“All in the Family”

by Sr. Karen Mohan, VHM

Sr. Karen and Sr. Susan Marie

“In the footsteps of St. Francis de Sales”: Sr. Karen and Sr. Susan Marie on the Old Town Annecy Bridge

Trips to special places are not complete until a photo is taken at a memorable location.

Two of the photos shown here are from a favorite “photo op” site in Annecy, France, birthplace of the Visitation Order.   Sr. Susan Marie from our Visitation Monastery in Brooklyn, my brother Michael, a faculty member at the St. Louis Visitation, and I are standing on the bridge in front of the once -used prison built in the canal in old town Annecy. St. Francis de Sales visited prisoners there, we are told. The three of us had spent this hot summer afternoon  “in the footsteps of St. Francis de Sales”, and we even took a cruise on Lake Annecy. My joy expanded as we explored our Salesian family roots together before beginning a workshop on the Treatise on the Love of God.

Michael and Sr. Susan Marie

Michael and Sr. Susan Marie

Being there with Michael, Sr. Susan Marie, three other Visitation Sisters and other “Salesians” made it feel like my own version of “All in the Family”!

We spent a week of study and prayer with lay and religious members of this “family”. Our “household” included a retired professor from Ireland, sisters from Madagascar, lay women and men belonging to the Society of St. Francis de Sales, priests and brothers from S. Africa, India, Brazil and even a bishop from the Philippines! All of us were hoping to deepen our understanding of this 400 hundred-year-old masterpiece on love. Thanks to the efforts of several American

"All in the family."

“All in the family:” our global Visitation “household”! 

Oblate of St. Francis de Sales scholars and the generosity of their superior general, Fr. Aldino, this hope was realized.

The week included prayer, input and small discussion groups, and opportunities to explore the town.

This “All in the Family” study week offered me a unique way of appreciating the Spirit alive and active through my broader Salesian family….and that was a blessing.

 

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To read other blogs by Sr. Karen Mohan, and other community members on their pilgrimage experiences, click here.

 

World Youth Day Pilgrimage 2016

WYD Pilgrim: Aimee Fritsch

WYD Pilgrim: Aimee Fritsch

By Aimee Fritsch, Visitation Resident Lay Community

I can’t believe the day is finally here; I’m writing this blog post from 20,000 feet, on my way to Germany. I’ll be there for a few days before traveling on to Krakow, Poland, meeting up with a friend from college as well as 2 million of my new best friends, including Pope Francis!

World Youth Day, held every 2 or 3 years is a gathering of 16-35 year-old Catholics from all around the globe. It’s a week of chatecesis, community, and celebration. I had the privilege to go in 2011 when it was held in Madrid, and I can attest to how pilgrims take over an entire major city- it’s beautiful chaos.

This year, I’m so looking forward to that energy and community. Grad school, while a worthwhile endeavor, took a lot out of me this year. Studying systems of inequality and injustice while working in the field, like I do at Listening House, is a lot to carry. I’m looking forward to being rejuvenated by the enthusiasm that everyone brings to this gathering.

In a special way, I’m also looking forward to reuniting with friends from Italy and France I met in Madrid at WYD 2011- thanks to the power of social media we’ve stayed in touch, and plan on meeting up once we’re all in Krakow. Also, like most Millennials, especially Catholics, I’m a huge Pope Francis fan! With so many people I probably won’t even get close to him, but just to hear him speak in person, to celebrate Mass with him and the millions of others outdoors Sunday morning after an all-night vigil, and to get his blessing, I’m thrilled. It feels like history in the making.

Pray for me, as I go, as I’ll pray for you. And look for a follow-up post- I promise to share stories and photos once I’m back in the States!

Jane in Rome

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A view from the plane: Sunrise over the Alps

by S. Suzanne Homeyer, VHM

TRAVEL DOESN’T CHANGE MY DAILY PRAYER LIFE as much as one might think. I begin each day with prayer. As St. Jane de Chantal suggests:

“Upon awakening in the morning, turn your thoughts to God present everywhere. Place your heart and your entire being in God’s hands.” St. Jane

The very first morning of my trip to represent our Federation at the official closing gathering for the Year of Consecrated Life I awoke and opened the window shade on the airplane and was greeted with bright sun. A great way to begin morning prayer! However, I didn’t understand what I was seeing outside — it wasn’t the usual white fluffy clouds one expects….I was looking down at something white, not through a cloud. A passing flight attendant said “Oh, there are the Alps!” I was absolutely shocked….I never expected in my life time to see the Alps from above. What a great start to my prayer. God certainly is present everywhere and I reflected on how God sees all of us at all times from his/her own unique vantage point. “God above us; God around us; God under our feet…” to quote a familiar hymn.

