Community Prayer: Welcome to North!

WELCOME TO NORTH / story from Chitwood Media on Vimeo.

Since December of 2014, we have been convening a group of women and men who are discerning their calls to co-found a Resident Visitation Lay Community alongside us in north Minneapolis.

Some of the questions we are wrestling with include:
What is the call of the laity? What does it mean to be community? How do we “live+Jesus”, as our founders said, in north Minneapolis? How are stability and freedom, the Spirit and one-ness part of our calls to be present in this economically and culturally diverse place?

On Sunday, May 31, 2015,  S. Mary Margaret creatively launched our discerning-community-gathering with a prayer using two videos.    These short, award-winning films, playing here, were produced by our friends Morgan and Josh Chitwood. We invite you to watch them and hold us -and our discerning friends- in prayer.

Together, may we rise up to meet the joyful challenges of founding this new community and living responsively to the call of the Spirit and the union of beloved community that Jesus calls us all to in his name.

Will you join us in prayer?

THE LAST PRAYER / story from Chitwood Media on Vimeo.

On Service: Q & A with Vis Companion Heidi Akpaette

The following is the first in a series of interviews with Visitation Companions -- a lay 
community committed to the ministry of the Visitation through prayer, Salesian study and service.

The Call to Companionship

Heidi Akpaette, Vis Companion

Heidi Akpaette, Vis Companion

Q: In a few words, what inspired your call to become a Companion to the Visitation Sisters of Minneapolis? 

Heidi: I love the vision and mission of the Visitation Sisters and wanted
a tangible way to be involved.

Being a Companion offered me a way
to
invest in the community of North Minneapolis, grow in Salesian Spirituality, and be mentored
by the Visitation Sisters’ life.

Q: What is your favorite saying or teaching of St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal?

Heidi: I am inspired by the concept of gentleness-gentleness towards self and gentleness towards others.

On Service

Q: What does the word, “service” mean to you?

Heidi: Service is giving of myself to other people, causes, and missions. It is intentionally moving beyond my own agenda into the agenda of others.

Q: What images of your service come to mind?

Heidi: Learning from the Sister’s wisdom and being in their presence. Advocating for North Minneapolis and the Visitation’s vision of presence to the neighborhood. Bringing ideas and a listening to others on the St Jane House committee. Celebrating Mass with the Sister’s. Planting sunflower seeds. Really seeing people who have their lives on the Northside.

Q: What is the setting for a recent experience of your service?

Heidi: I am at the St Jane house with two other Vis Companions and one of the sisters, we are sitting around a table. We are relaxed in the shared knowledge of the Salesian charisms and our ideas for the St Jane house and it’s mission.

Gifts, Challenges, and Salesian Aspects of Service.

Q: What gifts do you bring to your service?

Heidi: A different generation of experience, a wide variety of connections, networking abilities, and joy in meeting together.

Q: What challenges have you encountered while serving?

Heidi: Not always having the energy to bring more the table and not always having enough space in my personal life from which to give.

Q: What gifts do you receive from serving?

Heidi: Relationships with people that I would otherwise not encounter-hands down that is the best gift.

Q: Where have you found God in your experience of serving?

Heidi: In others-I encounter the living God working and breathing in other people’s lives, sometimes by their actions and sometimes by their words.

Q: What aspects of Salesian spirituality were reflected or manifested in this service experience?

Heidi: Humility in learning from others, seeing the innate dignity in other people, being present with who I am with others doing the same, enjoying a sense of humor with others, and having grace for self in judgment-and challenging myself to grow in my weakness.

Nine Mendota Visitation High Seniors Encounter North Minneapolis Neighbors!

by S. Mary Frances Reis, VHM

Vis Seniors with some of our northside friends from Emerge and From Death to Life

Vis Seniors with some of our northside friends from Emerge and From Death to Life

For the past 20+ years the Sisters have sponsored an INNER CITY IMMERSION EXPERIENCE in North Minneapolis as one of the options for Senior Project. It has been a wonderful opportunity for service in this community and to experience another part of town!

The past three years we tried something new! We organized a mission trip right here North Minneapolis! Instead of going to Guatemala or Africa a group of 8 seniors discovered missionary territory right here in the city!

