Thank You for Sending our Kids to Camp!

by Sr. Mary Frances, VHM

110 Campers

Thanks to the amazing generosity of many benefactors who provided funds to sponsor 110 campers, we were able to send all these “happy campers” off to Catholic Youth Camp for a week of FUN, FAITH, AND FRIENDSHIP from June 24 to June 29. The Ascension Staff — in particular, CJ McGowan and Anne Attea — did a lot of work on this project. Visitation School in Mendota Heights did a tremendous job to see that every child has all the hygiene items needed, plus a flashlight and a beach towel.

Last but not least, Mary Pat Gallivan, who has done the administrative work on camp preparation with me for years, needs a big shout-out!!! We are passing the baton on to CJ at Ascension now and trusting that this wonderful tradition will live on for our kids and their families!

When I checked in last night, the fantastic camp director, Natalie King, told me that all the kids are settled in with their luggage in just the cabin they hoped for. Before bedtime, they kicked off their wonderful week with a pep fest!

Our part now is to pray for good weather, safety, and good spirits, along with living out the camp’s motto: FUN, FAITH, AND FRIENDSHIP. Please hold the Staff in special prayer.

Gratefully,

Sister Mary Frances and All the Visitation Sisters

Campers Saying Good-Bye

The Visitation Bridge between Multi-Cultural Communities

by Anna Dourgarian

 

Convent of the Visitation School in Mendota Heights, MN, has a special relationship with the Visitation Monastery of Minneapolis. They are two Salesian communities within 15 miles of each other. The students respect the Minneapolis Sisters, and the Sisters appreciate the School’s holiday gifts for their neighbors. But their relationship goes deeper: together, the communities inspire love for God by inspiring love between diverse people. With their inner-city monastery, the Minneapolis Sisters change the way the students engage with the world.

Last February, I had the privilege of interviewing four Visitation high school seniors: Sarah Koury, Mary Kenny, Bridget Hayes, and Jules Staelgraeve. It was the middle of the semester, a relentlessly stressful time, and yet there they were, taking time to talk with me about the Visitation Sisters of North Minneapolis. It was profoundly apparent that interacting with the Sisters and their North Minneapolis neighbors had changed the students: they had become more comfortable with people who are different from them, and they had learned to appreciate the importance of relationships.

Working with people who are different from us is challenging: it takes patience, inner strength, and empathy. It is so easy to avoid a situation that would require it! But the Sisters give the students an opportunity, and the students have embraced it.

Visitation Students help at winter coat drive

Visitation Students help at winter coat drive

  • Mary committed a week to the annual Visitation mission trip, and she appreciated it so much that Sister Suzanne invited her to North Minneapolis afterwards. Initially, Mary was intimidated by the neighborhood’s reputation, but the guidance of the Sisters transformed her perception, and she returned eagerly to help with the Thanksgiving food delivery, the winter coat drive, and the Christmas stocking drop-off.
  • Jules was also at the Thanksgiving food delivery, as well as the Halloween and Christmas parties. The influence of the Sisters became apparent after she left: she realized she was suddenly more accepting. She works with people of diverse ethnicities, where no one looks like her, and she noticed that it was easier to talk them because of what she had learned from the Sisters.
  • For Sarah, talking with North Minneapolis neighbors about their lives made her recognize her own comfortable lifestyle for what it is. Now, when she hears her classmates stress out about homework, she appreciates how fortunate they are not to be stressing out about survival.
  • Bridget witnessed the importance of recognizing and responding to others’ needs. She saw how the Sisters engaged with children on Halloween, inviting them out of the cold to sing songs when they had only asked for candy. She emulated their actions as a volunteer at Jeremiah House, a support program for single mothers, recognizing the needs of the moms beyond her explicit duties and delivering wholeheartedly, just like she saw the Sisters do.

These stories are a small peek at the transformation that Visitation School and the Visitation Sisters are instigating together. It started with a week-long high school mission trip. A Christmas party. A food delivery. It has turned into a bridge across cultural boundaries.

