The Long Road Home: Eddie Brown’s story*

by Dave Nimmer, Guest Blogger

Eddie Brown at our Halloween Family Party

Eddie Brown at the Halloween Family Party

Eddie Brown first met the Visitation sisters some 20 years ago when he was at Turning Point, a north side residential treatment center, trying to shake the addictions and afflictions that had plagued his life.

“The [sisters] have taught me something about loving, sharing, caring and giving back. I know I can always call them….I hope they know I will deny them nothing.” — Eddie Brown

He’d come to the Fremont house to borrow a shovel, which he later returned. But he kept the nuns as his lifelong gift and they have celebrated the good times with him and supported him through the bad.

“Once I walked across that threshold, my life has never been the same,” Brown said. “I got a sense of the spirit and that’s what I wanted. I couldn’t find peace with myself until I walked into that (Fremont) house.

“[Eddie] is kind of my ideal. If he falls, he gets right back up. If he’s needed, he comes.”
– S. Mary Virginia

Eddie wanted that peace after – as he recalls – being on the street for more than 25 years – six towns in four states, just “dealin’ and druggin’.” It came to an end in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where, one night in an alley off of Lake Street, he decided to go to Turning Point..

Eddie Brown with S. Katherine and neighborhood children at the back to school party.

Eddie Brown with S. Katherine and neighborhood children at the Back-to-School Party.

“I had robbed a guy the night before and was smoking up the cash (cocaine), sitting there by myself,” he said. “It was like I heard my mother’s voice and I remembered this guy telling me about a treatment center. I had never heard the term before.

“I threw away my pipe and dope and started walking to the north side at 3 in the morning. I was sitting on the steps of Turning Point, waiting until they opened. A guy got out of his car, looked at me and said, “Are you ready to get clean?’”

He was.  He got off the merry-go-round, fueled by crack and chaos, and got on the wagon. He fell off once but came back and he’s been clean and sober for 27 years.

“Eddie’s a survivor,” said Bob Briscoe, a former Chicago cop and, like Brown, a long-time friend of the sisters. “Eddie’s a man of his word and I believe he wants to make a difference in this community. He’s there when the nuns call and he’s involved himself in several neighborhood projects.”

The most soulful project Eddie ever tackled was getting his friend Mona off the streets.   They did drugs together, struggled to find food and shelter together, shared hopes and dreams together.   When Eddie was at Turning Point, he had a dream about Mona.

“I found her and she couldn’t believe it was me because I was looking so good,” Brown said. “But she wasn’t ready to come in (to treatment). Three weeks later I got a call. “Do you really mean it?” she said. I told her yes and she went to a 90-day program in Anoka.”

Two recovering addicts put together one loving marriage – Eddie and Mona – and began their sober journey. The sisters helped with a down payment on their first house. And the sisters were there when Mona was diagnosed with uterine cancer.

Eddie shares his story with friends at St. Patrick's in Edina.

Eddie shares his story with friends at St. Patrick’s in Edina.

“She lived for eight years with the cancer,” Eddie said, “and I was with her all the way. I didn’t leave her side. Shortly before she died (in 2013), she looked at me with tears running down her cheeks, She said, “Baby, I’m goin’ home. I love you.’”

Brown struggled with Mona’s loss for more than two years. He’d set up a kind of shrine to her, with pictures and her ashes. Every day he’d talk to her. “Finally, one day I was saying a prayer and I believe God told me, ‘Eddie, I’ve got Mona now. You can let her go.’”

The shrine is gone. The memories linger. So do the lessons Eddie said he learned from the sisters.

“They’ve taught me something about loving, sharing, caring and giving back. I know I can always call them. Sister Mary Frances and I share a lot of stuff, sometimes in a conversation on the phone at night. I hope they know I will deny them nothing.”

Sister Mary Virginia Schmidt hopes Eddie knows of her regard for him. “He is kind of my ideal,” she said. “If he falls, he gets right back up. If he’s needed, he comes. When Mona needed, he was there. He really loved her.”