“Our prayer is that this will be an experience they can carry throughout their lives.” – S. Mary Frances

This year we have 9 Visitation women who will stay at our spirituality/retreat/meeting center in the neighborhood called the St. Jane House; a young adult Vis Alum will be staying with them and also and act as chaperone.

From May 26-June 4, 2015:

  • They will have a more in depth experience of our neighborhood and the people who are our neighbors;
  • They will have many opportunities to serve the community, to interact with young children, other teens and senior citizens;
  • They will have opportunities to spread the Salesian spirit of gentle presence.
  • They will have an opportunity to build community with one another and with the Sisters.
  • It will be lots of FUN & a great contribution to North Minneapolis!

Vis Seniors 2013 Service ImmersionGenerally, each day will begin with breakfast, prayer, and off to Northside Child Development Center for the morning where they will assist the teachers of 0-5 year olds. Over the lunch hour there will be speakers from the community to help them gain insight into the root causes of poverty, and also learn about many positive initiatives in place in our community. Afternoons include gardening, monastery jobs, help with computer skills at the local technology center, and maybe even Bingo at the Adult Day Care Center!

The students will prepare and serve their meals, have time to reflect on the day, and even go out on a police ride along! Visitation’s school motto is “NOT FOR SCHOOL BUT FOR LIFE.” Our prayer is that this will be an experience they can carry throughout their lives.

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

Click to hear more from past Vis Seniors on their Service Immersion Experiences.

Click to hear more from past Vis Seniors on their Service Immersion Experiences.

Visit our Video page to hear more from past Vis seniors on their Apostolic Service Immersion experiences.

Heart to Heart: Reflections on a Women’s Retreat by Sr. Suzanne

by Sr. Suzanne Homeyer, VHM

Gathering Heart to Heart: Women’s Retreat at St. Jane House

!Hola! Me llama Hermana Susanna.

That is how I began the most recent Women’s Overnight Retreat at St. Jane House. Each year for Mothers’ Day we Sisters invite the women of our neighborhood to participate in an all day retreat in honor of their nurturing presence on the north side. As a follow up we host three overnight retreats during the year for groups of 5 – 7 women who had been part of the larger gathering.

The final follow-up overnight was Bi-Lingual. That’s right, I did say Bi-Lingual. Sr. Mary Virginia and I gathered the women together for reflection, sharing and prayer. This is the first time we hosted a bi-lingual retreat. Luckily Sr. Mary Virginia was born in Mexico and speaks fluent Spanish. I studied Spanish for two years when I was in high school— that was in the early 60’s and it is only by the grace of God that I could remember how to greet the retreatants in Spanish!

“We were not only able to converse and share stories, but to laugh and cry together. We admired the beauty of each others’ lives.”

The Holy Spirit is alive and well and was very present to those of us gathered: a mother and daughter from Peru, a mom from Guatemala, a French-speaking neighbor from Nigeria, two long-time African-American neighbors and the two gringas!’ We were not only able to converse and share stories, but to laugh and cry together. We admired the beauty of each others’ lives. We worked creatively alongside one another. As part of our retreat time tougher, we created mandalas as a way of getting deeper into our own hearts — where God’s spring of love meets each of us.

“Loving Ourselves Where We Are On Life’s Journey” was our theme. We are all in mid-life someplace and regardless of our chronological age it is an appropriate time to look at where we have been, where we are now on our life’s journey,  and to appreciate how God has worked with us along the path from then until now. Joyce Rupp’s Book Dear Heart, Come Home includes poetry and journal entries, as well as reflection questions, and it is well worth the read — or at least a serious look-see by anyone needing affirmation of God’s love for them at this point on their journey.

Our closing ritual of the retreat was an affirmation circle. Each woman spoke to every other participant — affirming a quality or strength she had come to learn over the past 24 hours.

My personal ‘take-away’ from the retreat was hearing and understanding (with my limited knowledge of Spanish) that I was appreciated by my Peruvian friend because our hearts spoke to each other during the entire retreat and we didn’t need words to communicate God’s presence and love in our lives! The language of the heart promises to enrich all of our future retreats and I look forward to my next retreat and the experience of cor ad cor loquitur.

