighborhood –just beyond the barred windows of his home. In a moment of social connectivity, he documents this experience from his perspective.

I try to imagine the night Toua Xiong was killed delivering pizzas in north Minneapolis. What it would have been like had I been standing at my kitchen window looking out and seen the teenage boy shot.  Or the moment Chris Dozier’s life came to an end in an alley off 14th and Plymouth. Or the late afternoon Marcus White was got caught in crossfire near West Broadway and Dupont. Or the evening Quincy DeShawn Smith’s life came to an abrupt halt in spite of police intervention. As former students in my 10th grade English class at North High, these young men’s deaths come to the fore and evoke my prayerful attention whenever headline news and social media report on gun violence in our world.

What does a witness to gun violence experience on a visceral level? On an intellectual, emotional, or spiritual level? What does he or she internalize in the aftermath of such a violent encounter? How does our prayer take shape in the wake of violence? How do we pray for survivors of such traumatic events — and the victims and perpetrators themselves?

Ferguson: A grass-roots level perspective

Each Wednesday, the Sisters devote their noon prayer to peace in the world. They pause at the lunch hour to remember God’s grace and goodness and love pouring out for all of us. As they chant the psalms, they hold the root causes of violence in their hearts, and give voice to personal intentions of people suffering and struggling to find peace. They seek to transform the world through prayer.

This past week, our noon liturgy in the Fremont House chapel was blessed by a few new guests that rounded out our prayerful pause. The Sisters sat in their usual chairs, as Roselaine* — a friend of S. Mary Frances’ who works for the Minneapolis police – sidled in beside me on the bench, followed by Jermaine* and Denzell* – two twelve year old boys we know from our neighborhood gardening evenings.

My heart was near to bursting at the outset. The configuration of pink and brown-skinned people convened in the chapel choir stalls enacting a centuries-old ritual of chant and silence moved me — especially in light of recent headlines reporting racial injustice and dehumanizing circumstances in our world.

I prayed for Gawolo, a former northside Teen Group participant I knew who had posted on Facebook that he was down in Ferguson, Missouri. I prayed for all those marching for human dignity and justice. I prayed for Roselaine, and her counterparts in our local police force as they go about their work of keeping safe the community. I prayed for “Bruh” in Missouri and his Twitter followers; I prayed for the officer who shot an unarmed Mike Brown. I prayed for my former students whose lives had all come to an end because of a fired bullet in the hand of an an angry person. I prayed for all who witness, wonder and grieve.

Honoring life: memorial site of a young person who died from gun violence in north Minneapolis.

Honoring life: memorial site for a young person who died from gun violence in north Minneapolis.

***

It was after prayer, sitting on the front porch enjoying jelly toast, chicken salad and lunchtime conversation, that Jermaine spoke up –and my intentions for peace continued.

“I’ve seen someone get killed,” he said.  The 12 year old boy, just days shy of starting sixth grade, sat squarely in the white whicker chair and shared his first hand experience witnessing gun violence.

He told us: It was broad day light. Near a corner store. Bullets passed him as he walked along the sidewalk. He described a man grabbing him and pulling him down – out of the way of the gunfire.

My eyes went to Jermaine’s. His direct, unabashed, unwavering, piercing brown-eyed gaze. I took note of his friend Denzell’s floor-directed stare. I wondered about what all these young boys’ eyes would see in their lifetime.

These stories of death, of witnessing violence, of being privy to gunshots and brutality – as part of everyday life, I want them to stop.

My prayer continues.

*names have been changes to protect the privacy of the persons. 

Are you called to be a Visitation Companion? New formation cohort convenes this fall

Melissa with Visitation Sisters Mary Margaret, Mary Frances, Katherine, Mary Virgina and Karen on her 40th Birthday at St. Jane House.

With the Visitation Sisters, from L-R: S. Mary Margaret, S. Mary Frances, me, S. Katherine, S, Mary Virgina and S. Karen at St. Jane House.

by Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion

I met these women and my life changed. I had no idea it would, but it did — for the better. I want for everyone on this earth to know the love, gentleness, and gifts of the way the Visitation Sisters live Salesian Spirituality in Minneapolis. I want to invite others to join me in this community of lay affiliation to their religious order.

I write on this Feast Day of St. Jane de Chantal, co-foundress of the Sisters of the Visitation of Holy Mary, recalling my journey toward affiliation with this monastic order — and with this invitation for all others to discern a call to our lay community.

Are you called to become a Companion to the Visitation Sisters of Minneapolis? Does a life of Salesian prayer, study and service alongside these Northside nuns beckon to you? 

When Sr. Katherine walked up to me after mass that Sunday morning in the Spring of 2002, donning her silver cross and extending a gentle smile introducing herself for the first time, something quiet inside me was ignited. Did I have a hunger for God? Did I crave a new form of ministry and service outside my current occupation? Was a faith community anchored in social justice principles part of what I was seeking? Indeed!

Vis Companion Bianca

Vis Companion Bianca

Twelve years after the fact, I think now of the dear friend, Vocations partner, and Mystery-of-the-Visitation-“Elizabeth,” that Sister Katherine has become to me;  and I’m grateful to God for that initial introduction, and the nudging of the Holy Spirit to stay connected to all of the “nuns in the ‘hood.”