That fits the legacy that Eddie Brown wants: “That I helped my family and my community and, sometimes, helped bring them closer to the Lord.” Today, he’s raising Mona’s 9-year-old grandson, Abel.   He made a promise to her.

***

Tune into our YouTube Channel to see the video companion piece to this by Jim Shoop.

* This is the third in a series of profiles by journalist Dave Nimmer featuring Visitation 
Companions and northside neighbors. We hope you enjoy these stories of our dear friends -- 
as they reflect the blessed community that surrounds the monastery and sustains us
 in our ministry of mutuality. 
LIVE + JESUS! 

The Law of Hope: Our friend Dorice Law interviewed*

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Dorice Law: Chaplain, counselor, confidant

By Dave Nimmer, Guest Blogger

Dorice Law leads a life that’s taken her in different directions and destinations. The 60-year-old grandmother has an office in St. Louis Park, a job in Bloomington, a divinity degree from St. John’s in Collegeville, a home in Plymouth and friends on Facebook.

But her heart remains in North Minneapolis, among the friends at Visitation Monastery and the faithful at Ascension Church, where she first met the sisters as they were discerning what their future would be. “I approached them right outside the church,” Law recalled, “and I told them, “Well, Lord knows we need you right up here.”

Law was born in Chicago, the seventh of eight children. She moved to Minneapolis when she was 16 and graduated from North High School.   But she went to Catholic schools in Chicago and was nurtured by the women of the church.

“I grew up standing behind a nun’s big, black skirt and feeling safe and secure,” she said.   “That was the way the world looked to me.”

That confidence enabled Law to raise three children, go to college, earn two master’s degrees, teach in high school, recruit for a community college, run her own insurance agency and, now, serve as a chaplain to a senior-living facility in Bloomington. It’s the role she was made for: Chaplain, counselor, confidant.

“I am convinced that I am good at this because people need someone to pray with them – for them. Since I was a kid, I could pray at the drop of a hat.”

“My personality is to be honest and frank and I am that way with the people at Friendship Village (where she serves as chaplain).   I tell them it’s impossible to shock me, that they can tell me the truth. Everyone wants to be loved and understood.”

For those closer to the end than the beginning, Law has a message of hope. “I tell them all that is God is good. All that is bad is NOT God.”  Her spiritual work is about grace, forgiveness and trust in a loving God.

That doesn’t surprise the Visitation sisters. “Dorice was someone who welcomed us and kind of introduced us to North Minneapolis,” said Mary Frances Reis.   “From the very beginning, on a Sunday morning outside of church, I thought of her as transparent, honest, generous and genuine.”

That hasn’t changed in 26 years and neither has Law’s commitment to the nuns and their ministry.

“I had always made a commitment,” she said, “that anything and everything the nuns had going I’d be a part of. I think I was at their very first study group on the Virgin Mary. This is a place where you can be yourself, speak your mind and not worry about a kick-out.”

The sisters not only didn’t kick her out, they took her in – into the family. Law recalled she got dressed for her wedding in 1991 at the Fremont house. The marriage lasted eight years; the fealty to Visitation is everlasting.

Law’s always believed the nuns accepted her for who she is, how she is and as she is. She said it was the recommendation letter from Sister Mary Frances that facilitated her acceptance into the School of Theology at St. John’s.

Although Law doesn’t live in North Minneapolis any longer, two of her children and her sister do and she’s over there every Sunday morning for church. She’s aware of the neighborhood’s pride, promise and possibilities.    She’s also concerned about the guns, gangs, drugs and violence.

The legal system makes it difficult to change things, Law said. “Once the man is a felon, he is effectively separated from his family. You don’t rent a place where the father is a felon. And if you have a job not making enough to pay the rent, it’s hard to have any hope.”

Hope is what Dorice Law is all about.

*******************************************************************************************************

To see a video of the interview with Dorice, visit our YouTube Channel.
* This is the second in a series of profiles by journalist Dave Nimmer featuring Visitation 
Companions and northside neighbors. We hope you enjoy these stories of our dear friends -- 
as they reflect the blessed community that surrounds the monastery and sustains us
 in our ministry of mutuality. 
LIVE + JESUS!