Madonna of the Streets

By Sr. Mary Frances Reis, VHM

From the archives: Sister Jean and a community of friends at one of our first Christmas Liturgies in the 'Hood. The presider, Father Greg Tolaas, has also gone home to God.

From the Vis archives: Sister Jean and a community of friends at one of our first Christmas Liturgies in the ‘Hood. The presider, Father Greg Tolaas, has also gone home to God.

We first met Sister Jean Thuerauf in August 1989 at her first Cookie Cart Bakery she started in North Minneapolis. “If you are moving to North Minneapolis you need to meet Sister Jean,” advised our friend, Dick Rice. As we walked into the un- air-conditioned bakery that 90+ degree day, Sister Jean exclaimed, “Welcome, you’re here!!! I have been praying for 3 years that God would send a community of Sisters with whom I could pray. You’re here!!!” We had never met Sister Jean, nor she us. Thus began as 27 years relationship; she introduced us to the ‘Hood and we shared our life of prayer and community with her. Confirmation of the Holy Spirit on both sides!

“Welcome! You’re here!!! I have been praying for 3 years that God would send a community of Sisters with whom I could pray. You’re here!” – Sister Jean

Sister Jean, the “Mother Theresa of the Northside,” completed her earthly mission on the Northside on June 10, 2016, but her presence is felt and the miracles she lived by keep happening. Here’s one of them:

We had received word that Sr.Jean was dying the morning of her passing. That very day, at 12:00 noon, three men were in our chapel where we were anointing and blessing them for the work they were about to begin: meeting young teens affiliated with gangs on our streets, usually armed, and offering them friendship, love and jobs. When we shared the news of Sr. Jean’s imminent passing, the tears flowed. You see, these were Sister Jean’s 1st Cookie Cart kids.

(Desmond, Jimmy and Thomas had helped paint the first Cookie Cart — an actual cart built by a friend; baked cookies with Sr. Jean at her home, rolled the cart around the neighborhood, sold the freshly baked cookies @ $1.00 per 7, and earned enough money-$5,000- to help her open her first ‘real’ bakery on Emerson Avenue North.)

Upon hearing that Sister Jean was dying, the men accepted our invitation to take them over to Catholic Eldercare to thank her, before she breathed her last, for caring more about them than anyone they had ever known. We arrived an hour too late, but we did go up to her room and give our condolences to her nieces as they packed away the few belongings she possessed in a few brown paper sacks. Among these was Sister Jean’s ‘Star’ (a meteor that had fallen from the sky) that she had shown these kids many times, reminding them that we are all made of star dust.

These men had experienced the unconditional love of Sr. Jean, as did hundreds of Northsiders who met her on the streets, welcomed her into their homes, and, yes, baked those delicious cookies.

As one of the ‘Originals’ shared a prayer, one thing was certain. These men had experienced the unconditional love of Sr. Jean, as did hundreds of Northsiders who met her on the streets, welcomed her into their homes, and, yes, baked those delicious cookies.

desmond and thomas

Desmond and Thomas were among the first Cookie Cart kids. They are pictured here at Jimmy’s funeral.

The following week, Jimmy, Desmond, Willie and Thomas came to Sr. Jean’s wake, reminisced with her family and friends, and searched through photo albums to find their pictures and treasure Sacred ‘Sr. Jean’ Stories. “That’s the day she gave us all bikes!” “ That’s the day she gave me a birthday gift”….and on and on. There was energy throughout the Church that evening-an energy born of the LOVE Sr. Jean had for each of these kids and many like them- now 40+ years old. We re-lived it with them and praised the God Who was/is her first Love.

There is both a poignant conclusion to this short tribute to Sr.Jean. The day after her funeral, Jimmy died suddenly and tragically. Many questions surround his passing, but there is no doubt in my mind that Jimmy was welcomed into the Kingdom with unconditional love by Sister Jean. She cherished her Cookie Cart kids. May she and Jimmy know the full embrace of our Loving and Compassionate God.

Good Friday Reflection by S. Mary Frances Reis

by S. Mary Frances Reis, VHM

Isaiah 52:13-15; 53: 1-12

Suffering Servant, Donald Jackson, Copyright 2005, The Saint John’s Bible, Saint John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota USA. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Suffering Servant, Donald Jackson, Copyright 2005, The Saint John’s Bible, Saint John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota USA. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

A Blessed Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion.

