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.

Welcome Sr. Brenda!

Welcome Brenda LIsenby to the Novitiate

Welcome Brenda LIsenby to the Novitiate! (Click for more pix.)

Join us in welcoming Brenda Lisenby formally into the Novitiate! (This is a period of 2 years of more intense study of the vowed life in the Order of the Visitation). Click to see photos taken Wednesday, May 4, 2016 at a private morning ceremony. Brenda received the following gifts: a medal of the Visitation; a candle as reminder of her Baptismal vocation (which is all of ours); copies of our Constitution (rule of life) and Companion to the Constitution (a contemporary articulation of the rule of life).

Live+Jesus!

 

Flickr Photo Album: Welcome Sr. Brenda Lisenby!

In Preparation for the Greatest Birthday Ever Celebrated…

Facebook Alert! Twitter Alert! Flickr Alert!

Brenda and S Mary Frances bake cinnamon buns and julekaga bread

Brenda and S Mary Frances bake cinnamon buns and julekaga bread

A blessed Gaudete Sunday! In Sunday’s Gospel, John the Baptist gives a few pointers for our immediate preparation for the greatest Birthday ever celebrated:

  • Open your closet and share;
  • Open your pantry and share;
  • Open your heart to the Great Mystery of the Incarnation and share.

Here at Visitation, our upcoming week is chock full of opportunities that will help us all prepare body, mind and spirit —

  • We kicked off the week with a baking Julekaga spree; (see the results!)
  • We anticipate the delivery of many items to fill Christmas bags for our families; (see FB photo album; Watch VIDEO).
  • We look forward to a lovely prayer service with our children and a visit from Santa and his Visitation helpers; (see FB photo album; Watch Video.)
  • We will welcome children to select and wrap Christmas gifts for Mom Dad, Granma and Grandpa. (See FB photo album)

The wonderful gift of living here is that neighbors near, & family and friends from afar come together to volunteer to bring the true spirit of Christmas to one another and to those we serve.

The Giving Tree at Shriner's Hospital

The Giving Tree at Shriner’s Hospital

So….Keep posted on our social media channels!* We hope to give you a pictorial experience of our week.

LIVE + JESUS!

We are grateful to our many contributors:

  • Visitation School, John Dols,
  • Jeannie Geisler and the kids at Holy Family High School in Victoria, St. Thomas Becket Catholic Church,
  • Sponsor a Family Minnesota,
  • Shriner’s Hospital for Children,
  • Tempworks,
  • Mel Hatman and TLC Toys,
  • Highland Catholic School,
  • and many individuals who donated gifts and gift and grocery cards

The list goes on and on!

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

Social Media channels:

*Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/VisitationMonasteryMpls/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MinneMonastery

Flickr photo albums: https://www.flickr.com/photos/46292937@N02/albums

YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/VisitationMonastery/

Encountering Christ in the Hood: Reflections on a Year of Service

Cody (left) with Monastic Immersion Experience participant Brenda Lisenby

Cody (left) with Monastic Immersion Experience participant Brenda Lisenby

By Cody Maynus, Visitation Intern and Volunteer (from our Summer Newsletter)

“This is the place of my delight and rest!” – St. Jane de Chantal

These words of our holy foundress, St. Jane Frances de Chantal, have become my daily prayer of gratitude over the past ten months. The Visitation Internship Program is this monastery’s response to the growing trend of young adults giving a year (or two!) of service after graduating from colleges and universities.

In September, I moved to the neighborhood, fully aware of its reputation for gang violence and drug activity, and began the best year of my life. Building on the service of previous VIPs, I continued to extend the Sisters’ ministry of nonviolent presence and contemplative prayer throughout the neighborhood.

I spent the majority of my service time serving Christ in the K-6th grade scholars at the Patchwork Quilt after school program and Ascension Catholic School. My Tuesdays were spent behind the coffee bar at Venture North Bike + Coffee, serving Christ a cup of hot coffee and the occasional bicycle spoke or two. I served Christ around the board room table, taking the minutes for the Alafia Foundation Board of Trustees. Alongside the Sisters, I served Christ whenever I answered the doorbell.