The transformation continues. Understanding and serving diverse people is a stepping stone to the core feature of the Sisters’ presence in North Minneapolis: forming a loving bond with their neighbors. The Visitation students have learned this precious art of building a relationship.

Sarah serves coffee at a Salesian Monday Night

Sarah serves coffee at a Salesian Monday Night and befriends Khalilah, one of the Sisters’ neighbors

  • At Sarah’s first service project, a Salesian Monday Night meeting, she walked into Girard House and instantly felt at home. The house was humming with conversation and laughter, and she was shocked about how instantly the community accepted her, a stranger. She felt like she was participating in the event, not volunteering for it. She filled some water glasses but otherwise spent the evening chatting away. She realized that this was the deeper meaning of “service”: participating in community.
  • Jules treasures a memory of the Sisters’ Christmas party for children, where she didn’t think much was going on, but the children were having the time of their lives. All she did was read them stories, introduce them to Santa, and pray with them. Apparently, these small displays of warmth were enough to inspire the joy of Christmas.
  • Bridget learned not only how to make people feel comfortable but also how to appreciate when someone else comforted her. She admired how the Sisters invited friends inside, sat them on the couch, and fed them, and she recognized the same openhearted generosity in a friend’s mom who, just like the Sisters, welcomed Bridget into her home. Bridget experienced a new sense of gratitude.
  • Mary was pleasantly surprised to encounter generosity from grocery stores who were more than willing to donate discounted turkeys to the Visitation turkey drive. Her eyes were opened to the potential for engagement with the wider community.

These stories speak to the Visitation School motto: Non Scholae, Sed Vitae (Not for School, but for Life). It reminds students that life is about more than books and exams. The Visitation Sisters of Minneapolis have made this motto a reality by teaching the students to embrace the lifelong virtues of community and love.

Listening to these stories, I realized that the Minneapolis Sisters had transformed how the students relate to other people by transforming who they were as individuals. Sarah is a beautiful example. Her experiences with the Sisters changed her faith and who she wants to be. She prays more. She is more modest about how she dresses and what she posts on Facebook. Her faith is spilling over into her community, inspiring her family, her classmates, and even the little girl she nannies. She says that the Sisters and their neighbors helped her rebuild herself into someone she wants to be. She now lives a life more devoted to God and to service.

The Minneapolis Sisters inspire goodness in the students, who then embrace a vision of love for their diverse community.

Spring in North Minneapolis

by Dave Nimmer,* Guest Blogger

Spring has been a long time coming this year, and I particularly welcome the season at the Visitation Monastery of Minneapolis. Spring suits the homes on Fremont and Girard with their gardens, trees, and neighbors. Sometimes when I come over for evening prayer, I spend 15 or 20 minutes on the back step of the Fremont house, looking over the garden. It’s a peaceful and mindful place: neat rows, green shoots, colorful flowers. I love the contrast from Fremont to Girard, where mulch and flowers replace a lawn; in the shade of the afternoon, it looks like a forest floor.

The garden has always attracted my attention for its eclectic nature, from tulips to tomatoes. The cool thing is they’re all mixed together, in the same patch of ground. The garden becomes a metaphor for the neighborhood in its diversity of colors and cultures. The neighbors seem to respect the garden. It doesn’t get trashed or trampled. They volunteer to weed, mulch, and hoe under the guidance of Sister Katherine Mullin.

Around the side of Fremont house are Sister Mary Margaret McKenzie’s rose bushes. She has minded, nurtured, and observed the roses for more than a decade. This year the task falls to Sister Brenda Lisenby, probably with a little advice now and then from Sister Mary Margaret.

This spring, the vitality of the garden reflects the liveliness of the neighborhood.

Last weekend, the Minneapolis-St. Paul Home Tour featured the Fremont house (probably the only house with a chapel!). Hundreds of visitors enjoyed the old architecture and recent renovations: the engraved banister, the oak floors, the chapel that used to be a library with four motorcycles. Newcomers were introduced to the gentle presence of the Sisters, and old friends took the opportunity to drop by and say hi.

