Summer Reflections from the Monastery

S. Mary Frances and Ben; CYC

S. Mary Frances and Ben; CYC camp

Sr. Mary Frances Reis, VHM

Greeting to our Faithful web site and Facebook readers!

As I compose this overview of our summer on the Northside, we are grieving and praying with families all over who have known the tragedy and horror of violence these past weeks. Our prayers go across the river to Falcon Heights and St. Paul, down to Baton Rouge and over to Dallas, and now across the Atlantic to Nice, France; we lift the world over.

Here at the monastery, I characterize our summer days as “gently alive” — filled with “Hello’s” and “How are you’s?” on our front porch, from neighbors, and as we walk to and from the Girard and Fremont Houses of our Monastery.  Children often need a little help with their bikes, these days, hoping for a treat or drink to go with it when they stop by. Neighbors are tending to their yards and we, to our gardens.  Summer is a perfect time to bond with our families here!

And, yes, there is a spike in violent crime across the Twin Cities; our North Minneapolis community is no exception. While a very small percentage of Northsiders are responsible for the headlines you are reading, many neighbors carry the pain and sorrow of recent killings. On the heels of Jamar Clark’s death last Fall, our community has also experienced the murder of a grandmother shot in crossfire while sitting in a van at a stop sign, and a young man shot to death in the parking lot behind the Cookie Cart. Last week, on the heels of Alton Sterling’s and Philando Castile’s deaths at the hands of police, came the shooting of two toddlers seventeen blocks away. Too often in the coverage of these crimes we read: “No suspects in these cases.”

Pope FrancisAs I ponder the suffering of the survivors, I find some consolation in the words of Pope Francis:

 “I don’t know what to say to you, but the Lord does know what to say to you…All I can do is keep silence and walk with you all with my silent heart.” – Pope Francis

We trust that our prayerful presence and unconditional welcome helps to ease the pain while families and friends tell their Sacred Stories and seek justice for their loved ones.

We speak the victim’s names. We lift survivor’s stories. We open our hearts to all who grieve and hope. We pray.

Sr. Karen and her mom

Sr. Karen and her mom

Here are a few musings on our summer days, that extend our prayer and hope for the world:

  • Visitation High School Seniors helped us kick off the summer through their Immersion experience of two weeks. (See photo albums: Welcome Visitation School: Service Project at NAZ )

  • Sister Karen’s Golden Jubilee of Vows brought family and friends from near and far! What an opportunity to ‘showcase’ our beloved community here. (FB Photo Album.)

  • Our dear friend and mentor Sister Jean (of Cookie Cart fame and lots more) went Home to God in early June. People loved by her ‘came out of the woodwork’ to sing her praises and express their gratitude for her outpoured life, spanning over 35 years of tireless ministry. (Read more: “Madonna of the Streets”.)

  • YTM friends and Emily

    YTM friends and Emily

    We rejoiced in the opportunity to sponsor and send off young people to a variety of camps: Catholic Youth Camp in McGreggor, MN; Salesian Leadership Camp in Michigan; and Youth in Theology and Ministry Camp at St.John’s University in Collegeville, MN. The youth, vitality and energy of ‘our kids’ keeps us young! Thanks to the many benefactors that made these camps possible. (See pictures of: CYC Send Off; YTM presenters;; and #SLC2016 on Twitter.)

  • Bryce Johnson, husband of Jody , (Vis Companion team), retired after a rich and fruitful ministry in the Methodist tradition. Congrats, Bryce, and thanks for inviting us to celebrate in such a memorable way with you, your family and friends.

  • We hosted the celebration of a very special Quinceanera. Jennifer Meraz’ family and the Sisters planned a beautiful Mass and Fiesta to give her that extra ‘boost’ into womanhood. We love you, Jennifer! (FB pix.)

  • We had our very own version of Summer Olympics for our families! Vicki Bailey outdid herself once again with fun, games, prizes in the form of household goods and summer toys, complete with an Olympic medal for each participant and a door prize for each family! Kudos, Vicki !!! You are the best! Thanks for helping our kids to be kids! (FB pix.)

