Author Archives: Melissa

Christ among us, or, a Lenten Lunch with David

by Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion

“May we, like God, never tire of forgiving, of accompanying those who need forgiveness on a path to dignity and wholeness.”- Rev. Denis J. Madden, Baltimore Archdiocese*

On this Lenten journey together…

I think it was Sister Karen who answered the door. We had all just finished noon prayer and convened in the dining room of Fremont House to have lunch, when Sister appeared and, beside her, a man in his early to mid-fifties, sporting a fleece jacket and a bright smile.

“This is David. He’s joining us for lunch.”

Our table, surrounded by white community members who were pausing to enjoy a Friday lenten meal of vegetable soup, cheese and bread, was now rounded out by a brown guest who was, save for his name, a stranger among us.

“How did you find us?” Katherine asked, making way for him to be seated at the table.

David told us of a mutual friend on the northside who pointed him our direction, and there was an immediate, collective nod — a knowing.

It’s good when friends point Jesus our way. It’s part of our ministry of prayer and presence to feed the hungry. To see Christ in our midst. To offer Jesus a bit to eat and a warm place to rest his feet.  

Mary Frances went to make him a grilled cheese, and Suzanne dished up a bowl of the last serving of her homemade soup. We listened and learned from the spoken words – and the silence – of our Lenten guest’s journey.

“I just got out of prison two weeks ago, after a three year stint. I’m trying to find my family.” David told us where he was staying; he confided that his mother had died while he was in jail, and shared his desire to re-connect with his people. He wanted us to pray for him, for his courage to stay strong, stay out of trouble. He seemed grateful for the hot food.

I sat at the opposite end of the room and was in awe. Who was this man? Where did he come from? How could he trust us? Were I in his shoes, would I be able to confide in a room of strangers, to disclose such vulnerable truths?

At Mary Frances’ instigation, (or was it the Holy Spirit’s nudging?) we circled around him. We laid our hands on him. And we prayed. We prayed the spontaneous prayer of God’s love, of salvation, of grace, of our Lord’s mercy. We prayed for David. We prayed for ourselves. We gave thanks for his presence and the reminder of Christ’s forgiveness, of His promise of dignity and wholeness. We spoke words, we whispered intentions to ourselves. I thought of David’s mother, her soul in Heaven; his family, in whatever far reaches of this city or world they lived. I imagined, for a split second this formerly incarcerated man, this returning citizen, and his family, all in one embrace.

I touched his shirt sleeve and the back of his hand, and thought, “This is Jesus. He’s right here in the room.”

Lent is a time of of acknowledging our humanity, of seeing the way we sin – or separate ourselves from God. It’s a time of walking humbly together on this path of reconciliation and new life. As we pray for David, this day,  we pray for ourselves and for the world; we pray for the ways our Christian journeys are bound up in one another and our salvation seeks to recognize and live our communion with God. We pray for our restored reunions to each other and the Loving God that made us all.

 

 

***

*From “Prison Addiction” published by America Magazine.

To read more on our ministry of prayer and presence, click here.

 

SisterStory: S. Katherine Mullin reflects on knowing our neighbors

Sister Katherine Mullin VHM has been featured on SisterStory, an ongoing story of National Catholic Sisters Week, aimed at broadening awareness of Catholic sisters across the nation.

This SisterStory snapshot features S. Katherine reflecting on an experience in north Minneapolis and coming to know God through a neighbor. This is the third in a series of these videos recorded by Gina Giambruno at St. Catherine University.

Is knowing your neighbors important to you?

 

You can also view all of the videos of Sr. Katherine here:

https://www.sisterstory.org/gina-giambruno/sister-katherine-mullin-vhm-fall-2014-snapshot-collection

SisterStory: S. Katherine Mullin reflects on Discernment

Sister Katherine Mullin VHM has been featured on SisterStory, an ongoing story of National Catholic Sisters Week, aimed at broadening awareness of Catholic sisters across the nation.

This SisterStory snapshot features S. Katherine reflecting on her call to come to north Minneapolis, after entering at Visitation Mendota. This is the second in a series of these videos recorded by Gina Giambruno at St. Catherine University.