A few blocks away, Cookie Cart celebrates its 30th anniversary on West Broadway Avenue. Three decades ago, Sister Jean Thuerauf’s brainchild became a permanent bakery to provide teenagers with lasting and meaningful work. This year the non-profit Cookie Cart will employ 200 teens working 30,000 hours, and 65 of the young men and women will complete a leadership training course. Sister Mary Frances Reis spoke at an anniversary ceremony early last month, praising Sister Jean for her savvy and spirit. “We arrived a year after she got started,” Reis said, “and we were equally glad to see each other on the North Side.”

Down the street from the Cookie Cart is the Breaking Bread Café, a child of the Appetite for Change nonprofit. I can sit at a table on their patio and order a late breakfast of scrambled eggs, toast, and bacon. I like to sit outside on Broadway, combining spring and the street. Like the Cookie Cart, Breaking Bread is about more than food: it creates a gathering place for neighbors, offers new jobs, and trains local residents.

I go back 30 years with the Fremont house, when Sister Mary Frances and I were asking a Minneapolis City Council committee for a conditional-use permit so four nuns could live in a single-family house. We were lobbying rookies, but we prevailed. Three decades later, so have the Sisters, so has their garden, and so has the neighborhood.

* Dave Nimmer, journalist for the Minnesota Good Age magazine, is a frequent contributor to the Visitation blog, especially in his series of profiles of Visitation Companions and North Side neighbors. We hope you enjoy these stories of the blessed community that surrounds the monastery and sustains us in our ministry of mutuality.
LIVE + JESUS! 

 

Earth Day Meditation

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde

My waking morning meditation hour began this Earth Day on Facebook. With a tap to my smart phone screen, I watched, in silence, the video of an invitation to replace plastic straws with stainless steel ones. Re-posted by a parent friend at my daughter’s Catholic school, I was moved to be in solidarity with this kind of environmental consciousness, this kind of invitation to act and engage with opportunities to choose different ways we may be stewards of this earth, that we may respect what God has created.

A month ago, in my waking, another voice of environmental consciousness came to me in my waking. It was that of Fr. Thomas Berry, shared in Richard Rohr’s daily meditation, which arrives in my inbox each day.

Fr. Berry was quoted:

“The task of renewing Earth belongs to Earth, as the renewal of any organism [even the church] takes place from within. Yet we humans have our own special role, a leading role in the renewal, just as we had the dominant role in the devastation. We can fulfill this role, however, only if we move our basic life orientation from a dominant anthropocentrism to a dominant ecocentrism. In effecting this change, we need to listen to the voices of Earth and its multitude of living and non-living modes of expression.”*

The act of listening to our earth, to creation, moves me deeply. Shifting sideways from being at the center of this renewal, to place our precious Earth and her voice at the center, is a holy act, a humble act. We can ask: What is the earth saying to us? How is God speaking to us through her?

Sea Turtle, from earthjustice.org

I think of how God spoke to me in this morning’s video. As I watched in silence the removal of a plastic straw from a turtle’s nose, I contemplated the horror of that experience. Then, I imagined God’s delight in making turtles. Making the waters. Making turtles dive and snap, gliding elegantly around the earth through the ocean’s blue depths. The experience of sadness and awe, pain and love, all come together in my body in this kind of contemplation of the earth at the center of the renewal. This, for me, is God speaking through creation. I am listening.

While Berry touches in on grief for extinct life in his writing, he also points toward profound hope in our renewal process. Fr. Berry’s identification of the renewal process —as starting within —touches something deep within me. It affirms a power and also a relationship. A right relationship we are called to with creation, one another, with ourselves, with God.

Perhaps this re-orientation, this right relationship, this invitation to listen to God through our Earth speaks to you, too, this day?

In peace, prayers, listening solidarity,

Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

*Thomas Berry: Selected Writings on the Earth Community, ed. Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim (Orbis Books: 2014), 77-78.

