ROAD TRIP TO ST. LOUIS: Sr. Suzanne Reflects on Summer Service

by Sr. Suzanne Homeyer, VHM

Painting: A Corporal Work of Mercy. Doing Little Things with Great Love.

What would summer be like without a road trip? I know what part of my summer was like with a road trip. This year I took a road trip with a Visitation Companion and 11 high school girls, another Visitation Sister and a high school counselor! It was fun, Fun, FUN!!!

VISTORY is an annual service trip for students from Visitation High Schools around the country. For about a week each year 30 – 50 students from St. Louis, Washington, DC and the Twin Cities travel to a host city for a time of getting to know each other, learning more about Salesian spirituality and serving the elderly, homeless, those on the margins and those in the streets.

I have been part of VISTORY since 2004 and I have always enjoyed traveling and working with a variety of adult chaperones. Sometimes I invite the mom of a participant to help; sometimes another sister and sometimes a former participant. This year I advertised to members of our Visitation Companion group and Nancy Timmerman stepped forward.

I was immediately excited because Nancy had organized many service trips before when she and her husband served as the deacon couple at a church in Forest Lake. They participated in a service trip to Guatemala with a group from St. Philip Church. There will always be glitches on such a trip but Nancy was a seasoned chaperone and able to go with the flow.

We were not exactly Thelma and Louise riding in a top-down convertible…two adults curled up with several sweaters in an air-conditioned coach bus complete with bathroom on board! Getting there was half the fun. It gave the opportunity to connect with the Vis contingent from Mendota Heights.

Corporal Works of Mercy as Service Theme

Sharing a meal during the Special Olympics Gametime

Every Eucharist is a rehearsal for the heavenly banquet. Students and volunteers share a meal.

The Corporal Works of Mercy was the overall theme focused on by the student/faculty planners from St. Louis Viz. Of course, feeding the hungry at soup kitchens or sorting clothing to be distributed to new admissions at a home for troubled youth or cleaning and organizing school classrooms at an inner city parish school with no maintenance budget are in line with what someone would list as the corporal works of mercy. Taking care of infants and children of working parents at a combination pre-school/day care is a modern version of caring for orphans and widows perhaps. Planting a memorial garden was certainly a way for caring for the dead and painting a mural as a way to beautify the surroundings for homeless city dwellers.

One service opportunity was definitely based on an understanding of the theology of the works of mercy…if not actually Jesus’ words. Several hours were spent by all of the students and chaperones together with a group of 18 to 30 year old Special Olympians and their parents. After a few anxious moments by all, the margins disappeared…in fact, at one point there were more outfielders than spectators. A surprise storm forced everyone inside for the game but spirits weren’t dampened. Everyone was close together and the Visitor’s team definitely had the advantage —- some of them had been playing together with the same volunteer coaches for 15 years and their team had won some Special Olympic awards in baseball!

The pictures below show the entire the VISTORY team with the St. Louis Special Olympians in the gym, an after dinner water balloon game on the soggy grass, and the pot luck meal with our new friends and their families and coaches, cooks and a myriad of other folks. Looking around the dining room I was reminded of a friend who says that every Eucharist is like a rehearsal for the heavenly banquet…and this really was a heavenly banquet here on earth!

Vistory 2017

For more pictures of VISTORY and other summer activities, visit us at our, Instagram and Flickr pages.

Holy Week Happenings: Snapshots of Prayer and Service

In Service Together: Easter Basket Making!

Holy Week Blessings!

As part of the Sisters’ ministry of contemplative prayer and non-violent presence, we have a commitment to provide opportunities for pray and service alongside one another. We seek to bridge our neighborhood and suburban family and friends by participating in shared faith experiences.

In the past weeks, leading up to Easter, the Sisters have been blessed by a few such opportunities, bringing together new families and old friends, dear members of God’s family from near and far.

On Sunday, April 2, this bridging faith experience took place at Girard House Monastery, when northside families gathered with members from St. Thomas Beckett church in Eagan, for an annual Easter Basket exchange and prayer service. We invite you to tune into that experience of hearing the Word and breaking Bread together here.

