Search Results for: windsock visitation

Mary’s Yes: Advent Meditation Using Brother Mickey’s Art

The following is the second of six video blogs that we are offering here this Advent season, courtesy of Brother Mickey O’Neill McGrath, Oblate of St. Francis de Sales. Many of you will recognize Brother Mickey as our dear artist friend who painted our Windsock Visitation. We are grateful for his inspired work, especially this holiday season!

Advent Paintings

1st Sunday: The Annunciation
2nd Sunday: Mary’s Yes
3rd Sunday: Mystical Rose
4th Sunday: Joseph’s Dream
Christmas Eve/ Christmas: Madonna and Child
The Epiphany

The Annunciation: Advent Reflection based on Brother Mickey’s Art

The following is the first of six video blogs that we are offering here this Advent season, courtesy of Brother Mickey O’Neill McGrath, Oblate of St. Francis de Sales. Many of you will recognize Brother Mickey as our dear artist friend who painted our Windsock Visitation. We are grateful for his inspired work, especially this holiday season!

Advent Paintings

1st Sunday: The Annunciation
2nd Sunday: Mary’s Yes
3rd Sunday: Mystical Rose
4th Sunday: Joseph’s Dream
Christmas Eve/ Christmas: Madonna and Child
The Epiphany

On Sanctuary: A Poem by Nikki Giovanni

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

Nikki Giovanni

Nikki Giovanni

Art Sanctuary
by Nikki Giovanni

I would always choose to be the person running
rather than the mob chasing
I would prefer to be the person laughed at
rather than the teenagers laughing
I always admired the men and women who sat down
for their rights
And held in disdain the men and women who spat
on them
Everyone deserves Sanctuary a place to go where you are
Art offers Sanctuary to everyone willing
to open their hearts as well as their eyes

“Art Sanctuary” by Nikki Giovanni, from Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea. © Harper Perennial, 2002. (buy now)

Today’s poem from The Writer’s Almanac speaks to me as prayer. In critical response fashion, I take note of lines, phrases, images that stand out:

person running
laughing teenagers
sitting down for rights

open hearts and eyes

I am reminded of the summer night I saw a man running out from behind the neighbor’s across from St. Jane House in north Minneapolis followed  by another person carrying a gun.  The poem takes me to stories of pre-1964 southern lunch counters where people with brown skin were not allowed to eat. Simultaneously, reading this, I recall being an awkward thirteen-year old in the seventh grade and feeling the jeers of 8th grade elders (Lisa, Mary, Steph, Jamie?). I can see movie stills in my mind’s eye of Harvey Milk being assassinated as San Francisco’s first openly gay city official. I sit and imagine a beleaguered and weary Christ on Good Friday. (He was spat upon, right?)  I note the way the poem provides a through-line of text for these anachronistic memories, moments.

I appreciate Ms. Giovanni’s words. I am thankful for the pride, sorrow, fear, anger and elation that her piece evokes.

I wonder how the author’s compassion was born? (It is compassion she shows in the poem, yes?) What did she see in her life or experience that inspired an alignment with the victim, the tortured, the other? What particular cruelties does she know first hand? I want to ask her how she makes sense of suffering. I want to know what art in particular has provided safety, sanctuary for her. Could she have been sitting in front of a painting that calmed her breathing, opened her heart? (Or listening to song?) I wonder if she’d let me sit alongside her? I want to know if she’s ever seen Brother Mickey’s “Windsock Visitation“? Has she ever contemplated the respite extended by Mary and Elizabeth?

I want to know a lot reading this poem. I am grateful for the places Nikki Giovanni takes me with her words. It is my prayer, today. This poem is a sanctuary.


Net Ministry-An Invitation

Are you considering a religious vocation? Join the Visitation Sisters at the Net Ministry Event today, Saturday, Feb 5th, at the NET Center in West St. Paul beginning at 6 p.m. Doors open at 5:30. Archbishop Nienstedt will be the celebrant at the Mass. Net Ministry expects 500 young people and many religious to be present!

After Mass, there will be women and men’s sessions and a vocations “altar call” at about 9 p.m. with all the Religious, priests, and seminarians serving as prayer team leaders and praying around the gym as young people “come forward.”

This event is a perfect end to the celebration of Catholic School’s week as we encounter and pray with our young people in their religious vocational discernment. The Visitation Order is rich in educating the whole person both inside traditional classrooms and outside the classrooms in their neighborhood of north Minneapolis where they are a prayerful presence.