A Simple Life: Lent at the Monastery

by Anna Dourgarian

 

At the Visitation monasteries, the shelves and tables have been stripped of their usual decoration. Spare change is collected in Basilica St. Vincent de Paul Ministry containers. No Christ candle is lit on Sundays, no Alleluia or Gloria is sung at Mass, and no gathering music is played before Office. The Sisters have embraced simplicity for their Lenten journey.

In addition to the traditional observances of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, this Lent the Sisters are continuing to explore their 2018 theme of Home. In Sister Suzanne’s words, “Lent is Jesus’ own journey back home to God,” and the Sisters are inspired by Him to create home for others. For instance, they have been meeting with social justice communities around North Minneapolis to learn about affordable housing and homelessness. Also, they have challenged themselves to make a better home for each other at the monasteries: by letting someone know that she or he is appreciated, by doing one thing well and with full attention, by saying “yes” to the day’s gifts. (These suggestions are offered by Vinita Hampton Wright on dotMagis, the blog of IgnatianSpirituality.com.) Every step of their journey is a contribution to community.

For each week of Lent, the Sisters will introduce a new prayer focus based on their theme of “Home”:

  1. The monastery Homes (Fremont House and Girard House)
  2. The door ministry and visitors to their Homes
  3. St. Jane House
  4. Ascension Church community
  5. Other communities working on housing issues

The Sisters ask for your prayers throughout Lent. Please join them in praying for their weekly theme, and please pray for their strength as they support homes in North Minneapolis.

For the first week of Lent, the Sisters prayerfully focus on their own homes: Fremont House and Girard House.

From Cave to Cosmos: The Threshold of a New Way of Being

by Sr. Suzanne Homeyer, VHM

Most of you have heard that we Sisters were able to take one day during Advent as a “Cave Day” — a time for going deep into ourselves to explore the stirrings of what might come with the Incarnation of Jesus this Christmas. The image central in my personal prayer space was a lace “wreath” which in actuality was a doily hand-crocheted for me by my great-grandmother in 1962.  At the very center of this wreath I placed a small leather box which was given to me by Sr. Katherine as I embarked on my 2016 trip to Rome. She had a few words on a small piece of paper inside with a message imploring the Sacred Heart of Jesus to be my traveling companion on the journey. This Advent I used that little box to represent the “Cave of the Heart.”

 

I felt called to spend some of my Cave Day allowing watercolor to speak my own heart to me. The accompanying photo shows the earliest stirrings of new life in me as I approached the third Sunday of Advent. The lovely pink emerging from the deep blue of the Sunday denotes the creation of the Universe, and the bright green signifies the movement and life found on our earth. The happiness of Gaudete Sunday colors the imminent birth of Jesus anew.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is now three weeks after I began this painting and Jesus has come anew into my world. The three Kings arrived this weekend at the manger, and today Jesus is baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan. WELCOME TO KAIROS TIME!!! This is the time when events of Jesus’ life and our faith life don’t necessarily coincide with the logical passing of hours, days or years…. Kairos time is the time when our lives are measured by the intensity of sacramental moments and the sureness of feeling God present with us. The watercolor of my cave time has given way to the use of acrylic paint on a wooden birdhouse to mark my commitment to pray for the homeless throughout this coming year. Our community members have all created these wonderful homes as signs that we are part of a village of people living in our own homes but sharing the village of the cosmos in very intentional ways. The photo at the end of this blog is not the end of a journey “from Cave to Cosmos” but the threshold of a new way of being in 2018!

A home with the cosmos for the roof and multi-ethnic people tumbling out of the heart-shaped door. On the back (unseen) are the homeless.

A SISTER’S PRAYER

Sisters Mary Frances and Brenda at morning prayer.

by Sr. Suzanne Homeyer, VHM

O Lord, open my lips

and my mouth shall proclaim Your praise.

               From the Liturgy of the Hours — Morning Prayer

As a sister I am often asked about prayer. “How do you pray? Do you really pray 4 times a day? What forms of prayer do you like best? What is the easiest prayer to remember? How can I teach my children to pray?” These and many other questions arise when we consider prayer.

