Jane in Rome

image

A view from the plane: Sunrise over the Alps

by S. Suzanne Homeyer, VHM

TRAVEL DOESN’T CHANGE MY DAILY PRAYER LIFE as much as one might think. I begin each day with prayer. As St. Jane de Chantal suggests:

“Upon awakening in the morning, turn your thoughts to God present everywhere. Place your heart and your entire being in God’s hands.” St. Jane

The very first morning of my trip to represent our Federation at the official closing gathering for the Year of Consecrated Life I awoke and opened the window shade on the airplane and was greeted with bright sun. A great way to begin morning prayer! However, I didn’t understand what I was seeing outside — it wasn’t the usual white fluffy clouds one expects….I was looking down at something white, not through a cloud. A passing flight attendant said “Oh, there are the Alps!” I was absolutely shocked….I never expected in my life time to see the Alps from above. What a great start to my prayer. God certainly is present everywhere and I reflected on how God sees all of us at all times from his/her own unique vantage point. “God above us; God around us; God under our feet…” to quote a familiar hymn.

I began each day of my time in Rome reflecting on where I was; what I expected to be doing or seeing that day; what was happening at home; who did I want to remember in prayer that particular day. I must admit that first morning in the plane set a pretty high bar for my morning reflections. Each day God was present in the world of nature. One morning it was a peacock I met on a walk outside and another God showed up as a ripe orange in the garden. (Not a sight I’ve ever seen in Minnesota!)

Sunrise on my last day in Rome

A hint of that glory: Final sunrise in Rome

There are three reasons I like the above quote from Jane: First, it is a wonderful reminder that each morning I am not alone on the journey of life. God begins the day with me and continues. Secondly, there are many parts of me, especially the heart, and St. Jane reminds me to place ALL of me in that sacred presence. There was a time when I found it hard to ask God’s help with things of life but now I count on it each day and have learned how to humbly ask for it. The third reason I like the quote is that it reminds me that I am precious to God. God holds me in the palm of His hand and enables me to see a shadow of the Kingdom in my own life. The spectacular sunrise of my final day in Rome is just a hint of that glory!

 

S. Karen Reflects: An Irish Nun in this Month of March

S Karen Mohan, VHM

S Karen Mohan, VHM

by Sr. Karen Mohan, VHM

March, once primarily known to this Irish “lass” as the “month of St. Patrick,” now includes an awareness of “Women’s History Month“, “National Catholic Sisters’ Week” (March 8-14), and even “Nutrition Month.” These themes: being Irish, being a woman, and a religious Sister who values the “balance” of healthy eating and living, come together in a unique way for me as I reflect on being a Visitation Sister for 50 years.

On my bookcase, I keep a hand-crafted card with a quote attributed to St. Patrick, which reads,

“I am certain in my heart that all that I am I have received from God.“ I love that message. It reminds me that each of us is born with a heritage, a history, and choices to make which will contribute –or not – to the building up of our global community in the reign of God.

imageWomen in my family and beyond my family helped me to understand how God’s love and the Gospel can be lived in a variety of ways. One of those “beyond”, my teacher, and eventually community member and friend, Sister Marie Therese Ruthmann from the Visitation Monastery of St. Louis, is one of those influential women in my life. I’m writing this on March 4, the 64th anniversary of her religious vows. Sr. M.Therese was the first person I told that I was considering religious life. At that time I was not really considering the Sisters of the Visitation. They were always there for me, and I was seeking a vocational call that was further from my immediate view.  What was “certain in my heart” was that the invitation to dedicate my life entirely to God was there, and that before I went on to college I needed and wanted to give that invitation some attention.

S. Marie Therese

Joyful Sisters: S. Karen next to S. Marie Therese

Sr. M. Therese listened. She prayed with me. She let me be, never saying, “What about the Visitation?” She was wise enough even then at her young age in the community, that if the Holy Spirit was at work, that was good enough!   Gradually I became aware that the Visitation Sisters, real people who could identify with the needs and concerns of others, had the components of the balanced life I could see myself espousing: they had a genuine prayer life; they had a strong community; they had a meaningful ministry; they were happy women. In those days there was little talk about “Salesian spirituality” as such, but those around the Sisters imbibed it just by being with them.

During this “Irish” month of women, Sisters, and nutrition, in our Church’s “Jubilee Year of Mercy”, take time to consider the spirituality that nourishes you, the women and Sisters who support your faith journey, and what adjustments you might be called to make so that prayer, community and service may lead you to a joyful “ balance” as the Holy Spirit leads.