****

Engagement Resources:
To learn more about making a retreat at the monastery, click here.
For more about our ministry through St. Jane House, click here.

Breaking Bread Visitation

by Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion

How many ways are there to make community?

How many ways are there to be community?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Operation: Easter Basket Delivery

On Monastic Immersion Experience

From our Winter 2015 Newsletter...

MIE participant, Brenda Lisenby, helps facilitate a listening session.

by Brenda Lisenby, MIE Participant

“It has been exciting to experience this commitment to prayer and presence in fresh ways as I am immersed in the daily life of the Visitation Monastery in north Minneapolis.” – Brenda Lisenby

Immersion in the daily life and mission of the Visitation Sisters in this north Minneapolis neighborhood is a joy, yet not without its challenges! The Monastic Immersion Experience (MIE) is designed by the Visitation Sisters to be a mutually enriching experience. Women of any Christian faith tradition are welcomed into their community for six to twelve months to experience the monastic way of life, to join in daily prayer and faith sharing, and to learn more about Salesian spirituality, a spirituality that I feel is particularly suited to lay people in all walks of life. The Sisters in turn are excited to experience the revitalization of Salesian spirituality as it is shared with women who join them in community and participate in their mission of prayer and presence in north Minneapolis.

My journey with the Visitation began in the spring of 2014 when I was exploring options for a continuing sabbatical. I am attracted to monastic life and I discovered the blog of a previous MIE and resonated with the experiences she was sharing. So I contacted the community to begin a time of mutual discernment about participating in the Monastic Immersion Experience. After several visits to get to know the community, I arrived in September to begin my experience. After a few weeks of prayer and reflection, I was formally welcomed into the community with a simple commitment ceremony. In my commitment statement, I wrote:

Brenda’s Statement of Commitment

I am very much aware of the precious gift you are giving by inviting me to participate in the Monastic Immersion Experience of the Visitation Monastery of Minneapolis. You are gifting me by:

  • welcoming me into the intimate spaces of your community life
  • providing a safe environment for me to discern my next step
  • sharing your lifetime of lived Salesian spirituality

I wish to acknowledge this precious gift. In return, I honor it with my own commitment to live and learn and love in light of the seven practices identified by the community as essential to their mission as I am immersed in the monastic life of the Visitation Sisters for the coming six months. 

Recently, I had a mid-point check-in with the community. We went back to my commitment statement to evaluate the experience thus far. Both the community and I have found this to be a mutually enriching experience. I have had a positive experience of vibrant community life, received much prayer and support as I discern next steps for my life, and been excited by the things I am learning in my Salesian studies.

As for the dailyness of my life as a MIE participant, I have found the monastic rhythm of prayer and work to be nourishing. In addition to prayer, I help in the kitchen, answer the door as a part of our “Door Ministry,” provide administrative support for monastery outreach events, etc. The challenge for me has been to find and maintain this balance, to find my place and personal rhythm within the community. This is a monastery, but not the monastery of traditional cloistered sisters. The “cloister” is the neighborhood and the community of communities that have emerged from the Sisters’ commitment to prayer and presence. It has been exciting to experience this commitment to prayer and presence in fresh ways as I am immersed in the daily life of the Visitation Monastery in north Minneapolis.

Christ among us, or, a Lenten Lunch with David

by Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion

“May we, like God, never tire of forgiving, of accompanying those who need forgiveness on a path to dignity and wholeness.”Rev. Denis J. Madden, Baltimore Archdiocese*

On this Lenten journey together…

I think it was Sister Karen who answered the door. We had all just finished noon prayer and convened in the dining room of Fremont House to have lunch, when Sister appeared and, beside her, a man in his early to mid-fifties, sporting a fleece jacket and a bright smile.

“This is David. He’s joining us for lunch.”

Our table, surrounded by white community members who were pausing to enjoy a Friday lenten meal of vegetable soup, cheese and bread, was now rounded out by a brown guest who was, save for his name, a stranger among us.

“How did you find us?” Katherine asked, making way for him to be seated at the table.

David told us of a mutual friend on the northside who pointed him our direction, and there was an immediate, collective nod — a knowing.

It’s good when friends point Jesus our way. It’s part of our ministry of prayer and presence to feed the hungry. To see Christ in our midst. To offer Jesus a bit to eat and a warm place to rest his feet.  

