Sacred Places and Artwork in our Monastery

by Sr. Mary Virginia Schmidt, VHM

As we continue to mark our twenty fifth year in north Minneapolis, as an inner-city monastic presence, we highlight sacred elements of our community. This blog features images of artwork in our Fremont and Girard Houses that comprise some of the inspiring spaces where we pray daily.

Perhaps this work might move you, too?  We invite you all to come and see it in person!

Come and pray with us this year!

WINDOW OF VISION This stained glass window was created and installed in the Girard House dining room by John and Mary Scanlon in 2008. A piece of purple glass with an unusual image in its coloring the resembled a Visitation of Mary and Elizabeth was the inspiration for its creation. This gift and its presence in our house offers inspiration and hope.

WINDOW OF VISION
This stained glass window was created and installed in the Girard House dining room by John and Mary Scanlon in 2008. A piece of purple glass with an unusual image in its coloring the resembled a Visitation of Mary and Elizabeth was the inspiration for its creation. This gift and its presence in our house offers inspiration and hope.

PEACE POLE...Around the year of 1998 we planted a peace pole in our backyard at the Fremont House. One of our Visitation Neighbors, Paulette Sankofa, had a project to spread these peace poles throughout our neighborhood. She knew that being a gentle presence was our focus as it was hers: An alternative to violence around us.

PEACE POLE*
Around the year of 1998 we planted a peace pole in our backyard at the Fremont House. One of our Visitation Neighbors, Paulette Sankofa, had a project to spread these peace poles throughout our neighborhood. She knew that being a gentle presence was our focus as it was hers: An alternative to violence around us.

CRUCIFIX The bronze crucifix, created by our artist-friend Rob Nicpon, is in our chapel at Fremont. Having worked on it for several months in our monastery, he felt that it had a lift of its own with us. He gave it the title: That We May Live. The stories around this crucifix abound.

CRUCIFIX*
The bronze crucifix, created by our artist-friend Rob Nicpon, is in our chapel at Fremont. Having worked on it for several months in our monastery, he felt that it had a life of its own with us. He gave it the title: That We May Live. The stories around this crucifix abound.*
STAINED GLASS WINDOW IN THE CHAPEL
Donated to us by the artist Ditriech Spaun, and hung by him in our chapel on Fremont behind the Crucifix, this window could depict a flame, a flower, a dancer. For each one who gazes at it, it is a symbol that draws one into mystery.

 

A VISITATION  Brother Michael McGrath, OSFS, who created for us the "Windsock Visitation" that hangs in the Fremont living room, also created a Visitation that hangs in the stairwell at Girard. The women in the painting could be of any ethnic background. He had heart that teh initial experience of pregnancy is like a butterfly, here depicted under Mary's heart.

A VISITATION
Brother Michael McGrath, OSFS, who created for us the “Windsock Visitation” that hangs in the Fremont living room, also created a Visitation that hangs in the stairwell at Girard. The women in the painting could be of any ethnic background. He had heard that the initial experience of pregnancy is like a butterfly, here depicted under Mary’s heart.

CHRISTMAS CRECHE Soon after we had arrived in north Minneapolis, we received a gift from Brother de Paul, who was a tireless worker in Haiti. This creche, carved from one piece of wood in Haiti's worst slum, has been the centerpiece for every Christmas celebration since then. Ask Sr. Mary Frances Reis why she likes this carving so much; she would love to tell you!

CHRISTMAS CRECHE
Soon after we had arrived in north Minneapolis, we received a gift from Brother de Paul, who was a tireless worker in Haiti. This creche, carved from one piece of wood in Haiti’s worst slum, has been the centerpiece for every Christmas celebration since then. Ask Sr. Mary Frances Reis why she likes this carving so much; she would love to tell you!

CRUCIFIX IN THE DINING ROOM AT  FREMONT A most precious gift to us from our St. Louis Community as three of the sister left there to come to Minneapolis, is this wood crucifix. It was probably carved by a prisoner in jail where our monastary chaplain was also a chaplain, so somehow this crucifix was in the sacristy for many years. What happened to the prisoner that he did not finish the work? There is no insignia and no crown of thorns. On the back is written a prayer by St. Francis de Sales and signed by of the members of the community at the time.

CRUCIFIX IN THE DINING ROOM AT FREMONT
A most precious gift to us from our St. Louis Community as three of the sister left there to come to Minneapolis, is this wood crucifix. It was probably carved by a prisoner in jail where our monastary chaplain was also a chaplain, so somehow this crucifix was in the sacristy for many years. What happened to the prisoner that he did not finish the work? There is no insignia and no crown of thorns. On the back is written a prayer by St. Francis de Sales and signed by of the members of the community at the time.

 

From the Archives…
To read more about the Crucifix by Rob Nicpon, click here: Newsletter from Summer, 1998.
To read more about the Peace Pole, click here: Newsletter from Summer, 1999.

