Jubilee Year for Visitation Monasteries: Honoring St Margaret Mary’s 100th Anniversary of Canonization

by Sister Brenda Lisenby on October 28, 2019

The Monastery at Paray-le-Monial

This past summer while on pilgrimage to France, I had the opportunity to visit the Visitation Monastery in Paray-le-Monial, France, home to St Margaret Mary. The Mother Superior welcomed us, recounting the visions of Margaret Mary. After she had shown us around, she invited me as a new Sister to enter the cloister part of the Monastery and go to the room where Margaret Mary had died. It is kept as a small oratorium today and as I entered I was deeply moved. I asked Mother Marie Simon if I could sit for a moment. I barely have words to describe what I felt, but I knew I had become deeply aware of suffering. I thought I was sensing the suffering Margaret Mary experienced in her life, but as I look back on it now, I cannot say that it was Margaret Mary’s suffering I was encountering. Perhaps she was carrying her mission to make the suffering Heart of Jesus known to me?! As I sat with that deep suffering, I felt another movement, one of compassion. In the midst of great suffering, there was also great compassion. Maybe, just maybe, I was experiencing a small echo of Margaret Mary’s exchange of hearts as she continues her mission to make the Heart of Jesus known to all.
 
 
We recently celebrated the Feast of St Margaret Mary on October 16. For the rest of the Catholic Church, this day is noted as an “optional memorial” but for Visitation Sisters around the world, this is a feast day. This year we also celebrated the beginning of a Year of Jubilee for Visitation Monasteries in honor of the 100th anniversary of the canonization of St Margaret Mary.

Margaret Mary Alacoque was born in 1647 and entered the Visitation Monastery in Paray-le-Monial, France, in 1671. Her early childhood is recounted as happy. Her father died when she was 8 years old and after that time she suffered much, with family dysfunction, physical illness, and mental illness interweaving themselves throughout her young life. Yet from an early age, Margaret Mary had a special devotion to Jesus. After she entered the monastery, she had a series of visions where she was in conversation with Jesus. Basically, Jesus said:

1. I love you.

2. I am not loved enough.

3. Please love me.

Margaret Mary’s response was to give her heart to Jesus, and Jesus in turn placed his heart in her. We often refer to this as the “exchange of hearts.” She accepted her mission to make Jesus’ heart more known and loved, for all of us to experience this “exchange of hearts” with Jesus. There had long been a devotion to the Heart of Jesus (also known as the Sacred Heart) but Margaret Mary promoted the Heart of Jesus especially and a number of devotional practices have grown up around it. This year we remember her and her mission to make the Heart of Jesus known, so that we too might experience the “exchange of hearts” and render love for love.

Sharing the Peace

by Sister Karen Mohan on September 21, 2019

Sr. Karen and PreetiOn September 21, while the rest of my community was in retreat, I had the opportunity to participate in the WALK FOR PLANET PEACE, a march sponsored by the Twin Cities Nonviolent Committee as part of the 2nd Annual “10 Days Free From Violence.” The walk began at the steps of the St. Paul Cathedral and ended at the steps of the Capitol where speakers and representatives from various faith traditions shared prayers and readings on peace.

I carried a large PEACE sign of the kind that sits in front of each of our two houses. A woman of Indian descent inquired where she might get such a sign, and since we have as many as we need, I gave mine to her. That simple gesture reinforced a bond of peace with Preeti, and it seemed to me to be in keeping with a major goal of this march: to honor Gandhi’s vision of peace on his 150th birthday (which will be October 2).

I was not aware of Gandhi’s birth date until this year, so I was especially moved by the realization that October 2, the day of our missioning to north Minneapolis, coincides with the birth of this great prophet of peace! It is also the Feast of the Guardian Angels. So, on this doubly special day we were missioned “to show gentleness and offer peacefulness to the community, if only for a moment.”

30 years later, as we celebrate God’s providential care of us in this neighborhood that is “home” to us, I pray that Gandhi’s spirit under the protection of the Guardian Angels will move us to keep sharing the peace that Jesus lived.

 

 

How to Be Who You Are: Insight from Visitation Seniors in North Minneapolis

by Anna Dourgarian on June 6, 2019

We have all heard the oft-quoted “Be who you are and be that well” by Saint Francis de Sales. We love it for its simple affirmation. However, if you have ever tried to explore his words beyond that warm-fuzzy feeling, you might have hit a wall: How do you know who you are so that you can be it well?

