Author Archives: Melissa

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.

Trust in the Slow Work of God

Where does this path lead?

Where does this path lead?
photo by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde

by Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion

In these long, sometimes cool, other times hot, shifting-climate days of summer, I have found myself reaching for this poem. I offer it to you, for however it might speak to your soul, provide comfort or levity in your journey and this present time.

Trust in the Slow Work of God

by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ*

 

Above all, trust in the slow work of God

We are quite naturally impatient in everything

to reach the end without delay

We should like to skip the intermediate stages.

We are impatient of being on the way to something

unknown, something new. And yet it is the law of all progress

that it is made by passing through

some stages of instability-

and that it may take a very long time.  And so I think it is with you.

your ideas mature gradually – let them grow,

let them shape themselves, without undue haste. Don’t try to force them on,

as though you could be today what time

(that is to say, grace and circumstances

acting on your own good will)

will make of you tomorrow. Only God could say what this new spirit

gradually forming within you will be. Give Our Lord the benefit of believing

that his hand is leading you, and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself

in suspense and incomplete.

*(1881-1955) Jesuit, Paleontologist, Biologist, Philosopher, and Visionary

Northside Gardening: Reflections and an Invitation from Sr. Katherine

S. Katherine at work in the garden.

S. Katherine at work in the garden.

by S. Katherine Mullin, VHM

“Being outside these days placing fragile plants in moist dark soil somehow lifts my spirit and gives hope that each of us, and really all humanity,  will grow to full strength.”

– S. Katherine Mullin, VHM

Maybe it is because as young girl I saw my dad outside, season after season, so intent on watching the plantings in our backyard, or because, once grown, I spent so much time indoors, even in summer, tending to my teacher lesson-plans for the coming fall, that now I love gardening so much. And this year, after our long harsh winter, it is especially good for my spirit.

As I write this, by chance, it is the Feast of St. Isidore. He was a Spanish farmer who lived in early 12th century and known for his piety toward the poor and animals. His life as a day laborer and man of prayer inspires me. The liturgical prayer for his commemoration reads:

Our friend Willa Mae giving advice and gardening support to Sr. Mary Frances

From the Archives: our friend Willa Mae giving advice and gardening support to Sr. Mary Frances

“God, all creation is yours, and you call us to serve you by caring for the gifts that surround us. May St. Isidore urge us to share our food with the hungry and to work for the salvation of humankind.”

Being outside these days placing fragile plants in moist dark soil somehow lifts my spirit and gives hope that each of us, and really all humanity,  will grow to full strength.

For 25 years now the sisters have put in a garden. There is a strong neighborhood dimension to our gardening and it carries history. The sisters, when they first came to the north side, were given tips by neighbor, Willa Mae, to show them just how best to plant the garden, to include the neighbors. Her advice reflected what she knew the neighbors would love to eat and how her ancestors gardened: starting with collard greens and green tomatoes. Over many years Willa Mae came each summer with more advice and to show us her delight in how it was growing. Now Linda Goynes, our friend and neighbor, carries on Willa Mae’s advice-giving…and she gets first pick of the collard greens in late summer, when they are ready.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

One of our many volunteer gardeners. Will you join us in this summer season?

The garden is a jumping off place for our neighbors and ourselves to reconnect. We have mothers, wheeling their small children by, stop to show those little ones the bright colorful tulips that came up strong this year by May 15, St. Isidore’s Feast day.

Recently the face of one young adult walking by, lighted up and she enthusiastically said, “When I was little I used to come to playtime with you sisters….’member me?” And we did.

Invitation to Garden:

We have started a volunteer night for gardening-every Tuesday night, 7:00-8:00pm followed by Night Prayer with the Sisters.

Do come; offer advice, offer weeding time, offer your presence.

 

 

 

Hunger for Community

Fremont House Chapel: Liturgy of the Hours

Fremont House Chapel: Liturgy of the Hours

by Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion

Let’s say it was a Thursday, noon, during my lunch hour in the fall of 2002 that I first came to the monastery to pray the liturgy of the hours. Or perhaps it was a Monday after school that I poked my head into the Fremont House chapel and joined the Visitation Sisters for evening prayer at 4:45pm.

I know I was weary. I brought all of my day’s experiences into the chapel, closed my eyes and extended my palms up and out.

“I give you my life. I give you my suffering. I give you the stories and circumstances of my students’ lives that I cannot fix.” 

Six years into my teaching profession; four classroom moves; 720 students later; countless hours of curriculum writing and paper-correcting under my belt; and one-too-many mandated reports completed for social services, I was a wobbly 32 year old woman in need of sanctuary and stability. I was hungry for a safe, spiritual home and community  — and the Visitation Sisters were God’s answer to my prayers.

As a young woman, I had a profound calling to teach — to be present to young people wrestling with life’s biggest questions and seeking ways to respond intellectually, artistically, and from their greatest knowing. But on this particular day, I was tired. I needed to be held upright — or simply find rest within a community that “got” my deepest longings to love and serve God.

The Visitation Sisters of Minneapolis was that community for me.

Maybe it was Shaina that drove me there. I read too many of her journal entries connecting Maya Angelou’s autobiographical account of abuse with my student’s lived experience.  Maybe Anthony put me over the edge that day — the senior in my 12th grade English class who hadn’t passed a writing or reading test since middle school, but was on my roster and wanting to graduate. Or maybe it was the young Laotian boy – sent by the seasoned guidance counselor — who showed up in my basic standards test prep class not speaking any English. “Can you just take him, Melissa? We have no other place for him to go.”

It was one of those days; I didn’t feel up to any of the challenges. I had no answers, no solutions, but a deep desire to help, and a professional charge to enter in and provide some strategic and data-driven response.

For those who have known professional burnout, the circumstances I describe are nothing new. For others, this tale may register as unfortunate. For all of us, however,  there is a universal human experience that connects my story with yours and inspires the following kinds of spiritual questions:

“Where do we go when we are hungry?  Where do we find sanctuary? Where is our beloved community?”

As I chanted the psalms that day flanked by two choirs of catholic, inner-city sisters convening in a chapel at the intersection of 16th and Fremont Avenue North, I joined a community of contemplative, religious people who have been singing together for centuries. I joined David, the beseeching and praising Jewish author of this liturgical prayer – who lived a thousand years before Christ,  singing now a stone’s throw from my Minneapolis Public School classroom in the year 2002.  I entered into a monastic rhythm that offered a kind of peace, quiet, and balm for my entire being. While my hunger for community persists, I have a profound comfort in knowing where I belong and how to re-fill and fuel my soul.

How do you hunger for community? Where does your soul find rest?