 

 

 

 

Catholic Youth Camp-Place of Beauty, Love, Faith and Fun!

by Sr. Mary Frances Reis, VHM

In the past few days I began reading Brother Mickey McGrath’s (of Windsock Visitation painting fame!) most recent book.  It is a spiritual Journey in images and text depicting the life of Dorothy Day entitled Saved by Beauty.

As I pondered and prayed with Brother Mickey’s book, I was mindful of our neighborhood kids that we  sent off to camp earlier this week to bask in the beauty of our Minnesota lakes and God’s creation.  Thanks to the amazing generosity of many benefactors and friends, we were able to send 75 children and seven teens (who will train to be counselors) to Catholic Youth Camp for a whole week. Located midway between here and Duluth, our children were in the midst of storms and rainy days.  The excellent camp director Natalie King was so proud of her counselors and cooks who managed to make it a great week for the children in spite of the weather!   She had only praise for the children who were such ‘good sports’ and did not lose their enthusiasm for one minute.

CYC Campers at Send Off

CYC Campers at Send Off

In her June 20 blog post updating parents and readers of the campers’ activities, Ms. King writes,
“We started the day with morning Holy Ground (and prayed that the power outage would be over quickly!) and then moved into some exciting indoor activities. Groups rotated from  paper airplane making to water trivia, to board games and then to relay races that had campers going from one pile of goofy clothes and hats to the next, trying to be the first in full costume to complete the race.”

Later, after the power outage and flood warnings, Camp Director King relays, “We are not just a community that PLAYS together, we are a community that PRAYS together!”

Having been a counselor and water safety instructor for many years, I am committed to providing this experience for inner city children and youth.  Without the generosity and care of so many, this would not have been possible.  So a HUGE THANK YOU to everyone!  And children, we are proud of you that you ‘hung in there’ through wind and rain and storm, and that you managed to have a great time!

Ah, yes, we are all SAVED BY BEAUTY if we have the eyes and hearts to see it!  Happy Summer!

(Be sure to check out the camp website:  www.cycamp.org)

Feast of the Sacred Heart: Taking Snapshots of our Spiritual Cores

Art Work by Michael O'Neill McGrath, OSFS

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

“Behold this Heart which has loved everyone so much that it has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming itself, in order to testify its love.” — Christ appearing to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, VHM; June, 1675

For several years, I enjoyed a deep friendship with a doctor who specialized in taking pictures of people’s hearts. Echocardiography is the practice of using sound waves to capture images of our hearts that,  in turn, help diagnose abnormalities. To this day, I think of our friendship as a simultaneous invitation by God to meditate deeply on the pictures I’m afforded of people’s hearts; I think about how this friendship informs my vocation to tune into Love pouring forth through all — no matter who they are, where they are from, how well I know them, or how much I adore them. On this Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, I return to this image of Christ’s wounded heart, this pierced organ at the center of his body, that simultaneously reflects all of our wounded natures, and the gifts of Love, Gratitude, Mercy and Forgiveness that we might offer to one another, through Jesus.

Sacred Heart Devotion and the Visitation Tradition

This feast day holds a special place in the history of the Visitation Community. In an article published by Vision Magazine,  Anne Williams, Director of Salesian Studies at The Convent of the Visitation, in Mendota Heights, MN, writes about the spread of this worldwide devotion to the Sacred Heart:

“Most Catholics are aware of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. But not as many know that a Visitation Nun, born in France in 1647, was instrumental in promulgating the spread of this worldwide devotion.

Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, entered the Visitation Community at the Monastery of Paray-le-Monial, France. It was there that she began to receive in her prayer, visions of Jesus, asking her to share the message of his heart burning with deep love for his people.

The vivid images she saw were challenging her to spread to others the message that the Heart of Jesus, was a treasure of love and mercy, which offered sanctification and salvation.”  (click to read more…)

As we prepare for this feast day on Friday, I invite you to consider taking a snapshot of your own heart.

  • What figurative images come into focus as you reflect on your spiritual core?
  • What blockages might exist? What pathways are open for love to pour forth?
  • How do you imagine Christ’s heart to appear?
  • Can you see the crucified and resurrected one alive in your being?
  • Can you see Love alive in your neighbor? In your partner? In your family members? In the stranger walking down the street?
  • Can you fathom Jesus’ love and mercy for the person who would be your enemy?
  • What does this feast day meditation stir up in your own being?

Visitation Snapshots: Preparing for our Feast Day

How do you celebrate the Feast of the Visitation?

How do you celebrate the Feast of the Visitation?

