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

 

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.

Celebrating our 25th Anniversary in the Heart of north Minneapolis

Today, the Feast of Guardian Angels, we mark our 25th year as a monastic community in the heart of north Minneapolis. The following history and images come from our archives, and are accompanied by pictures snapped at today’s Foundation Day mass.

25th Anniversary Mass

Foundation Day Mass 2014: A panoramic shot of our Salesian community gathered at Girard House.

***

From the archives: Founding Sisters "bond" with community members.

1989: Founding Sisters “bond” with local members of the police force.

On September 29, 1989, Sisters Mary Margaret, Karen and Mary Virginia said tearful good byes to their beloved St. Louis Visitation to come to establish, with Sr. Mary Frances, the Visitation Monastery of Minneapolis.

“Directed by the Holy Spirit through the ten years of discernment that preceded this foundation, we came with no other plan than to be faithful to our monastic way of life, which is centered on prayer and community, and to welcome and listen to those who came to our door. (Jesus promised us He would be there!) By faithfully listening to our neighbors, our agenda began to gradually unfold.”
– S. Mary Frances reflects on the founding of the monastery in our fall 2013 newsletter

Fr. Mike Newman, OSFS, presides at our Foundation Day mass with guests from our Visitation and Salesian Communities across the United States.

Fr. Mike Newman, OSFS, presides at our Foundation Day mass with guests from our Visitation and Salesian Communities across the United States.

On October 2, 1989Feast of the Guardian Angels,  Archbishop John R. Roach commissioned the Sisters to bring the gentle, non-violent charism of their founders to this inner city community. In his words, “I am happy I am sending the angels with you!.”

 

Click here to read more about the “Quarter-Century Marking”  of our northside ministry of prayer and presence: Fall 2013 Newsletter

 

Click here to see more photos from today’s Foundation Day Mass. 

Bridging Diversity & Abundance: Mutual Gifts Mendota Heights Visitation (1873) and North Minneapolis Visitation (1989)

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

Bridging Communities: Vis Seniors, Sisters, our VIP with some of our northside friends from “Emerge” and “From Death to Life”.

by S. Mary Frances Reis, VHM*

North Minneapolis is a culturally diverse and spiritually rich part of the metro area; it is home to the second Visitation Monastery in Minnesota founded in 1989.  The Salesian heritage of inclusivity and diversity which four Sisters brought here 25 years ago complements and affirms what is already present.  Perhaps that is why we were so warmly welcomed when we came to make this neighborhood our home.

Over the years, Mendota Visitation students and their families, faculty and staff, have made a bridge to our monastery, building relationships and performing various outreach services with our neighbors.  Not only do they bring hope to our families, especially at holiday times; they bring themselves and are eager to enter into relationship with our neighbors.  They help make our spirituality thrive here, carrying Salesian values of gentlenessnonviolencecommunity and presence.  In turn, our neighbors share inclusivity and diversity with them.

The highlight of this bridging happens in the spring each year when eight Visitation Seniors come to live here for two weeks of immersion and service.  Every agency where they serve wants them back the next year!

St. Francis de Sales often used images from creation to illustrate the concepts he was emphasizing.

Image from “Grimm’s Gardens.”

In his greatest work, the Treatise on the Love of God, he describes the diversity of the Church, that is, the People of God:

“The church is a garden with countless flowers It is necessary that they should be of various sizes, various colors, various scents and to sum up, various perfections.  All of them have their value, their charm, and their color, and in the assemblage of their differences all of them produce a beauty most pleasing and perfect.“

When we left our home monasteries in Mendota Heights and St. Louis to begin a new Visitation in north Minneapolis, we did not leave those who have for those who have not, but rather to build a Bridge between people who may not otherwise meet.    The results have been astounding!  We have all discovered that we have more in common than we have differences.  Together we form a beautiful garden enhanced by its diversity and inclusivity!  Surely that is the Spirit of the Visitation! 

 

 

 *Sister Mary Frances Reis is a founding member of the Visitation Monastery of Minneapolis.

Are you called to be a Visitation Companion? New formation cohort convenes this fall

Melissa with Visitation Sisters Mary Margaret, Mary Frances, Katherine, Mary Virgina and Karen on her 40th Birthday at St. Jane House.

With the Visitation Sisters, from L-R: S. Mary Margaret, S. Mary Frances, me, S. Katherine, S, Mary Virgina and S. Karen at St. Jane House.

by Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion

I met these women and my life changed. I had no idea it would, but it did — for the better. I want for everyone on this earth to know the love, gentleness, and gifts of the way the Visitation Sisters live Salesian Spirituality in Minneapolis. I want to invite others to join me in this community of lay affiliation to their religious order.