This is the day to gaze on Love—a day, in the words of the Palmist, to “Be still and know that I am God” (Ps.46:11). What other stance can we take before this ancient text attributed to an anonymous poet who prophesied the fate of the Servant of God? Despised, discounted, and erased, the Suffering Servant descends into a terrifying darkness depicted in this illumination by ominous storm clouds. Yet, one cannot be with this text without hope. From the very first verse we hear, “See my Servant shall prosper; he shall be raised high and greatly exalted” (Is. 52:13). We are encouraged to hold the entire Paschal Mystery of suffering and triumph here—yes, even as we behold the Crucified One. This great messianic oracle is fulfilled in the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus. Be still, and gaze on the Love that from all eternity is poured out for us. Hold the Mystery.

Where is the Suffering Servant to be found today? In Flint, Michigan? In African American teens fearing to be shot by the police? In refugees in search of home? 

Living in a world where countless people feel despised, discounted, and erased, we pray for the grace to hold hope for them. From ancient times, God’s revealed word calls us to hold the entirety of this Mystery as one. With words of mercy, Pope Francis calls us to behold the Suffering Servant in our brothers and sisters who are in anguish: “Jesus invites us to behold these wounds. Through these wounds, as in a light- filled opening, we can see the entire Mystery of Christ and of God, filled with compassion for the weak and the suffering” (2015 Divine Sunday Homily).

Gaze on the emaciated figure with his back to the viewer and holding his head. He appears to be confined to a cell of some sort, surrounded by a fiery, terrifying darkness. Yet he is standing and at gazing at the illuminated cross. The Mystery of suffering and glorification is here.

Where is the Suffering Servant to be found today? In Flint, Michigan? In African American teens fearing to be shot by the police? In refugees in search of home? In immigrants living in fear of deportation? In the homeless and the hungry? Am I being called to enter the terrible darkness with them and carry the Illuminated cross to the suffering? Can I hold the entire Mystery for and with them?

Gaze into the wounds of the immigrant, the homeless, men, women and children poisoned by the water they drink,

Gaze, and you will learn the Mystery of dying and rising.

Gaze, “Be still and know that I am God.”

Mary Frances Reis, VHM is a member of the Visitation Monastery of Minneapolis. She and her community are engaged in contemplative prayer and non-violent presence in North Minneapolis. She is an alumna of Saint John’s School of Theology and Seminary.

This piece is re-printed here with permission. It runs concurrently at the Seeing the Word blog, published by St. John’s School of Theology.

Love Bridges: Valentines Party at the Monastery

 

Bean Bag Tods

Bean Bag Tods

Dear Friends of Visitation,

Our family Valentine Party,* hosted and organized by our dear friend Vicki Bailey, was a huge success again this year. What was especially gratifying was seeing our families having such a great time together! Secondly, we had a diverse array of volunteers: teens from the neighborhood, Visitation students, lay residential community members, students from St. Thomas University, etc. The latter group are members of the University choir, and their spring concert theme is “Solidarity with All Peoples.” Our party gave them an opportunity to meet parents and children from north Minneapolis. This group will be back in the spring to help our campers do neighborhood pick up to earn a week at camp. Go, St. Thomas!!!

We are so grateful to have gatherings that build bridges across our Metro area and bring folk together. Happy Valentines Day, One and All!

Sr. Mary Frances, Community and “Crew”

 

*For more photos, click: Facebook Album

Peace on Plymouth: An Advent Response

The Catholic Spirit

In this season of Advent, of awe and wonder, we tune into this sacred and holy birth, marveling at God becoming one of us. It’s from this place of the Incarnation, buoyed by our faith, that we pray and act in solidarity,

Click to read the article in The Catholic Spirit

Click to read the article in The Catholic Spirit

in our unity and oneness.

This article in The Catholic Spirit highlights this faith that we are living in the face of the recent upheaval in north Minneapolis. Perhaps it will speak to you, in your own wonder, prayer, and unique call to act?

Click to read The Catholic Spirit article, Peace on Plymouth, by Jessica Trygstad.

Please note the companion piece to this article, featuring Visitation friend and Companion, Bob Briscoe, also published by the Catholic Spirit:  In sharing experiences, Ascension parishioner hopes to initiate change

 

In Preparation for the Greatest Birthday Ever Celebrated…

Facebook Alert! Twitter Alert! Flickr Alert!

