Author Archives: Melissa

In Solidarity with the Sisters: Silent prayer

S. Katherine on Retreat at ARC

S. Katherine on Retreat at ARC

by Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion 

“There is a healthy silence that heals and bonds us all.” — S. Mary Margaret McKenzie

The Burkinabe freedom seeker with his fist in the air. The Syrian mother lowering her babe into a boat. Pope Francis lifting the Eucharist at mass in Cuba. The police officer turning on his siren and lights just a few blocks away. The principal at my daughter’s school reaching for my kindergartner’s hand to walk her inside.  A quiet woman standing before a slow moving stream. These are images that come to mind in my prayer this day.

Sitting on the front porch of my Selby Avenue home in St. Paul, I hold a prayerful space alongside and for the Visitation Sisters who are on retreat this week. I’m in silent solidarity with all. No matter the distance, or circumstance, we are all bound up in this mystical body of Christ – in our common humanity, with our beating hearts, breathing bodies, seeking spirits. And it is a loving silence which unites and heals us all.

“Silence makes us whole if we let it.  Silence helps draw together the scattered and dissipated energies of a fragmented existence.”
– Fr. Thomas Merton Love and Living.

In a prayerful meditation on silence last spring, S. Mary Margaret described a quiet that unifies and bonds us; a silence where wholeness is revealed, compassion and reconciliation germinate.  I was in the living room at Fremont House with a group of other lay men and women discerning community life alongside the Visitation Sisters in North Minneapolis. S. Mary Margaret’s meditations struck a deep chord in me. I scribbled her words onto a slip of paper: “There is a healthy silence that heals and bonds us all.” 

The Visitation Sisters’ community is immersed in quiet this week: on the second floor of Girard, on the back porch at Fremont; up at the ARC retreat center; over in Collegeville; lakeside at a friend’s cabin; down in Fairbault. Each sister is entering into the fullness of silence — in that echoic room of her heart where God’s voice booms, Love pierces and connects all things — and softens all stances into a compassionate embrace.

In my own attempted practice of daily silence or stillness on my front porch, I have these fleeting glimpses of unity. I can travel around the world, into the darkest corners of my own neighborhood, contemplate the warring factions of humanity riddled by poverty and hunger, a desire for power, or freedom. I can see these across the river in Minneapolis, in my husband’s home country of Burkina Faso, in the headlines reporting on the Middle East, and inside my own beating heart.

The silence doesn’t scare me. It’s a silence that invites me. It’s a silence that contains all the ills and joys of the world, and melds them into a wholeness, a reconciled beauty that I have few words for, save Love.

I invite you into this meditation today, into solidarity with our Sisters on retreat. Can you carve five minutes of quiet in your day?  Find a spot in your home, in your car, on your block; in your church, temple, mosque, in a park, in a space you might claim as sanctuary? Go inside your heart. Find the beating, pulsing reality of your interior being. Ask for God to show you Love’s peace, Love’s will, Love’s desire for you this day.

Will you join me and the Sisters in prayer?

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


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

Nativity of Mary

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion 

“Let us celebrate with joy the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, for from her arose the sun of justice, Christ our God.” — Entrance Antiphon for mass, September 8, 2015

Today, we mark Mary’s nativity, the birth of the mother of Jesus. Pausing to consider her life, her arrival to Anna and Joachim, her own humble journey and response to God’s call, I think about all of our mothers — all whose arrivals have precipitated our own and made our lives possible. I wonder: What does the path toward parenting look like? What is the journey that informs a mother’s “yes” to life? What, in Mary’s life, cultivated her capacity to respond to God’s invitation to bear Jesus? What, in our own lives, nurtures love and allows us to be present to the call to bear life in our unique ways?

It’s like Mother’s day, this feast day,  this invitation to meditate on Mary’s birth. I think about my own mom, and the mother that I am coming to be. I think about my child and her role in shaping my call and response to God, daily, in saying “yes” to love. To Nurture. To be here.


Rising late and dressing for school this morning, my five year old kindergartner stopped to sit cross-legged on her bed.

“Mom, can you do this?” she asked, bringing her hands to her heart center.

I told her, “Yes!” and sat opposite on another bed. Then she started “omm-ing.”