I write on this Feast Day of St. Jane de Chantal, co-foundress of the Sisters of the Visitation of Holy Mary, recalling my journey toward affiliation with this monastic order — and with this invitation for all others to discern a call to our lay community.

Are you called to become a Companion to the Visitation Sisters of Minneapolis? Does a life of Salesian prayer, study and service alongside these Northside nuns beckon to you? 

When Sr. Katherine walked up to me after mass that Sunday morning in the Spring of 2002, donning her silver cross and extending a gentle smile introducing herself for the first time, something quiet inside me was ignited. Did I have a hunger for God? Did I crave a new form of ministry and service outside my current occupation? Was a faith community anchored in social justice principles part of what I was seeking? Indeed!

Vis Companion Bianca

Vis Companion Bianca

Twelve years after the fact, I think now of the dear friend, Vocations partner, and Mystery-of-the-Visitation-“Elizabeth,” that Sister Katherine has become to me;  and I’m grateful to God for that initial introduction, and the nudging of the Holy Spirit to stay connected to all of the “nuns in the ‘hood.”

What calls a person to Companionship alongside a monastic order? What spoke to me — then and even now? What is in your heart’s deepest longing when it comes to living the gospel?

Twelve years ago I sincerely entertained God’s invitation to become a nun. Somewhere in the back of my head,  however, and deep within my heart, I knew I had an incomplete calling as a wife and mother; I had to nurture lives beyond those that I had been called to care for as an inner-city teacher and community arts collaborator. Choosing celibate, vowed,  religious life as a contemplative, monastic Sister, was to turn my back on Love’s calling to be a biological parent and married partner.

My discernment weekend came to a close with the community, I announced my intentions to not become a nun, and only then did the hunger or passion totally kick in. I fell in love with these Sisters, their ministry of prayer and presence, and their founders St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal at the helm of the Order modeling a way of relating, praying and “LIVING+JESUS!”.  The Sisters manner of living Francis’ and Jane’s spirituality (i.e., “Salesian Spirituality”)  was born out in the way they were present to my North High students and their families, and it revealed a new way of being in the world to me.  By praying four times a day, practicing stability in their neighborhood, and living out the little virtues, they were doing something revolutionary to me. I wanted to be part of that. I wanted more. The calm. The peace. The present-moment-paschal-mystery-Visitation-charism.

I still do.

***

Are you called to become a Visitation Companion?

Are you called to become a Visitation Companion?

In the Fall of 2005, three years after I’d first come to the community to discern a religious life vocation, a group of lay women and men under the auspices of the Sisters began a formation process to become a new lay community studying Salesian Spirituality and trying to live the charism of the Sisters — but in our own lives, homes, and places of employment. Today, that group has grown to include new members – living both outside Minneapolis, and within a mile radius of the nuns.

This fall, the community will convene a new formation cohort for those who are interested in studying Salesian Spirituality and finding ways to pray and serve together as Companions. Maybe this group will include you?

For more information on becoming a Visitation Companion, please contact Jody Johnson at jodyreis@yahoo.com.

LIVE+ JESUS!

 

Northside Gardening: Reflections and an Invitation from Sr. Katherine

S. Katherine at work in the garden.

S. Katherine at work in the garden.

by S. Katherine Mullin, VHM

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

– S. Katherine Mullin, VHM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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

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

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

Invitation to Garden:

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

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

 

 

 

Welcome Visitation Companions! Spring Commission 2014

Vis Companions Commissioning 2014

Welcome (from Left to Right): Tammi Thompson, Corein Brown, Bryce Johnson, and Anna Dourgarian.

On Saturday, May 10, 2014, the Visitation Sisters and Companions welcomed four new members to our burgeoning lay community.

After a rich morning retreat experience inspired by the Salesian formation book, “God Desires You” by Fr. Eunan McDonnell, SDB;  mass and prayer, the community reviewed their statements of commitment and received these new friends.

Joining the Visitation Community were Anna Dourgarian, Bryce Johnson,  Corein Brown, and Tammi Thompson. 

Click here to watch their statements of commitment.

Join us in prayer for each Companion as they enter into an individual discernment process this summer, listening for the Holy Spirit’s nudgings, and ways they are called to serve and be present on the northside.

 

To learn more about the Visitation Companion Lay Community, please contact Jody Johnson at jodyreis@yahoo.com or Linda Goynes at 612-529-9647.

