You are Invited to Salesian Second Monday: November 14; 6pm-8pm

Sisters Suzanne and Karen share fellowship with neighbors and friends.

Sisters Suzanne and Karen share fellowship with neighbors and friends.

The Visitation Sisters Invite you to Salesian Second Monday on November 14; 6pm-8pm at Visitation Monastery.

This year’s series is entitled, “LIVING JESUS AS WE MOVE THROUGH OUR DAILY LIFE.” 

The Sisters and their friends will be sharing stories unpacking how they live their spirituality every day, focusing on Gospel Living through a Salesian lens in the marketplace, families and neighborhoods.

We invite you to join us for food and fellowship, input and reflection, before closing our evening with prayer.

Salesian Second Monday

Visitation Monastery — 1619 Girard Avenue North

6pm: Dinner
6:45pm-8pm: Presentation and Prayer

Come for either part, as you are able!
Questions? Call Sr. Suzanne at 612-501-5096.

Interested in becoming a Visitation Companion? Sign up for the Fall Formation Group today!

Vis Companions PanoramaAre you a northside resident called to deepen your spiritual life? Does growing in faith alongside –and anchored by – the prayers of a religious, monastic community appeal to you?
Does study of Salesian Spirituality feel like the next step in your faith journey? Do you desire a community with whom you will serve, and reflect, on a regular basis?

Consider joining the Visitation Companions.

A new Vis Companions formation group is starting in October. The commitment is:

  • a monthly small group meeting, (usually on Saturday afternoons for nine months)
  • featuring:
    • input
    • prayer and study
    • and time for personal sharing and reflection.

For more information about Joining Visitation Companions, please contact Jody Johnson at jodyreis(at)yahoo.com or 651-219-3167

Be Still and Know….

Jesus on the Crossby Jody Johnson, Visitation Companion

“Be still and know that I am God.” —Psalm 46:10

Like most journeyers along the contemplative path, I soon learn that silence holds not only peace but challenge. The initial balm I received in stillness has given way to an even louder clamor than before, and the pattern of my thoughts reveals my less pleasing aspects. Whatever one’s issues, problems, or flaws may be, sitting in silence will soon bring them to the surface. Maybe I should just go back to being my anxious, distracted self!

“Do not look at the temptation (to doubt) itself but look straight at our Lord.” – St. Francis de Sales

Jane de Chantal’s primary spiritual challenge was her strong will. Though her intention was good- to love God and to unite herself with God- she wrongly believed that she could accomplish this by force of will. She drove herself mercilessly with devotional and ascetic practices, only to grow more frustrated by her inability to feel God’s love or “consolations.” This led Jane to doubt her faith, which she regarded as the gravest sin of all, and plunged her into an abyss of anguished self-hatred. “Will God never take me out of myself and out of the world?” she cries. Seeing her predicament, Francis de Sales, her spiritual director, advised her: “Do not look at the temptation (to doubt) itself but look straight at our Lord.” In other words, Jane was so focused on herself and her agenda that there was no room for God.

Jane’s willfulness persisted until, at one point in her incessant questioning of Francis, he simply walked out of the room. Jane fled to the chapel where she was finally able to surrender herself on a deeper level. Francis had been waiting for such a moment to be able to help Jane grasp the truth: that all action begins with God. Before Him, we can only wait in emptiness and silence.

 

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To read more of Jody Johnson’s contemplative blogs from the desert, click here.

Out of the Stillness…

Jody Johnson on retreat

Jody Johnson on retreat

by Jody Johnson, Visitation Companion

“Lord, what else hast thou said to me by placing me in this holy monastery, but ‘My daughter, walk always in my presence, think of me in all thy ways, and I will direct thy steps?’ “–St. Jane de Chantal

Out of the stillness, time unfurls herself before me like a red carpet, and I am royalty, the Beloved. I walk through a garden of delights. As I practice letting go of thoughts by tuning into my sensory experience, the sounds, smells, and sights of the desert open themselves to me: the lush green of the plants and trees after rain, the smell of the creosote bushes, the trill of birdsong. I observe the constant shifting of light and shadow.

