Looking Back at Vis Neighbors: Our First Lay Community

First Vis Neighbors Commissioning Ceremony,  Winter, 1994 Newsletter

Introducing VISITATION NEIGHBORS…the Seeds of Tomorrow’s Flowers (from News From the Northside, Fall 1994 — lead story)

by Sr. Suzanne Homeyer, VHM

This blog is indeed a ‘back story.’  All any of us have to do when we want to see where we are today is to look back and see God’s presence along the way.  Some call it Providence…some prefer the term serendipity and others just coincidence.  This is the back story on the Visitation Companions…it is mainly the history of the beginnings of Visitation Neighbors and the current news of the presence of Salesian Spirituality alive and well-lived for over 20 years in the lives of Trish Kloeckl and Lorilee Lambrecht, the founding mothers of our monastery’s first lay community.

“My own formation in the order took place alongside the formation and spiritual growth (and stretching of consciousness) of the Visitation Neighbors.” – S. Suzanne Homeyer, vhm

When I arrived at the monastery in 1995, the Visitation Neighbors were already established and part of the on-going ministry and presence of the Sisters here on the North Side. How did they come to be? My own formation in the order took place alongside the formation and spiritual growth (and stretching of consciousness) of the Neighbors. Over the years there have been 19 or 20 adult members and 4 youngsters that were Neighbors.

“It all began with…”  as Trish tells the history, her “time on the north side… living with friends and volunteering many places working with neighborhood residents.” Trish shared her idea of a lay community with Sr. Jean of the Cookie Cart and together they “walked the idea/vision over to the Vis Sisters and invited them (the Sisters) to become the ‘new stewards of the vision’….Shortly after that time, I moved in with the Sisters for 9 months and the idea/vision continued to unfold.”

An Invitation to Vis Neighbors copy

An Invitation to Vis Neighbors from Community Newsletter, 1994

The Sisters agreed to explore a new expression of the Salesian charism and the following invitation was issued in the community’s newsletter:

Lorilee Lambrecht had attended Mendota Visitation High School. Non scholae, sed vitae (not for school but for life) was etched on the keychain she still used from her Vis High years…I know it isn’t just a slogan to the Sisters.”

“After traveling extensively through the United States and living overseas… I was discerning about living in a base-Christian community to help support the lifestyle changes that were occurring in my life as a result of my mission experiences in Guatemala,” Lorilee reminisced. “Three words began to draw me to the Visitation Order and the North side: community, spiritual formation and family…I asked God to be obvious in showing me His will…within days the Vis Minneapolis newsletter was in my mail box….When the invitation came from the Sisters regarding their new lay group, my heart joyfully responded in an instant…I knew. We met, we knew this was it…we began the journey of faith.”

“I am so grateful for how Divine Providence moved and graced my story with the presence of the Sisters and their spirituality that has assisted me through many stages of my life as I move toward deeper integration and living in the Presence of God.” –Lorilee Lambrecht, Vis Neighbor

Vis Neighbors today:  Lorilee, S. Suzanne, Trish

Vis Neighbors “Selfie”  today:
Lorilee, S. Suzanne, Trish

Some 20 years later Lorilee, Trish and I gathered to share a simple meal in Trish’s southside Minneapolis home.  In anticipation of that sharing Lorilee wrote, “We have been through so much life together and we are still best friends.” As we prepared supper, ate and prayed together I saw the truth in that statement .  The three of us recalled fond memories of Vis Neighbor days, my time as a novice, their many ministry activities in the ‘hood and so much more.

Trish is now living just down the street from another community seeker she had first come to know on the north side.  She is still blessed to have her professional calling as an Occupational Therapist as well as her love of nature and inviting others to do wilderness challenges. She continues to encourage family, friends and neighbors to commit to community; to struggle to build community; to live community and to call others to the joy of life lived in community AND she still knows it is the Holy Spirit that breathes it all into being.

