Walking With Us: Servant Leader Anne Attea

A mother’s heart: Anne and Bela

by Dave Nimmer,* Guest Blogger

At a time when Latino communities throughout America are uneasy and uncertain over government travel bans and immigration crackdowns, Latinos at Ascension Catholic Church in North Minneapolis could be grateful for Anne Attea: She’s had their backs – every day, for the past nine years.

Her title is pastoral associate and she brings to the job a minister’s education, a missionary’s experience and a mother’s heart. She’s got a master’s of divinity from Loyola University-Chicago. She’s served in Mexico, Guatemala and Chile. She’s the mother of 11-year-old Isabela.

Attea’s mission at Ascension is to help Latino members grow in their Catholic faith, to develop new leaders, to provide access for families to a myriad of public and private assistance programs and, perhaps most important, to offer her prayerful support.

“I feel the stress that is in the air for our Latino community,” she says. “I want to be of help day to day. I can write letters for them. I can help them fill out paperwork.  I can help them find legal assistance when they need it. And, of course, I can pray with them.” — Anne Attea, Pastoral Associate at Church of the Ascension

Gerardo Escamilla Vargas, his wife and four sons are Ascension members. He owns a roofing and siding company – As Professionals, We Have You Covered – with 12 employees and is one of the 400 to 500 parishioners who attend the mass every Sunday for Spanish speakers. The mention of Attea’s name brings a smile to his face.

“She’s been like my mentor,” Escamilla Vargas says. “She teaches me about our faith. I like the way she lives hers. She’s a good leader who sees the God in all of us. And she helps without question.”

Attea knows her help, and her prayers, are needed now more than ever. She says Latino church members tell her that some people have become emboldened to say hurtful things and harbor racist thoughts about immigrants and those whose color and culture are different from their own.

“It’s the children who suffer the most,” she says. “They fear that when they get home from school, one of their parents could be missing (arrested or deported). Attea feels that immigration authorities are no longer just targeting criminals for deportation.

 “I am comforted to know [Anne Attea] is at Ascension, helping the community I care so much about.”– Sr. Mary Virginia Schmidt

“I feel the stress that is in the air for our Latino community,” she says. “I want to be of help day to day. I can write letters for them. I can help them fill out paperwork.  I can help them find legal assistance when they need it. And, of course, I can pray with them.”

Attea has developed that helping hand since she was an undergraduate at Notre Dame. She decided medicine was not for her and majored in theology, recalling that a course in “liberation theology” was eye opening.

She got a chance to put it in practice in Chile, in a volunteer program with Holy Cross Associates. “I worked in the town parish,” she says, “and I learned the Holy Cross fathers had a great commitment to the poor. I was 24 years old and got to do a little of everything: teaching, administering, serving whoever and wherever I could.”

Serving was just a part of Attea’s personal faith formation, shared and shaped by the Holy Cross Associates. The rest of the foundation included notions and admonitions of simplicity, social justice, spirituality and community. These are right out of the daily playbook of the Visitation Sisters of North Minneapolis. Attea met them in 1998 and ever since has been attending their Wednesday morning mass.

The Sisters are people who walk the talk,” she says. “They have included my daughter in some of their youth programs. They share their benefactors with us at the church. And I support their causes. Most important, I feel I am walking with them.

The Sisters have no doubt about that. “I remember when Anne first walked into our Wednesday mass,” says Sister Mary Virginia Schmidt. “She’s very caring and concerned, but I also sense her independence, combined with determination.”

“Those (qualities) are needed to help the Latino members at her church. Anne needs to help them get answers and assistance. I am comforted to know she’s at Ascension, helping the community I care so much about.”

Schmidt says she’ll never forget the day when Attea, who had wanted so badly to adopt a child, came into the monastery carrying Isabela in her arms. Attea adopted her daughter when she was just an infant in Guatemala. Isabela has a strong connection to her roots and may one day want to return to her native country. Here in the Twin Cities, she is doing well in school, fluent in two languages.