“In calm all becomes sensible and my soul is desirous of experiencing even the lightest breath of Thy grace.” –St. Francis de Sales

Jody_Meal_Blog

“When you are eating, eat.” — Buddhist saying

At silent meals, it is a pleasure to taste my food again. For months I’ve been eating hurriedly and distractedly, reading the newspaper or, worse, checking my cellphone for messages. I’ve come to anticipate the next bite before I’ve finished the one in my mouth. The Buddhists say, “When you’re eating, eat.” So I pause, enjoying the flavor, noting the texture, chewing fully before swallowing. When I do this, I know which kinds of food I need more of, which less of, and when to stop eating.

Could this be a way of living? Jesus says, “Yes!” “I have come that you may have life and have it abundantly.” The kingdom of heaven is compared to a great banquet because it is realized through the lived, embodied experience that begins with our senses. In stillness, we open to the present moment, the only place we can meet God. There is joy. And, we can trust that, if we are fully present and anchored in God in this moment, this event, this decision, then the next will take care of itself.

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To read more of Jody Johnson’s contemplative blogs from the desert, click here.

I Will Lead You into the Desert

Follow me to the desert... Photo by Jody Johnson

Lead to the desert
Photo by Jody Johnson

by Jody Johnson, Visitation Companion*

“I will lead you into the desert, and there I will speak to your heart.” –Hosea 2:16

I’ve come to the desert seeking silence, or seeking to enter into it more fully. I practice contemplative prayer but, if as Thomas Keating says, twenty minutes of silence is “a brief vacation from oneself,” I need an extended stay! I’ve been restless, anxious, caught up in the busyness of activity for too long. Like many people, I juggle half-commitments, leaving early from one event to arrive late to the next, then wonder why life feels unsatisfying.

The desert offers timeless space to discover, engage, and wrestle with restlessness,” says Father Tom Picton, director of the Desert House of Prayer in Tucson where I am retreating; “The discovery of what is on the other side of the restlessness is the quest! It requires silence, stillness, waiting, and the suffering of ‘not knowing’.” This rings true for me; I long for this stillness, yet the prospect of having so much of it brings its own anxiety: “What will I do with all this time?” “What will God say to me?” “What if I discover things I don’t want to know?” Worries have become my constant companions. As with guests who have overstayed their welcome, it becomes more and more awkward to ask them to leave. Or perhaps they are like old clothes I’ve outgrown but not yet replaced. What will be my new gear, my new habit? I can’t very well walk around naked!

Some guidelines provided by the retreat center are reassuring: “Trust how you are being led. Your journey will likely open up to you as you listen for what is inviting your attention.” It is about being open, aware, and receptive. The daily schedule of silent prayer periods provides the structure and practice to support this awareness. I’ve also brought Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal to guide me on my journey. Though they never visited the desert that we know of, I feel their contemplative spirits at home here. Francis reminds me to get out of the way: “While I am seeking to find out what is God’s desire, I am not employed in keeping myself close to Him in peace and in calm repose, which is certainly His present desire, since He has set me nothing else to do.” Francis also gives very practical advice to gently redirect my intention (and attention) toward God throughout the day. He would have agreed with the last sentence of the guidelines in the retreat center’s brochure: “Be gentle with yourself, relax, and enjoy your time away.”

Jody Johnson

Jody Johnson

*Jody Johnson is a Visitation Companions leader and formation director on a two week study and prayer sabbatical. Tune into her reflections here

 

 

 

 

 

BRIGHT DARKNESS OF THE FUTURE

Sisters with Candles Catholic Spirit

Photo by Dave Hrbacek, The Catholic Spirit

by Sr. Suzanne Homeyer, VHM

As we planned our recent Visitation Companion Advent morning of prayer and reflection Jody, Linda and I spent some time sharing about our community Advent focus of Promise. A phrase from the 2008 – 2014 Vision Statement of our order somehow spoke to all of us about this time of the liturgical year: “As we move forward in the bright darkness of our present.”