Six seniors from Visitation High School spent the past two weeks living in North Minneapolis and volunteering with the Sisters for their senior project, and they discovered the key to Saint Francis’s wisdom. They found it by hanging out with the Sisters and watching them interact with their neighbors. They noticed and enjoyed the Sisters acting simply like themselves, naturally and joyfully, and they witnessed with awe the reverberating effect it had on their environment.

The first thing they noticed was that the Sisters are not a group of holier-than-thou saints working miracles. It is easy to put nuns on a pedestal, but in reality they are regular people who do amazing things. “They love a joke, and we are teaching them our slang,” said Ana Seitz. She was especially impressed when Sister Suzanne told her about protesting in the 1970’s and getting dragged out of the Pentagon by police officers—not particularly saintly! Ana realized that the Sisters are normal, everyday friends, and she felt at ease to be herself around them.

The students noticed further that the Sisters treated everyone with that same attention and sincerity. Louise Koenig saw it while they were gardening: “The Sisters are welcoming and open to people. People would just come up and talk to them.” Isa Baca noticed it even during inconvenient times like prayer, when the doorbell would ring and a Sister would tend quietly and lovingly to their visitor while the other Sisters continued singing. The Sisters built individual connections all the time, valuing and welcoming each person.
 

By sharing stories, friends of the Sisters became friends of the seniors

The students realized that this simple dynamic of putting people at ease has the powerful effect of building community. Bella Mascia was struck by how the Sisters’ nonjudgmental reception of everyone they met had built a positive environment where diverse people could come together. Callie O’Neill, great-niece to Sister Katherine, had grown up visiting the Sisters periodically, but it was when she saw them fulfilling their motto “Live + Jesus” every single day of the senior project that she truly appreciated the importance of stepping out of her personal bubble and seeking to understand other people. By talking together comfortably, friends of the Sisters became friends of the students. The students were inspired by people they would never have met without the Sisters. As Keenan Conley put it, “I learned the power of human stories as a catalyst for change. Genuine human interaction can change the world.”

How do you know who you are? From the Visitation seniors’ experience, we can begin to form an idea. You nurture a welcoming community where you tell your story and you give others space to tell theirs. All that matters is that you are willing to share where you have been, to connect human-to-human with others who have been places too. This is what the Sisters teach us. Be natural. Be gracious. Be who you are and be that well.

A Greener Monastery

by Anna Dourgarian on April 30, 2019

God created us to be stewards, not rulers, over the environment. What does it mean to be a steward?

-Sister Brenda Lisenby

 

Napkins, coffee grounds, and orange peels are composted instead of wasted

“Let’s go all organic,” said Sister Mary Frances to the Sisters. The Visitation Sisters were hosting an appreciation brunch for the Ascension Church choir at the monastery. Going all organic was a bold goal, and the Sisters pulled it off: compostable tableware, damp cheese cloths to replace Saran wrap, and eco-friendly cleaning products. Like every party that the Sisters host, the brunch was a blast, without sacrificing the natural environment.

The road to building a communal mindset and the habits necessary for going “all organic” has not been easy, and the Sisters still have a long way they want to go. For the year 2019, they have adopted care for the environment as a guiding theme for their community. At New Year’s, they each received a small paper bag to keep in their rooms to collect compostable waste that would otherwise be thrown away, like used tissues and hair from their hairbrushes. They are determined to be deliberate about how they can make a difference.

Sister Brenda is an inspirational help, a voice of wisdom and practicality as they strive for a greener household. She has always tried to make environmentally-conscious decisions, such as refusing disposable straws and bringing reusable bags to the grocery store. Now, she helps the Sisters stay up-to-date on city regulations, like:

  1. Juice boxes are recyclable.
  2. Keep caps on milk jugs so they don’t get stuck in the recycling center’s sorting machine.
  3. Do not put paper bags full of recycling into the recycling bin. The bags get in the way of sorting.

Sister Brenda helped organize recycling and composting at National Night Out

When Sister Brenda first joined the Visitation community, she found them “wish-cycling”. Wish-cycling is throwing non-recyclables into the recycling bin because you wish that the materials were recyclable. The Sisters are now wiser about what they recycle, what they compost, and what products they buy in the first place.

Sister Brenda also pursues eco-friendliness in personal habits. She uses a bamboo toothbrush and makes her own toothpaste. Instead of plastic disposable razors, she uses a safety razor for shaving. These are small changes, but they are small things done with great love, and that makes all the difference.