On Discernment and Ministry

 

You can also view all of the videos of Sr. Katherine here:

https://www.sisterstory.org/gina-giambruno/sister-katherine-mullin-vhm-fall-2014-snapshot-collection

Sister Katherine featured on SisterStory!

Sister Katherine Mullin VHM has been featured on SisterStory, an ongoing story of National Catholic Sisters Week, aimed at broadening awareness of Catholic sisters across the nation.

SisterStory

Who are Catholic sisters? What are their lives like? What impact have they had over the course of American history? What difference do they make today?

The intention of Sister Story is to demystify religious life – the vows of poverty, celibacy and obedience, the experience of living in community, the desire to belong totally to God – by sharing the stories of Catholic sisters. They do this by connecting sisters with young women and sharing their impressions in an authentic, first-person 20-something voice.

During her senior fall semester at the St. Catherine University, Gina Giambruno spent time each month visiting with Sr. Katherine Mullin. The following video is one snapshot from those conversations. Stay tuned for more!

On knowing God’s will within…

You can also view all of the videos of Sr. Katherine here:

https://www.sisterstory.org/gina-giambruno/sister-katherine-mullin-vhm-fall-2014-snapshot-collection

 

Following the Spirit Discernment Series is Back! Register Today….

Thinking about your career? Wondering how God is calling you in this new year? Contemplating your greatest gifts and passions? Longing to make a move?  Unpacking a season of change, struggle, or suffering? Or simply desiring quiet in a community to be still with the concept of vocation? Join us for this series.

Following the Spirit:

A small group at St. Jane House.

A small group at St. Jane House.

Following the Spirit is a five-part series led by Visitation Sister Katherine Mullin of north Minneapolis; Visitation Companion Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeFr. Ernie Martello of the Crosier Brothers and Fathers of Onamia, MN; Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Pastor, Rev. Karen Wight Hoogheem of Faith Lutheran in Coon Rapids; and Sister Jill Underdahl and Jennifer Tacheny, from the Sisters of St. Joseph/ Celeste’s Dream community in St. Paul.*

Anchored in the rich tradition of discernment resources, each session will offer a different form of prayer, feature a vocation story, and include time in small groups to unpack participants’ discernment journeys, focusing on vocation. Attendance at all five discernment evenings is strongly encouraged.

The Visitation Community is happy to partner with the Collegeville Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research using their adapted curriculum material for the series.

For more information and to register today, click here.

 

*Collaborating Communities:

sisters_of_st_joseph_of_carondelet_logo crosier FaithLogo4Windsock Logo Resized

The Work of Christmas Begins…

by Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion

It’s a shut down day at the monastery. The guests have gone home. We’ve bustled — been on the move in a monastic fervor this past Advent and ongoing Christmas season. We’ve rung in the New Year.  And now we rest. Or now, according to poet, Civil Rights activist and theologian, Dr. Howard Thurman, the work of Christmas really begins….

This piece has traction in my heart this day. Perhaps it will speak to you, too? I’m posting it as text, and in a special a cappella version arranged by Dan Forrest. 

The Work of Christmas Begins.

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:

To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers,
To make music in the heart.

–by Dr. Howard Thurman

Contemplating the creche: What do we cradle into being?

What are you cradling?

What are you cradling?

by Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion

We passed a wooden cradle lined with a soft, quilted comforter from person to person, speaking of our pasts, our passions and what brought us to the room. On this first Sunday of Advent, there were 16 of us gathered alongside the Visitation Sisters at the monastery on Fremont Avenue north in Minneapolis.

The cradle, built for a small doll, moved from one set of hands to another. This child’s play toy, evoking imagination and care, was empty, save the blue and white checkered lining. It rest open, waiting, ready to receive a small babe, a doll, perhaps. Set beneath a thatched roof, wooden structure, it could serve as a creche for the Christ child. In each hand, it was open to receive our words,  our dreams manifesting, even being born in our speaking….

“What small thing are you longing to cradle and bring before the world, in a small, hidden, holy way? Where are you saying, ‘yes’ to Love being born?”