The Visitation Internship Program is a valuable asset, not only to the northside and monastic community, but also to the young women and men who, listening to the whispers of the Holy Spirit, offer a year of service, learning, and prayer among the most loving, most faithful, most creative people in all of creation.

Join us in wishing Cody well in his return to St. John’s University as a graduate theology student!

 

To learn more about VIP, apply for a volunteer year, or share the opportunity with other young adults, check out our website page:  Visitation Volunteer Internship Program (VIP)

Breaking Bread Visitation

by Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion

How many ways are there to make community?

How many ways are there to be community?

Cheesy grits topped with cajun shrimp. An herbed biscuit paired with a freshly brewed cup of coffee. Fruit, yogurt and granola parfait next to a side of over-easy eggs. All served on an outdoor patio along West Broadway in North Minneapolis. It’s not the usual scene for our communion table, nor typical Eucharistic feast — but it is where I experienced a sacred meal this past Monday morning that took me into the heart of a Eucharistic celebration. Together, with members of the Visitation Community, in the heart of the northside community: we broke bread; we enacted a sacred ritual.

As riots were breaking out in Baltimore last week and protest marches were held across our nation, a northside organization called Appetite for Change held a grand opening for its latest operation called “Breaking Bread Cafe.” With its mission to “use food as a tool to build health, wealth and create social change,” the cafe opened just three blocks north of the monastery — almost like a prayerful response to the unrest in our world. This is where Sr. Katherine Mullin, our monastic immersion resident Brenda Lisenby, Visitation intern Cody Maynus and I dined on Monday morning.

We sat outside on the patio facing west Broadway,  our dining area sharing a border with the headquarters for Minneapolis Public Schools — situated across the street from Shiloh Temple — where Barway Collins’ funeral service was held two days prior. Together, in this space, we broke bread.

Breaking Bread Cafe: serving "Global Comfort Foods for breakfast and lunch."

Breaking Bread Cafe: serving “Global Comfort Foods for breakfast and lunch.”

In the literal sense, we split an herbed biscuit and savored bites of the comfort food. In the figurative sense, we became Eucharist for one another– sharing stories, our joy, our heart’s questions and longing. We talked about poverty and violence. We mused on missionary work and ministry. We reflected on sustainable programming and our roles in service work. We wondered about past, present and future vocations.  We laughed at ourselves and said “Amen” — all in the space of an hour spent leisurely lingering over our communion food.

It makes me wonder: How many ways are there for us to enact the Eucharist?  To be the body of Christ — communion, community,  food –for one another? As we go about our respective days, in what ways do we consciously “LIVE+ JESUS” – as our co-founders St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal urged?

And: when Appetite for Change’s founders had the vision for “Breaking Bread” as a youth training and employment program, who came up with the name? How many religious and secular traditions have bread at the center of transformation and healing? These questions, this meal, still continue to feed me and inform my prayer. I encourage your own contemplations of holy dining experiences, at this new northside cafe, and at your own local tables.

On Contemplative Presence: Notes from Phase II Resident Lay Community Conversation

What is contemplative presence?

How do you practice contemplative presence in your life?

We’ve been meeting every other Sunday since January. In our convening for Phase II* of the Resident Lay Community conversations, lead by Sr. Mary Margaret McKenzie (and the Holy Spirit), there is a richness — a provocative nature to the questions posed, the stories shared. On any given Sunday, as our room of 8-12 lay women and men meanders into the Sisters’ formal invitation to unpack their Essentials of Community Living, there is an a informal integration at work of these Salesian principles of monastic living into our own lives.

The following are notes from a recent meeting for Phase II of the Resident Lay Community Conversations. Perhaps they will speak to you?

