ADVENT: TIME OF VIGILING AND WAITING

starry-nightby Sr. Suzanne Homeyer, VHM

Our Advent theme at the monastery is Vigiling.

As I began my personal Advent journey this year I realized some of my ways of preparing for this time were marked with the familiar,  such as a place for an Advent wreath in my personal prayer space and gathering a myriad of Scripture guides and seasonal prayer books and photos. Some of these were also different, or new this year. I am using electric candles with my wreath because sometimes in the very early morning hours or late night time I forget to extinguish them before I leave my room and I insist on REAL evergreen boughs because I need the smell to remind me of the season and also of the north woods of the Upper Peninsula where my father was raised. The connection goes deep here because my Dad and his brother and Sister used to cut trees from their property and bring them to Chicago to help the family survive when they were young adults. Since the tradition has continued and my Aunt and her children did the same as I was growing up. As a city cousin, I was overjoyed when they visited us around Thanksgiving to bring their handiwork to my part of the world. Those wreaths funded my cousins’ educations. Memories associated with Advent smells. These are the same and new ones are often added….

It is a time of waiting for the deepest, darkest time of solstice when the light begins to come again. I wait for that time, as many humans have for ages before me.

Many years I have spent the first week of Advent noticing and praising God for the beauty of the early morning and late afternoon skies. What a wonderful contrast of light and dark broken with deep hues of purple, pink, indigo and orange! It is a time of waiting for the deepest, darkest time of solstice when the light begins to come again. I wait for that time, as many humans have for ages before me.

Our Advent theme at the monastery is Vigiling, particularly with our Sister Mary Margaret as she gains strength daily since her September stroke. I wondered on the first day of Advent if Vigiling was just another word for Waiting…

Vigiling is living the present moment with hope and faith.

dromedaries-carawane-sunset_source-nosadeAs I contemplated these two terms I realized that waiting for the Winter Solstice was very different from vigiling with Mary Margaret. Waiting is something that we do with expectation. It is looking/working toward a specific end. Children wait for Christmas. I wait for a doctor’s appointment or the opening of the drive through window at the bank. Vigiling is something more immediate. It is living the present moment with hope and faith. I am with Sister Mary Margaret as she stands at the parallel bars at physical therapy for the first time; I have faith that the speech therapist will help her understand that swallowing takes daily practice. I pray with her and for her and sometimes with her in the present moments of each of our days. Living the present moments, joyful, sad, filled with laughter or tears is the type of Vigil I am doing this year. A vigil of Presence with Hope. Christmas will be a time to celebrate the incarnation. Camels, sheep, shepherds and kings will adorn my Advent wreath. Reindeer and Santa will be packed away with other decorations but the Hope of Vigiling will remain.

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

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“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!

 

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!

 

Join us for our 25th Anniversary Celebration!

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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

 

Are you called to be a Visitation Companion? New formation cohort convenes this fall

Melissa with Visitation Sisters Mary Margaret, Mary Frances, Katherine, Mary Virgina and Karen on her 40th Birthday at St. Jane House.

With the Visitation Sisters, from L-R: S. Mary Margaret, S. Mary Frances, me, S. Katherine, S, Mary Virgina and S. Karen at St. Jane House.

by Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion

I met these women and my life changed. I had no idea it would, but it did — for the better. I want for everyone on this earth to know the love, gentleness, and gifts of the way the Visitation Sisters live Salesian Spirituality in Minneapolis. I want to invite others to join me in this community of lay affiliation to their religious order.

I write on this Feast Day of St. Jane de Chantal, co-foundress of the Sisters of the Visitation of Holy Mary, recalling my journey toward affiliation with this monastic order — and with this invitation for all others to discern a call to our lay community.

Are you called to become a Companion to the Visitation Sisters of Minneapolis? Does a life of Salesian prayer, study and service alongside these Northside nuns beckon to you? 

When Sr. Katherine walked up to me after mass that Sunday morning in the Spring of 2002, donning her silver cross and extending a gentle smile introducing herself for the first time, something quiet inside me was ignited. Did I have a hunger for God? Did I crave a new form of ministry and service outside my current occupation? Was a faith community anchored in social justice principles part of what I was seeking? Indeed!

Vis Companion Bianca

Vis Companion Bianca

Twelve years after the fact, I think now of the dear friend, Vocations partner, and Mystery-of-the-Visitation-“Elizabeth,” that Sister Katherine has become to me;  and I’m grateful to God for that initial introduction, and the nudging of the Holy Spirit to stay connected to all of the “nuns in the ‘hood.”

What calls a person to Companionship alongside a monastic order? What spoke to me — then and even now? What is in your heart’s deepest longing when it comes to living the gospel?

Twelve years ago I sincerely entertained God’s invitation to become a nun. Somewhere in the back of my head,  however, and deep within my heart, I knew I had an incomplete calling as a wife and mother; I had to nurture lives beyond those that I had been called to care for as an inner-city teacher and community arts collaborator. Choosing celibate, vowed,  religious life as a contemplative, monastic Sister, was to turn my back on Love’s calling to be a biological parent and married partner.

My discernment weekend came to a close with the community, I announced my intentions to not become a nun, and only then did the hunger or passion totally kick in. I fell in love with these Sisters, their ministry of prayer and presence, and their founders St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal at the helm of the Order modeling a way of relating, praying and “LIVING+JESUS!”.  The Sisters manner of living Francis’ and Jane’s spirituality (i.e., “Salesian Spirituality”)  was born out in the way they were present to my North High students and their families, and it revealed a new way of being in the world to me.  By praying four times a day, practicing stability in their neighborhood, and living out the little virtues, they were doing something revolutionary to me. I wanted to be part of that. I wanted more. The calm. The peace. The present-moment-paschal-mystery-Visitation-charism.

I still do.

***

Are you called to become a Visitation Companion?

Are you called to become a Visitation Companion?

In the Fall of 2005, three years after I’d first come to the community to discern a religious life vocation, a group of lay women and men under the auspices of the Sisters began a formation process to become a new lay community studying Salesian Spirituality and trying to live the charism of the Sisters — but in our own lives, homes, and places of employment. Today, that group has grown to include new members – living both outside Minneapolis, and within a mile radius of the nuns.

This fall, the community will convene a new formation cohort for those who are interested in studying Salesian Spirituality and finding ways to pray and serve together as Companions. Maybe this group will include you?

For more information on becoming a Visitation Companion, please contact Jody Johnson at jodyreis@yahoo.com.

LIVE+ JESUS!