Jane in Rome

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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.

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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! 


 

 

Love Bridges: Valentines Party at the Monastery

 

Bean Bag Tods

Bean Bag Tods

Dear Friends of Visitation,

Our family Valentine Party,* hosted and organized by our dear friend Vicki Bailey, was a huge success again this year. What was especially gratifying was seeing our families having such a great time together! Secondly, we had a diverse array of volunteers: teens from the neighborhood, Visitation students, lay residential community members, students from St. Thomas University, etc. The latter group are members of the University choir, and their spring concert theme is “Solidarity with All Peoples.” Our party gave them an opportunity to meet parents and children from north Minneapolis. This group will be back in the spring to help our campers do neighborhood pick up to earn a week at camp. Go, St. Thomas!!!

We are so grateful to have gatherings that build bridges across our Metro area and bring folk together. Happy Valentines Day, One and All!

Sr. Mary Frances, Community and “Crew”

 

*For more photos, click: Facebook Album

The Long Road Home: Eddie Brown’s story*

by Dave Nimmer, Guest Blogger

Eddie Brown at our Halloween Family Party

Eddie Brown at the Halloween Family Party

Eddie Brown first met the Visitation sisters some 20 years ago when he was at Turning Point, a north side residential treatment center, trying to shake the addictions and afflictions that had plagued his life.

“The [sisters] have taught me something about loving, sharing, caring and giving back. I know I can always call them….I hope they know I will deny them nothing.” — Eddie Brown

He’d come to the Fremont house to borrow a shovel, which he later returned. But he kept the nuns as his lifelong gift and they have celebrated the good times with him and supported him through the bad.

“Once I walked across that threshold, my life has never been the same,” Brown said. “I got a sense of the spirit and that’s what I wanted. I couldn’t find peace with myself until I walked into that (Fremont) house.

“[Eddie] is kind of my ideal. If he falls, he gets right back up. If he’s needed, he comes.”
– S. Mary Virginia

Eddie wanted that peace after – as he recalls – being on the street for more than 25 years – six towns in four states, just “dealin’ and druggin’.” It came to an end in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where, one night in an alley off of Lake Street, he decided to go to Turning Point..

Eddie Brown with S. Katherine and neighborhood children at the back to school party.

Eddie Brown with S. Katherine and neighborhood children at the Back-to-School Party.

“I had robbed a guy the night before and was smoking up the cash (cocaine), sitting there by myself,” he said. “It was like I heard my mother’s voice and I remembered this guy telling me about a treatment center. I had never heard the term before.

“I threw away my pipe and dope and started walking to the north side at 3 in the morning. I was sitting on the steps of Turning Point, waiting until they opened. A guy got out of his car, looked at me and said, “Are you ready to get clean?’”

He was.  He got off the merry-go-round, fueled by crack and chaos, and got on the wagon. He fell off once but came back and he’s been clean and sober for 27 years.

“Eddie’s a survivor,” said Bob Briscoe, a former Chicago cop and, like Brown, a long-time friend of the sisters. “Eddie’s a man of his word and I believe he wants to make a difference in this community. He’s there when the nuns call and he’s involved himself in several neighborhood projects.”

The most soulful project Eddie ever tackled was getting his friend Mona off the streets.   They did drugs together, struggled to find food and shelter together, shared hopes and dreams together.   When Eddie was at Turning Point, he had a dream about Mona.

“I found her and she couldn’t believe it was me because I was looking so good,” Brown said. “But she wasn’t ready to come in (to treatment). Three weeks later I got a call. “Do you really mean it?” she said. I told her yes and she went to a 90-day program in Anoka.”

Two recovering addicts put together one loving marriage – Eddie and Mona – and began their sober journey. The sisters helped with a down payment on their first house. And the sisters were there when Mona was diagnosed with uterine cancer.

Eddie shares his story with friends at St. Patrick's in Edina.

Eddie shares his story with friends at St. Patrick’s in Edina.

“She lived for eight years with the cancer,” Eddie said, “and I was with her all the way. I didn’t leave her side. Shortly before she died (in 2013), she looked at me with tears running down her cheeks, She said, “Baby, I’m goin’ home. I love you.’”

Brown struggled with Mona’s loss for more than two years. He’d set up a kind of shrine to her, with pictures and her ashes. Every day he’d talk to her. “Finally, one day I was saying a prayer and I believe God told me, ‘Eddie, I’ve got Mona now. You can let her go.’”

The shrine is gone. The memories linger. So do the lessons Eddie said he learned from the sisters.

“They’ve taught me something about loving, sharing, caring and giving back. I know I can always call them. Sister Mary Frances and I share a lot of stuff, sometimes in a conversation on the phone at night. I hope they know I will deny them nothing.”