As for her own future, Attea is open to “wherever the spirit calls” her, perhaps in Latin America or in the Twin Cities.  “One thing is very clear to me,” she says. “I do feel called to walk with those who are struggling.”

In the life she’s lived so far, Anne Attea has had plenty of practice.

* This is the twelfth 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! 

The Gentle Strength of Gerry McKay — Vis Companion and Friend

Gerry McKay at the Neighborhood CleanUp (right in glasses)

by Dave Nimmer,* Guest Blogger

To say Gloria “Gerry” McKay has roots in her North Minneapolis neighborhood (old Highland) is something of an understatement.  McKay has been there longer than most of the trees on the north side.  She moved into her house on Fremont Avenue with her parents in 1928 – when she was two months old.

“I feel spiritually enriched by the Sisters. They show me, and all the others they’re connected with, kindness, gentleness and an open heart.” — Gerry McKay

This past Mother’s Day, she celebrated her 89th birthday and the 28th year of living alone in the family home.  And the week before her birthday, McKay was on a ladder trimming a tree next to her driveway.  She still drives a car, runs her own errands and more than occasionally pitches in with teenagers in a neighborhood cleanup.

“[Gerry] is a deeply spiritual person who knows the God who lives inside of her…and her neighbor.  She’s a steadfast family member and a loyal neighbor, who has a wry wit and a ready smile.” — Sr. Suzanne Homeyer

“I am pretty good at taking care of myself,” McKay says.  “Over the years I learned how to do a lot of things”  They include painting storm windows, shoveling snow, trimming trees, tending gardens nd hanging Christmas lights and watering grass.

In fact, she was watering grass when she first met the Visitation Sisters, several years after they moved into their house on Fremont Avenue..  Katherine Mullin noticed McKay in the yard and went over, said hello and invited her to meet the other Sisters.

Gerry McKay accepted the invitation and she’s been involved with the Sisters ever since, attending the monthly Monday Salesian meetings and becoming a Vis Companion (people who deepen their commitment to the Visitation Monastery, through, prayer, study and community service).

“I feel as though I’ve been adopted by the Sisters,” McKay says.  “They kind of adopted the whole neighborhood.  Everyone around here seems to know them and they seem to have a calming influence on those they meet.”

Gerry shares a thought at Salesian Monday Night

Calm, conscientious and confidant aptly describe Gerry McKay: the life she’s lived and the woman she’s become.  She grew up in a family with six siblings, five sisters and a brother.  “You better believe we raised him right,” she says, with a smile.  “He turned out to be a good and gentle man.”

And McKay turned out to be a very good daughter.  She attended Ascension Elementary School, Franklin Junior High and graduated from North High School. She got an award at North for never being late for class or missing a day of school.  She spent a year at the College of St. Catherine, planning to be a nurse.  Because her father was a contractor and frequently away, McKay had to quit and come home to help her mother, looking after her and the rest of the family.

She did it without resentments and found her role satisfying.  Over the years, she cared for her mother, two sisters and brother, who lost a battle to esophageal   cancer.  “I discovered I could be there when the going got tough,” she says.  “I always seemed to find the strength I needed.” She’s been the executor of three of their estates.

What McKay finds from the Sisters is another kind of strength.  “I feel spiritually enriched by them,” she says.  “They show me, and all the others they’re connected with, kindness, gentleness and an open heart.”

Sister Suzanne Homeyer says she draws inspiration from McKay: a single woman, growing old gracefully, taking care of her house, doing her own yard work, getting involved with her community and being unafraid.

“She is a deeply spiritual person,” says Homeyer, “who knows the God who lives inside of her…and her neighbor.  She’s a steadfast family member and a loyal neighbor, who has a wry wit and a ready smile.”

YouTube Channel: Tune into a video recording of the Interview with Gerry here.

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* This is the eleventh 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! 

Prayer Books Come and Go…

by Sr. Suzanne Homeyer, VHM

Grandpa Albert’s German Prayer book

This is the prayer book that my maternal grandfather, Albert Krueger, brought to the ‘new world’ when he was just 13 years old in 1912. It is typeset in the old German print style and doesn’t have pictures. There are some great hymns in it that I do remember Grandpa singing as he worked in the garden or as he relaxed with his Prince Albert cigar after a hard day at work!