  • Juste and neighborhood children

    Juste and neighborhood children

    Juste Siauciunaite, our summer guest from Lithuania, brings joy to our community and to our Somalian children as she teaches them English 3 times each week. She and Sister Karen even took them to their first ever 4th of July Fireworks display! (FB Pix.)

  • Sisters Mary Margaret and Brenda attended the Monastic Institute at St. John’s University focusing on Monastic Profession. Sister Silvie from our Georgetown Visitation joined them.

  • In all of this summertime activity, we continue to make pilgrimage with Heidi Schleif, our resident lay community co-founder, and her friend Monica, as they make the Via de Compestela (FB pix.)

  • Of course summer will not be complete without a family outing to Como park and our annual Back to School party!

  • Within the next few weeks, Sr. Karen will be traveling to Annecy, France for a special conference on the Treatise on the Love of God by St.Francis de Sales. Bon Voyage, Karen!

We’ll cap off our summer with an intensive community day to reflect on the quality of our Visitation way of life in this urban setting. (Read more about this in our latest newsletter.)

May Jesus Live in each of your hearts and those of our families and loved ones!

 

The Distress, the Kingdom, the Endurance|A Homily after the Jamar Clark Verdict

Officers cleared in Jamar Clark Case - KSTP news report

Officers cleared in Jamar Clark Case – KSTP news report

by Fr. Dale Korogi, Church of the Ascension

“I John, share with you the distress, the kingdom, and the endurance we have in Jesus.” – Rev. 1:9

The distress, the kingdom, the endurance: from today’s reading from the Book of Revelation.

I. THE DISTRESS

There is a serious racial divide in our neighborhood, our city, and our society. How differently we, with our different histories and different ethnicities, see and interpret the world. Who do we trust? “Black men are thugs.” “The cops are thugs.” We have deeply embedded perceptions and presumptions and prejudices. All of us have blind spots that result in racial profiling: the demonization of individuals and classes of people. We need to recognize and challenge our conscious and unconscious biases.

One of the most haunting facts in the report on the death of Jamar Clark were Mr. Clark’s words, “I’m ready to die.” He was 24 years old. What led him to so disvalue his life and dignity? He, like all of us, like it or not, was shaped to a greater or lesser degree, by the experience of his ancestors many generations removed. African-Americans live with the legacy of families who suffered the legalized discrimination and segregation in so-called modern times, and the history of their forebears who first came to this country in chains and shackles. Fear, hopelessness. No wonder we see the world differently.

II. THE KINGDOM

As a white male, I don’t see my privilege because I’m too close to it, habituated to it. There’s so much I don’t yet get. We need to work on this together. In our multicultural parish and school, we have the rich and uncommon opportunity to know what it really means to be Catholic, to be really Catholic: that is, a diversity of people united around one Lord, a broad and inclusive collective. While it’s nice to all be in the same room getting along, we need to move beyond superficial relationships and our sketchy knowledge of one another’s histories.

The Incredulity of Saint Thomas, 1603 by Caravaggio.

The Incredulity of Saint Thomas, 1603 by Caravaggio.

The apostle Thomas is forever saddled with the title, “Doubting Thomas.” He gets a bum rap for his behavior, but it’s understandable and even commendable. He’s not content with what everybody is saying about somebody else. He’s not content with hearsay. Thomas wants to get Jesus’ story from Jesus himself.

Like Thomas, we need not rely on what others say about others. We have to listen to and hear the stories, in particular, from our brown and black brothers and sisters themselves, and come to know the challenges that they face every day because of the color of their skin. We need to put our fingers into their wounds, our hands into their sides. That’s risky. Because once we know their suffering, we must help to absorb their suffering. We need to be more fully engaged as an intercultural parish, and more integrated into our multicultural neighborhood. We need to be willing to go out and stand with others and act to bridge racial divisions and disparities—because that’s what Baptism and Christian discipleship require.

III. THE ENDURANCE

The spiritual writer, Henri Nouwen, points out that, even though Thomas didn’t share the faith of the others in the room, he was there with them, nevertheless: he stayed among the community of believers. Nouwen says,

I find this a very profound and consoling thought. In times of doubt or unbelief, the community can “carry you along”; it can offer on your behalf what you yourself overlook, and can be the context in which you may recognize the Lord again.

