This is the hand of a woman who has lived a long life.

by Johan van Parys

Her hand shows the marks of time: arthritis, wrinkles, veins, cuts and bruises. Her hand is open, extended and inviting. A gesture which is reflective of the mission she serves. This is the hand of a woman who has lived a long life, a dedicated life. This is the hand of a woman who has served the church for many, many years. This is the hand of a woman, convinced that she can continue to contribute to the church despite old age and even beyond death.

We don’t know her name and we need not know her name for she embodies the millions of women who have carried the church through their prayer and their actions. They are the women who have prayed for our needs, hidden behind the walls of their monasteries or in plain view in our streets.

Nestled in her hand is a simple rosary, seemingly made of olive wood. It is the string of beads she has fingered thousands upon thousands of times as prayers passed her lips. This rosary was probably passed on to her from another sister as most everything else she uses. Her prayers build upon her sister’s prayers stringing years and years of prayer together. It is this rosary she faithfully returns to at the end of the day. It is this rosary she purposefully reaches for during difficult times. It is this rosary she happily cradles during times of joy. Her dedication to prayer keeps her centered. It keeps her rooted. It allows her to stay the sacred course she embarked on when she took her religious vows.

In this image the rosary is not used for prayer, rather the rosary gently placed in her hand is a form of evangelization. A worn rosary in the hand of an elderly woman speaks to the power of prayer. Without saying a word she shows the rosary as if inviting us to take it from her so we too may enter into the saving chain of prayer. This is her legacy: prayer saves! It is what she hopes to pass on to each one of us.

Though somewhat out of focus we can see the pectoral cross she is wearing around her neck. She received it at her profession and has worn it ever since. The cross has given her direction for all these years and continues to do so today. The cross in this image quietly testifies to the fact that it is by the cross we have been saved and it is by the cross we are called to live. If the rosary invites us to prayer, the cross calls us to action. These are the two great tenets of our life as Christians. Together they have been given to us as a mandate by Jesus himself: Celebrate the Eucharist and Wash Feet.

We don’t know her name and we need not know her name for she embodies the millions of women who have carried the church through their prayer and their actions. They are the women who have prayed for our needs, hidden behind the walls of their monasteries or in plain view in our streets. They are the women who have staffed our schools and universities where they have taught our children. They are the women who have worked in our hospitals where they have cared for our sick and our elderly.

They may wear veils instead of miters and they may carry books rather than crosiers but they are the ones who have shaped and molded so many of us into the people we are today. Their impact on our church is beyond measure. We simply would not be who we are as a people and as a church without them.

This image is a quiet testimony to the great work God is accomplishing through our religious and through all women in our church.

 

Johan Van Parys

Johan van Parys, a native of Belgium, has been The Basilica’s Director of Liturgy and the Sacred Arts since 1995. He holds graduate degrees in art history and comparative religious studies from the Catholic University in Louvain, Belgium, and a Ph.D. in theology from the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.

*See this artwork in the Pray to Love Exhibit at The Basilica of St. Mary.

Serenity| Reflection by Sr. Brenda Lisenby

“Pray to Love, Love to Pray” Courtesy of Anne Goetze

The following meditation on Anne Goetze’s mixed media artwork, “Pray to Love, Love to Pray” comes from  Sr. Brenda Lisenby. 

A black habited woman walks away, down a corridor. Her walking is a gentle walk, a knowing walk, a quiet walk. I cannot see her face, but I know it is serene—it reflects a serenity that comes from an interior posture of reposing in God, I think. I know this because I sensed the moment I saw this picture that it was an image I carry of myself.

“Can she truly know what is around the corner until she makes the turn?”

Many years ago I was attracted to a similar painting, in an art shop in Hong Kong. That picture is of a young woman dressed in traditional Vietnamese clothing, pushing her bicycle, with a “yue nan mao zi”–a Vietnamese hat as the Chinese called it. This woman was also walking away, her back to me, but I identified immediately with her. I, too, rode a bicycle daily. I, too, had a “yue nan mao zi” to keep the sun out of my eyes.

Toward an unknown destination...

