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.

Bianca Franks: Salesian Leader and Friend

by Dave Nimmer,* Guest Blogger

Cemya, Bianca, and Javon
Photo Courtesy Bianca Franks

Bianca Franks was a girl of 10 when she first met the Visitation Sisters. She was helping out at the Cookie Cart and spending Wednesday evenings at the Fremont house with other children. One of those evenings turned into a gardening session and Franks, who says she’s no gardener, recalls Sister Karen (Mohan) gave her a slip from a spider plant.

To Franks’ amazement, the spider slip not only did not die, it flourished. That’s kind of a metaphor for Franks’ life since she came to Minneapolis with her mother, stepfather and three brothers when she was eight years old.

“…the biggest support [that I have received from the Sisters] was that I prayed with them at least once a day. And, over the years, they became my family.”

The 36-year-old single mother has two children, Javon, 13, and Cemya, 18, now a senior at Sage Academy in Brooklyn Park. Javon, who’s autistic, is in 8th grade at River Bend Education Center, an elementary school for children with special needs. Franks says proudly he was just elected his class vice-president.

Sr. Mary Frances and Salesian Leader, Bianca

When he was younger and just diagnosed, Javon had as many as 15 doctor, therapist and clinic appointments a week. Between the appointments and work to support the family, Franks lived a life that was harried, hurried and hectic.

“I really needed the Sisters then (2005),” Franks says. “Occasionally I’d go over for dinner But the biggest support was that I prayed with them at least once a day.   They became closely connected to me. And, over the years, they became my family.”

The Sister also became her mentor when they invited her to the Salesian Leaders Cohort in 2010. The group was to turn out community leaders, who could develop skills, techniques and self-confidence to help others in North Minneapolis. As the program continued into its second year, Franks says it was less about strategy and more about spirituality.

“What I learned,” she says, “is that I AM a leader, that I don’t have to achieve success at every turn to help others. I do believe I can help others, especially women and parents of special-need kids. I relate. I understand. And the training taught me how to listen, to actually hear what others are saying.”

Sister Karen Mohan says Franks impressed her with the ability to let go of what is not life-giving and to find another path that is. “She has dug deep,” says Mohan, “and surrounded herself with people who can give her a positive message. And she passes that on to others. Most of all, she is determined and she is honest.”

These days, Franks runs a support group for those parents: going to court with them if needed, holding their hands and helping them navigate the numbers and names of programs, agencies and groups that could provide help.

Franks and her teenagers live in a two-bedroom, subsidized apartment in south Minneapolis. She is presently working part-time through a temp agency – doing filing and typing – and would like a full-time job.

“I’m good at this work,” she says. “Recently Sister Mary Frances Reis gave me a list of names and addresses from notes. I typed ’em out in 15 minutes and she was amazed. Yep, I’m quick, I’m thorough and I’m organized.”

Her weekly budget, she says, is tight, although she gets a federal disability payment for Javon. And for her best work – at an overnight retreat at the St. Jane House – her reward involved no money.

“I shared my story, and my struggles, with others,” she says. “And I do know this woman, with whom I spent the most time, walked away feeling better, knowing her situation was not hopeless.”

Franks has a persona that is “out there,” accessible to all around her. She’s an extrovert, comfortable in a group of people and not shy about meeting strangers. Her daughter is more reserved and inclined to be somewhat shy and quiet. Sometimes, Franks has had trouble understanding her daughter’s demeanor. Sister Mary Margaret McKenzie had some helpful advice.

“Mary Margaret told me that Cemya was probably more of an introvert, an observer of what was going on and how people were acting,” Franks says. “She helped me understand those are strengths, truly gifts of those who are thoughtful and helpful. In some ways, my daughter is more like Mary Margaret.

Bianca Franks has always been open to good counsel and comments from others. She’s lived long enough to know that life can sometimes be a rock n’ roll affair. But she’s got a couple of qualities – quiet confidence and boundless energy – to keep her dancing.   She also knows the Visitation Sisters are always around when she needs a partner.