Mary Frances went to make him a grilled cheese, and Suzanne dished up a bowl of the last serving of her homemade soup. We listened and learned from the spoken words – and the silence – of our Lenten guest’s journey.

“I just got out of prison two weeks ago, after a three year stint. I’m trying to find my family.” David told us where he was staying; he confided that his mother had died while he was in jail, and shared his desire to re-connect with his people. He wanted us to pray for him, for his courage to stay strong, stay out of trouble. He seemed grateful for the hot food.

I sat at the opposite end of the room and was in awe. Who was this man? Where did he come from? How could he trust us? Were I in his shoes, would I be able to confide in a room of strangers, to disclose such vulnerable truths?

At Mary Frances’ instigation, (or was it the Holy Spirit’s nudging?) we circled around him. We laid our hands on him. And we prayed. We prayed the spontaneous prayer of God’s love, of salvation, of grace, of our Lord’s mercy. We prayed for David. We prayed for ourselves. We gave thanks for his presence and the reminder of Christ’s forgiveness, of His promise of dignity and wholeness. We spoke words, we whispered intentions to ourselves. I thought of David’s mother, her soul in Heaven; his family, in whatever far reaches of this city or world they lived. I imagined, for a split second this formerly incarcerated man, this returning citizen, and his family, all in one embrace.

I touched his shirt sleeve and the back of his hand, and thought, “This is Jesus. He’s right here in the room.”

Lent is a time of of acknowledging our humanity, of seeing the way we sin – or separate ourselves from God. It’s a time of walking humbly together on this path of reconciliation and new life. As we pray for David, this day,  we pray for ourselves and for the world; we pray for the ways our Christian journeys are bound up in one another and our salvation seeks to recognize and live our communion with God. We pray for our restored reunions to each other and the Loving God that made us all.

 

 

***

*From “Prison Addiction” published by America Magazine.

To read more on our ministry of prayer and presence, click here.

 

SisterStory: S. Katherine Mullin reflects on knowing our neighbors

Sister Katherine Mullin VHM has been featured on SisterStory, an ongoing story of National Catholic Sisters Week, aimed at broadening awareness of Catholic sisters across the nation.

This SisterStory snapshot features S. Katherine reflecting on an experience in north Minneapolis and coming to know God through a neighbor. This is the third in a series of these videos recorded by Gina Giambruno at St. Catherine University.

Is knowing your neighbors important to you?

 

You can also view all of the videos of Sr. Katherine here:

https://www.sisterstory.org/gina-giambruno/sister-katherine-mullin-vhm-fall-2014-snapshot-collection

Celebrating Valentine’s Day: Expressing Love in North Minneapolis

St. Valentine

How many ways are there to communicate love for your community? For the families that inspire and nurture our very existence? What are we called to say, do, be — in response to the outpouring of God’s love born out through one another? How do we, as the Visitation Community, express our love to you, as friends and beloved strangers, who call us daily into our ministry of prayer and presence?

This year, as we mark the Feast of St. Valentine, we share with you snapshots from two different expressions of our community outreach and prayer-born love and gratitude.

valentine artist 3

Valentine’s Party

 

 

–The first is our Family Valentine’s Day Party, with Visitation School and Convent partner, Vicki Bailey. (Click to view our Flickr photo album and reflection by S. Mary Frances.)

 

 

16333606968_87a8e629bb_o

At Bethune!

 

–The second is our visit to Bethune Elementary School, to deliver a special Valentine to the faculty and staff who care for and educate so many northside children. (Click to view Flickr photo album and reflection by Companion Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde.)

 

How many ways can you see the Visitation embrace in these photos? Where do you spot Mary and Elizabeth? Can you detect a leaping womb, heart, or mind? Live+JESUS!

 

“Saints are not supposed to rest in peace; they’re expected to keep busy: to perform miracles, to intercede. Being in jail or dead is no excuse for non-performance of the supernatural. One legend says, while awaiting his execution, Valentinus restored the sight of his jailer’s blind daughter. Another legend says, on the eve of his death, he penned a farewell note to the jailer’s daughter, signing it, “From your Valentine.”” — from Catholic Online