Toward an unknown destination…

And although I didn’t wear Vietnamese or even Chinese clothing, I did learn how to ride my bicycle in a skirt. But there was something more about this woman with her back to me. She was going somewhere, I didn’t know where. And the simple beauty of this young Vietnamese woman journeying on to her destination, an unknown destination from my viewpoint, communicated a serenity to my spirit.

 “I do not always know what I am walking toward, yet in spite of the unknown destination, I walk gently, knowingly, quietly.”

The picture of the Visitandine nun in her home in Annecy communicates a similar serenity to me. Once more, I cannot see her destination, but I know she knows…or maybe she doesn’t. It must be a corridor she has walked hundreds if not thousands of times. But can she truly know what is around the corner until she makes the turn? I am this woman, always on a journey, always walking away from yet toward something. I do not always know what I am walking toward, yet in spite of the unknown destination, I walk gently, knowingly, quietly.

Someone’s Calling…..Someone’s Following…

DoYouHaveTheRightSoul30x40

“Somehow, this Sister reminds me of ME.” –Sr. Suzanne (Art with permission of Anne Goetze)

by Sr. Suzanne Homeyer, VHM

As I got my first look at Anne Goetze’s signature piece for the exhibit, Pray to Love: The Annecy France Nun Series, I was immediately caught up into the quiet calm of an old town French street scape. What was it down the road that was calling? Who was the woman on the right? The habited nun carrying a red satchel walks determinedly away from the viewer. Where has she come from? Where is she being called? Thinking she might be an ‘out sister’, one who is charged with doing errands on behalf of a strictly-cloistered religious community, I assume she is on her way to shop or gather pharmacy goods or something like that. But what is already in the red bag? Where is she headed next? I think about this for a minute …

Somehow this Sister reminds me of me.  She is traveling the road alone, by herself. She walks with determination; head held high; eyes forward; solidly moving along. “Walk simply and you will walk confidently” as our foundress Jane de Chantal says. She does not seem alone.

When I entered the Visitation Monastery of Minneapolis over 20 years ago I was traveling alone. I was the first new member in our community and did not have a class of others to companion me in what was down my road.

As I follow her down the road toward ‘new town’ Annecy at the picture’s horizon,  I feel the movement of time from the Annecy of Francis deSales and Jane deChantal to the present moment. The woman with the red bag and I travel this road together….we are companions….I will never pass ahead of her….we will walk together,  if only for a time…and I will forever follow her – we are each only one in the long line of women to become Visitandines and walk the streets of Annecy.

Stepping back out of the picture, I return to this present moment where our lives are ever united as Visitation Sisters in the world.

***

About this Reflection/ Instillation

Meeting up with old friends: Sr. Suzanne with Anne and Nathan

Meeting up with old friends: Sr. Suzanne with Anne and Nathan

I first saw Anne Goetze’s work in the video entitled Pray to Love in early 2015. It spoke to me about the life of Visitation Sisters, my life, the life of our community here in North Minneapolis. It speaks of the life of Visitandines through our 400 plus year history. This story needs to be shared. I wanted to share this art with people who I see; people who support our community in so many ways. I hope my family and friends can see the exhibit because it shows who we are in a way that is different from the way they may be used to seeing us or knowing us. Seeing with new eyes and a new heart, not only what is on the canvas but what is beyond it.

Knowing of the Basilica of St. Mary’s commitment to the liturgical arts I made my first contact with Kathy Dhaemers, who is the person responsible for shows at the John XXIII Gallery on the basilica’s lower level. As time passed I came to know Anne Goetze personally, meeting her in Rome and becoming traveling companions for a brief while. When Anne brought the art to Minneapolis I was welcoming her and her son as as old friends — as well as encountering the woman in the picture with the red satchel for the very first time. I could hardly wait for the uncrating to begin…the secure wrappings seemed to take forever to be undone. I wanted to see this painting first of all and as soon as possible… This was an experience not unlike opening the door for someone you know is on the other side, but have never seen in person.

I invite you to view Pray to Love: The Annecy France Nun Series at the Basilica of St. Mary’s lower level John the XXIII Gallery and Teresa of Calcutta Hall, Hennepin at North Sixteenth Street in Minneapolis. Anne will be here on May 22 at 4:30 pm to share the experience with us!