We invite the spirit at work in you to consider the Visitation Sisters of north Minneapolis, an order steeped in tradition that responds to the present.

We seek the women seeking us, to join us in being a prayerful presence in north Mpls for good.

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

Windsock Visitation.McGrath

Invitation extended by Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan, Visitation Alumna on behalf of the Visitation Sisters of north Minneapolis

Teen Party Time: Snapshots from the Sisters

Posted by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Vis Companion

Jenga anyone? Sr. Karen and teenage friend at play

Jenga anyone? Sr. Karen and friend

The Windsock Visitation is virtually a trademark image that communicates a sweet, but perhaps not very well known fact about the Visitation Monastery in North Minneapolis. For years, the way that the sisters would communicate to the many children of the neighborhood that they were available for hosting them for play, snacks and educational games, would be to hang a windsock on their front porch.

Today, given the shifting demographic and waning number of young children knocking on the monastery door in their  immediate Old Highland neighborhood, this ritual has gone by the way side. In its place,  has become a new ritual involving an older group of young people where by the sisters have “Teen Time.” Our beloved sisters host dinner and discussions, bowling and art outings with a group of engaged teenagers from North Minneapolis.

The following images, courtesy of Sr. Mary Frances, document a recent holiday party with this dynamic group of teens. How blessed are we?


A Tribute to Mary, Elizabeth: Mentors and Guides in my Life

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Vis Companion

Mother’s Day, 2010

"Mother and Child" by The London Studio

It’s late on Sunday, May 9th, Mother’s Day, as I begin to compose this blog. I am 37 and a half weeks pregnant with my first child, and on a self-imposed bed-rest of sorts that my husband has invited me to take (given the past week’s intensifying pangs of pregnancy.)  I read Sr. Karen’s blog on Mary, posted as we enter this month of May honoring Our Lady, and I find myself in-step or sync with my beloved sister-friend’s assignment. I crack open Luke’s gospel, according to her prayerful invitation, and enter easily into the queries posed by my fellow blogging colleague:

  • What is it that I need from Mary’s presence in my life? How do I greet her when she comes  to visit my heart?
  • What is it that I need from the “Elizabeth’s” in my life?  Do I let  my “elders in faith” support the “God life” within me?
  • What is my song of praise and justice to God?

At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea,  where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. – Luke 1: 39-40

Windsock Visitation.McGrath

Windsock Visitation by Bro. Mickey McGrath, OSFS

I begin with Luke’s narrative, locating myself inside the setting of Judea. I think: “Aha! Hill Country!” and then extrapolate: “Terrain that isn’t smooth? Pathways and ending points that aren’t easily seen from start to finish?” I laugh to myself.  Like our central figures in this Visitation story, I relate all too well to the space Mary and Elizabeth find themselves in: a rolling hillside that must be traversed in order to connect with and meet the beloved other. It’s not unlike the space I call this present (laying-prostrate-pregnant) moment: a bumpy landscape that I’m keen to walk, but that keeps me from seeing too far into the future; a physical space that I must be strong, determined, diligent in — so that I might continue forward and get to my desired destination!

I respond to Sr. Karen’s questions from the perspective of Elizabeth. I am older. Like Elizabeth, I have known the incredible ache of self-doubt and deep longing for a kind of maternal life. At 41, I have a kind of kindred alliance with Mary’s elder cousin, never quite knowing if I’d ever conceive and give birth. I need Mary in my life. I need her to show up and remind me that I’m not alone in this miracle of conception and creation. I greet Mary with joy at having someone alongside me in this trek, inspiring me with her own youthful “Yes!” to serve Love. She is not unlike the doula presence in my life manifesting literally in one younger mom and child-birthing professional named Alisa Blackwood. She is not unlike the midwife also called Mary at Generations Women’s Health Clinic who has recently been tending to my late term circumstances.

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

Melissa with many "Elizabeths:" Visitation Sisters Mary Margaret, Mary Frances, Katherine, Mary Virgina and Karen.