“Prayer should be the key of the day and the lock of the night.”

“Prayer should be the key of the day and the lock of the night.” This great quote is taped to the night stand next to my bed as a reminder. It has been a part of my personal prayer for a little over a year ago when I first discovered it on retreat with the Carmelite Sisters. There are some days when I forget to open the day with prayer and the joys and riches of that day seem out of reach for me until I become conscious of the need to unlock those delights with prayer.

Similarly, if I forget to lock my day with prayer before bed I toss and turn with anxious thoughts and cares running through my mind. If I can remember to lock up the day….even if it’s 3 am …my sleep becomes restful and I am graced to wake up refreshed!

With one voice: Generations joining in prayer

Protect us Lord, as we stay awake;

watch over us as we sleep….

That awake we may keep watch with Christ;

and asleep, rest in His peace.

            From the Liturgy of the Hours — Night Prayer

O! the luxury of being able to pray in a personal way as I begin a new day…by reading, journaling or just staring at the sunrise or the pine tree outside my window. Prayer is a gift for me to unlock — the gift of God’s love and care!

ROAD TRIP TO ST. LOUIS: Sr. Suzanne Reflects on Summer Service

by Sr. Suzanne Homeyer, VHM

Painting: A Corporal Work of Mercy. Doing Little Things with Great Love.

What would summer be like without a road trip? I know what part of my summer was like with a road trip. This year I took a road trip with a Visitation Companion and 11 high school girls, another Visitation Sister and a high school counselor! It was fun, Fun, FUN!!!

VISTORY is an annual service trip for students from Visitation High Schools around the country. For about a week each year 30 – 50 students from St. Louis, Washington, DC and the Twin Cities travel to a host city for a time of getting to know each other, learning more about Salesian spirituality and serving the elderly, homeless, those on the margins and those in the streets.

I have been part of VISTORY since 2004 and I have always enjoyed traveling and working with a variety of adult chaperones. Sometimes I invite the mom of a participant to help; sometimes another sister and sometimes a former participant. This year I advertised to members of our Visitation Companion group and Nancy Timmerman stepped forward.

I was immediately excited because Nancy had organized many service trips before when she and her husband served as the deacon couple at a church in Forest Lake. They participated in a service trip to Guatemala with a group from St. Philip Church. There will always be glitches on such a trip but Nancy was a seasoned chaperone and able to go with the flow.

We were not exactly Thelma and Louise riding in a top-down convertible…two adults curled up with several sweaters in an air-conditioned coach bus complete with bathroom on board! Getting there was half the fun. It gave the opportunity to connect with the Vis contingent from Mendota Heights.

Corporal Works of Mercy as Service Theme

Sharing a meal during the Special Olympics Gametime

Every Eucharist is a rehearsal for the heavenly banquet. Students and volunteers share a meal.

The Corporal Works of Mercy was the overall theme focused on by the student/faculty planners from St. Louis Viz. Of course, feeding the hungry at soup kitchens or sorting clothing to be distributed to new admissions at a home for troubled youth or cleaning and organizing school classrooms at an inner city parish school with no maintenance budget are in line with what someone would list as the corporal works of mercy. Taking care of infants and children of working parents at a combination pre-school/day care is a modern version of caring for orphans and widows perhaps. Planting a memorial garden was certainly a way for caring for the dead and painting a mural as a way to beautify the surroundings for homeless city dwellers.

One service opportunity was definitely based on an understanding of the theology of the works of mercy…if not actually Jesus’ words. Several hours were spent by all of the students and chaperones together with a group of 18 to 30 year old Special Olympians and their parents. After a few anxious moments by all, the margins disappeared…in fact, at one point there were more outfielders than spectators. A surprise storm forced everyone inside for the game but spirits weren’t dampened. Everyone was close together and the Visitor’s team definitely had the advantage —- some of them had been playing together with the same volunteer coaches for 15 years and their team had won some Special Olympic awards in baseball!

