Door Ministry Changes Lives: OURS, 26 Years ago!

Turning Point Friends: Sr. Mary Frances, Marsha, Dr. Peter Hayden

by Sr. Mary Frances Reis, VHM

Twenty six years ago, on our one-year anniversary in the neighbhorhood, a gentleman by the name of Peter Hayden came to our door with a gift of individual filet mignon steaks for each of us. He also had a request. He told us he had a volunteer opportunity open. We could not imagine what four Caucasian Catholic Sisters could offer Turning Point, a culturally specific African American drug treatment program.

Dr. Hayden’s answer: PRAYER.

Without prayer and spirituality there is no recovery. If you make a commitment to pray daily for my Turning Point Family, we will mow your grass, shovel your walks, move your furniture, load your wood. You name it.”

Thus began a relationship with Turning Point that has lasted twenty six years.   We pray daily for the grace of sobriety for each client, and our brothers answer our calls for help on a regular basis. One of the most humorous was when we accidently landed our car in a snow bank; with one swift lift, three guys freed our vehicle!

(For me, personally, this initial encounter with Peter was a confirmation from the Holy Spirit that we are exactly where She wants us to be.)

Receiving this gift...

Receiving this gift…*

Each year Turning Point honors us Sisters with a gift in appreciation for our prayerful presence. This year it was presented at the Alumni Celebration held at the Urban League*. The beautiful rug we received is a loving and gentle reminder of where we all began: answering the door, welcoming in Jesus. Isn’t it a beautiful marker that might serve as a “welcome mat” for the most seeking among us?

Please join us in prayer for Turning Point — this wonderful organization in our community, that reaches and welcomes and affirms all those in our community desiring transformation, recovery!

 

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*Click to see more pictures from this Turning Point event.

The Doorbell Rings: A note on our ministry of prayer and presence

Sister Katherine

Sister Katherine

by S. Katherine Mullin, VHM

Recently the door bell rang. As I neared the door, I saw it was a person who looked somewhat like “B” –a young man from the streets who roamed around, day after day, without much purpose.

“We hold a treasure, not made of gold, in earthen vessels, wealth untold.”

As I opened the door, I had to ask, “Are you ‘B’– the man I know?”

He said, “Yes. I know I look different because I am different. Sr. Katherine, I am in school now, only two semesters left.” And with a big smile he continued, ” I have my own place, too -an efficiency apartment.”

As we talked, I learned how and why he made the change.

“God is able” — as our neighbors tell us and show us in their lives. 

“One morning I woke up and I said to myself that I just can’t do this anymore. It made no sense. And I stopped cold turkey.”

***

As people come to our door and leave, it does not end there for us. We hold them up in prayer from day to day. God’s work is powerful and “God is able” — as our neighbors tell us and show us in their lives. We know it too from scripture, “We hold a treasure, not made of gold, in earthen vessels, wealth untold.”

 

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.

Door Ministry and the Mystery of the Visitation

Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

by Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion

Tattoo removal, housing crises, food shortages, gunshots wounds, popsicles, physical therapy and God were all topics of conversation for me between 11am and 1pm at the Girard House last Tuesday morning. I was at the monastery doing door ministry.

Following Centering Prayer each week, I make my way from St. Jane House to one of the Visitation Sisters’ locations. Sr. Katherine and I routinely connect for spiritual conversation and “Vocation Partner talk.” I look forward each Tuesday morning to the  spoonfuls of peanut butter and slices of banana that accompany these precious conversations with my dear friend and mentor,  “SK2.” We sit on the front porch, or head into the living room, or sometimes descend to her office in the basement, and we have our chats. In the process, I always feel the mystery of the Visitation at work.

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

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

Older woman. Younger woman. Each full of life. Something growing. Something trying to be born. There’s a prophetic and redemptive quality to all of our encounters, as we claim, consciously or not, our roles as Mary and Elizabeth and celebrate the divine life within — and the mutuality of our relationship.

On this particular Tuesday, however, when Sr. Katherine wasn’t available,  I found myself at 1619 Girard Avenue North, answering the door and experiencing the mystery of the Visitation in a whole new way.

“D” was from Tennessee. He was dressed in jeans and a white tee, rolled up over his shoulders, and excited to come onto the porch for a cool couple of moments. With a heat index of over 100 degrees, offering a glass of ice water was not only courteous, but a necessary consideration in this climate. He was full of smiles and an energetic spirit, shaking my hand, and repeating his 12 syllable name. “Tell the sisters ‘D’ says, ‘hi’!”

From the hallway, Sr. Mary Margaret appeared,  poking her head out, “Is that my “D”? she asked. She came out and the two embraced. Sr. Mary Marg looked intently at me and relayed their last encounter. “‘D’ was here the day I got home from the hospital. He helped move me back in!”

Sister and “D” reflected on their respective health situations, the challenges of physical therapy and the way our bodily injuries catch up with us over time.

When Mary Marg left to resume her tasks inside,  “D” and I were left to talk.

With two lightening bolt like tattoos marking his cheeks, his disclosed survival of being shot up down south, and the role of adult mentors – for good and ill – in our lives, we turned our conversation to surviving here. Now.

And we prayed.

“D” offered to read to me from the placard that is often handed out to anyone coming to the door of the monastery. The peace prayer of St. Francis de Sales:

Do not fear what may happen tomorrow; the same everlasting Father who cares for you today will take care of you then and everyday. He will either shield you from suffering, or will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace, and put aside all anxious thoughts and imagination.

I handed “D” his requested bus token, and he gave me a hug. And my heart was full.

The encounter rejuvenated and reminded me of how precious little moments in our day can be. While I wasn’t able to connect with Sr. Katherine that day, I did connect with another human being, and in the process felt God’s loving hand in my life.

I hope it was the same for “D.”