CONTEMPLATIVE PRESENCE and SALESIAN STABILITY

-compiled by Brenda Lisenby, Monastic Immersion Experience resident

The meeting began with an introduction of the essential “contemplative presence” and Salesian stability by Sr. Mary Margaret:

“Be where you are, and be there well.”

– an adaptation of St. Francis de Sales “Be Who you are and be that well.”

Contemplative presence is the stability of the present moment…to be at home, to be at rest, to give yourself wholeheartedly, to enter into relationship believing God is there, here, today, at this moment, to enter into our alive Center.

Question: How do you practice or realize stability/contemplative presence in your life?

Responses:

  • Trying to be very aware of God’s presence throughout the day—when I do this, I have a sense of stability, a continual little nod to that Presence
  • Practicing contemplative presence with bread baking, a contemplative activity
  • Have  a sense of stability by having a change in bread making method—changed from machine to hand’s on, and I feel more alive, feel more ownership, feel more stable
  • Contemplative presence is the awareness of the present moment, whatever the activity (chopping carrots, ironing, etc.)
  • For me it is an image: the process of centering the clay; nothing happens until it is centered; in the same way, nothing happens until I am centered, then can be in the moment with others
  • Being, not doing—to be with people, to be part of community
  • Contemplative presence is the slow work of God; an image that comes to mind is gardening—slow work; presence is also loving the place where you are, a place to give and receive love
  • Contemplative presence is a spaciousness; it is the economy of grace (vs the economy of meritocracy)
  • Contemplative presence is to receive all that comes in the moment as coming from the hand of God…from the beginning of time, God has held this moment for us and so we receive it as a grace gift and TREASURE it
  • To live in the world as a contemplative is to be present, to have a receiving stance of all things, all things received through the senses (smelling, seeing, touching, hearing)…the 20 minutes of centering prayer each morning allows me to develop the muscles to be in this open heart space, to be present…this is contemplative presence, and it allows us to live into transformation of self and world
  • “touching the now”, being open to what is happening immediately
  • “being at home”, making where I am home for me and others
  • There is a sense of “rightness” when I am present in a contemplative way
  • Singing…being fully present to the moment—the words, my voice, the music, is a time when I am fully present, and open to inner transformation by the Spirit
  • Bro Lawrence, “Practicing the presence”, a way of being present in the world through all the ordinary daily activities (washing dishes, cooking, etc.)—being present to the moment, which puts one in the presence of God, and is a stance of continual prayer
  • Contemplative presence is being open to receiving the moment, the gift of presence given by others
  • Contemplative presence is also related to identity as well, because we bring our “other places” with us to where we are—other “places” of gender, age, race, culture, etc.
  • A reminder that “all is done through love, nothing through force.”
  • A comment: Phase II has been an experience of contemplative presence, an organic unfolding.

 

*A brief articulation of the phases:

  • Phase I: a time of listening to constituents response to the Sister’s proposal
  • Phase II: a time of exploring and/or addressing practicalities through the essentials
  • Phase III: a time when individuals who feel called and are free to respond to the call move forward in discernment and commitment.

Read more about the Resident Visitation Lay Community.

 

 

On Monastic Immersion Experience

From our Winter 2015 Newsletter...

MIE participant, Brenda Lisenby, helps facilitate a listening session.

by Brenda Lisenby, MIE Participant

“It has been exciting to experience this commitment to prayer and presence in fresh ways as I am immersed in the daily life of the Visitation Monastery in north Minneapolis.” – Brenda Lisenby

Immersion in the daily life and mission of the Visitation Sisters in this north Minneapolis neighborhood is a joy, yet not without its challenges! The Monastic Immersion Experience (MIE) is designed by the Visitation Sisters to be a mutually enriching experience. Women of any Christian faith tradition are welcomed into their community for six to twelve months to experience the monastic way of life, to join in daily prayer and faith sharing, and to learn more about Salesian spirituality, a spirituality that I feel is particularly suited to lay people in all walks of life. The Sisters in turn are excited to experience the revitalization of Salesian spirituality as it is shared with women who join them in community and participate in their mission of prayer and presence in north Minneapolis.