Once I came to the realization that the Visitation Sisters’ way of life was one that I might be called to try, I started down that path, enriched by many women who became my “Sisters” and mentors and co-workers, and friends. And in the spirit of this “Women’s month”, the rest is history!

 

Linda Goynes: Our sister and friend*

Linda Goynes

Linda Goynes

by Dave Nimmer, Guest Blogger

Linda Goynes* is a colorful, consistent and continuous thread in the life fabric of the Visitation Sisters of North Minneapolis. For 12 years she was their next door neighbor. Today she proudly wears their Cross of Affiliation, in effect making her an honorary sister.

Over the years, Linda has eaten at their table, shared in their prayers, joined their church (Ascension), cleaned their house, packed their gift baskets and greeted their guests.

In her 63 years, Linda Goynes has suffered enough reversals to relish the recoveries, weathered enough storms to enjoy the sunshine and survived the trials to appreciate the triumphs. So it’s probably not surprising when asked how she’s doing, her answer has always been the same, whether it’s Tuesday or Friday, January or June. “I am blessed,” she says, with a smile on her face.

“It was such a joy to get the Cross of Affiliation from the Sisters. To me it represents the face of the nuns and the work they are doing. I feel what I am doing is taking their spirit out to the world.”-– Linda Goynes

Her journey includes some rough and rocky travelling. She married her first husband in 1984 and they had three children. Two years later she discovered her husband abused the oldest daughter. He was arrested and eventually sent to prison. Linda felt she was partly responsible for her daughter’s abuse and turned to crack cocaine.

It didn’t take long for the drug to control her life and cause a heart attack. She quit – cold turkey. She was clean and sober for six to seven months, until she began getting threatening letters from her now ex-husband, still in prison. She turned again to the cocaine and in 1990 suffered a second heart attack.

This time she lapsed into a three-month coma and doctors warned continued drug use would kill her. She prayed to God to restore her health, promising she would devote her life to serving Him. She recovered. In 1996, she met Robert White, who would become her second husband. They moved next door to the Sisters on Girard Avenue and continued their life together.

Linda stayed clean but Robert was using, and occasionally, selling drugs. “You know,” she said, “he was a good man but he just couldn’t stay away from heroin. He was using until his last days on earth.” (Robert died in 2015).

In service: Linda working at the Church of the Ascension Food shelf

In service: Linda working at the Church of the Ascension Food shelf

“I never knew what was going to happen. One day I would be on the ground in handcuffs after a police raid. And another we’d be robbed by somebody looking for the drug stash or the money. But I always had the Sisters to talk to, and I never felt alone.”

Ironically, Robert also loved the Sisters. He shoveled their walk in the winter, went to some of their neighborhood meetings and even put up their Christmas tree from year to year. But the chaos from his heroin habit eventually got too much for Goynes and she moved out of the house in 2008, to an apartment on Plymouth Avenue.

“Linda is one of the most courageous women I know,” says Sister Katherine Mullin. “She knew she had to leave Robert after all the years of his heavy addiction. She made her decision, found an apartment and kept it together. And then one day (with help from the Sisters) she quietly moved out. But in the years that followed, she also took him to the hospital for his cancer treatments.”

The Salesian spirit has truly penetrated her heart. If we ever needed help with some event, some celebration some project, Linda has been there.”  — S. Katherine Mullin

In 2010, she joined Ascension Church and became a pastor outreach assistant, organizing committee luncheons, setting up for funerals, arranging the food shelf, changing the candles and opening the church.

A few months ago Linda was dealing with a lung problem, making it difficult for her to take long, deep breaths. But she was at the Monday night Salesian gathering, sitting at the table, eating with the others, picking up the trash and staying for the night prayer.

On my way out, I asked her how she was doing. She said she’d be glad to get home and on the inhalation machine that delivered soothing vapor to her lungs. Then she smiled. “You know,” she said, as if to dispel any complaint, “I am still blessed.”

Yes, Linda, we know. And so are those of us who are to be counted among your friends.

**********************************************************************************************************

Tune into YouTube video interview here: Vis Companion Linda Goynes Interviewed

* This is the fifth in a series of profiles by journalist Dave Nimmer featuring Visitation 
Companions and northside neighbors. We hope you enjoy these stories of our dear friends -- 
as they reflect the blessed community that surrounds the monastery and sustains us
 in our ministry of mutuality. 
LIVE + JESUS! 