Brenda and S Mary Frances bake cinnamon buns and julekaga bread

Brenda and S Mary Frances bake cinnamon buns and julekaga bread

A blessed Gaudete Sunday! In Sunday’s Gospel, John the Baptist gives a few pointers for our immediate preparation for the greatest Birthday ever celebrated:

  • Open your closet and share;
  • Open your pantry and share;
  • Open your heart to the Great Mystery of the Incarnation and share.

Here at Visitation, our upcoming week is chock full of opportunities that will help us all prepare body, mind and spirit —

  • We kicked off the week with a baking Julekaga spree; (see the results!)
  • We anticipate the delivery of many items to fill Christmas bags for our families; (see FB photo album; Watch VIDEO).
  • We look forward to a lovely prayer service with our children and a visit from Santa and his Visitation helpers; (see FB photo album; Watch Video.)
  • We will welcome children to select and wrap Christmas gifts for Mom Dad, Granma and Grandpa. (See FB photo album)

The wonderful gift of living here is that neighbors near, & family and friends from afar come together to volunteer to bring the true spirit of Christmas to one another and to those we serve.

The Giving Tree at Shriner's Hospital

The Giving Tree at Shriner’s Hospital

So….Keep posted on our social media channels!* We hope to give you a pictorial experience of our week.

LIVE + JESUS!

We are grateful to our many contributors:

  • Visitation School, John Dols,
  • Jeannie Geisler and the kids at Holy Family High School in Victoria, St. Thomas Becket Catholic Church,
  • Sponsor a Family Minnesota,
  • Shriner’s Hospital for Children,
  • Tempworks,
  • Mel Hatman and TLC Toys,
  • Highland Catholic School,
  • and many individuals who donated gifts and gift and grocery cards

The list goes on and on!

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Social Media channels:

*Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/VisitationMonasteryMpls/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MinneMonastery

Flickr photo albums: https://www.flickr.com/photos/46292937@N02/albums

YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/VisitationMonastery/

The Law of Hope: Our friend Dorice Law interviewed*

caption

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.

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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! 

Take Me Out to the Ball Game: The Power of Story!

Sr. Mary Frances, holding the first pitch ball,  enjoyed the evening with her sister Susan....

Sr. Mary Frances, holding the first pitch ball, next to her sister Susan

by S. Mary Frances Reis, VHM

On Friday, August 7, 2015 I threw the first pitch at the St. Paul Saints’ game. On that gloriously clear and sunny ‘Minnesota-at-its-best’ evening at the ball park, little did I realize God would re-visit me with my own very personal Sacred Story.

The Cookie Cart folks had asked me to represent them, as they were being recognized that evening as a nonprofit doing significant work with the youth of North Minneapolis, with plans to expand to St. Paul’s East side.

From the moment (7:05 pm to be exact) that the catcher actually caught my pitch, my Sacred Story unfolded before my eyes and in my heart:

The day I was born in St. Paul, my dad was playing a double header with the Boston Braves in Pittsburgh.   At the 7th inning stretch the announcement came over the loud speaker: “Bobby Reis has a baby girl!” It was Father’s Day so it was an even bigger deal! I always like to remind folks that I got a standing ovation at my birth!!!

Eventually, ‘Daddy’ left the “Big Leagues” to play with the St. Paul Saints. Back in those days, baseball was more about the sport than the money. (My dad sold Hoover vacuum cleaners on the off season.) I remember going to the games and being so proud of him and enjoying the fun atmosphere with the sport and the crowd.

A packed stadium

A packed stadium

Memories of my dad’s career* rushed in on me as I sat in the stands behind home plate with my sister, Susan.

If you’ve been to a Saints’ game in recent years, there’s lots of entertainment, from the pig bringing the baseballs out to the pitcher and a lady dancing on top of the dugout, to the fireworks display at the end. In spite of, or shall I say — in the midst of all of it, I had a sacred, precious moment on the Sacred Ground of the St. Paul Saints new stadium.

As I reflected back on the evening a maxim of St. Jane de Chantal came to me: “Keep a light heart, and above all put sadness behind you.”

Give yourselves a gift, Everyone: Touch into your own Story and that of others. We are on the planet together for a Sacred Reason, helping one another keep a light heart in the midst of life’s challenges and gifts.

Take me out to the Ball Game! May Jesus Live in all the Sacred Stories of our lives!