This image, ‘Bright Darkness’ seems like an impossible thing to grasp — a paradox at best. In darkness we don’t see ANYTHING, we don’t see the future. However, internally we hope for the future. This kind of seeing of the future is dependent upon what we bring to the present, including our faith, our attitudes, our belief and our experiences.

“…the Bright Darkness of the future leads us to Christmas…the Incarnation of the One who has always been faithful to the Chosen People.”

Look at this time of year in terms of our ancestors: they saw the days were getting shorter and colder; the natural world was passing into a deep darkness; shorter days and less sunlight; dwindling crops; winter brought death after the ripeness of fall. If they were astute, our early ancestors may have noticed things in the natural world like squirrels hiding away extra nuts/ birds disappearing in flocks/ animals getting fatter and slower/ and with a thicker coat of fur and maybe some wise ones had inklings of the concept of hibernation. Perhaps some looked at this time of no fresh food and figured out how to preserve some foodstuffs —- just in case the end was not immanent and the shorter days might not end in death. People learned how to prepare for this time of year.   Externally they used more hides for warmth; they tended to hunker down indoors — around the fire with others. It became a communal time of waiting with the hope or expectation of longer days….more warmth…spring growth and new life.

As Christians we experience externals but have more hope — scientific knowledge and our faith tell us that the sun, s-u-n, will return but that the Son, s-o-n, will return and bring new life into our old world.

We can understand that phrase Bright Darkness of the Future. We need to look at where we have been, what has happened to humankind and assess the present moment.

The Old Testament stories of the Chosen People are full of lack of appreciation for creation, jealousy between siblings, lack of respect for others, crimes of passion, wars between people everywhere. God leading people to a PROMISED land and people grumbling on the way. People separating themselves from God or each other — going alone. Once in a while there would be a knowledgeable voice calling for PREPARATION for what is to come. The greatest of these voices according to scripture was a bright and shining light on a stand….calling out in the dark wilderness….a flicker of hope.

There IS more to come….another…whose sandals John was not even worthy to untie. The One who was the Son. The One who promised the new heavens and a new earth. One who promised to be faithful. One who promised eternal life. One who brought light into the darkness. It is this One who gives US hope, Wisdom and the ability to believe in the bright darkness of the future. This is the One who is the fulfillment of Promise. The One who is to be Wonder, Counselor, Prince of Peace. Almighty God. We can see where this is going…the Bright Darkness of the future leads us to Christmas…the Incarnation of the One who has always been faithful to the Chosen People.

God has Chosen all of us to step into the Light.

 

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Click here to see photos from the Advent Retreat. 

Salesian Second Mondays Begin! This Year’s Theme: “Holiness is for Everyone”

On Monday, September 8, 2014, the Sisters and Visitation Companion Coordinator Jody Johnson convened our annual Salesian Second Monday series. This monthly event runs from September through April and includes a light pot luck supper and fellowship; followed by guided conversation around a topic related to Salesian Spirituality; and closes with Night Prayer. This year’s theme is “Holiness is for Everyone.” All are welcome!

Drawing from the Vatican II emphasis on the laity, as well as the writings of St. Francis de Sales, we are considering what it means to be holy in any walk of life. We reflect on how Salesian virtues may be expressed in different kinds of vocations.

To kick off the season focusing on (what the Church calls) the “universal call to holiness“, each Visitation Sister shared from her life, offering us some grounding insights on this theme.

Click to hear Visitation Sister Suzanne Homeyer offer a few stories that illustrate holiness.
To watch more of the Sisters reflecting on this theme of “Holiness is for Everyone”, tune into our Visitation Monastery YouTube Channel.

Remaining Salesian Second Monday Dates:

Monday, October 13, 2014
Monday, November 10, 2014
Monday, January 12, 2015
Monday, February 9, 2015
Monday, March 9, 2015
Monday, April 13, 2015

Join us!