The Sisters’ future goals include more eco-friendly food storage practices and consistently using eco-friendly cleaning products. In addition, they want to spread the word in their neighborhood about caring for the environment; they have found that their annual block party in August is a great opportunity to teach their neighbors about recycling and compostable goods. Sister Brenda would also like to go for a tour of the city’s recycling center.

Can they achieve zero waste? Not necessarily. On one hand, they must make tradeoffs for living in community and convenience. On the other hand, they can be more aware and make wiser daily decisions. They aim for zero waste, even if it might never happen. One small step at a time, they are committed to caring for all God’s creation, our common natural home.
 
 

For more information on our local solid waste and recycling, Sister Brenda invites you to visit http://www.minneapolismn.gov/solid-waste/.

 
 

Welcome Sister Mary Paula!

by Sister Katherine Mullin, VHM

As you may know, this January our Visitation Monastery of Mendota Heights, MN, closed, and the three remaining Sisters took up residence in other places.

After 68 years as a Visitation Sister in the St. Paul Visitation Monastery, Sister Mary Paula McCarthy requested to join our community in Minneapolis. We welcomed her warmly on January 12, 2019, though “warm” has not been reflected in the weather! It has been so bitterly cold and icy that we have often been unable to keep our usual daily schedule of enjoying Liturgy of the Hours and evening meals together. Moreover, the very day Sister Mary Paula arrived, Sister Mary Virginia fell and broke her hip. Despite the irregularity and mayhem, Sister Mary Paula has adjusted very well.

Sister Mary Paula has proven her flexibility, and what stands out is her understanding of St. Francis de Sales’ quote: “Have no care for the morrow; think only of doing well today, and when tomorrow shall have become today then we shall think about it.” Her wholeheartedness brings to mind “Live joyfully, brimful of God” as she begins her life with us at the Northside Visitation.

She brings her many gifts, including her understanding of all things Salesian and of Scripture. Not only does she possess the knowledge, but her life here has also shown total engagement in our prayer and community, our neighbors and in the small duties of the monastic life.

We welcome you, Sister Mary Paula!

 

Healing Prayers for Sister Mary Virginia

by Sister Karen Mohan, VHM

Sr. Mary Virginia shoulders a new cross, with the grace of God as her support

Sister Mary Virginia Schmidt has had a very eventful month, one that we hope will not ever be repeated. Since mid-January, when she fell on our icy Fremont driveway and broke her left hip, Sr. M. Virginia has spent two weeks at HCMC Hospital, well-known for its expert care of trauma patients. She then moved to Catholic Eldercare’s Transitional Care Unit for the physical therapy and healing that will enable her to return to our community, her monastery home.

She would be the first to say that physical therapy is not for the fainthearted! But her sense of humor and her graciousness continue to shine through the exhaustion of therapy for our beloved 89-year-old Sister.

Sr. Mary Virginia is fighting hard through physical therapy!

The cards and greetings of many encourage her, and visitors are welcome to stop by for a short time from mid-afternoon until early evening. You can write her at 817 NE Main St Minneapolis, MN 55413.

What a joy it was for Sr. M. Virginia to finally be able to attend Sunday Mass in the chapel adjacent to Catholic Eldercare! Father John Brandes, chaplain for the Eldercare Community and formerly an occasional presider for Mass at our monastery, was the celebrant for Eucharist that day!

Our community members are able to drop by throughout the day since Catholic Eldercare is just a five-minute drive from our monastery. Occasionally we go over together for Night Prayer with her. As soon as the harsh winter weather subsides, Sr. Mary Margaret hopes to go over to see her dear friend of 65 years, a visit that would make us all very happy.

Please pray for Sr. M. Virginia’s full recovery.

 

 

Jim Lee’s Christmas Trees

by Dave Nimmer*, Guest Blogger

It’s not likely that Jim Lee will be forgotten by the Visitation Sisters in the life of their Minneapolis monastery, not as long as they celebrate Christmas. Lee and his family have been part of their Christmas tradition for 20 years, and his men’s Cursillo prayer group have been part of the Sisters’ prayer life for even longer.

The group, which meets weekly, joins the Sisters for Tuesday morning prayer once a month. “These men became our brothers,” says Sister Karen Mohan. “We prayed with them through their job losses, their illnesses, and their job situations, and they readily looked for opportunities to serve us and our neighbors.”

It was serving a neighbor that got Lee and his prayer group involved with Visitation. They had contacted the Sisters and asked what they could do to help.

“Sister Karen knew of a family that needed a washer and dryer,” Lee says. “We bought a used unit and installed it for the family. With the few dollars left over, I went out and bought Christmas trees for the neighbors.”