I began each day of my time in Rome reflecting on where I was; what I expected to be doing or seeing that day; what was happening at home; who did I want to remember in prayer that particular day. I must admit that first morning in the plane set a pretty high bar for my morning reflections. Each day God was present in the world of nature. One morning it was a peacock I met on a walk outside and another God showed up as a ripe orange in the garden. (Not a sight I’ve ever seen in Minnesota!)

Sunrise on my last day in Rome

A hint of that glory: Final sunrise in Rome

There are three reasons I like the above quote from Jane: First, it is a wonderful reminder that each morning I am not alone on the journey of life. God begins the day with me and continues. Secondly, there are many parts of me, especially the heart, and St. Jane reminds me to place ALL of me in that sacred presence. There was a time when I found it hard to ask God’s help with things of life but now I count on it each day and have learned how to humbly ask for it. The third reason I like the quote is that it reminds me that I am precious to God. God holds me in the palm of His hand and enables me to see a shadow of the Kingdom in my own life. The spectacular sunrise of my final day in Rome is just a hint of that glory!

 

S. Karen Reflects: An Irish Nun in this Month of March

S Karen Mohan, VHM

S Karen Mohan, VHM

by Sr. Karen Mohan, VHM

March, once primarily known to this Irish “lass” as the “month of St. Patrick,” now includes an awareness of “Women’s History Month“, “National Catholic Sisters’ Week” (March 8-14), and even “Nutrition Month.” These themes: being Irish, being a woman, and a religious Sister who values the “balance” of healthy eating and living, come together in a unique way for me as I reflect on being a Visitation Sister for 50 years.

On my bookcase, I keep a hand-crafted card with a quote attributed to St. Patrick, which reads,

“I am certain in my heart that all that I am I have received from God.“ I love that message. It reminds me that each of us is born with a heritage, a history, and choices to make which will contribute –or not – to the building up of our global community in the reign of God.

imageWomen in my family and beyond my family helped me to understand how God’s love and the Gospel can be lived in a variety of ways. One of those “beyond”, my teacher, and eventually community member and friend, Sister Marie Therese Ruthmann from the Visitation Monastery of St. Louis, is one of those influential women in my life. I’m writing this on March 4, the 64th anniversary of her religious vows. Sr. M.Therese was the first person I told that I was considering religious life. At that time I was not really considering the Sisters of the Visitation. They were always there for me, and I was seeking a vocational call that was further from my immediate view.  What was “certain in my heart” was that the invitation to dedicate my life entirely to God was there, and that before I went on to college I needed and wanted to give that invitation some attention.

S. Marie Therese

Joyful Sisters: S. Karen next to S. Marie Therese

Sr. M. Therese listened. She prayed with me. She let me be, never saying, “What about the Visitation?” She was wise enough even then at her young age in the community, that if the Holy Spirit was at work, that was good enough!   Gradually I became aware that the Visitation Sisters, real people who could identify with the needs and concerns of others, had the components of the balanced life I could see myself espousing: they had a genuine prayer life; they had a strong community; they had a meaningful ministry; they were happy women. In those days there was little talk about “Salesian spirituality” as such, but those around the Sisters imbibed it just by being with them.

During this “Irish” month of women, Sisters, and nutrition, in our Church’s “Jubilee Year of Mercy”, take time to consider the spirituality that nourishes you, the women and Sisters who support your faith journey, and what adjustments you might be called to make so that prayer, community and service may lead you to a joyful “ balance” as the Holy Spirit leads.

Once I came to the realization that the Visitation Sisters’ way of life was one that I might be called to try, I started down that path, enriched by many women who became my “Sisters” and mentors and co-workers, and friends. And in the spirit of this “Women’s month”, the rest is history!