Lorilee lived in the inner city for nine years and when she moved out of North Minneapolis to Mendota Heights where she grew up she feels she “was fortunate to be situated very near Visitation Monastery Mendota. I am so grateful for how Divine Providence moved and graced my story with the presence of the Sisters and their spirituality that has assisted me through many stages of my life as I move toward deeper integration and living in the Presence of God.  Thomas Merton says that ‘every moment plants a seed in a person’s soul.  I had many beautiful experiences that were planted in my spirit during my time as a Vis Neighbor.  The seeds of those experiences continue to flower within my life.” She was inspired to establish Grace Center in Guatemala, a community for women and children needing supportive community, medical and spiritual services. She also finds herself a very busy mother who is involved in a variety of “callings” and interests as a wife and as a parent to three children Sophia (16); Annalisa (13) and Moses 12.”

“All the Flowers of All the Tomorrows are in the seeds of today.”
News From the Northside, Fall of 1994.

Click here to read the original Newsletter article: News From the Northside, Fall of 1994

Homeless: In the Shelter of our Hearts

The following post is from our Newsletter Archives. It first appeared in our Winter 1994 Newsletter.*

"da homeless mother and child" by the artofgriffin.

“da homeless mother and child” by the artofgriffin.

by S. Mary Margaret McKenzie, VHM

Homelessness happens: tenants have to move because a landlord can’t meet the mortgage payment; a single parent needs more space for growing children; a family of nine cannot stay indefinitely with already crowded relatives, but what the law requires for housing seven children is not affordable; a person in recovery from chemical abuse slips, loses his job and therefore, his apartment; a young woman volunteering her time and talent for the enrichment of children no longer has a place when the outreach is cut back; a young mother involved in some “activity” has to move before she is evicted or reported; another mother away from her abusive husband with two small children knows the quickest eviction of all from a catastrophic fire. Theres are our neighbors, our friends, and their options are few.

“..until we could enter into our own suffering, we would not be able to support others in theirs.” 

The man in recovery sleeps on a shelter floor for the first time. The large family is dreading the shelter, but if they go, they will get emergency help from subsidizing housing which has a two year waiting list. Without newspaper, phone or car the long search for a “place to stay” begins. We have never heard the homeless talk about a place to “live.

It did not occur to me as a child, even though I grew up during the Depression, that homelessness could happen. Children in North Minneapolis know that it does. The young boy whose name means, “heart of the valley” came home from school one day to find that he was moving that afternoon. His mother told him to come with his little sister to say “goodbye” to us. They appeared at the door during Evening Prayer in too much shock and pain to talk, just looking at us out of a numbness that was holding on to everything. They left with many embraces and a care package. Each time they turned to wave, another one of us began to cry.

“Prayer does bond us in our mutual suffering.” 

Archbishop Roach warned us that it would be “hard, very difficult, terrible, awful” to stand with such pain and be helpless. We were not expecting it to come in the homelessness that seems to have plagued the neighborhood this winter. We have often recalled the counsel of Bishop Carlson that until we could enter into our own suffering, we would not be able to support others in theirs.

“Windsock time” with the children has prepared us for “phone time” with some who use our phone to make real estate appointments. While they wait for calls to be returned, we pray with them or they join us for one of Hours of the Office. One woman brought her sister-in-law along just for the prayer. Prayer does bond us in our mutual suffering, and once prayer brought a friend willing to make his properties affordable to to any reliable tenants we could recommend. Also, there is that amazing grace that flows in and through and around us when the homeless stand by us, too, in our helplessness in helping them and we learn that the “heart of the valley” is not the terrain of hopelessness.

 

***

Original article: Homelessness by SMM Winter Newsletter 1994

 

Our Ever-Expanding Community!

Anna Dourgarian, 2012 -2013 VIP

Anna Dourgarian, 2012 -2013 VIP

From our Fall Newsletter:

Over four hundred years ago St. Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor of the Church and Founder with St. Jane de Chantal of the Order of the Visitation, wrote The Introduction to the Devout Life, a classic which has never been out of print over these hundreds of years!  In the quaint language of his day he wrote in the introduction:  “ …My intention (in this book)  is to instruct (in the devout life) such as live in towns and families and at court, and who by their condition are obliged to lead, as to the exterior, a common life.” It is often commented that Francis was a Vatican II man.  His strong conviction that every person is called to union with God was articulated for posterity in two basic tenets of the Council: The Universal Call to Holiness & The Age of the Laity.

