Someone’s Calling…..Someone’s Following…

DoYouHaveTheRightSoul30x40

“Somehow, this Sister reminds me of ME.” –Sr. Suzanne (Art with permission of Anne Goetze)

by Sr. Suzanne Homeyer, VHM

As I got my first look at Anne Goetze’s signature piece for the exhibit, Pray to Love: The Annecy France Nun Series, I was immediately caught up into the quiet calm of an old town French street scape. What was it down the road that was calling? Who was the woman on the right? The habited nun carrying a red satchel walks determinedly away from the viewer. Where has she come from? Where is she being called? Thinking she might be an ‘out sister’, one who is charged with doing errands on behalf of a strictly-cloistered religious community, I assume she is on her way to shop or gather pharmacy goods or something like that. But what is already in the red bag? Where is she headed next? I think about this for a minute …

Somehow this Sister reminds me of me.  She is traveling the road alone, by herself. She walks with determination; head held high; eyes forward; solidly moving along. “Walk simply and you will walk confidently” as our foundress Jane de Chantal says. She does not seem alone.

When I entered the Visitation Monastery of Minneapolis over 20 years ago I was traveling alone. I was the first new member in our community and did not have a class of others to companion me in what was down my road.

As I follow her down the road toward ‘new town’ Annecy at the picture’s horizon,  I feel the movement of time from the Annecy of Francis deSales and Jane deChantal to the present moment. The woman with the red bag and I travel this road together….we are companions….I will never pass ahead of her….we will walk together,  if only for a time…and I will forever follow her – we are each only one in the long line of women to become Visitandines and walk the streets of Annecy.

Stepping back out of the picture, I return to this present moment where our lives are ever united as Visitation Sisters in the world.

***

About this Reflection/ Instillation

Meeting up with old friends: Sr. Suzanne with Anne and Nathan

Meeting up with old friends: Sr. Suzanne with Anne and Nathan

I first saw Anne Goetze’s work in the video entitled Pray to Love in early 2015. It spoke to me about the life of Visitation Sisters, my life, the life of our community here in North Minneapolis. It speaks of the life of Visitandines through our 400 plus year history. This story needs to be shared. I wanted to share this art with people who I see; people who support our community in so many ways. I hope my family and friends can see the exhibit because it shows who we are in a way that is different from the way they may be used to seeing us or knowing us. Seeing with new eyes and a new heart, not only what is on the canvas but what is beyond it.

Knowing of the Basilica of St. Mary’s commitment to the liturgical arts I made my first contact with Kathy Dhaemers, who is the person responsible for shows at the John XXIII Gallery on the basilica’s lower level. As time passed I came to know Anne Goetze personally, meeting her in Rome and becoming traveling companions for a brief while. When Anne brought the art to Minneapolis I was welcoming her and her son as as old friends — as well as encountering the woman in the picture with the red satchel for the very first time. I could hardly wait for the uncrating to begin…the secure wrappings seemed to take forever to be undone. I wanted to see this painting first of all and as soon as possible… This was an experience not unlike opening the door for someone you know is on the other side, but have never seen in person.

I invite you to view Pray to Love: The Annecy France Nun Series at the Basilica of St. Mary’s lower level John the XXIII Gallery and Teresa of Calcutta Hall, Hennepin at North Sixteenth Street in Minneapolis. Anne will be here on May 22 at 4:30 pm to share the experience with us!

 

Seek First to Love: Companion Anna Reflects

Anna Dourgarian, Vis Companion

Anna Dourgarian, Vis Companion

By Anna Dourgarian, Visitation Companion

Salesian service finds its wholeness and its joy in embracing the present moment. It speaks to my heart because I am very short-sighted and, when facing service goals, I see only obstacles.

Great feats of service rouse great doubts in my heart. World problems are overwhelming: racism, rebellions, resource depletion, lack of healthcare, lack of shelter, lack of food. Which will I choose? Then, even if I choose, the problems proliferate. Feed a community, and it becomes dependent on international aid. Revitalize urban slums and destroy hundreds of homes. Promote national security and threaten personal freedom. Defend a people and start a war. What hope is there for a better world?

There is hope in Salesian spirituality. With Salesian spirituality, we begin not by confronting the world’s evils but by treasuring its preciousness.