 

 

I Will Lead You into the Desert

Follow me to the desert... Photo by Jody Johnson

Lead to the desert
Photo by Jody Johnson

by Jody Johnson, Visitation Companion*

“I will lead you into the desert, and there I will speak to your heart.” –Hosea 2:16

I’ve come to the desert seeking silence, or seeking to enter into it more fully. I practice contemplative prayer but, if as Thomas Keating says, twenty minutes of silence is “a brief vacation from oneself,” I need an extended stay! I’ve been restless, anxious, caught up in the busyness of activity for too long. Like many people, I juggle half-commitments, leaving early from one event to arrive late to the next, then wonder why life feels unsatisfying.

The desert offers timeless space to discover, engage, and wrestle with restlessness,” says Father Tom Picton, director of the Desert House of Prayer in Tucson where I am retreating; “The discovery of what is on the other side of the restlessness is the quest! It requires silence, stillness, waiting, and the suffering of ‘not knowing’.” This rings true for me; I long for this stillness, yet the prospect of having so much of it brings its own anxiety: “What will I do with all this time?” “What will God say to me?” “What if I discover things I don’t want to know?” Worries have become my constant companions. As with guests who have overstayed their welcome, it becomes more and more awkward to ask them to leave. Or perhaps they are like old clothes I’ve outgrown but not yet replaced. What will be my new gear, my new habit? I can’t very well walk around naked!

Some guidelines provided by the retreat center are reassuring: “Trust how you are being led. Your journey will likely open up to you as you listen for what is inviting your attention.” It is about being open, aware, and receptive. The daily schedule of silent prayer periods provides the structure and practice to support this awareness. I’ve also brought Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal to guide me on my journey. Though they never visited the desert that we know of, I feel their contemplative spirits at home here. Francis reminds me to get out of the way: “While I am seeking to find out what is God’s desire, I am not employed in keeping myself close to Him in peace and in calm repose, which is certainly His present desire, since He has set me nothing else to do.” Francis also gives very practical advice to gently redirect my intention (and attention) toward God throughout the day. He would have agreed with the last sentence of the guidelines in the retreat center’s brochure: “Be gentle with yourself, relax, and enjoy your time away.”

Jody Johnson

Jody Johnson

*Jody Johnson is a Visitation Companions leader and formation director on a two week study and prayer sabbatical. Tune into her reflections here

 

 

 

 

 

Peace on Plymouth: An Advent Response

The Catholic Spirit

In this season of Advent, of awe and wonder, we tune into this sacred and holy birth, marveling at God becoming one of us. It’s from this place of the Incarnation, buoyed by our faith, that we pray and act in solidarity,

Click to read the article in The Catholic Spirit

Click to read the article in The Catholic Spirit

in our unity and oneness.

This article in The Catholic Spirit highlights this faith that we are living in the face of the recent upheaval in north Minneapolis. Perhaps it will speak to you, in your own wonder, prayer, and unique call to act?

Click to read The Catholic Spirit article, Peace on Plymouth, by Jessica Trygstad.

Please note the companion piece to this article, featuring Visitation friend and Companion, Bob Briscoe, also published by the Catholic Spirit:  In sharing experiences, Ascension parishioner hopes to initiate change

 

Advent 2015: From Darkness to Light

The following comes from our community’s planning for this Advent 2015 season. We share to inspire your own planning and journey through this sacred time of year.

From Pax Christi USA

Theme: Through Darkness to Light

We are People of Hope because we believe in both the Promise of Darkness with its capacity for germination, its deep fecundity; AND we believe in the Promise of Light with its capacity for wisdom, guidance, warmth and its ever increasing understanding.

Can we experience such a life giving cycle when Darkness seems to engulf our world? How are we planting seeds of Hope right now?

The people of Hebrew Scriptures and ourselves and all people, hope for the same things: lasting peace, sufficient food, tranquil lives and an end to suffering. Early peoples were afraid that when the darkness came that was the end. They came to appreciate the cycle of life…the days, the seasons… from experience. Can we experience such a life giving cycle when Darkness seems to engulf our world? How are we planting seeds of Hope right now?

Another question we are asking: How can we take Advent to our neighbors?