********************************************************************************************************

* This is the tenth 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! 

Are you called to be a Visitation Companion? New formation cohort convenes this fall

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

With the Visitation Sisters, from L-R: S. Mary Margaret, S. Mary Frances, me, S. Katherine, S, Mary Virgina and S. Karen at St. Jane House.

by Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion

I met these women and my life changed. I had no idea it would, but it did — for the better. I want for everyone on this earth to know the love, gentleness, and gifts of the way the Visitation Sisters live Salesian Spirituality in Minneapolis. I want to invite others to join me in this community of lay affiliation to their religious order.

I write on this Feast Day of St. Jane de Chantal, co-foundress of the Sisters of the Visitation of Holy Mary, recalling my journey toward affiliation with this monastic order — and with this invitation for all others to discern a call to our lay community.

Are you called to become a Companion to the Visitation Sisters of Minneapolis? Does a life of Salesian prayer, study and service alongside these Northside nuns beckon to you? 

When Sr. Katherine walked up to me after mass that Sunday morning in the Spring of 2002, donning her silver cross and extending a gentle smile introducing herself for the first time, something quiet inside me was ignited. Did I have a hunger for God? Did I crave a new form of ministry and service outside my current occupation? Was a faith community anchored in social justice principles part of what I was seeking? Indeed!

Vis Companion Bianca

Vis Companion Bianca

Twelve years after the fact, I think now of the dear friend, Vocations partner, and Mystery-of-the-Visitation-“Elizabeth,” that Sister Katherine has become to me;  and I’m grateful to God for that initial introduction, and the nudging of the Holy Spirit to stay connected to all of the “nuns in the ‘hood.”

What calls a person to Companionship alongside a monastic order? What spoke to me — then and even now? What is in your heart’s deepest longing when it comes to living the gospel?

Twelve years ago I sincerely entertained God’s invitation to become a nun. Somewhere in the back of my head,  however, and deep within my heart, I knew I had an incomplete calling as a wife and mother; I had to nurture lives beyond those that I had been called to care for as an inner-city teacher and community arts collaborator. Choosing celibate, vowed,  religious life as a contemplative, monastic Sister, was to turn my back on Love’s calling to be a biological parent and married partner.

My discernment weekend came to a close with the community, I announced my intentions to not become a nun, and only then did the hunger or passion totally kick in. I fell in love with these Sisters, their ministry of prayer and presence, and their founders St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal at the helm of the Order modeling a way of relating, praying and “LIVING+JESUS!”.  The Sisters manner of living Francis’ and Jane’s spirituality (i.e., “Salesian Spirituality”)  was born out in the way they were present to my North High students and their families, and it revealed a new way of being in the world to me.  By praying four times a day, practicing stability in their neighborhood, and living out the little virtues, they were doing something revolutionary to me. I wanted to be part of that. I wanted more. The calm. The peace. The present-moment-paschal-mystery-Visitation-charism.

I still do.

***

Are you called to become a Visitation Companion?

Are you called to become a Visitation Companion?

In the Fall of 2005, three years after I’d first come to the community to discern a religious life vocation, a group of lay women and men under the auspices of the Sisters began a formation process to become a new lay community studying Salesian Spirituality and trying to live the charism of the Sisters — but in our own lives, homes, and places of employment. Today, that group has grown to include new members – living both outside Minneapolis, and within a mile radius of the nuns.

This fall, the community will convene a new formation cohort for those who are interested in studying Salesian Spirituality and finding ways to pray and serve together as Companions. Maybe this group will include you?

For more information on becoming a Visitation Companion, please contact Jody Johnson at jodyreis@yahoo.com.

LIVE+ JESUS!