Next, I respond to this text as if I were Mary needing Elizabeth. Goodness! But of course! What younger woman doesn’t crave the wise counsel and presence of an elder female guide or mentor? Please! I giggle joyously to myself thinking of the many women who are like Elizabeth to me in this day and age. Women who model a contemplative, spiritual nature and way of navigating in this world. Women who show me how they balance their vocations in career, calling, partnership and family. Women who have guided me and mentored all the pillars of my financial, mental/ emotional, physical, intellectual self. I have numerous Elizabeths who are my “elders in faith” in the Visitation Monastery in North Minneapolis, including my longtime spiritual director, Sr. Mary Margaret. I claim a similar kind of mentorship in the sisterly counsel of my Franciscan friend in Rochester, Sr. Rafael. This is to say nothing of the Elizabeths who I convene with monthly in “Book clubs” at the CSJ administrative center for the Irenic Studies cohort, or in our homes for the eleven plus years of “Patio Club” – bringing my former teaching arts partners colleagues together. I find my “God Life” nurtured by the mere presence of these many Elizabeths in my life.

Composing a song of praise, akin to Mary’s own “Magnificat,” I find myself musing:

Artist Betsy Shanks Magnificat

Artist Betsy Shanks' "Magnificat"

Thank you Loving God, Creator,
for the abundance of your blessings!
My heart sings of the life and love that you have bestowed on me!
Even in my darkest moments, deepest sorrows and doubts, I know you are with me!
You have held my being gently, but firmly all the days of my life — anointing me with rich relationships and loving correspondents;
Through all I have gleaned your goodness,
I rejoice in your mercy and overwhelming Love!
For it is through you, with you, in you, that I have made a home,
found salvation,
as Mary and Elizabeth appear and remind me:
I am your loving witness! Blessed to create and nurture life,
blessed to continue forward in your name.

Salesian Spirituality

Salesian Spirituality
As a Christian humanist, St. Francis de Sales emphasized that all life could lead to God. Salesian Spirituality calls every person to the holiness of “being who you are and being that well,” whatever your walk of life. Encountering daily circumstances with an open heart and a listening ear holds a particular devotion to the will of God lived along the path of the “little virtues.” The virtues of humility, gentleness, simplicity, patience, optimism, interiority, and respect presented in the realities of daily living are the Salesian way of living the Gospel with great liberty of spirit and deep joy. It is a way of hope assuring us that God loves us and wants to be with us.
St. Jane de Chantal

St. Jane de Chantal

St Francis de Sales

St Francis de Sales

“In many ways
Salesian Spirituality is one of Jesus coming to our homes—
to where we live, work, play and pray.”

-Fr. Joseph F. Powers, OSFS

Visit these links to learn more about Salesian Spirituality:

Salesian Spirituality has spread from France to all corners of the globe. In the US, it has flourished in many forms: as monasteries, as schools, and as social and service groups. The bronze states in the map below show the locations of non-Visitation communities, such as the Oblates of Saint Francis de Sales or the Salesians of Don Bosco. Click the red states to learn more about the Visitation communities (schools and monasteries of the Visitation of the Holy Mary).

The Pearson Partners

by Dave Nimmer,* Guest Blogger

Jeff & Maryann Pearson reading at the Fremont House (1995)

Since the Sisters first opened the door of the Visitation Monastery of North Minneapolis, no one has had a more persistent and consistent presence in their lives than Maryann and Jeff Pearson. In three decades, they’ve given freely of their time, talent, and treasure.

They’ve been at one time or another volunteers, donors, mentors, and organizers. For years, Maryann was a guiding force behind the monthly Salesian Monday nights, where the Sisters shared their mission and ministry with friends, neighbors, and benefactors. Maryann did everything from preparing a salad to running a meeting. For instance, she led a discussion of leadership traits with a Vietnamese Buddhist, and the two of them managed to include love, prayer, caring, and courage – right out of the Visitation playbook.

For his part, Jeff was a mentor to a teenager whom the Sisters felt could use a man in his life. For several years, Pearson was that figure in Wazeer Brown’s life. The lessons he imparted were about responsibility, accountability, and even durability – the fine art of hanging in there. Pearson was well-acquainted with these lessons as a husband, a U.S. Army veteran, a law school graduate, a father, and a 25-year CEO of a manufacturer’s rep business for electronic components.

“Jeff and Maryann have been with us so long and served us so faithfully,” says Sister Mary Frances Reis, “that now when they come over for an event or a celebration, it feels as though they are part of the heart and soul of the community.”

The pair earned their place in the life of the monastery. Jeff and Maryann read to children weekly during Windsock Time at the Fremont house, as many as 15 or 20 at a time. Wazeer was one of the kids. “I was glad to do it,” says Maryann, “because those kids had no one reading to them at home. It was a real privilege.”

