No Place Like Home

by Sister Mary Frances Reis, VHM

Greetings and, on behalf of all the Sisters, a most Blessed New Year to everyone “in the Cave and in the Cosmos”! Advent 2017 was a precious and sacred moment in our community (you can catch a glimpse in this blog). Believe it or not, we are now journeying with the Magi to the Solemnity of the Epiphany, and yes, we’ll be tucking away the decorations and décor of the Season for another year!

The month of December brought hope and joy to the children and parents of our neighborhood community.  Sponsor a Family MN, Visitation School in Mendota, the St. Thomas Beckett and St. Girard faith communities, and dozens of others made it happen.  All culminated with a combined prayer-service-and-Santa-visit at our Fremont house… which brings me to the New Year!

For the new year, we have chosen our overarching theme:

HOME

Home, in its many dimensions.

Each Sister painted a house in honor of their monastery and neighborhood homes

Wendy Wright, Salesian scholar and friend, puts it succinctly:

“The Home as an image can reflect a sense of identity and meaning-making that contains within itself a clue to the way we understand ourselves in the world.” 

This theme of home will begin with the living spaces of the Sisters at Fremont and Girard.  We want to make whatever adjustments necessary to ensure that we remain a place of unconditional welcome and prayer, and at the same time attend to the care of our Sisters.  What this means in reality is for the Holy Spirit to share! Keep tuned!

We are in relationship with many home communities in the neighborhood, with those who open their doors to shelter the homeless and those who struggle to have a roof over their heads.  As we look at our own living space, we need to be attentive to those who yearn for affordable housing for their families.

Early in the new year, we will begin to address issues surrounding our focus on home. Both through advocacy and through sharing of our resources, we hope to make a small contribution to the housing crisis in our own city. Please join us in prayer and action as we move forward. We’ll keep you posted on the unfolding. We are deeply grateful for your partnership with us!

Homeless Jesus Statue, St. Mary’s Basilica, Minneapolis
Representing everyone in need of a home.
Photo courtesy of http://www.mary.org/

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.

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