What calls a person to Companionship alongside a monastic order? What spoke to me — then and even now? What is in your heart’s deepest longing when it comes to living the gospel?

Twelve years ago I sincerely entertained God’s invitation to become a nun. Somewhere in the back of my head,  however, and deep within my heart, I knew I had an incomplete calling as a wife and mother; I had to nurture lives beyond those that I had been called to care for as an inner-city teacher and community arts collaborator. Choosing celibate, vowed,  religious life as a contemplative, monastic Sister, was to turn my back on Love’s calling to be a biological parent and married partner.

My discernment weekend came to a close with the community, I announced my intentions to not become a nun, and only then did the hunger or passion totally kick in. I fell in love with these Sisters, their ministry of prayer and presence, and their founders St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal at the helm of the Order modeling a way of relating, praying and “LIVING+JESUS!”.  The Sisters manner of living Francis’ and Jane’s spirituality (i.e., “Salesian Spirituality”)  was born out in the way they were present to my North High students and their families, and it revealed a new way of being in the world to me.  By praying four times a day, practicing stability in their neighborhood, and living out the little virtues, they were doing something revolutionary to me. I wanted to be part of that. I wanted more. The calm. The peace. The present-moment-pachal-mystery-Visitation-charism.

I still do.

***

Are you called to become a Visitation Companion?

Are you called to become a Visitation Companion?

In the Fall of 2005, three years after I’d first come to the community to discern a religious life vocation, a group of lay women and men under the auspices of the Sisters began a formation process to become a new lay community studying Salesian Spirituality and trying to live the charism of the Sisters — but in our own lives, homes, and places of employment. Today, that group has grown to include new members – living both outside Minneapolis, and within a mile radius of the nuns.

This fall, the community will convene a new formation cohort for those who are interested in studying Salesian Spirituality and finding ways to pray and serve together as Companions. Maybe this group will include you?

For more information on becoming a Visitation Companion, please contact Jody Johnson at jodyreis@yahoo.com.

LIVE+ JESUS!

 

Come and Volunteer, Come and Join us: Neighborhood Night of Peace, Wednesday, August 6!

Mark your calendars!

Mark your calendars!

Hello all!
Neighborhood Night of Peace is this week!  This is the North Minneapolis Visitation Monastery’s effort —
partnering with Basilica, the Mosque, Ascension and neighbors — to get Northside families together for
a peace-filled evening of fun, food and DOOR PRIZES.

COME AND JOIN US!

We are still looking for volunteers to help out with kids games on Wednesday, August 6 for Neighborhood Night of Peace from 5 pm-7 pm.

Helpers would run games with a partner and distribute prizes. We are looking for several volunteers for this AWESOME event. Please send us a message, or contact our Youth Games Coordinator: Claire K. at: clairemariekranz@gmail.com

LIVE + JESUS!

God, the Potter

Image from www.peaceumcorlando.org

by Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion

“Lord, you are our father; we are the clay and you our potter: we are all the work of your hand.”
-Isaiah 64: 8

I had this moment yesterday when our out-door-playing, sunshiny-warm, grubby 4 year old girl came to me in a fitful state of ouch and woe with tears streaming down her face. She had so much fine dust covering her body that when her tears emerged, they trickled down in brown streaks across her skin.

This image came to me in my morning prayer meditating on today’s scripture. Wet brown, muddy, emotional being; loving touch; a moment of re-creation born from an intense experience.

I was sitting on the front porch — silent, eyes closed, palms up, twenty minute timer on — going into the heart of Isaiah’s text in my own imaginative way. (It’s the Feast of Ignatius of Loyola, after all, and imaginative prayer is part of my celebration of this saint and founder of the Jesuits.)

I saw the Good Lord’s hands holding me like I was clay, shaping my nose, tending to each strand of curly hair on my head, marking the curve of my cheek. And in that instant, my own gesture of love to a small child returned. Just as I had wiped away my daughter’s earth-stained tears, I imagined God doing the same to me, moving His hand over my skin, and reminding me of whence I came and the love and care inherent in His creation of me.

We are each from the earth. We are each born of love. We are each renewed and tended to by God in and through the Holy Spirit in our daily lives Can you fathom this? 

In my quiet, I was entertained and overwhelmed by emotion with these thoughts of God’s gentleness and care. I imagined Love, the Divine Potter, molding the individuals closest to my heart. I followed the Spirit’s nudges to see God creating the stranger that walked in front of my St. Paul home the day before. Eyes closed, I could still see the figure of the funny fellow who strolled down Selby Avenue wearing nothing save shorts, sporting a ukulele, and perching himself on a dinosaur sculpture across the way and then strumming. I delighted in this imaginative prayer that afforded me a glimpse into God’s love for all of us. And when the Holy Spirit took me to God sculpting the heart of the soldier-turned-terrorist who fired the missile, striking down flight MH17 out of Amsterdam killing 298 people, I was in shaken.

If God is our father, we are clay, and He the sculptor of our very lives –creating all of humanity —  then what does that mean for our world? What are the implications for our lives? Our relationships? Our next steps?

***

On this Feast day of St. Ignatius, with this particular scripture reading at your fingertips, I invite you to engage your creativity and enter into the heart of this text using your imagination. Get out some clay. Say a prayer. Sculpt and see what the Holy Spirit reveals to you.