 

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My dad, Bobby Reis, Boston Bees, 1938

Excerpts from 1973 St. Paul Dispatch Sports Page article by Don Riley upon my father’s death:

*”No finer gentleman ever played baseball than Bobby Reis….And few recall his dazzling versatility. It was not even recognized in his obit. He was the first major leaguer to play every position on the diamond in the course of a season. He did it with the Boston Bees in 1934….Bob had a sense of humor that could laugh at himself. I remember the gang presented him with a big book entitled “All I know About Baseball” by Bobby Reis. It was filled with empty pages and Bob laughed until the tears came. In reality, he was one of the most intelligent baseball people I ever met…More than a sportsman, he was a wonderful husband and father. And that’s what it is really all about.”

 

Catholic Youth Camp 2015

Saying goodbye for camp.

Saying goodbye for camp.

Our Catholic Youth Campers had a fantastic week from June 21-26! On the last day, families went to McGregor, where Catholic Youth Camp- Minnesota​ is located to see the camp, and to enjoy a special end of camp program. We Sisters continue to be unconditionally committed to this campership program, which give our city kids a fun, fun camp experience!

 

Thank you, CYC sponsors one and all!!!

-S. Mary Frances Reis, VHM

 

*Click to see photos from the send off at our Flickr Photo Album.
**To learn more about Catholic Youth Camp, visit their website: http://www.cycamp.org 

Join us for our 25th Anniversary Celebration!

25th postcard print no crops.2

To honor the 25th anniversary of our founding, and to celebrate and thank the many people who have made our presence here possible, the Visitation Sisters of Minneapolis invite you to join us and our Master of Ceremonies, Father Michael O’Connell, for an evening of hospitality, prayer & sharing dreams.

Saturday, October 4, 2014 5:30-7:30 pm

Program begins at 5:30
Capri Theatre
2017 West Broadway Avenue Minneapolis, MN 55411

Please RSVP by Monday, September 29
612-529-8215 or maryfranreis@aol.com

www.visitationmonasteryminneapolis.org

 

“Team” Fremont/ Girard: Family Winter Olympics 2014

S. Mary Frances and Olympian Mom

S. Mary Frances and Olympian Mom*

by S. Mary Frances Reis, VHM

While “Windsock Time”* as we have known it has become a part of our Sacred History of “Vis in the ‘Hood,” our relationships with families continue to grow and grow, from one generation to the next!

The most recent family bonding time took place on Saturday, January 25, 2014, when we had 15 families come to our Girard house for an afternoon we dubbed “Family Winter Olympics.”   As guests arrived, each family made a banner with name and decorations and mounted it on a pole.   And then it was off to the Games!

“[O]ur relationships with families continue to grow and grow, from one generation to the next!” – S. Mary Frances Reis, VHM

Neighborhood teens ran eight different activities such as ‘Kick the marshmellow’,  ‘Light as a feather’,  ‘One yard Dash’ and ‘Eye on the Ball’….Each participant got a different household prize at every game, such as paper towels,  trash bags,  Kleenex,  laundry  detergent, bathroom cleaner and fun things like boxes of Valentines, cupcakes and cookies with the decorations  to decorate as a family project at home, canned goods, and breakfast cereal.  These were placed in a family box on the front porch.  What a stash of stuff!!!  Everyone needed a ride home on this day!

Vicki Bailey Winter Olympics

“Queen of all Party Givers,” Vicki Bailey surrounded by friends, neighbors and Sr. Suzanne.

The official Olympic music boomed out as each family joined a parade through the house complete with banners and tiny battery run torches.  (It was reminded of how the first chaotic Palm Sunday parade must have been.)  There were even some tears and goose bumps as our families marched together!

Not to be outdone, our Queen of all Party Givers, Vicki Bailey, ‘awarded’ each family member with an embossed Olympic medal on a red, white and blue ribbon.

It read:  2014 Fremont House winter Olympics Champion.  One of the youth exclaimed upon receiving his, “I’m going to keep this forever and put it in my scrap book!!!”  Later that week he and his family moved to St. Louis.  We believe that this young man will not soon forget this special family time in North Minneapolis.

Not only did we have a great time, it’s our guess that these young families will be watching the BIG Olympics this year.  We trust that this was an opportunity for all of us to grow closer.

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READ ON:
–To View More Pictures from the Family Olympics Event, click here.

–Click here for more from our Archives on the Windsock Time.