Sister Mary Virginia Schmidt hopes Eddie knows of her regard for him. “He is kind of my ideal,” she said. “If he falls, he gets right back up. If he’s needed, he comes. When Mona needed, he was there. He really loved her.”

That fits the legacy that Eddie Brown wants: “That I helped my family and my community and, sometimes, helped bring them closer to the Lord.” Today, he’s raising Mona’s 9-year-old grandson, Abel.   He made a promise to her.

***

Tune into our YouTube Channel to see the video companion piece to this by Jim Shoop.

* This is the third 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! 

On Pilgrimage: Reflections on Seeing Pope Francis

Pope Hopeby S. Karen Mohan, VHM

Until going to Philadelphia in late September,*  I had only seen one other Pope, and that was Pope (now Saint) John XXIII. I was 14 years old, with my Mom, my Aunt Ann and my Aunt Paddy on a special trip to Rome! We were all so excited! This took place before Pope John had “opened the window” of the Catholic Church to the modern world by convening the Second Vatican Council. The Holy Spirit was at work then and now, and we were travelling east to be a part of the energy and love surrounding Pope Francis’ presence.

 “[I]n the people, the care, the palpable faith “in the air”, I saw the power of the Spirit through this man of God and through the thousands of people standing in line with me.” — S. Karen

Driving straight through from Minneapolis to Philadelphia is a feat in itself– a 20 hour one! Travelling with three wonderful women and having the support of community, family, friends and fellow pilgrims – -all this added to our joy!   Our brother Oblates of St. Francis de Sales were offering us hospitality and we had our walking shoes and “regulation size” back packs ready.

“Life means getting our feet dirty from the dust-filled roads of life and history. All of us need to be cleansed, to be washed. All of us are being sought out by the Teacher who wants to help us resume our journey …   May this knowledge inspire us to live in solidarity, to support one another, and see the best for others.“  — Pope Francis

When I returned, people kept asking me, “Did you see Pope Francis?”   Well, I did see the Pope-mobile go by, and he must have been waving at me! However, in the people, the care, the palpable faith “in the air”, I saw the power of the Spirit through this man of God and through the thousands of people standing in line with me.

SKaren Mohan 1966 crop

S. Karen Mohan, circa, 1971


This unique moment in the life of the Church and of the world is converging with my own personal history.
When I made my first vows as a Visitation Sister at the St. Louis Monastery on June 6, 1966, the Church’s windows were being opened, the II Vatican Council was in session, and a young Jesuit in Argentina was living his commitment, preparing (though he did not know it) for this moment in history.

As Pope Francis said in Philadelphia to the Inmates of the Curran-Fromhold Prison, “Life means getting our feet dirty from the dust-filled roads of life and history. All of us need to be cleansed, to be washed. All of us are being sought out by the Teacher who wants to help us resume our journey …   May this knowledge inspire us to live in solidarity, to support one another, and see the best for others.“

May we do just that as we live our commitments, one day at a time.

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*Click to see photos from S. Karen’s trip to Philadelphia to see Pope Francis

The Law of Hope: Our friend Dorice Law interviewed*

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Dorice Law: Chaplain, counselor, confidant

By Dave Nimmer, Guest Blogger

Dorice Law leads a life that’s taken her in different directions and destinations. The 60-year-old grandmother has an office in St. Louis Park, a job in Bloomington, a divinity degree from St. John’s in Collegeville, a home in Plymouth and friends on Facebook.

But her heart remains in North Minneapolis, among the friends at Visitation Monastery and the faithful at Ascension Church, where she first met the sisters as they were discerning what their future would be. “I approached them right outside the church,” Law recalled, “and I told them, “Well, Lord knows we need you right up here.”

Law was born in Chicago, the seventh of eight children. She moved to Minneapolis when she was 16 and graduated from North High School.   But she went to Catholic schools in Chicago and was nurtured by the women of the church.

“I grew up standing behind a nun’s big, black skirt and feeling safe and secure,” she said.   “That was the way the world looked to me.”

That confidence enabled Law to raise three children, go to college, earn two master’s degrees, teach in high school, recruit for a community college, run her own insurance agency and, now, serve as a chaplain to a senior-living facility in Bloomington. It’s the role she was made for: Chaplain, counselor, confidant.

“I am convinced that I am good at this because people need someone to pray with them – for them. Since I was a kid, I could pray at the drop of a hat.”

“My personality is to be honest and frank and I am that way with the people at Friendship Village (where she serves as chaplain).   I tell them it’s impossible to shock me, that they can tell me the truth. Everyone wants to be loved and understood.”