The pictures below show the entire the VISTORY team with the St. Louis Special Olympians in the gym, an after dinner water balloon game on the soggy grass, and the pot luck meal with our new friends and their families and coaches, cooks and a myriad of other folks. Looking around the dining room I was reminded of a friend who says that every Eucharist is like a rehearsal for the heavenly banquet…and this really was a heavenly banquet here on earth!

Vistory 2017

For more pictures of VISTORY and other summer activities, visit us at our, Instagram and Flickr pages.

Brian Mogren: Being Who He is and Being That Well

Brian Mogren: Vis Companion, Director of St. Jane House

by Dave Nimmer,* Guest Blogger

“Be who you are and be that well.” St. Francis de Sales

It’s been a decade since Brian Mogren quit a long-held job at Target Stores to heed the call of St. Francis de Sales to “Be Who You are and Be That Well.” In that time, what Mogren has been is the provider of shelter to the temporarily homeless, the purveyor of a quiet space for spiritual seekers and a persistent, insistent, consistent friend of the Visitation Sisters, his neighbors in North Minneapolis. His work won him the Virginia McKnight Binger Award in Human Service from the esteemed McKnight Foundation, given to those who “give their time to improve the lives of people in their communities.” He’s done that all right and along the way served as an unofficial counselor, coordinator, gardener, director and caretaker for those who use his home on Emerson Avenue North. “This opened up a world of possibility for me and my life,” Mogren writes on his website, “that I could not have imagined: bringing my unique gifts, creativity and connections to contribute to the transformation of North Minneapolis.”

A Call to the Northside

With Two Marys: Brian and FDTL Founder Mary Johnson Roy and Sr. Mary Margaret McKenzie

Mogren’s transformation began, in part, when he met the Sisters. Since 2008, the Sisters have leased his home (The St. Jane House) for retreats to women seeking empowerment, students wanting enlightenment and mothers shedding resentment. A grass-roots group, From Death to Life, counts the St. Jane House as its home. Its founder is Mary Johnson, a mother who sought out, and forgave, the man who killed her only son. Mogren serves on the board.

“This is what it’s all about – connecting across difference and discovering our common humanity.” — Brian Mogren

His journey owes something to an epiphany moment years ago when he was leaving a parish council meeting at St. Philips Catholic Church on 26th and Bryant Ave. N.   He noticed a woman frantically trying to pick up papers strewn about the street; she’d left them on top of her car as she pulled away. Now she was scurrying to pick up the papers and sheet music and Mogren gave her a hand. They walked back to the church arm in arm. The moon was out. The evening was quiet. And Mogren felt at peace. Suddenly a car with dark-tinted windows pulled alongside, rap music pounding as the back window began to roll down. Mogren’s moment of bliss turned to terror, fearing they could get hustled, hassled or hurt. Just then, a teenage boy stuck his head out the window, smiled and said, “Hi, Miss Muggs.” This was a teenager talking to a 70-year-old Irish Catholic.

Role model and friends.

“They had love and affinity for one another,” Mogren recalls. “Later I wept. I thought, ‘Oh, my Gosh.’ This is what it’s all about – connecting across difference and discovering our common humanity. I felt called to move to the Northside.” He did, building what would become the St. Jane House in 2003. .He moved in and became an official North Minneapolis resident, still holding on to his creative job at Target. He decided to quit, after 24 1/2 years, following another epiphany experience – this time while listening to a tape of students’ spoken-word poetry.

“[Brian] has mentored a few young people who look on him as a role model and friend. He loves North Minneapolis and it shows.” Sr. Karen Mohan,VHM

I remember hearing the urgency in their voices,” he says, “and in that moment my heart was burning. I needed to do what I could to ease the pain and provide a path for those who needed it. I wanted to make a difference.” A big part of the difference began when the Sisters and Mogren got together with the St. Jane House. He had the space. They had the plans. They’d bring the people. He’d be the director.