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

“…blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”,–Luke 1:42

This Thursday we celebrate the Feast of the Visitation, the story that is our order’s namesake, that anchors our charism and presence in communities all over the world — especially in north Minneapolis. This feast remembering Mary’s visit to her older cousin Elizabeth, who is six months pregnant, holds the beautiful tenants of our communities’ faith: for as members of the Visitation, we all work to tune into one another as vibrant, life-bearing, divinely-inspired creatures; we look for the Elizabeth in all who come to our door; we seek to be Mary, emulating her in relationship with each other — we look to receive the gifts of Our Lady and her cousin in how we are counseled, mentored, visited by all who knock and enter.

"Windsock Visitation" by Brother Mickey O'Neill McGrath, OSFS

"Windsock Visitation" by Brother Mickey O'Neill McGrath, OSFS

“…as members of the Visitation, we all work to tune into one another as vibrant, life-bearing, divinely-inspired creatures…”

In preparation for this feast, I offer a few snapshots of our Thursday Feast Day calendar that speak to me of the Visitation narrative:

–Thursday marks the Visitation Senior Students’ last day of service on the northside; we will have a ceremony honoring and acknowledging the way these young women have been among us for two weeks. Can you imagine the faces of Mary and Elizabeth as we convene at St. Jane House and reflect on our time together?

–Thursday evening we bury our longtime friend and prayer companion, Deacon Dale Timmerman, who passed away on the eve of Pentecost. Will you join us in celebrating Dale’s northside presence to us, along with his wife Nancy’s, as a Visitation one?

As we literally mark this feast day in our community, squeezing in a ritual of sorts in our afternoon prayer, we are joined by our newest community member, who comes to us from another religious Order altogether and creates for us another opportunity to be the Visitation. Sr. Mary Mao, our housemate and dear Maryknoll sister from China, who lives with our community while she completes her graduate coursework, allows us to breathe and receive Mary/ Elizabeth energy as women religious all over the world do. May we continue to grow in our relationship and be nurturing of life-giving love and witness to our Lord!

How do you see Mary and Elizabeth alive in your world, work, home? Join us in prayer, as we pause to thank God for all the ways that divine “Visitations” are a part of our daily lives.

May: A Month Celebrating Mary!

Our Lady of Guadalupe by Brother Mickey McGrath, OSFS

"Our Lady of Guadalupe" by Brother Mickey McGrath, OSFS

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

It’s May, friends! A month during the liturgical year when Catholics devote time to our Blessed Mother. I’m pausing today to think about the various ways I do this, and considering ways that I might grow in my prayer and devotion to Mary. Perhaps some of this will resonate with you?

I started my day driving across town in traffic that had me honking — within four blocks of my St. Paul residence – after being cut off in my lane, en route to the Monastery. Immediately, I heard: “Time to pray.” Without much thought, I began a decade of Hail Mary’s that brought a calm to my angered spirit. I found myself smiling, eased up on the gas pedal, and released my grip on the wheel as the words, “Full of grace, the Lord is with thee” went through my mind and heart.

As a pre-teen and adolescent growing up in northeast Nebraska, Mary made few appearances in my prayer life. It was at my friend Jeanne Pfiefer’s house, however, that the rosary became part of my spiritual consciousness. Following meal times at Bud and Alice’s house, where their combined brood numbered ten, we were invited to clear dishes and then return to the table, where our litany of Hail Mary’s began. I remember being 14 and thinking, “Huh. This doesn’t happen at my house.” Jeanne seemed a little pink in the face the first time I was invited to join in the prayer, (an apologetic or self-conscious peer?); but I reveled in the experience. I loved sitting at the table with the Pfiefer-Ramaekers clan and being included in this holy ritual that seemed to anchor their family. It was an “out of the ordinary” thing for me, and I marveled at how Bud and Alice lead their choir of children in this manner.

It would be 16 years later before those rosary experiences would come home to me again and inspire my faith life and thinking in a new way. At the untimely death of Jeanne’s parents, I heard her older brother bring up this rosary ritual during the eulogy of Bud and Alice.

Oldest living son Terry Pfiefer recalled the story, asking his step-father why he and his mother insisted on this after-dinner prayer each night. “Why do we pray to Mary?” he asked.

Bud responded, “Well, think of when you want something really badly. Do you come to me first, or go ask your mom?”

Terry laughed, “Right.”

Bud continued, “It’s not that much different in my mind with God. When we want something in prayer, or really need help, we can go to our mother, Mary, and ask her to intercede on our behalf.”

That explanation has stayed with me ever since.

***

  • I wonder, what Marion prayers are part of your faith life?
  • How does the rosary inspire or inform your spiritual routines?
  • Who else likes to pray the rosary in traffic or while they are in tense spots?
  • I wonder if the Vis Sisters might list  all the Mary-directed prayers that are part of their office?

During this month of May, I am striving to tune in and engage Mary more in my heart and mind. Will you join me in this intentional manner of prayer?

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

Resource Links:

How to pray the rosary

Marian Prayers (EWTN)