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.

***

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!

 

Young Adult Engagement: Call and Response

BYA Discernment Group*

Young Adults from the Basilica join the Vis Sisters for a day of prayer and reflection

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

On the heels of Sr. Katherine and my trip to Chicago for the “Catholics On Call” Partner Conference entitled, “Engaging Young Adults in Church Vocations” I started mentoring two young adults in their journey as Visitation Companions. It’s no small coincidence in my mind that God would have these ventures line up. The former, a powerful opportunity to glean information about the millennial generation of Catholics, hold looming questions about engagement in the church and posit best practices, all the while connecting on a national scale with others in outreach ministry; the latter, a real-life opportunity to live the complexity and gift of relational ministry and apply what feels to be some best practices in formation: sharing stories, unpacking structured prayer practices and Salesian teaching,  and living in the mystery of our Catholic faith.

I think of these experiences as both a call and response to deeply live my Catholic faith. I share a bit of my reflections here.

***

“The Millenial generation is living in a Web 2.0 culture.” said Paul Jarzembowski, Executive Director of the National Catholic Young Adult Ministry Association (NCYAMA). This CAC panelist, a young adult himself, characterized his generation as one that’s plugged in, and living a “pressure cooker” reality. The response by outreach ministers both lay and religious is to “provide sanctuary to these young adults.”  A place of “silence, certainty and security” is what young adults are craving.

timone davis

Fellow CAC panelist, timone davis, from the archdiocese of Chicago and coordinator of ReCil, (Reclaiming Christ in Life, Young Adult Ministry for the Archdiocese of Chicago)  invited all ministers to share their stories and to create spaces for young adults to likewise tell theirs. “We need to share our faith experiences,” she said,”[unpacking how we find God in our midst] and find our story within the Christian story.”

“Every baptized person has a role and we need to awaken a sense of call among all the baptized.” —Fr. Robyn Ryan, C.P., Founding Director of Catholics on Call

With the daunting statistics that 75 – 85% of young adult Catholics are non-practicing and not-engaged, founding director of Catholics on Call, Fr. Robyn Ryan, C.P. invited all conference participants to focus on ecclesial vocations – both lay and religiousand creating a culture of service in the church. Underscoring the invitation to all members of the church, he said, “every baptized person has a role and we need to awaken a sense of call among all the baptized.”

Embracing Young Adult Vis Intern Beth Anne

Embracing Young Adult Vis Intern Beth Anne

Two questions that Fr. Ryan posed during his talk really struck home with me in a prayerful way:
1) “Should we focus our energies on the minority group of more active young adults?” and

2) “Are the young adults who are open to vocational discernment those of a more traditional mindset? And if so, how do we respond?”

These inspired scholarly presentations, coupled with the vocational narratives of three featured young adults, (a sister, monk and lay campus minister) shaped my “take-away” points from the conference:

  • To engage all young (and old) adults within and without the Catholic church, the opportunity to be quiet, engaged in structured prayer so that the stories of God in our midst might surface and be shared, would be helpful.
  • Extending invitations to participate in service opportunities is essential for the dis-engaged to find ways back into authentic ministry and faith-filled expression. (The Visitation Internship Program is one larger example of this.)
  • Creating spaces for story-telling as well as direct instruction on the tenants of our faith are important for all participants, as the need for sanctuary and certainty are honored, and the presence of God as security is known.
  • Cultivating a safe community of critically-thinking, non-judgemental participants who can celebrate the tenants of their faith and church — as well as share their frustrations within the church, and work to heal, while serving — is a strategy or by-product of story-telling and service groups.
  • The compassionate embrace of the religious habit as both a literal and figurative marker for security and structure desired by young adult discerners is also helpful.  (Read: As a young adult in the church, I grew up without a lot of structure, ritual or form. I need a habit to hold me together.  I want this external sign of my faith, as well as the internal order of the day, to anchor me.)

***

At the invitation of Sr. Mary Frances, I discerned a call to this awesome role as Visitation Companion mentor, and after much prayer, a few tears, and a bit of assuaged fear, I said, “Yes.” I feel hugely blessed to be able to participate in the formation of Sonja and Fabio as two inspired people who long to live their faith more intentionally within a Christian community. Serving as a mentor is a humbling experience as I run smack into my own limitations and am lifted through the grace of God and the Spirit present with these two mentees to a new place of relational understanding and love of God.  It’s a call I have in the church, as well as a response to love and practice my faith. It seems to be a mutually beneficial experience that invigorates our Salesian presence in this world.