The principal at our daughter’s school told us our job as parents was to bring our kids to school calmly. So, even though we were running late, I joined Marguerite in her “omms.” I copied her posture, brought my hands to the center of my chest, closed my eyes, and I breathed deeply.

Then, my five year old said, “Now imagine you are flying in the sky.”

It was a moment we both shared –where she lead. She walked me through this way of being still, if only for a few seconds, but that helped ground us, her, our day. 


I return to Mary’s birth. I imagine Anna and Joachim’s great joy at her arrival and the outpouring of love for their daughter. I try to imagine Mary as a kindergartner, leading her own parents through rituals of calm and postures of meditation. I think of God delighting, too, in this child, this girl as she grows and becomes a woman.

As this day unfolds, and this feast of Mary’s birth makes its way into our own rhythms of life, I invite us to note the way Mary arrives, stirs, interrupts, and inspires our paths. How do we know her birth? How do honor our own becoming? What ways can we mark, now, and in days to come, this feast of her nativity and the ultimate birth of Christ among us?

Farm-to-Table Prayers

imageby Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion

“We cannot always offer God great things, but at each instant, we can offer him little things with great love.” –St. Jane de Chantal 

We are growing tomatoes. Zucchini. Onions. Kale. Swiss chard. Lettuce. Mint. Beets. Carrots. Beans. Peas. Melons. Eggplant. Basil. Tarragon. Strawberries. Cabbage. Cauliflower. The community cooperative garden has been a place of labor, rest, renewal, and joy this summer, as we come together as neighbors — sinking our hands into the soil, wielding scissors in the midst of leafy greens and harvesting vegetables and fruits from week to week.

This same sense of satisfaction that comes from my weekly time slot in the garden, comes, too, in the solitary hours I have at my kitchen island. I process the produce and I pray. My presence to the harvested vegetables and fruit has become one of my favorite experiences of God’s goodness this summer.

I’ve always liked to cook, but over the course of the last two years with locally grown food, the joy and satisfaction I’ve gotten from making meals has been transformed through this meditative process. It’s a ‘farm-to-table” prayer experience.

imageThis day, I’m slow roasting tomatoes. In recent weeks I have become much more adept at the process of breaking down the red ripe fruit: skinning, slicing, coring, pulping, seeding, chopping, laying out on the sheet pans. With each step, I bring a kind of awareness. My fingers wielding a serrated knife, my thumb pressing the fruit against the blade, halving the tomato section, and then repeating. I shake the container of salt over the sheet of chopped plum, beefsteak and early girls; I pour over olive oil and grind pepper from the mill. My fingers slide down the stems of fresh thyme and release the herb’s tiny leaves into the oil, creating an aroma that satisfies my greatest olfactory desires.


When I went to visit S. Mary Margaret in the hospital after her heart surgery a couple years ago, I asked if she wanted to pray. It was around the noon hour, and I knew the community would be convening back at the monastery for the liturgy of the hours. Her response, squeezing a pillow into her mid-section, releasing a labored exhale, still groggy from the whole experience, went something like, “Well, we are screwed if it’s not all prayer.”

I think the same is true for processing tomatoes. It’s all prayer. The gardening. The planting. The weeding. The waiting. The watering. The picking. The washing, cutting, roasting. Eating. All prayer.

The awareness of God in each step, of the connection between the earth, the sun, the soil, human labor, the toil, is akin to awareness of my own beating heart, and the breathing of all around me. Bound up in this gardening process is the life cycle of creation; the death and resurrection of the earth and seasons. This awareness shifts my understanding of our communal and solitary labor; transforming a mundane task (like picking a tomato) to a delightful way of engaging and being in the world (making pasta sauce to feed my family!). It’s an awareness, an attitude, that I can bring to other facets of life, then, too, which is generative, nurturing, even healing.

“We cannot always offer God great things, but at each instant, we can offer him little things with great love,” Jane de Chantal says. Chop a tomato. Savor a cucumber. Roast a squash. Mince a garlic clove. Brush your teeth. Kiss another’s hand. Breathe. Hug. Savor. Love.

Women of Prayer: An Invitation this Feast Day of St. Jane de Chantal!

St. Jane de Chantal

St. Jane de Chantal

Wife. Mother. Daughter. Widow. Sister. Friend. Leader. Contemplative Woman of Prayer.