My journey with the Visitation began in the spring of 2014 when I was exploring options for a continuing sabbatical. I am attracted to monastic life and I discovered the blog of a previous MIE and resonated with the experiences she was sharing. So I contacted the community to begin a time of mutual discernment about participating in the Monastic Immersion Experience. After several visits to get to know the community, I arrived in September to begin my experience. After a few weeks of prayer and reflection, I was formally welcomed into the community with a simple commitment ceremony. In my commitment statement, I wrote:

Brenda’s Statement of Commitment

I am very much aware of the precious gift you are giving by inviting me to participate in the Monastic Immersion Experience of the Visitation Monastery of Minneapolis. You are gifting me by:

  • welcoming me into the intimate spaces of your community life
  • providing a safe environment for me to discern my next step
  • sharing your lifetime of lived Salesian spirituality

I wish to acknowledge this precious gift. In return, I honor it with my own commitment to live and learn and love in light of the seven practices identified by the community as essential to their mission as I am immersed in the monastic life of the Visitation Sisters for the coming six months. 

Recently, I had a mid-point check-in with the community. We went back to my commitment statement to evaluate the experience thus far. Both the community and I have found this to be a mutually enriching experience. I have had a positive experience of vibrant community life, received much prayer and support as I discern next steps for my life, and been excited by the things I am learning in my Salesian studies.

As for the dailyness of my life as a MIE participant, I have found the monastic rhythm of prayer and work to be nourishing. In addition to prayer, I help in the kitchen, answer the door as a part of our “Door Ministry,” provide administrative support for monastery outreach events, etc. The challenge for me has been to find and maintain this balance, to find my place and personal rhythm within the community. This is a monastery, but not the monastery of traditional cloistered sisters. The “cloister” is the neighborhood and the community of communities that have emerged from the Sisters’ commitment to prayer and presence. It has been exciting to experience this commitment to prayer and presence in fresh ways as I am immersed in the daily life of the Visitation Monastery in north Minneapolis.

Q & A with Brenda Lisenby: Monastic Immersion Experience Resident

Welcome Brenda Lisenby!

Welcome Brenda Lisenby!

On Wednesday, October 29, 2014, the Visitation Sisters of Minneapolis welcomed Brenda Lisenby in an intimate commissioning ceremony as the community’s latest Monastic Immersion Experience resident. On the heels of this event, Companion Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde had an opportunity to interview Ms. Lisenby via emailed questions and answers. That Q & A follows. Let’s warmly welcome the latest addition to our Salesian family! 

Q: What’s your full name?

A: Brenda Ellen Lisenby

Q: Where were you born?

A: Beaumont, Texas

Q: How did you come to be immersed in the monastic life of the Visitation Sisters of Minneapolis?

A: The short version is, “It was just the next thing!”
The journey to this place has been an interesting one where I have mis-taken detours for my destination, and my destinations for detours. But pilgrimage often includes a time of losing one’s way and finding it—and I see life as a pilgrimage to know and love God, self, and others (Mark 12:30-31). So I arrive at Visitation Monastery as a place along the way in my pilgrimage of life and learning to love.

Q: How does a Baptist missionary in Hong Kong come to a Roman Catholic monastery in north Minneapolis?

A: As I read your question, for some reason I am reminded of Mary’s exclamation of “How can this be?” when the angel announced to news of her pregnancy! Mary’s question is often my question and always alerts me to the work of the Holy Spirit… “this” can only be by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit has graciously accompanied me along the way, often through very practical, everyday things that I needed to tend to such as changes in ministry, burnout, depression, and physical illness.

Q: What is the Holy Spirit whispering to you these days? Take us into the heart of your listening journey,  if you will, and what you are noting that’s inspiring your present walk with God.

A: As I tend to the daily, I realize I am learning to walk with God in a new way. I can and do make decisions and plans, but I am learning to trust what follows as the unfolding will of God. In short, I am learning to “listen” to my life. I once read that listening to one’s life is a form of prayer and this idea has stayed with me and born fruit.