The simple act of delivering the trees impressed upon Lee how great the needs were among the Northside neighbors, and he wanted his children to learn the same lesson. So Jim Lee started the family tradition of buying the Visitation Christmas tree. As the Lee family grew, the tree-picking expedition went from morning to afternoon to accommodate the different work and child-care schedules. Lee’s wife, Diana, would also bring “too many” Subway sandwiches that got distributed around the neighborhood.

Lee particularly remembers one Christmas when his two teenage boys were anxious to hang out with their friends. As they left the Sisters’ house, they met a woman coming up the steps carrying presents. They started talking. She told the boys she worked at the Masonic Children’s Hospital and that many of its patients were from South America, kids who had lost arms and legs. One of them, she explained, had no one to care for him back home, so she had adopted him.

“I believe this is the day my boys started to understand and ‘get it,’” Lee says. “The tradition continues today and is being handed down to my grandchildren.”

The relationship between Lee and the Sisters goes much deeper and beyond the Christmas season and Subway sandwiches. It’s all about spiritual sustenance from years of prayerful mornings in North Minneapolis. When the Cursillo men – as many as seven or eight – met, the meetings tended to focus on “areas”: prayer life, formation or evangelization, putting faith into practice. The feeling was different when they met with the Sisters.

“Prayer with the nuns,” Lee says, “was more spiritual and personal. We would discuss what was happening on the Northside and in each of our lives. This was a great opportunity to grow outside our normal boundaries and develop a greater closeness to Christ.”

For Jim Lee, perhaps the greatest gift from his association with the Visitation Sisters came from the mouth of his then-6-year-old grandson. The boy told his mother that if the family didn’t buy a Christmas tree for the nuns, then a lot of children on the Northside, who could not afford it, would not get to see a real tree.

“Now,” says Lee, “the nuns are part of our children’s lives. I know they hold a special place for them in their hearts. Who would’ve thought a Christmas tree would lead to such a great experience?”
 

 

* 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! 

 

Sammy McDowell at Sammy’s Avenue Eatery

by Dave Nimmer*, Guest Blogger

Sammy McDowell:
Owner of Sammy’s Avenue Eatery

Sammy McDowell has been in the food business for most of his adult life, and he’s owned and operated Sammy’s Avenue Eatery at West Broadway Avenue and Emerson Avenue North since 2012. The Eatery is newly remodeled and reopened, and McDowell is hoping for a brisk business and profitable future.

But he also wants more from the restaurant. He wants a place where North Side neighbors can gather – to meet and eat, sit and talk, rest and enjoy life. He wants to make a contribution to the fabric of the neighborhood, and that’s what endears him to the Sisters of the Visitation.

“Sammy has a big heart and a gracious spirit,” says Sister Mary Frances Reis. “He’s got a vision of what this neighborhood could be. He knows people need a place to hang out and feel comfortable. And that’s what his restaurant has been all about.”

McDowell grew up in South Minneapolis but went to North High and graduated from Henry. He attended MCTC and then found his first job in the food business: eight years at Kentucky Fried Chicken, five more at Subway.

He learned how to run a business, and he knows how to put out good food. Just ask Will Wallace, who runs the North Four program for young men at Emerge; Wallace is in the business of turning kids from the street life to the good life, complete with training and a steady job. On a lot of days, he starts his morning at the Eatery with a breakfast sandwich.

Wallace and McDowell share a philosophy about what needs to happen to turn young men from gangs, guns, and drugs. “It’s all about education,” says McDowell, “about helping kids get out of a box. If you get educated, get a job, you can travel. You can make it out of the neighborhood. Some of these kids have never been out of North Minneapolis.”

McDowell hopes to add to the number of jobs (seven or eight) by opening a second eatery at Plymouth and Penn Avenues North. It will have the same format as Sammy’s on Broadway, with sit-down tables and a catering service, offering sandwiches, desserts, grilled meats, tuna and turkey melts, and garden salads. “I can do everything,” he says, “from sandwiches to brisket to catering big, fancy weddings.”

Sammy recalls meeting some of the Sisters shortly after the Broadway eatery opened. He says they held a few meetings at the restaurant and later gave gift certificates to some neighbors who came to their door with an empty stomach, in need of a good meal.

“Sammy offered this deal to us,” Sister Katherine Mullin recalls. “We would buy Sammy’s cards for five dollars to hand out to some of our better-known doorbell ringers. If the fellows went over five dollars, Sammy made up the difference. This is the kind of man he is.”