 

On Pilgrimage: Reflections on Seeing Pope Francis

Pope Hopeby S. Karen Mohan, VHM

Until going to Philadelphia in late September,*  I had only seen one other Pope, and that was Pope (now Saint) John XXIII. I was 14 years old, with my Mom, my Aunt Ann and my Aunt Paddy on a special trip to Rome! We were all so excited! This took place before Pope John had “opened the window” of the Catholic Church to the modern world by convening the Second Vatican Council. The Holy Spirit was at work then and now, and we were travelling east to be a part of the energy and love surrounding Pope Francis’ presence.

 “[I]n the people, the care, the palpable faith “in the air”, I saw the power of the Spirit through this man of God and through the thousands of people standing in line with me.” — S. Karen

Driving straight through from Minneapolis to Philadelphia is a feat in itself– a 20 hour one! Travelling with three wonderful women and having the support of community, family, friends and fellow pilgrims – -all this added to our joy!   Our brother Oblates of St. Francis de Sales were offering us hospitality and we had our walking shoes and “regulation size” back packs ready.

“Life means getting our feet dirty from the dust-filled roads of life and history. All of us need to be cleansed, to be washed. All of us are being sought out by the Teacher who wants to help us resume our journey …   May this knowledge inspire us to live in solidarity, to support one another, and see the best for others.“  — Pope Francis

When I returned, people kept asking me, “Did you see Pope Francis?”   Well, I did see the Pope-mobile go by, and he must have been waving at me! However, in the people, the care, the palpable faith “in the air”, I saw the power of the Spirit through this man of God and through the thousands of people standing in line with me.

SKaren Mohan 1966 crop

S. Karen Mohan, circa, 1971


This unique moment in the life of the Church and of the world is converging with my own personal history.
When I made my first vows as a Visitation Sister at the St. Louis Monastery on June 6, 1966, the Church’s windows were being opened, the II Vatican Council was in session, and a young Jesuit in Argentina was living his commitment, preparing (though he did not know it) for this moment in history.

As Pope Francis said in Philadelphia to the Inmates of the Curran-Fromhold Prison, “Life means getting our feet dirty from the dust-filled roads of life and history. All of us need to be cleansed, to be washed. All of us are being sought out by the Teacher who wants to help us resume our journey …   May this knowledge inspire us to live in solidarity, to support one another, and see the best for others.“

May we do just that as we live our commitments, one day at a time.

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*Click to see photos from S. Karen’s trip to Philadelphia to see Pope Francis

On Pilgrimage: Sr. Karen Mohan Reflects

Journey _ Photo_by_Melissa_Borgmann-Kiemde

“We shall not cease from exploration…”

by Sr. Karen Mohan, VHM

In my early years of teaching middle grade girls at Visitation Academy in St. Louis, I once decorated the September classroom bulletin board with the Chinese proverb, “A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins With a Single Step”. I’ve always been drawn to the theme of “journey” or “pilgrimage” as a metaphor for life, so much so that when I made my final vows as a Visitation Sister in 1971, the front of my invitation read, “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started, and know the place for the first time…” (T.S. Eliot)

With the “spiritual“ compass given us through our Baptism, we are active participants, and it is through our choices that our life pilgrimage reaches its goal.” 

What is it about a pilgrimage that is so evocative? Maybe it’s because our whole life is like a pilgrimage. The people, events and experiences on this journey are not “dumped” on us as if we were passive recipients of some destiny outside ourselves. With the “spiritual“ compass given us through our Baptism, we are active participants, and it is through our choices that our life pilgrimage reaches its goal.

When I hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, I was aware that it was essential to be very observant and deliberate about each “next” step. Other times, like when I was recovering from a broken ankle and had to keep my foot elevated for a few weeks, those steps became more like a metaphor for an inner walk that requires a different type of attentiveness.

Currently I’m doing some remote preparation for a golden marker moment on my life pilgrimage. Next June 6, 2016, I will celebrate my 50th anniversary of religious profession.   As part of this preparation, I will occasionally share some reflections on this blog about the  people, events and experiences of my life as a Visitation Sister. Please feel free to respond to my musings!

Karen Mohan, VHM

Sr. Karen Mohan

In the spirit of “pilgrimage”, I will end with one of my favorite poems from Wendell Berry:

We travellers, walking to the sun, can’t see

Ahead, but looking back the very light

That blinded us shows us the way we came,

Along which blessings now appear, risen

As if from sightlessness to sight, and we,

By blessing brightly lit, keep going toward

That blessed light that yet to us is dark.