For those closer to the end than the beginning, Law has a message of hope. “I tell them all that is God is good. All that is bad is NOT God.”  Her spiritual work is about grace, forgiveness and trust in a loving God.

That doesn’t surprise the Visitation sisters. “Dorice was someone who welcomed us and kind of introduced us to North Minneapolis,” said Mary Frances Reis.   “From the very beginning, on a Sunday morning outside of church, I thought of her as transparent, honest, generous and genuine.”

That hasn’t changed in 26 years and neither has Law’s commitment to the nuns and their ministry.

“I had always made a commitment,” she said, “that anything and everything the nuns had going I’d be a part of. I think I was at their very first study group on the Virgin Mary. This is a place where you can be yourself, speak your mind and not worry about a kick-out.”

The sisters not only didn’t kick her out, they took her in – into the family. Law recalled she got dressed for her wedding in 1991 at the Fremont house. The marriage lasted eight years; the fealty to Visitation is everlasting.

Law’s always believed the nuns accepted her for who she is, how she is and as she is. She said it was the recommendation letter from Sister Mary Frances that facilitated her acceptance into the School of Theology at St. John’s.

Although Law doesn’t live in North Minneapolis any longer, two of her children and her sister do and she’s over there every Sunday morning for church. She’s aware of the neighborhood’s pride, promise and possibilities.    She’s also concerned about the guns, gangs, drugs and violence.

The legal system makes it difficult to change things, Law said. “Once the man is a felon, he is effectively separated from his family. You don’t rent a place where the father is a felon. And if you have a job not making enough to pay the rent, it’s hard to have any hope.”

Hope is what Dorice Law is all about.

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To see a video of the interview with Dorice, visit our YouTube Channel.
* This is the second 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! 

On Pilgrimage: Sr. Karen Mohan Reflects

Journey _ Photo_by_Melissa_Borgmann-Kiemde

“We shall not cease from exploration…”

by Sr. Karen Mohan, VHM

In my early years of teaching middle grade girls at Visitation Academy in St. Louis, I once decorated the September classroom bulletin board with the Chinese proverb, “A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins With a Single Step”. I’ve always been drawn to the theme of “journey” or “pilgrimage” as a metaphor for life, so much so that when I made my final vows as a Visitation Sister in 1971, the front of my invitation read, “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started, and know the place for the first time…” (T.S. Eliot)

With the “spiritual“ compass given us through our Baptism, we are active participants, and it is through our choices that our life pilgrimage reaches its goal.” 

What is it about a pilgrimage that is so evocative? Maybe it’s because our whole life is like a pilgrimage. The people, events and experiences on this journey are not “dumped” on us as if we were passive recipients of some destiny outside ourselves. With the “spiritual“ compass given us through our Baptism, we are active participants, and it is through our choices that our life pilgrimage reaches its goal.

When I hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, I was aware that it was essential to be very observant and deliberate about each “next” step. Other times, like when I was recovering from a broken ankle and had to keep my foot elevated for a few weeks, those steps became more like a metaphor for an inner walk that requires a different type of attentiveness.

Currently I’m doing some remote preparation for a golden marker moment on my life pilgrimage. Next June 6, 2016, I will celebrate my 50th anniversary of religious profession.   As part of this preparation, I will occasionally share some reflections on this blog about the  people, events and experiences of my life as a Visitation Sister. Please feel free to respond to my musings!

Karen Mohan, VHM

Sr. Karen Mohan

In the spirit of “pilgrimage”, I will end with one of my favorite poems from Wendell Berry:

We travellers, walking to the sun, can’t see

Ahead, but looking back the very light

That blinded us shows us the way we came,

Along which blessings now appear, risen

As if from sightlessness to sight, and we,

By blessing brightly lit, keep going toward

That blessed light that yet to us is dark.

A Hidden Ministry

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Thank you Vince and Joe!

by S. Mary Frances Reis, VHM

Twice a year, Vince Woldock along with a fellow worker, delivers a cord of wood for our fireplace.  This came about because our friend, Joe Neumier, (who is himself an avid reader) saw a human interest piece about our monastery on channel 5.  It featured  “Reading Day by the fireplace.”  He was so impressed to see neighborhood kids from North Minneapolis enjoying the warmth of the fire and reading books that he started a tradition that has lasted some 20 years.

Our ministry of prayer, presence and hospitality is enhanced each day as we welcome women, men and children to our monastery.  Joe’s hidden ministry has been appreciated by us and our friends through the years.  Thank you, Joe!  May you be blessed by this kind, kind act.   You and Vince are in our prayers all winter long!