 

On Contemplative Listening: A Doorway into a Deeper Encounter With God

Vis Companions Heidi and Bianca practice centering prayer

Vis Companions Heidi and Bianca practice contemplative listening

by Phil Soucheray, Visitation Companion

God invites. Are we willing to listen?

Be still and know that I am God.

That’s what the psalmist wrote in Psalm 46.

Like many of the psalms, the context of the lyrics refers to a powerful God in whom humanity is urged to find strength in the face of distress. But, there is another facet of messaging in those words that I find I prefer. Indeed, it’s one I find I can’t live without.

It is a message of comfort; of confidence; of connection. And, as a recent spiritual retreat hosted by the sisters of the Visitation Monastery of Minneapolis reminded us, it is one of openness and hospitality. Those who are willing to immerse themselves in the implication of the message are being offered a doorway into deeper encounter with God.

The sisters and those great spiritual guides who have long gone before call the practice of being still in order to know God, contemplative listening.  What one may hear is never a certainty. But what becomes apparent in undertaking the practice is that it’s very easy to lose God’s signal for all the noises that surround us in our daily lives.

Convened in a circle

Convened in a circle

That the sisters should be particularly skilled in contemplative listening is no surprise. It is, after all, something of a staple of the monastic community they form. That they are so solid in their commitment to its practice where they happen to live is something that impresses me deeply. And that they extend that grace and invite us into their company so we can also be still and perhaps come to know God better, is a privilege.

That sense of privilege is one I know that is shared by the rest of the Visitation Companions who participated on this special day. As one of our group observed afterward, the experience of the retreat left her feeling like Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus. This companion admits that she is more often like Martha, planning, preparing, serving.

“I can and do read lots of books and articles on Salesian spirituality,” she says. “But nothing can compare to sitting at the feet of these wise women who share their knowledge, their lived experience and their love with all.”

She goes on to say that, “On this day, I am glad that I decided to be a Mary and leave my inner Martha behind.

I would offer that so say we all who were able to partake.

Be still and know that I am God.

Salesian Leadership Training: Food for the Journey!

Bianca Franks embraced by Sr. Mary Frances Reis, VHM

Bianca Franks embraced by Sr. Mary Frances Reis, VHM

by Bianca Franks, 2010-2012 Salesian Leaders Cohort Member

Greetings ! I am a single mother and member of the Northside community, having had a close relationship with the Visitation Sisters ever since I was a preteen.  I have become heavily involved in volunteer work in the community with them over the past 5 years.  I was invited to be a part of a Salesian leadership training program they were having which took place over the past two years.  I went into this not really sure what to expect other than wanting to grow as a positive contributor in North Minneapolis.

“What makes a good leader isn’t always the outcome of perfection or winning, but positively changing lives as a demonstration of the God in me…”

The 1st year I met and befriended other likeminded leaders in the community and we focused on strategies and guidance in our individual projects (mine being a single parent support group).  We shared our lives and aspirations with one another and have supported one another on personal and professional levels, facing the reality of successes and failures in a way that those close to us wouldn’t understand.

“…to lead you must follow humbly.”

In the 2nd year of training I was pleasantly surprised that the focus was less strategic and more spiritual, teaching us leaders the importance of complete wholeness within you as a way of guiding and following. Upon completion of this amazing journey I know we all walk away tearfully and with a smiling heart because we have come full circle from who we were, and closer to who God has deemed us to become in the Gospel.

My personal and spiritual growth over the past two years is amazingly unexplainable; I have learned to always trust in God, accept my faults, embrace my failures, and never give up. What makes a good leader isn’t always the outcome of perfection or winning, but positively changing lives as a demonstration of the God in me, and to lead you must follow humbly. If I had to sum it all up I would say my focus used to be the destination and in that there was never any satisfaction or gratitude because I never seemed to get there.  My focus is now my spiritual journey as I walk the road I’ve chosen, and if I can share that part of the experience with anyone, the leader in me has achieved a goal higher than I could ask for.