Co-foundress of the Visitation Sisters, St. Jane Frances de Chantal embodied and lived many callings in her life. At the heart of her vocation to love and serve God was this ongoing commitment to prayer. Perhaps you find resonance with her and have a similar desire to have a life anchored by prayer? A desire to lead from within?

On this Feast day of St. Jane, we invite you to consider joining us for our fall discernment series, “Women of Prayer: Be who you are and be that well” — a five session course starting Monday, October 5,*  facilitated by S. Katherine Mullin, Visitation Companion Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, and Pastor Karen Wight Hoogheem.

Join other women seekers to explore the way prayer grounds our discernment and calls us forward in leadership — in our faith communities and beyond!

Whether you are Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist or Baptist; single or married; a Pentecostal preacher or hospital chaplain; birth-worker, grief counselor or “From Death to Life” leader; a stay-at-home mother or corporate executive; a woman from the suburbs or dwelling in the inner-city; one immersed in justice ministry or simply desiring more from your faith journey– you are welcome in this series!  Come and explore how contemplative rhythms in community inspire your listening and leadership in life.


Register online. Or for more information, contact:

Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde

Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde

Karen Wight Hoogheem

Karen Wight Hoogheem

Sr. Katherine Mullin, VHM

Sr. Katherine Mullin, VHM










Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde:

Karen Wight Hoogheem:

S. Katherine Mullin:


When: 7-9pm; Mondays, October 5, 19; November 2, 16, 30.

Where: St. Jane House, 1403 Emerson Avenue North, Minneapolis, MN 55411

Suggested donation: $50, payable at registration time.  We are happy to accept a sliding scale fee.

New Companion Cohort to Begin September 2015

Vis Companions PanoramaAre you called to deepen your commitment to a ministry of prayer and presence?
Does study of Salesian Spirituality feel like the next step in your faith journey?Do you desire a community with whom you serve and reflect on a regular basis?

Consider joining the Visitation Companions.

A new Companions formation group is starting in September. The commitment will be a monthly small group meeting from September-May with no meeting in December.

For more information about Joining Visitation Companions, please contact Jody Johnson at jodyreis(at) or 651-426-7524

Breaking Bread Visitation

by Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion

How many ways are there to make community?

How many ways are there to be community?

Cheesy grits topped with cajun shrimp. An herbed biscuit paired with a freshly brewed cup of coffee. Fruit, yogurt and granola parfait next to a side of over-easy eggs. All served on an outdoor patio along West Broadway in North Minneapolis. It’s not the usual scene for our communion table, nor typical Eucharistic feast — but it is where I experienced a sacred meal this past Monday morning that took me into the heart of a Eucharistic celebration. Together, with members of the Visitation Community, in the heart of the northside community: we broke bread; we enacted a sacred ritual.

As riots were breaking out in Baltimore last week and protest marches were held across our nation, a northside organization called Appetite for Change held a grand opening for its latest operation called “Breaking Bread Cafe.” With its mission to “use food as a tool to build health, wealth and create social change,” the cafe opened just three blocks north of the monastery — almost like a prayerful response to the unrest in our world. This is where Sr. Katherine Mullin, our monastic immersion resident Brenda Lisenby, Visitation intern Cody Maynus and I dined on Monday morning.

We sat outside on the patio facing west Broadway,  our dining area sharing a border with the headquarters for Minneapolis Public Schools — situated across the street from Shiloh Temple — where Barway Collins’ funeral service was held two days prior. Together, in this space, we broke bread.

Breaking Bread Cafe: serving "Global Comfort Foods for breakfast and lunch."

Breaking Bread Cafe: serving “Global Comfort Foods for breakfast and lunch.”

In the literal sense, we split an herbed biscuit and savored bites of the comfort food. In the figurative sense, we became Eucharist for one another– sharing stories, our joy, our heart’s questions and longing. We talked about poverty and violence. We mused on missionary work and ministry. We reflected on sustainable programming and our roles in service work. We wondered about past, present and future vocations.  We laughed at ourselves and said “Amen” — all in the space of an hour spent leisurely lingering over our communion food.