Of serving his guests at the Eatery, McDowell says, “I really want to infuse the neighborhood with great customer service.”

“I love the fact these women came over to introduce themselves,” he says. “The Sisters bring stability to the neighborhood. They are consistent in what they do. They are honest, and they are genuine. They’re a bridge between black and white.

“I guess what I’m saying is… they are doing their part.”

And Sammy McDowell is doing his part. “What I’m trying to do at the Eatery is to smile, to welcome, to help people if I can,” he says. “I want to stay in my lane, do what I do best.” That approach hasn’t changed over the years. Here’s what he told a reporter when he first opened the restaurant:

“I really want to infuse the neighborhood with great customer service. Even if you’re busy, it’s important to say hi and, ‘I’ll be right with you.’ People need to smile more, be happy to get up in the morning and get some coffee.”

When Sammy McDowell talks about “staying in his lane,” it’s hard to imagine that his lane doesn’t run down the middle of Broadway, and he admits he has a dream for the avenue. “I’d like my Broadway community to have more locally-run businesses. Some specialty shops, maybe even a tailor shop. You know, a place where people can look around, take their time, feel comfortable.”

McDowell says he’s thinking of keeping the Eatery open a little later at night to accommodate a few local musical groups, so folks could sit back and listen to some blues. The blues, breakfast, and brotherhood: they’re a good combination anywhere, and Sammy is trying to dial it up in North Minneapolis. The Sisters are not surprised: it’s in his nature.

 

* 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! 

 

Kiara Jones: Dancing in the Light of God

by Dave Nimmer*, Guest Blogger

As a girl growing up on Minneapolis’ north side, Kiara Jones had two realities in her young life: she and her mother moving too much and having too little, and her dream of singing for others and dancing on stage.

Fortunately for her, she ran into the Sisters of the Visitation Monastery who helped lead her to Ascension Grade School, the Lundstrum School of Performing Arts, and Visitation High School. Now she’s a student St. Olaf College in Northfield, a sophomore majoring in Dance with a minor in Management Studies (just in case).

“I remember we had Kiara and her family at our annual Soul Food dinner,” says Sister Mary Frances Reis, “and she performed for us. She was the star of the night, and I knew we had to get her over to Lundstrum. It so happens we had established a scholarship there, and she was one of our first recipients.”

Lundstrum got its start in the 1920’s when 15-year-old Dorothy Lundstrum took over the Ascension School of Dance. Its purpose was to provide a welcoming place for kids where “virtues and values are taught through words and example.”

Kiara found out about the values right off the bat. She was an 8-year-old when she first went to Lundstrum. She says she was kind of a hyperactive kid, and one of the first lessons she learned had nothing to do with acting, dancing, or singing. She badly wanted to perform at Lundstrum’s annual gala but was denied because of her behavior.

“I got my act together,” she says, “and was featured at the next gala. It doesn’t matter how well you do something. Behavior and (the right) attitude play a huge role in your success.”

Amy Ellis, the executive director of Lundstrum, will not forget Kiara: the struggles she had, the progress she made, and the young woman she became. “She’s truly a triple threat,” says Ellis. “She can sing, dance, and act. She’s humble. She’s respectful. She’s prompt. Quite simply, she’s a winner. I’m convinced she can have a professional career onstage.”

Kiara says she does want to end up in the music business and, when pressed, admits she’d like to be on stage. “It’s a feeling I get,” she explains. “I feel like, this moment, I am where I am supposed to be. I feel alive. I love it. I am completely and totally enjoying myself.”

And she can pass the feeling on to others, like the 14 St. Olaf students who are in the hip-hop dance group she organized and runs. They perform at functions around the campus, and Jones gets to do her thing.

The Sisters watched Kiara doing her thing on the National Night Out this past summer. About 50 people, younger and older, were dancing in the street in front of Girard House – kind of an informal competition. Kiara says she “hyped” the crowd, calling on kids for solos and then showing everyone a few moves of her own. The effect was electric.

That’s the performer. She’s also writing music – lyric and melody. One song, “Perseverance,” is about hope and what happens if you keep trying, believing in yourself and in God. She’d like to do that number with the St. Olaf choir and music ensemble.

Kiara Jones has come a lightyear from where she was when she first met the Sisters. She understands them better now than when she was a little girl: “They give me motivation to keep on going. They give me hope. They help me believe in myself. And I’ve learned that they give back because they want to.”