I have heard that the worst way to enter a romantic relationship is with the intention of changing the partner. The irony in service is the same: often we set forth to help the world and insist on changing it—a poor start to any relationship. Who are we, mere humans, to judge the world and the great schemes that have influenced its present state? A more loving soul would accept our world in all of its beautiful brokenness. This is what Salesian spirituality teaches us: seek first to love.

We recognize that each moment is a gift from God, perfect as it is. In this peace of mind, we open our hearts to the people around us and support them and are supported by them. This is Salesian service.

The Visitation Sisters of Minneapolis live this spirituality so fully that everyone feels at home in their monastery. I have witnessed strangers feel so safe and secure there that they cry. The Sisters are not a homeless shelter, a food shelf, or a school; they are simply friends. As friends, they inspire love in others through the power of their present-mindedness and appreciation for life.

Anna and service friends volunteering at the phone bank.

Anna and service friends volunteering at the phone bank.

Before I adopted Salesian Spirituality, service never captured my heart. Now, in Salesian service, my heart is all that is involved; everything else follows as needed.

I serve small. I serve with what I know. I serve at Ascension Church because there I have a friend burdened by her passionate work for immigration reform, so I show up with the hope of making her burden lighter. Mass and the meetings are in Spanish, so I barely understand them. My only role is to show up: I do not have the political or cultural expertise to do more. Slowly, as the weeks go by, the parishioners who are most comfortable with English approach to ask what on Earth I am doing there. They are joyful and welcoming, just a little confused. I am frustrated by my plodding advances in Spanish; I wish I could wake up tomorrow perfectly fluent. And I bet they wish the same about English.

I feel like I am doing nothing, but according to Salesian spirituality, I am doing the most important service possible: I am present. I celebrate Baptisms, First Communions, birthdays, and anniversaries with these people ignored by society. I get to meet the people living in the shadows, and I get to bond with them and work at their side. Before I can fight for any rights or instigate any change, I must embrace this step.

The risk is huge. Crises are desolating our world, and here I am stuttering to say, “hello.”

Yet, it is the love from saying, “hello” that saves the world.

Heart to Heart: Reflections on a Women’s Retreat by Sr. Suzanne

by Sr. Suzanne Homeyer, VHM

Gathering Heart to Heart: Women’s Retreat at St. Jane House

!Hola! Me llama Hermana Susanna.

That is how I began the most recent Women’s Overnight Retreat at St. Jane House. Each year for Mothers’ Day we Sisters invite the women of our neighborhood to participate in an all day retreat in honor of their nurturing presence on the north side. As a follow up we host three overnight retreats during the year for groups of 5 – 7 women who had been part of the larger gathering.

The final follow-up overnight was Bi-Lingual. That’s right, I did say Bi-Lingual. Sr. Mary Virginia and I gathered the women together for reflection, sharing and prayer. This is the first time we hosted a bi-lingual retreat. Luckily Sr. Mary Virginia was born in Mexico and speaks fluent Spanish. I studied Spanish for two years when I was in high school— that was in the early 60’s and it is only by the grace of God that I could remember how to greet the retreatants in Spanish!

“We were not only able to converse and share stories, but to laugh and cry together. We admired the beauty of each others’ lives.”

The Holy Spirit is alive and well and was very present to those of us gathered: a mother and daughter from Peru, a mom from Guatemala, a French-speaking neighbor from Nigeria, two long-time African-American neighbors and the two gringas!’ We were not only able to converse and share stories, but to laugh and cry together. We admired the beauty of each others’ lives. We worked creatively alongside one another. As part of our retreat time tougher, we created mandalas as a way of getting deeper into our own hearts — where God’s spring of love meets each of us.

“Loving Ourselves Where We Are On Life’s Journey” was our theme. We are all in mid-life someplace and regardless of our chronological age it is an appropriate time to look at where we have been, where we are now on our life’s journey,  and to appreciate how God has worked with us along the path from then until now. Joyce Rupp’s Book Dear Heart, Come Home includes poetry and journal entries, as well as reflection questions, and it is well worth the read — or at least a serious look-see by anyone needing affirmation of God’s love for them at this point on their journey.

Our closing ritual of the retreat was an affirmation circle. Each woman spoke to every other participant — affirming a quality or strength she had come to learn over the past 24 hours.

My personal ‘take-away’ from the retreat was hearing and understanding (with my limited knowledge of Spanish) that I was appreciated by my Peruvian friend because our hearts spoke to each other during the entire retreat and we didn’t need words to communicate God’s presence and love in our lives! The language of the heart promises to enrich all of our future retreats and I look forward to my next retreat and the experience of cor ad cor loquitur.