This past Saturday, April 8, another rich opportunity to bridge cultures and community occurred when Sr. Mary Margaret oversaw an Easter Basket and Treat-making service project. The Sisters were joined by new friends Mabinty and Makia, the daughters of Salesian friend and Catholic Elder Care nurse Joseph, along with

Cesar and Sylvia, children of longtime friends Derek and Adi Wood. Gathered round our table in north Minneapolis, in preparation of Holy Week, were children from Liberia;  Peruvian-American babes; and our motley crew of Irish-German-European-Mexican-descendant Sisters. All members of God’s beloved family. All joined together in blessed activity. All leaning into the ways we can give back to God, in the spirit of His son. All “Living Jesus” as we are called.

Can you see the joy on our faces? Can you glean our spirits in service and singing alongside one another?

Blessings on one and all these Holy Days marking our sacred mysteries!

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Visit our Instagram page for more photos!

Tune into our YouTube Channel to see the prayer service in full!

Find all the pictures from our Easter Basket exchange with St. Thomas Beckett at Flickr.

We are taking Visitation Volunteer Applications!

VIP Promo VistoryAre you a young adult considering life after graduation? Does the idea of service and prayer, in the heart of the city, bring something alive in you? Are you called to explore your spirituality and be part of a social justice movement? Consider joining us, the Visitation Sisters, for a year of service, study and prayer as a Visitation Intern in north Minneapolis. We are taking applications now for September, 2017.

 

To hear more about the program, tune in to VIP Anna Dourgarian reflecting on her year with the Visitation Sisters in north Minneapolis.

Interested in becoming a Visitation Companion? Sign up for the Fall Formation Group today!

Vis Companions PanoramaAre you a northside resident called to deepen your spiritual life? Does growing in faith alongside –and anchored by – the prayers of a religious, monastic community appeal to you?
Does study of Salesian Spirituality feel like the next step in your faith journey? Do you desire a community with whom you will serve, and reflect, on a regular basis?

Consider joining the Visitation Companions.

A new Vis Companions formation group is starting in October. The commitment is:

  • a monthly small group meeting, (usually on Saturday afternoons for nine months)
  • featuring:
    • input
    • prayer and study
    • and time for personal sharing and reflection.

For more information about Joining Visitation Companions, please contact Jody Johnson at jodyreis(at)yahoo.com or 651-219-3167

Visitation Volunteer Juste Reflects on her Summer with the Sisters

On Wednesday, August 31, 2016, the Visitation Sisters said, “goodbye” to Juste Siauciunaite. Juste had applied and come to volunteer with the community through the Visitation Internship Program from her home in Lithuania via London. The following video features her reflections on her time in prayer, study and service with the Visitation Sisters and northside community. We invite you to tune in. Live+Jesus!

 

Encountering Christ in the Hood: Reflections on a Year of Service

Cody (left) with Monastic Immersion Experience participant Brenda Lisenby

Cody (left) with Monastic Immersion Experience participant Brenda Lisenby

By Cody Maynus, Visitation Intern and Volunteer (from our Summer Newsletter)

“This is the place of my delight and rest!” – St. Jane de Chantal

These words of our holy foundress, St. Jane Frances de Chantal, have become my daily prayer of gratitude over the past ten months. The Visitation Internship Program is this monastery’s response to the growing trend of young adults giving a year (or two!) of service after graduating from colleges and universities.

In September, I moved to the neighborhood, fully aware of its reputation for gang violence and drug activity, and began the best year of my life. Building on the service of previous VIPs, I continued to extend the Sisters’ ministry of nonviolent presence and contemplative prayer throughout the neighborhood.

I spent the majority of my service time serving Christ in the K-6th grade scholars at the Patchwork Quilt after school program and Ascension Catholic School. My Tuesdays were spent behind the coffee bar at Venture North Bike + Coffee, serving Christ a cup of hot coffee and the occasional bicycle spoke or two. I served Christ around the board room table, taking the minutes for the Alafia Foundation Board of Trustees. Alongside the Sisters, I served Christ whenever I answered the doorbell.