As for the Sisters, they’ve learned that Kiara works well with others and can bring out the best in just about everybody. They are also impressed by her humility. That’s important because they believe the girl who grew up near West Broadway could someday wind up on THE Broadway.

One thing is for certain: in the life ahead of her, Kiara Jones will not sit out the dance. Being on the sidelines is simply not in her makeup.

Kiara with her dance group

  

* 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! 

 

Judge John McShane, Honorary Member of the Visitation Order

by Dave Nimmer*, Guest Blogger

Judge John McShane, from http://www.mncourts.gov

When John McShane was in his Hennepin District courtroom, he was known as Your Honor. When he’s at the Visitation Monastery in North Minneapolis, it’s more like Our Honor, a man whose wise counsel and manual labor have been solicited and treasured by the Sisters for three decades.

In fact, they have so appreciated his presence that they gave him their Cross of Affiliation, making Judge John McShane an honorary member of their Visitation Order.

His work with the Sisters stems from an expansive and eclectic life experience as a college grad, Army Lieutenant, Vietnam veteran, husband, father of three daughters, trial lawyer, district court judge, and law clerk to the legendary U.S. Judge Miles Lord. McShane credits Lord with demonstrating how NOT to be intimidated by the courtroom or the judges and lawyers who inhabit it. “The judge wanted me to know that I can do this job,” says McShane. “Miles believed both sides ought to be represented, but he had a special feeling for the underdog.”

John McShane’s special relationship with the Visitation goes back long before the Sisters arrived in North Minneapolis. McShane knew the Order from his school days in St. Louis, MO. His father was a physician who treated the St. Louis nuns. His sisters went to Visitation High School, and one was in the Visitation Monastery for 10 years. He once dated Sister Karen Mohan and recalls taking her to a May Day dance.

“We did dance the night away,” he says with a smile. Long after the dance and after McShane graduated from Notre Dame and St. Louis University School of Law, Sister Karen got in touch with him – this time in Minneapolis. She called to wish him Happy Birthday and to tell him that she and Sisters Mary Virginia Schmidt, Mary Margaret McKenzie, and Mary Frances Reis were about to start a new monastery on the North Side.

Handyman John McShane

He’d been working and living in the Twin Cities, a partner in a prestigious law firm that specialized in product liability. As a trial lawyer, he was busy, but he found himself telling Sister Karen, “If there’s ever anything I can do….”

The judge made good on the offer for over 30 years, advising the Sisters on mortgages and contracts and helping their neighbors navigate the legal and government bureaucracies: finding the right person at the right time who had the right answer. He’s also swept floors, painted walls, and washed windows.

“That’s the wonderful thing about John,” says Sister Karen. “He didn’t just come over here as a lawyer and judge. He came over to roll up his sleeves and go to work. He’s been here to do what needed to be done at that moment.”

Working with the Sisters has not been a one-way street. District court judges quickly develop a realistic sense of the parameters of human behavior, especially if they’ve presided in civil, criminal, and juvenile cases, as McShane has. But, from the Sisters’ influence, he has developed an even deeper understanding of his community and of the breadth and scope of its human condition.

“I’ve been at Fremont and Girard when bishops have been there. I’ve also been there when those who are down-and-out come over,” McShane says. “The Sisters treat them all the same – with love, respect, and welcome. That’s a lesson for all of us.”

The judge is close to all the Sisters and says they’ve all helped him with “matters of faith. We can disagree, and sometimes we do. But I always come away feeling better.” That’s particularly true of his relationship with Sister Mary Margaret McKenzie.

“I have known John as a brother almost as long as I have known myself as a Visitation Sister,” says Mary Margaret, noting his family’s connections to the St. Louis monastery. “John and I enjoy doing things together, but in the doing things together what holds us is the being together. Music is a comfort and entertainment for both of us.”

Lifelong friends: McShane and Sr. Mary Margaret

So is a good laugh. McShane recalls the end of one of his weekly visits when, saying goodbye to Margaret, he took her hand gently – or so he thought. She hollered, “Ow. Ow!” McShane quickly dropped her hand. What have I done to this poor woman? he wondered. Then she laughed. Gotcha.

“John grew into having a sense of humor that was defined by his family’s ability to laugh at self,” she says. “John mastered the appreciation of a good joke which he took care to keep clean and kind.”

Through the decades, the two have mastered a friendship that allows Sister Mary Margaret to confidently characterize his life with brevity, clarity, and honesty: “John,” she says, “cradles good with courage, but without knowing he is good.” She knows it, though, for she’s seen the life he’s lived.
  

* 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!