****

Engagement Resources:
To learn more about making a retreat at the monastery, click here.
For more about our ministry through St. Jane House, click here.

Commissioning Cody — Visitation Volunteer Intern Commitment and Blessing Ceremony

by Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion

Welcome VIP Cody! Photo by Brian Mogren

Welcome VIP Cody! Photo by Brian Mogren

One of the first things you might notice about Cody Maynus is his quick wit; the second is his penchant for all things gracious and hospitable. As a new member of our Visitation Community, we are so fortunate to have this fine fellow among us for this next year serving as a Visitation Volunteer Intern.

“I commit myself to be a stable presence, to practice hospitality, to honor holy flexibility, to “Live+Jesus!” in the northside.”

A month ago, we welcomed Cody formally to our lay community in a commissioning ceremony at Girard House, followed by a blessing of his new digs at Alafia Place with intentional community member, friend, flatmate, and northside minister: Heidi Schleif. What follows is Cody’s Commitment Statement, along with a link to “Welcome New VIP: Cody Maynus!” a photo album of the evening’s events.

We invite you to follow Cody as he makes his way on the northside — exploring Salesian Spirituality; living a life of prayer and service among the northside Sisters and friends; and weaving together his gifts of service, humor, wit, and words with his giant mystical heart.

Please keep him in your prayers, eh?

Live + Jesus!

S. Mary Frances and Cody

Commitment Statement,
by Cody E Maynus:

“In the strong name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

In the presence of Almighty God, my family and friends and these Sisters of the Visitation, I commit myself

  • to be a stable presence — grounding myself firmly in the north side of Minneapolis, locating myself gently between Word and Sacrament, surrounding myself with community, and rooting myself to the life of this monastery;

Cody in Vis Community

  • to practice hospitality — loving the Christ in every person whom I encounter, even and especially those most difficult to love;
  • to honor holy flexibility — allowing the Spirit of God the room to upset my plans and preconceptions; and
  • to “Live Jesus” in the northside — to cultivate the virtues of Salesian spirituality: patience, simplicity, gentleness, interiority, joy and hope.

I will endeavor to do these things relying on the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Elizabeth, St. Jane, St. Francis, St. Hildegard, and the whole company of saints in light.”

Signed: Cody E Maynus, Sr. Mary Frances Reis
September 12, 2014.

See photos of the Commissioning and House Blessing at: “Welcome New VIP: Cody Maynus!” a Flickr photo album.
Follow Cody at his blog: Come, Oh Thou Travellor Unknown
To read more about Cody, see his About page Bio.


An Open Letter to the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales’ Novices

Oblates and Sr. Karen.  Top, L-R: Joe, Craig, Jordan, Chris, Jim; Seated, L-R: Joe, S. Karen, Fr. Mike

Oblates and Sr. Karen at St. Jane House
Top, L-R: Joe, Craig, Jordan, Chris, Jim; Seated, L-R: Joe, S. Karen, Fr. Mike

Dear Novices of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales,*

We love you.

On behalf of the Visitation Community, I extend gratitude for your visit and spirited presence among us for the week celebrating our 25th Anniversary in north Minneapolis. We are so lucky that Fr. Mike Newman, OSFS, was able to come for a week and tote all of you along! What a director you have for your novitiate! St. Jane House experienced a new level of Salesian presence with all of you in residence.

I try to imagine our founders, St. Jane de Chantal and St. Francis de Sales, moving about in the week of your visit; their smiles, laughter, sighs, and joy with our time together. Can you see this?

You are welcome back anytime. In the meantime, you remain in our prayers as you make your way through your novitiate year. We hold Fr. Mike, especially, in his role as Novice Master. Blessings as you pursue the vocation to “Be who we are and be that well!” as St. Francis de Sales counseled.

LIVE+JESUS!

Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

 

*For more on the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, visit their website.
**To see more photos of the Oblates’ visit to the Twin Cities, visit our Flickr Album, “Oblates Among Us”.

 

Lenten Reflections: The Prodigal Son Welcomed

by Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion

The Prodigal Son Among Swine - by Max Beckmann

The Prodigal Son Among Swine – by Max Beckmann

He’s standing in the mud, knee-deep in animal excrement when his conversion takes place.