What items remind you of your life – past or present?  Will they be part of your legacy?

Why is this blog about books and cigars appearing now on the Visitation Monastery website?

This weekend is the Sisters’ Annual Retreat for women in the neighborhood and the facilitator has asked us to bring an item from our own history — past or present to be shared in small group. Karen Westbrooks is known for creative ways for getting women to share their personal stories! She has been a speaker several

Liturgy of the Hours prayer book

times for our group and we are looking forward to “OWNING HISTORY AND HARNESSING HOPE” — a presentation she put together after a visit to the Smithsonian’s Museum of African American History and Culture.

What items remind you of your life – past or present? Will they be part of your legacy?

I imagine my great nieces and nephews someday looking at the prayer book I use for the Liturgy of the Hours and wondering about their Aunt Sister Sue.

 

In the News: Vis Companion Linda Goynes Featured

We are thrilled to share this story of our good friend and neighbor,
Linda Goynes, who is featured in this month's Minnesota Good Age Magazine. 
Reprinted here with permission of the author.

Worth the wait

Linda Goynes, Visitation Companion

By Dave Nimmer

At a time when most senior citizens are thinking about selling their houses, downsizing to a townhome or heading to assisted living, 64-year-old Linda Goynes just bought her first house in December on Newton Avenue in North Minneapolis.

“I looked at three other houses,” she said, “but when I came to the one on Newton Avenue, I dropped to my knees. I did. I said, ‘Thank God. This is the house.’ For one reason or another, it just felt like home.”

The one-story house was built in 1918 and features two bedrooms, a dining room, living room, kitchen and bathroom. Goynes admitted the real selling point was the sun porch. She’s also got a washer, dryer, snow blower and room for a small garden.

 “I was at rock bottom at one time and here I am with a place to call my own.” – Linda Goynes

Being a happy homeowner was not in the cards for Goynes 25 years ago. She’d been divorced, battled a cocaine addiction and lapsed into a coma, following a heart attack. Doctors told her she’d die if she continued to use the drug. She said she made a bargain with God, promising she’d change her ways if she recovered.

And she did.

Challenges along the way

In 1996, she met her second husband. They moved into a house next door to the Sisters of the Visitation on Girard Avenue North. Goynes stayed clean but her husband was using drugs and, occasionally, selling them, too.

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

With help from the Visitation Sisters, Goynes ended up moving out of their rented house into an apartment in 2008; White died in 2015. Ironically, he also loved the Sisters, shoveling their walk., attending some of their neighborhood meetings and even putting up their Christmas tree every year. But he couldn’t stay away from heroin.

“Linda is one of the most courageous women I know,” said Sister Katherine Mullin. “She knew she had to leave him after all those years of his addiction. She made her decision, found an apartment and kept it together.”

Working and saving

Now Goynes has found a home and, along with it, peace of mind. “After my struggles and trials, I’m grateful to have a house at this time in my life,” she said.   “I was at rock bottom at one time and here I am with a place to call my own.”

She’s been saving for this place for several years. Goynes, who joined Ascension Catholic Church is 2010, has been working there as a pastor outreach assistant: organizing luncheons, setting up for funerals, arranging the food shelf, changing the candles and opening the church. In her spare time, she also helps the Visitation sisters in their monastery/home a few blocks away from the church.

“If ever we needed help with some event, celebration or some project, Linda has been there,” said Sister Mullin.

Gratitude Always

I’ve had the opportunity to see Goynes at work, for the sisters and the church. What I’ve noticed is her steady demeanor. She’s helpful, hopeful, purposeful, soulful and joyful. For almost 20 years, I’ve asked her how she is. Her answer is always the same. “I’m blessed,” she says.

She’s caused me to change my reply when someone asks how I am. My standard answer was one I took from my father: Always room for improvement, he’d say. For the past couple of years, when someone asks the question, I now reply, “It’s a good day.” It’s even a better day when I get to see Linda Goynes.