Scripture

This liturgical year we use Cycle C in the lectionary. All Sunday gospel readings this year are from Luke. They are in a reverse-chronological order with the Second Coming of Jesus on the first Sunday and the Visitation on the fourth Sunday. The in between weeks are devoted to John the Baptist proclaiming the coming of the kingdom and the way to follow Jesus. John the Baptist points to Jesus, Light of the World, drawing us through the darkness (the shortest days of the year) to the ever-emerging light, all through the readings. We hear this theme repeated through the words of the prophets this year—Jeremiah, Baruch, Zephaniah and Micah. (This year we do not hear from Isaiah on Sundays as in other liturgical years.) The second reading on the Sundays from Paul’s letters encourage disciples to live in the way of following the Light of the World (Jesus.)

Resources

“The Promise of Light: Reflections for Advent and Christmas 2015.”  (Personal devotional resource of Pax Christi USA)  Individuals can reflect on the readings, the stories, and recall their own similar stories and encounters as well as receive an invitation to ask, “How might I be the “promise of light” in God’s world today?”

Praying Exodus: Reflections on God leading Community

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

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

by Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion 

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

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

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

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

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

We entered into prayer.

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

Pillars of Fire, photo from protester camp on Plymouth

Pillars of Fire, photo from protester camp on Plymouth

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

Vis Companion Profile: Bob Briscoe*

Bob Briscoe, Vis Companion

Bob Briscoe, Vis Companion

by Dave Nimmer, Guest Blogger

Bob Briscoe is a regular at the monthly, Monday-night Salesian Spirituality Meetings at the Visitation Monastery. He is one of a handful of men among a roomful of women and, along with his wife Khalilah, the former Chicago cop seems to fit right in with conversations about love, understanding and gentleness.

“We are companions on the journey, given to one another as helpers in doing God’s work.” — St. Jane de Chantal

“These monthly meetings lift my soul,” Briscoe said. “What is really good is to see the young people there, who are genuinely trying to help others in the community. That makes an old man feel good about the younger generation.”

The 73-year-old has nurtured his softer side but he is no pushover.  Briscoe defines what a good man is and what a good man does. He and his wife have been raising his 14-year-old grandson, Kameron, since his mother (Bob’s daughter Kontente) died. Briscoe and Khalilah have five grown daughters and two sons from previous marriages.

Bob and his wife Khalilah

Bob and his wife Khalilah

The wisdom he’s imparting to Kameron includes some of those “little virtues” that are the basis of Salesian thought and spirit: patience, humility, honesty.

“I’m also trying to teach him the lessons that the sisters give to me,” Briscoe said. “I tell Kameron that you have to give back. And you can’t get discouraged in the bad or tough times. You can always give your troubles to God.”

Briscoe has known some tough times and good times in his life. He joined the National Guard after graduating from Corpus Christi High School in Chicago. After his discharge, he was a motorman on the “L” in Chicago. And in 1971 he was sworn in to the Chicago Police Department, working the streets for ten years as a patrolman.

He left the force in 1981 and spent several years as a construction laborer. He came to Minneapolis in 2006 and it was no accident that Bob discovered the Visitation sisters. He went to Catholic schools in Chicago and married Khalilah in Ascension Church in north Minneapolis.   That’s where he met Sister Mary Frances.

“She came right up and introduced herself to me,” he said. “And that was the beginning. Being around the sisters remind me of the first women in my life. They live those virtues they preach, right out in the community every day. And they do it for everyone they meet.”

Bob and grandson Cameron

Bob and grandson Kameron

Briscoe’s also serving the community as a member of the Minneapolis Police Conduct Review Panel since 2012.  The panel investigates complaints of misconduct and brutality and makes recommendations to the chief. The former cop sees the issues from both sides of the badge and he passes that perspective along to Kameron. “Be polite. Do not resist. Do not run,” he said. “And call me as soon as possible.”

The Vis sisters appreciate Briscoe’s presence at their functions, and what he has done for them personally. “He fills his day with meaningful activities,” said Sister Karen Mohan. “He took me to chemotherapy (for breast cancer) a couple of times and sat with me.

“He is simply a willing spirit, ready to do anything. He’ll come to help us put labels on our newsletters.   And he’ll be a surrogate father to his grandson.”

For Briscoe, the gain for his soul is worth any pain to his body. “Kameron helps keep me young,” he said. “His curiosity, the questions he asks, always keep me looking for answers. I am always telling him to pray and that helps me to remember to pray.”

* This is the first in a series of profiles by journalist Dave Nimmer featuring Visitation 
Companions and northside neighbors. We hope you enjoy these stories of our dear friends -- 
as they reflect the blessed community that surrounds the monastery and sustains us
 in our ministry of mutuality. 
LIVE + JESUS!