Jeff Pearson and his dad working on the Fremont house

Before the Sisters moved into the Fremont house, Jeff’s father had been over helping make the place ready for them and for the hundreds of neighbors who would enter their door over the years. The hospitality and humility of the Visitation and of Saint Francis de Sales, Jeff recalls, has always comforted him, especially the admonition to “be who you are and be that well.”

Maryann followed that advice, and, after she earned her Master’s degree in Theology and Lay Spirituality from United Theological Seminary, she and Sister Mary Frances developed the practices, principles, procedures, and program for the Visitation Companions. The Vis Companions are men and women who choose to deepen their commitment to the Visitation ministry and the monastery through prayer, studying Salesian spirituality, and regular service – on the Northside AND in their own walks of life. “One of Maryann’s real insights was the notion that you didn’t have to live in the neighborhood to be a companion,” Sister Mary Frances recalls. “She believed you can be anywhere in the metro area and LIVE JESUS.”

Jeff and Maryann Pearson qualify as Companions. They’ve been immersed in the life since their two daughters enrolled at Visitation High School in Mendota Heights, where they first met Sister Mary Frances and Sister Katherine Mullin.

“I remember saying when our oldest daughter graduated in 1993,” recalls Maryann, “‘I don’t know what those women have, but I do know I’d like to get it.’” Almost 30 years later, the Pearsons got it — one month, one year, one task at a time.

The Sisters are grateful. Sister Karen Mohan marvels at the number of different tasks the couple has undertaken. “While Maryann guided the Vis companions, Jeff, ever the entrepreneur, heard our community’s desire to rent another space in order to accommodate a growing number of people who wanted to make retreats, pray, or meet together to study Salesian spirituality,” Sister Karen says. “He and I were commissioned to do this. When Brian [Mogren] got wind of it, the Holy Spirit inspired him to offer his home for these gatherings, and the St. Jane House was born. Its 10th anniversary celebration in June found Maryann and Jeff rolling up their sleeves to help with this party.”

Since the Pearsons have been with the Vis Minneapolis monastery from the start, it’s not surprising that they plan on getting older with the Sisters, who they feel will age with grace and peace. “They are my faith community,” says Jeff, “and I’d like to stay in step with them.”

Maryann agrees and takes it a little further. “They taught me to live in the present moment,” she says, “and to be not afraid. And they have changed my relationship with God.”

* 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.


Advent in Hindsight: How the Sisters Prepared for Christmas

One of my favorite parts of the monastery lifestyle on Fremont and Girard is the Sisters’ prayerful attention to detail. Every flower, every candle, every table centerpiece is chosen with care. This spirit is especially evident during Advent, when the Christmas hustle and bustle must somehow be balanced by a special focus on the birth of Christ. How did the Sisters choose to spend their Advent of 2017?


Visitation Companion Retreat

One of the main tenets of the Visitation mission is supporting spirituality among laypeople, so the Sisters nurture a community of lay neighbors called the Visitation Companions. This Advent, Sister Suzanne guided the Vis Companions in a prayerful exploration of the personal darkness that precedes the light of Christ. She asked, “As a beloved child of God, what gifts has God given me to make Christ alive in the darkness?”


Sponsor a Family

Scripture from the first Saturday of Advent implored, “Freely you have received; freely you are to give.” The Sisters love to encourage this circle of generosity. This Advent, the Sisters helped bridge the generosity and needs of neighbors by participating in the Sponsor a Family initiative, where friends with surplus could support friends who were lacking. The Sisters arranged partnerships between friends.

For instance, Bill drove Linda to pick up gifts for Linda’s family.


Cosmic Advent Wreath

Inspired by Pope Francis’ Laudato Si, the Sisters centered their devotion on God’s creation. “Let us sing as we go,” Pope Francis wrote. “May our struggles and our concern for this planet never take away the joy of our hope.” The Sisters’ mantra was “From Cave to Cosmos” as they reflected on their personal relationship with the universe. Each Sister built a small cave for her prayer table to focus her meditation, and each took a “hermit” day to separate herself from the household activity and pray.


Christmas Tree

The Sisters ended Advent and welcomed the season of Christmas by setting up their Christmas tree. They befriended the man who helped them pick it out, and friends helped them set it up. Every ornament is a gift from a friend, as is the firewood that burns in the fireplace beside it. Thus the festive Fremont living room embodies the Salesian virtues of simplicity, hospitality, and joy.