Looking Back at Vis Neighbors: Our First Lay Community

First Vis Neighbors Commissioning Ceremony,  Winter, 1994 Newsletter

Introducing VISITATION NEIGHBORS…the Seeds of Tomorrow’s Flowers (from News From the Northside, Fall 1994 — lead story)

by Sr. Suzanne Homeyer, VHM

This blog is indeed a ‘back story.’  All any of us have to do when we want to see where we are today is to look back and see God’s presence along the way.  Some call it Providence…some prefer the term serendipity and others just coincidence.  This is the back story on the Visitation Companions…it is mainly the history of the beginnings of Visitation Neighbors and the current news of the presence of Salesian Spirituality alive and well-lived for over 20 years in the lives of Trish Kloeckl and Lorilee Lambrecht, the founding mothers of our monastery’s first lay community.

“My own formation in the order took place alongside the formation and spiritual growth (and stretching of consciousness) of the Visitation Neighbors.” – S. Suzanne Homeyer, vhm

When I arrived at the monastery in 1995, the Visitation Neighbors were already established and part of the on-going ministry and presence of the Sisters here on the North Side. How did they come to be? My own formation in the order took place alongside the formation and spiritual growth (and stretching of consciousness) of the Neighbors. Over the years there have been 19 or 20 adult members and 4 youngsters that were Neighbors.

“It all began with…”  as Trish tells the history, her “time on the north side… living with friends and volunteering many places working with neighborhood residents.” Trish shared her idea of a lay community with Sr. Jean of the Cookie Cart and together they “walked the idea/vision over to the Vis Sisters and invited them (the Sisters) to become the ‘new stewards of the vision’….Shortly after that time, I moved in with the Sisters for 9 months and the idea/vision continued to unfold.”

An Invitation to Vis Neighbors copy

An Invitation to Vis Neighbors from Community Newsletter, 1994

The Sisters agreed to explore a new expression of the Salesian charism and the following invitation was issued in the community’s newsletter:

Lorilee Lambrecht had attended Mendota Visitation High School. Non scholae, sed vitae (not for school but for life) was etched on the keychain she still used from her Vis High years…I know it isn’t just a slogan to the Sisters.”

“After traveling extensively through the United States and living overseas… I was discerning about living in a base-Christian community to help support the lifestyle changes that were occurring in my life as a result of my mission experiences in Guatemala,” Lorilee reminisced. “Three words began to draw me to the Visitation Order and the North side: community, spiritual formation and family…I asked God to be obvious in showing me His will…within days the Vis Minneapolis newsletter was in my mail box….When the invitation came from the Sisters regarding their new lay group, my heart joyfully responded in an instant…I knew. We met, we knew this was it…we began the journey of faith.”

“I am so grateful for how Divine Providence moved and graced my story with the presence of the Sisters and their spirituality that has assisted me through many stages of my life as I move toward deeper integration and living in the Presence of God.” –Lorilee Lambrecht, Vis Neighbor

Vis Neighbors today:  Lorilee, S. Suzanne, Trish

Vis Neighbors “Selfie”  today:
Lorilee, S. Suzanne, Trish

Some 20 years later Lorilee, Trish and I gathered to share a simple meal in Trish’s southside Minneapolis home.  In anticipation of that sharing Lorilee wrote, “We have been through so much life together and we are still best friends.” As we prepared supper, ate and prayed together I saw the truth in that statement .  The three of us recalled fond memories of Vis Neighbor days, my time as a novice, their many ministry activities in the ‘hood and so much more.

Trish is now living just down the street from another community seeker she had first come to know on the north side.  She is still blessed to have her professional calling as an Occupational Therapist as well as her love of nature and inviting others to do wilderness challenges. She continues to encourage family, friends and neighbors to commit to community; to struggle to build community; to live community and to call others to the joy of life lived in community AND she still knows it is the Holy Spirit that breathes it all into being.

Lorilee lived in the inner city for nine years and when she moved out of North Minneapolis to Mendota Heights where she grew up she feels she “was fortunate to be situated very near Visitation Monastery Mendota. I am so grateful for how Divine Providence moved and graced my story with the presence of the Sisters and their spirituality that has assisted me through many stages of my life as I move toward deeper integration and living in the Presence of God.  Thomas Merton says that ‘every moment plants a seed in a person’s soul.  I had many beautiful experiences that were planted in my spirit during my time as a Vis Neighbor.  The seeds of those experiences continue to flower within my life.” She was inspired to establish Grace Center in Guatemala, a community for women and children needing supportive community, medical and spiritual services. She also finds herself a very busy mother who is involved in a variety of “callings” and interests as a wife and as a parent to three children Sophia (16); Annalisa (13) and Moses 12.”

“All the Flowers of All the Tomorrows are in the seeds of today.”
News From the Northside, Fall of 1994.

Click here to read the original Newsletter article: News From the Northside, Fall of 1994