It makes me wonder: How many ways are there for us to enact the Eucharist?  To be the body of Christ — communion, community,  food –for one another? As we go about our respective days, in what ways do we consciously “LIVE+ JESUS” – as our co-founders St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal urged?

And: when Appetite for Change’s founders had the vision for “Breaking Bread” as a youth training and employment program, who came up with the name? How many religious and secular traditions have bread at the center of transformation and healing? These questions, this meal, still continue to feed me and inform my prayer. I encourage your own contemplations of holy dining experiences, at this new northside cafe, and at your own local tables.

On Contemplative Presence: Notes from Phase II Resident Lay Community Conversation

What is contemplative presence?

How do you practice contemplative presence in your life?

We’ve been meeting every other Sunday since January. In our convening for Phase II* of the Resident Lay Community conversations, lead by Sr. Mary Margaret McKenzie (and the Holy Spirit), there is a richness — a provocative nature to the questions posed, the stories shared. On any given Sunday, as our room of 8-12 lay women and men meanders into the Sisters’ formal invitation to unpack their Essentials of Community Living, there is an a informal integration at work of these Salesian principles of monastic living into our own lives.

The following are notes from a recent meeting for Phase II of the Resident Lay Community Conversations. Perhaps they will speak to you?


-compiled by Brenda Lisenby, Monastic Immersion Experience resident

The meeting began with an introduction of the essential “contemplative presence” and Salesian stability by Sr. Mary Margaret:

“Be where you are, and be there well.”

– an adaptation of St. Francis de Sales “Be Who you are and be that well.”

Contemplative presence is the stability of the present moment…to be at home, to be at rest, to give yourself wholeheartedly, to enter into relationship believing God is there, here, today, at this moment, to enter into our alive Center.

Question: How do you practice or realize stability/contemplative presence in your life?


  • Trying to be very aware of God’s presence throughout the day—when I do this, I have a sense of stability, a continual little nod to that Presence
  • Practicing contemplative presence with bread baking, a contemplative activity
  • Have  a sense of stability by having a change in bread making method—changed from machine to hand’s on, and I feel more alive, feel more ownership, feel more stable
  • Contemplative presence is the awareness of the present moment, whatever the activity (chopping carrots, ironing, etc.)
  • For me it is an image: the process of centering the clay; nothing happens until it is centered; in the same way, nothing happens until I am centered, then can be in the moment with others
  • Being, not doing—to be with people, to be part of community
  • Contemplative presence is the slow work of God; an image that comes to mind is gardening—slow work; presence is also loving the place where you are, a place to give and receive love
  • Contemplative presence is a spaciousness; it is the economy of grace (vs the economy of meritocracy)
  • Contemplative presence is to receive all that comes in the moment as coming from the hand of God…from the beginning of time, God has held this moment for us and so we receive it as a grace gift and TREASURE it
  • To live in the world as a contemplative is to be present, to have a receiving stance of all things, all things received through the senses (smelling, seeing, touching, hearing)…the 20 minutes of centering prayer each morning allows me to develop the muscles to be in this open heart space, to be present…this is contemplative presence, and it allows us to live into transformation of self and world
  • “touching the now”, being open to what is happening immediately
  • “being at home”, making where I am home for me and others
  • There is a sense of “rightness” when I am present in a contemplative way
  • Singing…being fully present to the moment—the words, my voice, the music, is a time when I am fully present, and open to inner transformation by the Spirit
  • Bro Lawrence, “Practicing the presence”, a way of being present in the world through all the ordinary daily activities (washing dishes, cooking, etc.)—being present to the moment, which puts one in the presence of God, and is a stance of continual prayer
  • Contemplative presence is being open to receiving the moment, the gift of presence given by others
  • Contemplative presence is also related to identity as well, because we bring our “other places” with us to where we are—other “places” of gender, age, race, culture, etc.
  • A reminder that “all is done through love, nothing through force.”
  • A comment: Phase II has been an experience of contemplative presence, an organic unfolding.


*A brief articulation of the phases:

  • Phase I: a time of listening to constituents response to the Sister’s proposal
  • Phase II: a time of exploring and/or addressing practicalities through the essentials
  • Phase III: a time when individuals who feel called and are free to respond to the call move forward in discernment and commitment.

Read more about the Resident Visitation Lay Community.