Salesian Monday Night: Divine Hospitality

Welcome to the Monastery!

Please join us for 2nd Salesian Monday night on May 8th. Our topic is Divine Hospitality, featuring Dave Nimmer and Sr. Mary Frances.

This year’s Salesian Spirituality series is entitled, “LIVING JESUS AS WE MOVE THROUGH OUR DAILY LIFE.” We invite you to join us for food and fellowship, input and reflection, before closing our evening with prayer.
SALESIAN SECOND MONDAY
Monday, May 8, 2017
6pm: Dinner
6:45pm-8pm: Presentation and PrayerCome for either part, as you are able!
Visitation Monastery — Girard House
1619 Girard Avenue North

Minneapolis, MN 55411

Questions? or to RSVP: Call Sr. Suzanne at 612-501-5096.

Earth Day Honoring

Hello, All you Earth Lovers!

Today, about 40 children and adults participated in an Earth Day event cleaning up our North Minneapolis neighborhood. After teams of children and volunteers worked for about two hours, we gathered in our Fremont back yard for an Earth Day Party. We tossed an inflated ‘earth ball’ around the circles and each person shared one part of Mother Earth he or she is grateful for….Some examples: Rivers, National and State Parks, worms, grass, Family…It went on and on! We then enjoyed a treat of cupcakes with blue frosting (for the water) and gummy fish, courtesy of Anna Dourgarian.

All in all it was a wonderful way to celebrate God’s Creation. The perfectly blue sky, sunny weather, and awakening lilacs and tulips made it a day to remember! May our children, as well as ourselves, learn a greater reverence for all of Creation….God’s gift to us….

Peace! Sr. Mary Frances and Crew

Earth Day Album

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PHOTO ALBUM on FLICKR:

To see more photos from today’s party,

visit our photo album on Flickr.

 

 

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Holy Week Happenings: Snapshots of Prayer and Service

In Service Together: Easter Basket Making!

Holy Week Blessings!

As part of the Sisters’ ministry of contemplative prayer and non-violent presence, we have a commitment to provide opportunities for pray and service alongside one another. We seek to bridge our neighborhood and suburban family and friends by participating in shared faith experiences.

In the past weeks, leading up to Easter, the Sisters have been blessed by a few such opportunities, bringing together new families and old friends, dear members of God’s family from near and far.

On Sunday, April 2, this bridging faith experience took place at Girard House Monastery, when northside families gathered with members from St. Thomas Beckett church in Eagan, for an annual Easter Basket exchange and prayer service. We invite you to tune into that experience of hearing the Word and breaking Bread together here.

This past Saturday, April 8, another rich opportunity to bridge cultures and community occurred when Sr. Mary Margaret oversaw an Easter Basket and Treat-making service project. The Sisters were joined by new friends Mabinty and Makia, the daughters of Salesian friend and Catholic Elder Care nurse Joseph, along with

Cesar and Sylvia, children of longtime friends Derek and Adi Wood. Gathered round our table in north Minneapolis, in preparation of Holy Week, were children from Liberia;  Peruvian-American babes; and our motley crew of Irish-German-European-Mexican-descendant Sisters. All members of God’s beloved family. All joined together in blessed activity. All leaning into the ways we can give back to God, in the spirit of His son. All “Living Jesus” as we are called.

Can you see the joy on our faces? Can you glean our spirits in service and singing alongside one another?

Blessings on one and all these Holy Days marking our sacred mysteries!

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Visit our Instagram page for more photos!

Tune into our YouTube Channel to see the prayer service in full!

Find all the pictures from our Easter Basket exchange with St. Thomas Beckett at Flickr.

National Catholic Sisters Week: Trolley Ride!

Srs Karen & Katherine join other religious for this NCWS activity organized by the SSNDs.

by Sr. Katherine Mullin, VHM

Sister Karen and I participated in this past weekend’s Twin Cities trolley ride event as part of National Catholic Sisters Week. Our hope was to bring awareness to Sisterhood and our common work for Peace and Justice. We had fun riding the trolley with 40 other Catholic Sisters from different religious communities. Check out our pictures below, and see how we were “all in”!