The Sisters extended an invitation to create a Resident Lay Community alongside them in north Minneapolis and, on this particular December night in Advent, convened a room of discerning adults who were hearing a “yes” in their own hearts and minds to this holy opportunity.

Hail Mary, 1950, Frank Kacmarcik

Hail Mary, 1950, Frank Kacmarcik

With each passing of the cradle, a profound stillness and sacred “yes” seemed apparent:

YES, I’m interested.

Yes, I’m open.

Yes, I’m seeking.

Yes, your will be done.

It was as if Mary, Christ’s mother, was in our midst….

***

We ask for continued prayers as this community, vision, dream, gestates and makes way to birth. Not unlike the Christ child being born, there is a faithful certainty and hope, expectation and dreams, all connected with this labor, with this journey,  with this longing and promise by God to become.

In this Advent Season, we invite you to consider your own prayerful pondering and meditation on the Christ Child’s crib: Still empty, what do you desire to see in that space of comfort and simultaneous discontent? What small thing are you longing to cradle and bring before the world, in a small, hidden, holy way? Where are you saying, “Yes” to Love being born?

We can all pray for one another, perhaps?

LIVE+JESUS!

 

Snapshots from the Sisters: Advent Edition

Advent and Incarnation Blessings! We are so blessed at this time of the year with the prayerful presence of so many friends, families, and volunteers, as we go about our Merry-Christmas-Peace-making-Prayer, that remind us of the journey to Christ’s birth and God among us.

Advent at the Monastery. Anna and Laura Presents

Photo #2: Anna and Laura Dourgarian dropping off Christmas presents from the staff at TempWorks Software. (Two friends from countless organizations and community networks that generously donate to our community at this time of year.)

Here are a couple photos highlighting our Advent to date. We invite you to write a creative caption for any of these photos below in our comment section.

 

Advent Christmas Cookies with SS

Photo #1: Sr. Suzanne Making Christmas Cookies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Prayer and Santa Party

Photo#3: Sr. Karen leading prayer in the chapel at the Christmas prayer and Santa Party.

 

Christmas Story Vis Seniors

Photo #4: Vis School Seniors read from the Christmas story as Sr. Katherine and children look on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

***Visit our Facebook page and Flickr albums for more pics from this season.

Seeing Love: Incarnation Contemplations

by Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion

The following post appears at “Adding to the Beauty” — as part of the “Tireless Hope” Series for Advent: inviting voices of Midwest writers to join the conversation around beauty as it is documented and posted in the Middle East by travelers Becca and Andrew Ulasich.

Adding to Beauty. Winter Tree“Advent [that is to say, the Incarnation] makes us look for God in all those places we have, until now, ignored.” – Joan Chittister

Fr. Dale Korogi opened a recent homily at the Visitation Sisters’ monastery with a paraphrase of Sr. Joan Chittister’s words:

“It’s safe to say that the Visitation Sisters are an Advent community, inviting us to find God in places we have often ignored; places like Fremont and Girard Avenue in North Minneapolis.”

I’d say the same is true regarding Becca and Andrew Ulasich — Northside community members traveling and volunteering around the world. They are an Advent couple on a mission: inviting us to find God in places we have, until now, perhaps ignored; places like Sari Bari in Kolkata; a Himalayan Mountain boarding-school in Northern India, and Poor Servants of Jesus the Master in Nepal. This Advent, they journey through the Holy Land, tuning into stories of Israelis and Palestinians; holding open their hearts, seeking beauty at every turn.

As I sit to write this post, I consider it a gift to be invited to Add to the Beauty in this Advent Series: Middle East meets Midwest.

Inherent in this invitation to compose a blog, is a similar invitation inherent in the season of Advent — and echoed by Joan Chittister’s words. I ask: How is the incarnation manifesting in places I’ve ignored? What are the dark spaces I sidestep or scurry by in my world? In my own psyche or spirit? What headlines do I prefer to scan over — or news posts do I elect to tune out in my Twitter or Facebook feeds in a conscious or unconscious manner? How can Advent help transform my perspective — my heart, my mind, and way of living and loving?”

The incarnation, God taking on human form, means that I am inextricably woven into the story of Love.