Jody Johnson, VC Coordinator

Jody Johnson, VC Coordinator

As the Church celebrates the 50th anniversary of Vatican Council II, we, the Visitation Sisters of North Minneapolis, dedicate this issue of our newsletter to the hundreds of lay women, men and children who have partnered with us to root the gentle, peaceful, loving presence of the Heart of Jesus in the City.  Let us continue to “build the City of God!”  We invite you to hear from a few of our lay friends….

To read more about Engaged Lay Members:

Marsha West 2012 MIE Participant

Marsha West, 2012 MIE Participant

Introducing Anna Dourgarian,
Visitation Internship Program  (VIP) (Click to read…)

Introducing Jody Johnson,
Coordinator of Visitation Companions (VC)
(Click to read…)

Introducing Marsha West,
Monastic Immersion Experience (MIE) Participant
(Click to read…)

Update: News from the Northside*

by Sr. Mary Frances Reis, VHM

“As we settle into a time of transition from a full and fruitful year to a season of planning and “planting” for the coming year, we are grateful for our Visitation way which calls us to live in the PRESENT MOMENT and to treasure the graces in the relationships.  Our daily rhythm of Eucharist, Liturgy of the Hours, personal prayer and door ministry keeps us centered on Living Jesus in a profoundly incarnational way in the midst of the city!”

A Few Highlight of  “the year that has been”:

The St. Jane House, our urban spirituality center, served as the gathering place for women’s retreats, men’s spirituality & centering prayer groups, several high school and college inner city immersion experiences, discernment evenings, leadership training, From Death to Life meetings, etc., etc. (We even had a baby shower there!)

  • What does the future of the Visitation Community look like?

    What does the future of the Visitation Community look like?

    Our Visitation Internship Program (VIP) was launched this year, and two lovely young women recently completed their year of community service and in-depth experience of our charism.

  • Children and their families enjoyed a myriad of activities: field trips as diverse as the Holidazzle parade, the Children’s Theatre, Minnesota Science Museum, & The Minnesota History Theatre, parties sponsored and run by Vicki Bailey and friends of Mendota Visitation, etc., etc.
  • Mendota Visitation seniors were pioneers during their community service weeks here from May 21st thru May 31st. Instead of going to Guatemala, they came to North Minneapolis!  It was a great Mission Trip right here in the city!!!  The school motto “Not for School but for Life” was in full swing.

A few Highlights of summer 2012:

  • Our dear Sister Karen recently completed six years of selfless and Spirit-filled leadership of our community.  Sister Mary Frances succeeds her and will endeavor to follow her example of empowering the gifts of each of our Sisters and lay counterparts.
  • CYC Campers at Send Off

    CYC Campers at Send Off

    Thanks to the generosity of many benefactors & volunteers, we were able to send 75 children and 7 teen “Counselors in Training” to Catholic Youth Camp in McGreggor, MN; 4 teens to St. Louis to participate in Vistory, a program which brings Visitation students from around the country together to serve and learn about Salesian spirituality; and 2 teens to an intensive program at St. John’s University:  YTM, Youth in Theology and Ministry . . . As Father Michael O’Connell often says, “Our youth are our future.”  We are grateful for opportunities to affirm and form them in positive ways.

A Few Highlight of “things to come”:

  • We recently welcomed the first participant into our Monastic Immersion experience, a 6-month stay in our monastery.  Not unlike St. Jane de Chantal, Marsha West, who hails from Forks, Washington, has had many life vocations as wife, mother, grandmother, widow, and on and on! She brings many gifts our way and we are happy to share our life with her.  Welcome Marsha!
  • We are in the process of interviewing New VIPs for the coming year.
  • Our dear Maryann Pearson has “retired” as coordinator of the Visitation Companions, our lay community.  Thanks to her untiring dedication, we have about 15-20 members!  Jody Johnson has accepted the role of coordinator and will work with Sr. Mary Frances and Linda Goynes to keep the movement growing.

*Published in our Summer Newsletter – which you can view in its entirety here.