Children’s Prayer Service

In the old Windsock tradition, the Sisters hosted a prayer service for neighborhood children where they sang, played, and prayed together. Students from Visitation School in Mendota Heights contributed a personally-decorated stocking full of gifts for each child. It was a gentle, strong reminder that Christmas is a special opportunity for us to celebrate God.

Our Friend: Wazeer Brown

Meet Wazeer Brown

Meet Wazeer Brown

by Dave Nimmer, Guest Blogger

Wazeer Brown, and his brother Emmanuel, are the first youngsters the Visitation Sisters “met” after they decided to locate their monastery in North Minneapolis in 1989.

The two boys, about three and four years old, were standing on the street corner at 16th and Fremont as the Sisters were driving by.  “Here are these two kids waving at us like crazy,” recalls Mary Frances Reis.  “They had a big smile on their faces.  We couldn’t help but noticing their pure joy and excitement.”

In fact, the brothers got so close to the Sisters they had to start a special time – Windsock –  for neighborhood children to come by the Fremont house.  And come they did – for time, treats and attention.

“The Windsock time was really good for me,” Brown recalls.  “It was different from the rest of my life.  It was cheerful and stress free.  I didn’t find that at home or on the streets.  The Sisters were just there for me and brought peace into my life.”

Wazeer and Emmanuel brought their presence into the sisters’ lives, sometimes sitting on the retaining wall in front of the Fremont house.  When they felt it was needed, they’d offer a little advice to  prospective visitors:  “You can’t go in now because the Sisters are prayin’.”

“I’d tell all who wanted to better themselves and change their lives,” he says, “they ought to get to know these women (the Sisters).  They shaped who I am as a person, the person I wanted to be.  I think they kind of put the spirit of the Lord in my heart.” –Wazeer

The Sisters have prayed for Wazeer since those Windsock days two decades ago. Over those years, they’ve read to him, found a mentor for him, promoted a scholarship for him and stood by him through the speed bumps, potholes and sharp curves along his way.

Today, at the age of 29, Wazeer is studying to get his GED diploma, helping raise his two daughters, Destiny, 9 and Serenity,5, holding a full-time job at Walmart and staying in touch with the friends who helped him get this far, including the Sisters.

“What I’m really impressed with,” says Mary Margaret McKenzie, “is how much energy and enthusiasm he’s putting into getting that GED.  A while back, he told me, ‘I’m getting fractions.’  He is actually into his mathematics and, yes, he’s understanding fractions for the first time.  I think that is remarkable.”

McKenzie says she remembers years ago when she helped him and Emmanuel work on a science project to make and inflate a hot-air balloon.  “I don’t recall exactly how that turned out but I do recall thinking that Wazeer was really smart.  You only have to show him or tell him once, and he gets it.”

He “got it” about the importance of going back to school, this time at the Adult Education Center in Minneapolis.  “I think I just realized it’s time,” Brown says.  “My mind is ready for it.”  Once he gets the GED, Brown says he might think about going to a two-year or community college, to help him land a job that makes him joyful and useful.

He already knows how to work hard, according to Jeff Pearson, who, along with his wife Maryann, has been long-time friend and supporter of the Sisters.  They enlisted Pearson to be kind of a mentor/father figure for Wazeer.

“I used to have him come over to my house on Saturday mornings and we’d work in the yard,” says Pearson.   “He hadn’t done a lot of yard work but, I tell you what, he worked hard.  You know, I feel I have a life-long friendship with him.”

The Sisters feel the same way and they haven’t hesitated to call on him to do a favor or two, like talking to a group of seniors at Visitation High School who are spending a week at the monastery, getting immersed in life on the North Side.

“He got up in front of these young women,” says Mary Margaret, “and talked confidently about the value of being grounded when they go away from home to college.  His talk, and his message, were really quite wonderful.”

Wazeer got up in front of another group at his grandmother’s funeral, to talk about who she was, what she did and how she lived.  He has developed this kind of presence in his life and the Sisters have been there to nurture it and, now, to feel it.

Wazaeer in Arabic means “minister.”  Brown is not given to preaching but he’s accumulated enough wisdom for a homily: Change is inevitable.  Get used to it.  Being positive is always a key.  Keep busy in life and work on being a better “you.”  And one more thing.

“I’d tell all who wanted to better themselves and change their lives,” he says, “they ought to get to know these women (the Sisters).  They shaped who I am as a person, the person I wanted to be.  I think they kind of put the spirit of the Lord in my heart.”


* This is the sixth 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.