Q: What excites you about religious sisters and monastic communities in this day and age?

A: I am excited to see traditional monastic communities tackle the tough questions about how to live their prophetic life form in the 21st  century. The Visitation Monastery in North Minneapolis is only one example of communities experimenting with “new” forms of monasticism. The “new monastic” movement is another. It is interesting to see the traditional understanding about what it means to be “monastic” challenged and see what emerges that is identified as the “essence” of monasticism in this evolving life form.

“How can this be?”…I am thinking that monastic communities of the 21st century will bear little resemblance to the monastic communities of Christendom. Even traditional apostolic communities are looking for new ways to be community and finding new ways of belonging that opens the doors for a more ecumenical inclusiveness.

A friend and I have joked about the new “monapostolic” approach to religious life and emerging faith communities that integrates the values of monasticism (stability and balance) with the values of apostolic communities (ministry, social action). It is exciting to see the things stereotypically associated with monasteries (prayer, contemplation) come into one with the things stereotypically associated with apostolic groups (action)…contemplation and action are no longer seen as separate roles, but are coming together to form a complete whole, in individuals and in communities, that is being present in a new and dynamic way in this day and age. Perhaps the Spirit is bringing forth new wineskins for new wine!

Q: What do you hope to gain from your time with the Visitation Sisters?

A: During my time with the Vis sisters, I hope to deepen my own integration of contemplative prayer and daily action, learning love and humility within the monastic community and the circle of communities that surround them. I also want to learn more about Salesian spirituality—what little I have studied resonates deeply with my own understanding of the spiritual journey.

Q: Who is your favorite saint?

A: At present, my favorite saint is Hildegard. Her personal story fascinates me—a cloistered, hidden nun until the age of 40, when she became leader of her community and began sharing her experience of God. She related to God as her Living Light and articulated her understanding of the life force that animates all creation as viriditas or the “greening power”, that is God present in all creation.

Q: What prayer practice or practices are at the center of your spiritual life?

A: I tend to have eclectic prayer practices. But at present, the primary ones are daily community prayer and faith sharing with the sisters, centering prayer, gentle yoga that I like to think of as “body prayer”, and spiritual reading (lectio).

Q: What ice cream best describes you?

A: I like things plain and simple—vanilla is my favorite, and probably best describes me.

Q: What is your favorite tea or beverage?

A: I like oolong tea and vanilla malts.

Q: What are you currently reading?

A: I am currently reading “Letters of Spiritual Direction” and “Introduction to the Devout Life”…to begin my studies of Salesian spirituality and learn more about Francis and Jane. I also read a daily selection from “Fragments of your Ancient Name: 365 Names for the Divine” by Joyce Rupp (here is a reading by her from her book )

Q: What most surprises you about north Minneapolis?

A: I am surprised that it doesn’t feel like “big city” to me. I have mostly lived in highrise or condo apartments in large cities for the past 15 years so I like living in a neighborhood of houses with little traffic. I often am greeted by people as I walk.

Q: You are acquainted with the Rule of Benedict especially given your time with the Holy Wisdom community in Wisconsin. How does the RB anchor or influence your practice of Salesian Spirituality and Visitation life?

A: The first word of the RB is “Listen!” That is a word I take seriously—listening in all its forms: listening to my own life, listening to others, listening to my body, listening for the movement of the Spirit. Benedict also has given me an appreciation of the idea that our “work” is prayer and while for Benedict that means the daily office, I have taken an expanded view that all of life is a prayer. For Benedict, it was also important to have a balance, and I have learned about the idea of “holy leisure”, keeping attentive to the Spirit and present to the moment. By practicing holy leisure, I have found balance in my life. I take all of this with me as I come to my study of Salesian spirituality and find it provides a wonderful foundation. I resonate deeply with the Salesian values and am excited to see how well they fit as I integrate Francis and Jane with Benedict.