The story of the prodigal son is a familiar one of forgiveness, redemption, and mercy that Christ offers as a way to illustrate his invitation to the tax collectors, prostitutes and murderers, and say, all are welcome at my table.”*

My way into this often-shared Gospel narrative is through the pig-pen of the prodigal son’s redemption.

I can see the younger son of the wealthy man. He has left his father’s care and squandered his inheritance. His fine clothes are now tattered after his journey to the bar — perhaps the brothel, and his hunger has taken hold. He is envious even of the pig’s meal of corn husks and vegetable skins.

I imagine the smells of that live stock yard, the waft of animal feces mingled with recent rain or warmed by sunshine. And there the son stands, utterly forlorn and contemplating the lunch of the lowly pig. As this creature of God feasts on the dregs poured into the animal’s trough, the wayward son finds himself in this humbled stance, and desiring the least of the pig’s meal. A corn husk, please? 

He knows what he must do. He comes to know the grace of God and his own goodness in taking his hungry self back to his father.  And the tale of love and mercy and a father’s generosity and forgiveness unfolds.  

As I listen to this gospel reading sitting in the Fremont Avenue House of the Visitation Monastery, I find my way into the story through the door of the mud-covered man who is the forsaken and forgiven sinner;

I think of all those welcomed to the table of the Visitation Sisters.

Mary Embracing Oshea Photo by Brian Mogren

Mary Johnson Embracing Oshea Israel
Photo by Brian Mogren

Oshea Isreal comes to mind as the name of one such prodigal son who has dined at the Monastery in north Minneapolis with the Visitation community.  Oshea, who at 16 took a gun to a party and shot and killed the only son of Mary Johnson. Oshea, who at 18, 20, 22, 24, was invited to meet this mother of his murder victim, and be forgiven.

Forgiven.

He picked up a gun and took another man’s life. He served half of his life in prison. And in some way, has  come to understand himself as more than his worst act.  Mary has forgiven him. And perhaps even greater: he has forgiven himself.  He has received this forgiveness.

It’s the pig pen and livestock yard that makes this such a radical story of redemption for me this Lent. Because I imagine not only the amazing grace claimed by the prodigal son, the Oshea Isreals of this world, who are invited to dinner, but of my own messy, in-the-mire self.

How have we stood in the muck of disgrace? Of poor behavior? How have we been leveled by an action that brought on our lowest stance? How have we known the dregs of shame?

And in the same breath, then, how have we known forgiveness? God’s love for us?

When we claim this grace, this mercy  afforded by God, we allow ourselves to be welcomed to the table, to dine fully with Christ and Love’s companions. We are counted.

***

Read Luke’s Gospel Story Here:
This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

From Table to Table

Eucharistby Sr. Karen Mohan, VHM

“Our faith tells us that the Eucharist is the ultimate Thanksgiving meal and the best preparation for being sent.”

For the past 25 years our monastery dining room table has been the setting for good food, stimulating  conversation  and  amazing people  who enrich and inspire us to “walk the talk”  of our mission embodied in the motto of the Visitation Order,  “Live Jesus“.

This Fremont table was a gift from previous owners,  Lacious and Margaret Burgess who raised six children  and fed many  friends and neighbors long before we arrived in north Minneapolis. We learned from their pastor that no one was turned away at the Burgess’  home.

The Sisters  recognize the sacredness of this  table.   We  hope that those who have been fed at our table   will  “taste  the blessing”  received  “where two or three gather “ in Christ’s name.   Such blessings  flow from  the nourishment  received at the “Table of Thanksgiving”  which we  call “The Eucharist”.

As part of our way of life as Visitation Sisters, we participate in the great prayer of the Mass daily.

“Feeding on the Body of Christ strengthens and unites us as we are sent forth to share Christ’s love…”

Mass at MonasteryMany priests have made time in their schedule so that we can celebrate Mass regularly in our monastery. We are very grateful to them and to others who join us for  this  great prayer.  On some days the congregation may be small; on other days  we are “shoulder to shoulder”  as we pray!

The word, “Mass“  means  “to be sent”;  Eucharist  means  “Thanksgiving”. Our faith tells us that the Eucharist is the ultimate Thanksgiving meal and the best  preparation for being sent.  We come as the family of God, to praise and thank God for the blessing of life and to intercede for  the  people and  needs of the whole  world.  We ask for mercy. We listen to and share the Word of God in union with people across the globe “breaking open” the same Scriptures. We witness the Spirit alive and active among us as we share.