I began writing this blog on Thanksgiving morning. Tucked into a cozy room of my parent’s lakeside home nestled in the wooded landscape along the Lewis and Clark Reservoir along the Missouri Riverbanks that form the border between Nebraska and South Dakota. I recognized my geographical location in an area called Hideaway Acres” as keenly appropriate; and I wondered, “What is hidden in my own heart that God is asking me to shine a light on?”

The past four weeks leading up to the start of Advent have been chock full of large events that give way for my pause and incarnation contemplations:

–My baby sister got married;

–My husband donated a kidney to his older sister;

–We had an opportunity to embrace new family members from Burkina Faso, West Africa;

–We were embraced by family members who reside in a care facility devoted to their mental health in Northeast Nebraska;

–Two of our best friends were married in a ceremony uniting their Puerto Rican and Polish-American families, after my husband and I introduced them.

The incarnation, God taking on human form, means that I am inextricably woven into the story of Love. At every turn, I have an opportunity to marvel at the mystery of my connection to every other creature on this planet, and to see beauty, goodness, hope. I am given the opportunity to bow down in awe at the workings of our marvelous Creator. The Creator of my and my husband’s siblings and all of our blessed organs. I can stand in awe at the recent immigration narratives of my nieces from Burkina Faso as I marvel the healing journeys of two uncles who battle addiction and mark life as formerly homeless. I am prostrate to Love as it is born out in the marriage of two who never entertained this kind of happy union for themselves.

As we journey together this Advent, what unites us in our contemplations of the incarnation? What ignored spaces of life does God invite each of us to see?

Blessings!

On being still: Placing our worries at the feet of Jesus — and other prayerful stances

What prayerful stance am I called to?

What prayerful stance are you called to enact?

by Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion

I like the idea of God and I pressing our foreheads together. I lean in, Love leans closer. My eyes gaze down, and the Good Lord’s radiance heats up my head, in a way that makes me tingle all over. I’m delightfully still, not having to move backward or forward, but simply be in that intimate, physically real and imagined, posture of prayer.

Sometimes, when I sit to pray,  I close my eyes, and imagine traveling all the way out in the galaxy, to sit airily on one of Saturn’s rings taking in this glorious universe that God has made. I’m small and simultaneously in perfect awe of all that God has brought into being. I take a deep breathe, recognizing that this moment is comprised of eons of love and intention in order to be, and I feel held, and precious in the whole of my life circumstances.

Other times when I sit, I go with a recent experience in life — one where I have felt love and delight in God’s presence. Like this morning, when my 4 year old daughter said: “Mom, let’s play that game where I run by you and you grab me and say, ‘I’m never going to let you go.'” I’m complicit in this ongoing game of ours, and in following her lead, I realize that I may be enacting a similar game or request with God. As I reach out, embrace my wriggling 4 year old, and entertain squeals of delight enveloping her as a  precious child, I feel God doing a similar thing with me. “I’m never going to let you go” He whispers, and sounds a lot like me.

My typical “go-to” stance in Centering Prayer is this: laying everything at the feet of Jesus. I show up in my chair, chant the morning Psalm in the best way I know how, and then ask for the grace to sit still for the next twenty minutes. I breathe in and out deeply and am, more often than not, ecstatic to arrive in the chair and not have to solve one thing, make a next decision, or be “perfect” in any way shape or form. I just have to show up. And as I “show up” in my chair, I consciously try to lay down any thought or anxiety or recent drama that manages to worm its way forward in my consciousness. “Here you go, Jesus!” I say in my mind, and imagine  literally placing the worry at the toes, heels and ankles of God.

When my good friend  Karen and I reflect aloud about our prayer lives and attempts at faithful living, we often giggle. And this phrase and stance: “Put it at the feet of Jesus” is a delightful reminder and invitation to surrender and trust in God’s love and mercy for all aspects of our lives.

***

As we make our way through this season of holiday prep and gratitude making, I invite you to consider your own prayer life. How are you positioning yourself? Where do you find stillness? What do you imagine Love inviting you to do? What do you want or need to place at the foot of the cross?