“Our hope was to bring awareness to Sisterhood and our common work for Peace and Justice.”

The trolley traveled to Lumen Christi parish, Ascension, Assumption, and even Mickey’s Diner. We “quietly” entered the St. Kate’s library and University of St. Thomastoo-handing out candy, wishing the students our best in their studies. The co-eds looked up and smiled at the fun and then went back to work. We ended the day with 4:30pm mass at the Basilica, givng out some material and a prayer for our world. As a follow up, food bags are also being delivered to the Dorothy Day Center. All this was quite cleverly planned by the SSND Sisters (School Sisters of Notre Dame). 

Live+Jesus! 

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To see more photos, visit our Flickr Album: NCWS: Nuns on a Trolley! 

The New Season of Grace has Begun

The Alleluia banner before the Ash Wednesday service.

By S. Karen Mohan, VHM

“Each new season renews an aspect of the great mystery of Christ living and present in the Church. Each recurring season shows us some new way in which we live in Christ and in which Christ acts in the world….”- Thomas Merton

As I lit the fire to burn last year’s palm, preparing the ashes to mark our foreheads for the Ash Wednesday “signing”, I noticed how quickly those palm flowers dissolved. What had been was now becoming the symbol for our Lenten “springtime” renewal.   At Vespers on Ash Wednesday eve, we sang the Alleluia for the last time until the Easter Vigil, and then rolled up our Alleluia banner, “burying“ it in a box until it is unfurled once more at the Great Sabbath. We were ready for Lent to begin.

The 35 people ages 9-95, who gathered in our living room for our Ash Wednesday Mass today were ready, too.   What a privilege for our community to host such a gathering! Some were “regulars”; some were there for the first time ; all were affirming by their presence in the sacredness of this “Christian community retreat”.

Thomas Merton once wrote, “Each new season renews an aspect of the great mystery of Christ living and present in the Church. Each recurring season shows us some new way in which we live in Christ and in which Christ acts in the world….”

The new season of grace has begun.   We enter it together, with faith, hope and love.

Think VIP!

From our Winter newsletter...

VIP Alum Cody Maynus and Vis Companion Linda Goynes share treats at our Christmas party.

By S. Karen Mohan, VHM

What do a Monastic Studies grad student, a physical therapist, a Visitation alumna, a European Salesian spirituality “seeker” and a married woman now leading women’s programs in Afghanistan have in common? Did you think “VIP”? If so, you’re right on! Our former VIPs are now in these endeavors, fueled by Salesian spirit and Gospel focus from their service in north Minneapolis.

Encourage someone you know to consider a year of service with the Visitation Sisters.

These VIP alum spent a year in our monastery’s Visitation Internship Program which began in 2011. Community living, development of relationships among the people of north Minneapolis, Salesian spirituality and ministry on the north side are essential components of this volunteer program.

VIPs spend 10 months living in the neighborhood in housing provided by the Sisters. After visiting the many options for ministry in north Minneapolis, they offer 30 hours of service per week at a site that fits their talents and interests; they also spend 10 hours of service with the Sisters. Living simply, studying Salesian spirituality and praying and working with the Sisters in the monastery give both VIPs and Sisters a strong sense of community. Spiritual direction and prayer opportunities are important personal and spiritual supports for VIPs.

..if you are a young adult considering a year of “giving back and growing in your faith” in a vibrant, urban setting with a monastic community, consider this unique opportunity and “Think VIP”!

The Visitation Internship Program is open for women and men between the ages of 21-35 years.

Our website has specific information about the application process and the program itself. The website also has a recent video interview with one of our former VIPs, Anna Dourgarian and is delightful to view!

We are now taking applications for the 2017-2018 year. Encourage someone you know to consider a year of service with the Visitation Sisters. Pray for young adults as they discern how to live out the Gospel, and if you are a young adult considering a year of “giving back and growing in your faith” in a vibrant, urban setting with a monastic community, consider this unique opportunity and “Think VIP”!