In the Eucharistic prayer  the crucified and risen Lord gathers us all into unity.  With confidence, then, we join our hands and pray as he taught us, share his peace with each other and partake of his very life in communion. Feeding on the Body of Christ strengthens and unites us as we are sent forth to share Christ’s love that day.

I am aware that  the Mass holds the intimacy of Christ loving me as I hear his Word and unite my life with his offering to his Father. I am also aware that the Mass holds the expansiveness of Christ’s transforming presence in the community gathered at this “covenant meal”.   As a deeply personal prayer and a communal prayer, the Eucharist prepares us to live the mandate of Matthew 25:

  “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, you do to me.” 

I like how C.S. Lewis once put it, “Next to the Blessed Sacrament, your neighbor is the holiest object present to your senses.”

In this, our 25th anniversary year,  I  can imagine those who once came for Eucharist at our monastery but now celebrate the “full vision” of  Christ’s presence in heaven  joining us as we continue to acclaim at every Mass,   HOLY  HOLY  HOLY…. HEAVEN AND EARTH ARE FULL OF GOD’S GLORY !

 

Zumba with Jane

by Sr. Mary Virginia Schmidt, VHM

Zumba, anyone?

Zumba, anyone?

St. Jane House always amazes me.

Last Wednesday evening, our own Jody Johnson, Visitation Companion Coordinator, full of the gentle wise spirit of St. Jane herself, exploded in a burst of energy and strength (also St. Jane’s charateristics) in an hour of Zumba.

She acted as if we could all keep up with her, just as Jane always expected others to keep up with her, motivating our “bruised bones to dance (psalms)!” The up-beat Latin music and the glorious weather acompanied Jody’s expert and graceful movements.

BRAVO JODY!
BRAVO ZUMBA!

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

For more information on “Zumba with Jane”, see our Events page, or visit the St. Jane House facebook page.  Our next class is Wednesday, August 14th, from 7pm-8pm. Will you join us?

Falling in Love…with God

Holding hands

"I am thankful for...."

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

I love falling in love. I keep thinking and ruminating on this. The falling-in-love-phenomenon that is my life, that is all of our lives, if we are so lucky. That tingly, beside-ourselves school-girl experience that makes you giggle and blush and rejoice in your daily tasks. I know Love. I know God.

These musings bubble up in my prayer as images: the delight in a child’s face, soft skin of chubby cheeks breaking into a smile as I enter the room; the touch of a hand on mine when I gasp during an action scene in the latest 007 film; the connectedness of a faith community circled in prayer reciting the Our Father — all eyes closed, lips moving, palms upright; the sight of a nun driving a mini-van en route to her home town — returning to attend a conference, but shepherding me along the scenic river route to the city where her call originated. In and through all of these, I recognize a benevolent God at work; a Creator firing my own imagination — my heart, mind, spirit.

I’m in love. I know God.

Counting my blessings this day, I keep giving thanks. On facebook, I note the phenomenon that is gratitude list-making  as we count our November days. I am tempted to start a litany of my own: “Ways I know God’s love as we all make our way toward Thanksgiving and the Advent Season.”

Here’s today’s attempt at such a gratitude list:
I am thankful for….Rumi’s poetry. Notes from Claire. Invitations from a Vis Companion. Lunch with Marsha. A joke told by Francois. Crusty homemade bread with butter. Sharp Vermont Cheddar. The wrinkled hand of a sister holding my own in the hospital. A recorded birthday message incorporating a strumming ukulele.

I’m in love. I know God.

***

In the quiet of your day, in your cubicle; as you bow your head before a meal; or before you lay your body down to rest, I invite you to reflect on the ways that you know God’s love. How do you find yourself falling, in deep, abiding, joyful love for your life– for the small ways that you know Love’s invitation to immerse yourself in a moment and say, “Thank you”?

Snapshots from the Sisters: Title This!

Photo by Brian Mogren, Visitation Companion

On Saturday,  November 10, 2012, the Visitation Sisters held their annual “Winter Weather Clothing Giveaway” –sponsored by the Mendota Heights Visitation Campus Ministry. Over 600 gently used coats were collected by girls from Visitation School and handed out at the Girard Avenue Monastery. (Thank you girls!) Here Lenzel, Sister Mary Frances, Vis Companion Christi, and Vis student don some funny hats. Care to provide a caption below?

Care to provide a creative caption?

Care to provide a creative caption?

To see more pictures from this day, check out the “Coat Giveaway Preparation” album at our facebook page.