 

Praying with Art: An Invitation to Encounter Love

by Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion

Inspiration by Anne Goetze

“Inspiration” by Anne Goetze

I’ve never been to Annecy, France.  But I can imagine it. Cobblestone streets. Turquoise winding river. Stone arches bridging water. That pristine lake.  The Alps. The 14th, 15th, 16th century architecture: stucco and brick exterior walls, some vine-covered in my mind’s eye.  A red door here. Tiled roof tops.  All buildings close-pressed to one another. If I squeeze my eyes closed tightly, I imagine hearing the buzz of cafe chatter; I feel the Lake Annecy breeze on my face and note the click of heels on narrow paved walks. Perhaps an echo of chapel bells rings off of the mountains. There is a calling to this city, to this landscape, that I know in my own prayerful meditation.

Artist Anne Goetze knows this calling. She has made it part of her life’s work to bring the beauty of not only this place, but of a particular community of people, to all of us.

In her mixed media art form, combining photography, ash and oil paint, Ms. Goetze brings alive this landscape of our founders, St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal. In addition, she has captured the community of Visitation Sisters living there cloistered in our Order’s first monastery.

Praying with Art:  ‘Confering’ /’S’entretenir’ by Anne Goetze

"Confering" by Anne Goetze Annecy Nun Series (with permission)

“Confering” by Anne Goetze Annecy Nun Series (with permission)

When I look on this particular photographic art piece, ‘Confering’ /’S’entretenir,’ by Anne Goetze, I’m struck by the two central figures, clad in all black. Their back sides to me, they are shrouded by veils and near-floor-length skirts. They seem to be leaning in, and as the title suggests: conferring.  I notice my own impulse to lean in. I want to hear them.

On either side of this path, I note the grey and brown hues that frame them, flecks of blue and green pepper the wall and walkway. A stone building with high windows is ahead. The burnt orange of fall foliage appears, too, dusty, cloud-like in the background. My eyes return to the central figures.

Two Visitation Sisters conferring.

For a split second, I think about my mom, in Nebraska, standing at her sink, perhaps contemplating the fullness of the day. My mind darts back to north Minneapolis, to S. Mary Margaret McKenzie and the last time I saw her at Girard House monastery. A fleeting smile on her lips, her downward gaze as she chimed the bell announcing the start of Salesian Monday night. I see S. Mary Frances, then, in the Fremont chapel, it’s Saturday morning prayer and we share raised-eyebrow-smirks, and suppress giggles –some line catching each of us during the chanting and reflection on psalms.

Images of each of these north side Visitation Sisters rush into my mind. S. Katherine, in her swivel chair in the basement office, ever intent and sweet-spirited, as we review engagement efforts and our social media work. S. Karen, post-prayer, coming into close proximity to whisper or share her own fervent noticing of Love at work. Sister Suzanne on a shut-down Thursday, breaking bread with me at the north Minneapolis cafe that goes by this same name, and detailing a moment from her winter journey to Rome. I can see S. Mary Virginia in my mind’s eye, smiling as she comes in to kiss my cheek and offer her ever ready embrace of me, my daughter, husband, following mass at Ascension. And there’s my new friend, Brenda, walking me to the door after a visit to the community, to hug me out, and bid me a warm good bye until we meet again.

Ms. Goetze’s image depicts our religious counterparts an ocean and continent away, but the Sisters’ activity connects here, in the intimacy of my own heart and lived experience – locally. I know this encounter of conferring,  of being companioned and companioning. Despite their faceless presentations, these Sisters come to me fully imaged, featured, in my own holy encounters with northside nuns — with members of my family and local community.

As I pray with this image this day, I invite you into this kind of contemplative stance. I encourage your own close encounter, conferring with the art, taking note of what it stirs in you. How does this Visitation depiction speak to you? What does it say to your longing, to your own lived experience encountering Love?

****

See this work at the Basilica of St. Mary.

Pray to Love: The Annecy France Nun Series

Photographic Paintings by Anne Goetze
Exhibit:  April 9—May 22, 2016
Reception: Sunday May 22, 4:30pm with talk at 5:30pm
For more information: Basilica of St. Mary event listing