St. Jane House Ministry

St. Jane House: A Place of Rest and Delight

In the years that followed, the St. Jane house has provided guest rooms for overnight visitors, hosted a weekly centering prayer group, offered retreats for healing and support groups and served as home base for students – high school and college – seeking an “immersion experience” in the flow of neighborhood life.

“I feel loved and celebrated by the Sisters….They embody the God of my understanding, and they define the notion of inclusion. I am able to give to others what I receive from them.”

It doesn’t surprise Sister Karen Mohan that Mogren can handle such varied groups with finesse, grace and hospitality. It was modeled by his parents, Jerry and Arlene, who were quick to welcome others to the Molgren family. He’s had a lot of practice. “When we became ‘family and friends’ with Brian,” she recalls, “we inherited all his brothers – 11 brothers and no sisters. When our community went to his mom’s home for one of the family get-together suppers, we were welcomed by a big sign outside on the lawn. “’WELCOME SISTERS. WE ALWAYS WANTED SISTERS. And now we have them. YOU.’ We love the Mogren boys and we loved Arlene, their mother. After her funeral a few years ago, the 10 living brothers all carried her casket singing, ‘She’s ain’t heavy. She’s our mother.’ There wasn’t a dry eye around.”

Loved and Celebrated by the Sisters

Family and Friends: The Mogren Brothers, Mother, and Visitation Sisters

“It’s wonderful to be in the presence of the [Sisters’] non-judgmental, joyful spirit. They have helped me to be gentle with myself and that helps me to be gentle with others.” 

Mogren remembers first meeting the Sisters at St. Philips where he started attending mass because of his respect for Father Greg Tolaas. He met them there, but he really got to know them after he moved to North Minneapolis. “I feel loved and celebrated by the Sisters,” Mogren says, “ever since I met them. It’s wonderful to be in the presence of their non-judgmental, joyful spirit. They have helped me to be gentle with myself and that helps me to be gentle with others. They embody the God of my understanding, and they define the notion of inclusion.

“I don’t see any other than the life I’m living,” he says. “I get to be who I am and to be that well.”

“I am able to give to others what I receive from them. They have entrusted me with their platform and space.” He’s been a fine defender and caretaker of that Salesian spirituality, in the opinion of Jeff Pearson, a long-time friend and benefactor of the Sisters. “Brian can weather the storms,” Pearson says. “If it doesn’t work one way, he’ll figure out a different way. He’s got the kind of compassion that keeps him coming back.”

Brian with Alafia Foundation Members

Sister Karen notes that Mogren, now 51 years old, is something of a Renaissance man, who’s an artist, a graphic designer, a photographer and a fun-loving guy with a sense of humor. Mogren, who lives in the basement of the St, Jane House, prefers to think of it as “the garden level.” “Brian was inspired to begin the Alafia Foundation to encourage leaders from the neighborhood,” Mohan says. “He has mentored a few young people who look on him as a role model and friend. He loves North Minneapolis and it shows.” Mogren would smile at that description. He’s a man who loves where he is: in his city, in his heart, in his life.   “I don’t see any other than the life I’m living,” he says. “I get to be who I am and to be that well.” That’s why the welcome mat is out at the St. Jane House.

* This is the thirteenth 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! 

From our Summer Newsletter

A Contemplative Perspective from the Northside

S. Brenda shares contemplative insights on issues of social justice and advocacy.

by S. Brenda Lisenby

This past year, our community has been engaged in a strategic process. One of the ways in which we have felt led is to increase our awareness of and participation in social justice and advocacy. What does this mean for us as Visitation Sisters in an urban monastic setting? The following is Sister Brenda’s reflections on what contemplative action looks like for a community dedicated to prayer and presence in north Minneapolis.

Our Visitation charism has been described as “prayer and presence” or “prayer and community.” When we are present to one another we receive the gift of community. Community life is a place to grow in love and humility. And just perhaps, the lessons we learn as we live community can help us as a society, so I share with you what it has meant to me to be a part of this Visitation community at this time in our country’s journey…. (click to continue reading.)