Let’s commit to staying among the believers, working together, loving one another for the long haul, united in Easter faith that there is no despair, no division, no evil, no death that is beyond God’s power to repair. Let’s share the distress, the kingdom, and the endurance we have in Jesus.

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Hat tip to Edward Braxton. Bishop Braxton Writes a Letter on Racial Divide in the United States

Fr dale

Fr. Dale Korogi is Pastor at Church of the Ascension in North Minneapolis and says mass at the Visitation Monastery most Wednesday and Friday mornings at 8am. This homily is reprinted with his permission.

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Praying Exodus: Reflections on God leading Community

Exodus Prayers: The sea of red and blue light along Interstate 94

Exodus Prayers: The sea of red and blue light along closed Westbound Interstate 94

by Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion 

“Exodus is a story of a people, not a person – that God leads in community.” – Amy Long, Women of Prayer discernment participant

With the whirring sounds of a helicopter overhead and the flashing lights of emergency vehicles passing outside our windows along Emerson Avenue North in Minneapolis, we convened a community of prayer, story, reflection, and song.  Our community of discerning women gathered at St. Jane House last night for session 4 of the vocation series entitled, “The Prepositions of Call: Reframing Suffering and Vocation.”

Against this backdrop of protest sounds and justice-seeking circumstances surrounding the shooting of Jamar Clark by a local police officer, we began our evening ringing the singing bowl and moving into silence.

“What path is God leading us on? How do we know the wilderness in our journeys? Where are our pillars of cloud and fire? How is this journey, that we are all on, a communal experience toward freedom?”

As facilitators for the series, S. Katherine Mullin, Karen Wight Hoogheem and I gave voice to our distraction, marking the reality outside our doors. In honor of Jamar Clark’s life, we had a candle burning for him and his family — and by extension, our human family the world over – from North Minneapolis to other communities knowing upheaval from violence –including Paris, Beirut, Russia, Libya, Afghanistan, Syria, Palestine, Yemen.

We entered into prayer.

As part of every session, a member of our series facilitation team leads the participants in a form of prayer — meant to inspire and support women in their “listening and leading from within.”  Last night’s experience of Lectio Divina was led by Karen, who took us through Exodus 13:17-22. In this Old Testament passage, we heard the story of Moses and the Israelites being lead out of Egypt. God takes them on a circuitous route through the desert, into the wilderness, revealing himself in a pillar of cloud by day – and fire by night.

Pillars of Fire, photo from protester camp on Plymouth

Pillars of Fire, photo from protester camp on Plymouth

As Karen lead, she invited us to see ourselves in the flight of the Israelites and immerse ourselves in the literal and imagined details of the scripture. She invited us to listen for resonant lines in the text and for God’s invitation to each of us in our present circumstances. She asked us to consider the ways we know suffering, and the way God is faithful to us in leading us along the road to freedom.

As the scripture was repeated, the darkness of the Israelites path at night came alive in my mind. And too, was this flicker of light from fire, the smell of smoke in close proximity, the palpable feeling of anxiety that comes with uncertainty and next steps, and this potent question, “Will you follow me into this wilderness, into freedom, Melissa?”

The whole time, the whirring of the very real helicopters overhead buzzed in my ears; the faces of men, women, and children, who were marching along Plymouth Avenue when I made my way in traffic an hour earlier, came into my mind’s eye.

Together, in prayer, we asked, “What path is God leading us on? How do we know wilderness in our journeys? Where are our pillars of cloud and fire? Where is liberation? How is this journey, that we are all on, a communal experience toward freedom?”

***

This Saturday, Visitation Sisters all around the world will renew their vows. As they make their way toward this feast day, they remind me, and all of us, of our commitments before God. And too, of God’s faithfulness to us.

Join me, the Women of Prayer, the Visitation Sisters, Jamar’s family, and people grieving life lost to violence all over the world, in the prayer of Exodus. Together, let us recall that our journey toward liberation is bound up in God’s love and promises for all of us.