 

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.

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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!

 

Welcome Visitation Companions! Spring Commission 2014

Vis Companions Commissioning 2014

Welcome (from Left to Right): Tammi Thompson, Corein Brown, Bryce Johnson, and Anna Dourgarian.

On Saturday, May 10, 2014, the Visitation Sisters and Companions welcomed four new members to our burgeoning lay community.

After a rich morning retreat experience inspired by the Salesian formation book, “God Desires You” by Fr. Eunan McDonnell, SDB;  mass and prayer, the community reviewed their statements of commitment and received these new friends.

Joining the Visitation Community were Anna Dourgarian, Bryce Johnson,  Corein Brown, and Tammi Thompson. 

Click here to watch their statements of commitment.

Join us in prayer for each Companion as they enter into an individual discernment process this summer, listening for the Holy Spirit’s nudgings, and ways they are called to serve and be present on the northside.

 

To learn more about the Visitation Companion Lay Community, please contact Jody Johnson at jodyreis@yahoo.com or Linda Goynes at 612-529-9647.

On the Virtue of Patience: From Vis Companion and Doula, Heidi Govednik

Heidi Govednik

Squeezing her niece, Vis Companion Heidi Govednik

The following is an excerpt from Vis Companion Heidi Govenik’s recent blog post, “On Being A Doula”. We share this with her permission as part of our exploration of Salesian Virtues in our Second Monday Salesian Spirituality Series. Heidi spoke about patience in light of her work as a doula, or birth coach, at our Monday, October 14, 2013 evening at the monastery. We are grateful to highlight her inspiring thoughts and experience here.

Doula: The word “doula” comes from the ancient Greek meaning “a woman who serves” and is now used to refer to a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth; or who provides emotional and practical support during the postpartum period. (Definition taken from the DONA International website.)

“[As a doula, I’m learning] to submit to something larger than myself. I like to say I do this in my relationship with God on a regular basis, but the truth is I have a certain measure of control over my life that I daily choose to submit to God or cling to. ( I usually am doing the latter.) In birth, there is nothing you can do but be present to what is happening in labor and wait. I just wait. I watch. I am there, fully there…with no control but to choose to succumb to the steady, often slow, rhythm of labor. It is truly the only area of my life that I submit fully to patience and have no measure of control. What unfolds is incredible…every birth follows the same pattern somewhat like a song. Each is different, but follows the musical pattern of verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge….chorus…maybe a doxology in a hymn. Each birth is different, yet I usually can expect a the steady pattern of early labor, the intensity of contractions as active labor takes over, the peak of emotions and physical motion in the transition stage, and the overwhelming anticipation as the urge to push takes over. And then I know, without a doubt, that after all those hours of patience and the steady beat of a woman in labor, a baby will in fact come out. Just like that.

During a birth this winter I was sitting on a chair in the corner of a dark room, well into the night, watching the monitor steadily go up and down with each contraction as the mother slept deeply with her epidural. The labor had been long and I was coming into the awareness of the lack of control I have in being a doula, and how much patience I was learning in turning off the rest of my life for a time to be present during a birth. I was thinking how I fail so much at doing this in my faith: resting in God’s presence and His timing. I know He is unfailing in His love, and He is faithful to His children…so why can’t I trust that if I am submitting myself to Him that I can rest in His truth? I always try to make my own way, make my own plans and ask God to come along. In the process of birth, there is something so beautiful and so sacred when the baby comes out….whether it was 35 hours of labor or only 2, I know the labor needed to happen for the gift of life to come. I always am full of joy as I leave the hospital, knowing that the long hours were worth being able to witness the miracle of a little boy or a little girl emerge from a woman. I want to learn that same patience in my life submitted to Christ. His Kingdom is worth it. My prayer is that I can have the strength to surrender to labor in life, to dwell in the moments, and the grace to wait for the joys to come.”

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To read Heidi’s entire post, click here: “On being a Doula”