The Visitation Internship Program is a valuable asset, not only to the northside and monastic community, but also to the young women and men who, listening to the whispers of the Holy Spirit, offer a year of service, learning, and prayer among the most loving, most faithful, most creative people in all of creation.

Join us in wishing Cody well in his return to St. John’s University as a graduate theology student!

 

To learn more about VIP, apply for a volunteer year, or share the opportunity with other young adults, check out our website page:  Visitation Volunteer Internship Program (VIP)

Hey Soul Sister: Visitation School Senior Video Reflects Service Immersion Experience

For the past 20+ years the Sisters have sponsored an INNER CITY IMMERSION EXPERIENCE* in North Minneapolis as one of the options for Visitation School’s Senior Project. It has been a wonderful opportunity for service in this community and to experience another part of town!

The following video, produced by Visitation School Senior Julia Sullivan, features images from the students’ experiences juxtaposed with the songs “Affirmation” — the Visitation School song;  and “Hey Soul Sister” by Plain White T’s. We hope you enjoy it!

*From May 26-June 4, 2015:

–Nine Vis Seniors had a more in depth experience of our neighborhood and the people who are our neighbors;
–They had many opportunities to serve the community, to interact with young children, other teens and senior citizens;
–They had opportunities to spread the Salesian spirit of gentle presence.
–They had an opportunity to build community with one another and with the Sisters.
–It was  lots of FUN and a great contribution to North Minneapolis!
-S. Mary Frances Reis, VHM

 

On Service: Q & A with Vis Companion Heidi Akpaette

The following is the first in a series of interviews with Visitation Companions -- a lay 
community committed to the ministry of the Visitation through prayer, Salesian study and service.

The Call to Companionship

Heidi Akpaette, Vis Companion

Heidi Akpaette, Vis Companion

Q: In a few words, what inspired your call to become a Companion to the Visitation Sisters of Minneapolis? 

Heidi: I love the vision and mission of the Visitation Sisters and wanted
a tangible way to be involved.

Being a Companion offered me a way
to
invest in the community of North Minneapolis, grow in Salesian Spirituality, and be mentored
by the Visitation Sisters’ life.

Q: What is your favorite saying or teaching of St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal?

Heidi: I am inspired by the concept of gentleness-gentleness towards self and gentleness towards others.

On Service

Q: What does the word, “service” mean to you?

Heidi: Service is giving of myself to other people, causes, and missions. It is intentionally moving beyond my own agenda into the agenda of others.

Q: What images of your service come to mind?

Heidi: Learning from the Sister’s wisdom and being in their presence. Advocating for North Minneapolis and the Visitation’s vision of presence to the neighborhood. Bringing ideas and a listening to others on the St Jane House committee. Celebrating Mass with the Sister’s. Planting sunflower seeds. Really seeing people who have their lives on the Northside.

Q: What is the setting for a recent experience of your service?

Heidi: I am at the St Jane house with two other Vis Companions and one of the sisters, we are sitting around a table. We are relaxed in the shared knowledge of the Salesian charisms and our ideas for the St Jane house and it’s mission.

Gifts, Challenges, and Salesian Aspects of Service.

Q: What gifts do you bring to your service?

Heidi: A different generation of experience, a wide variety of connections, networking abilities, and joy in meeting together.

Q: What challenges have you encountered while serving?

Heidi: Not always having the energy to bring more the table and not always having enough space in my personal life from which to give.

Q: What gifts do you receive from serving?

Heidi: Relationships with people that I would otherwise not encounter-hands down that is the best gift.

Q: Where have you found God in your experience of serving?

Heidi: In others-I encounter the living God working and breathing in other people’s lives, sometimes by their actions and sometimes by their words.

Q: What aspects of Salesian spirituality were reflected or manifested in this service experience?

Heidi: Humility in learning from others, seeing the innate dignity in other people, being present with who I am with others doing the same, enjoying a sense of humor with others, and having grace for self in judgment-and challenging myself to grow in my weakness.

Snapshots from the Sisters: Advent Edition

Advent and Incarnation Blessings! We are so blessed at this time of the year with the prayerful presence of so many friends, families, and volunteers, as we go about our Merry-Christmas-Peace-making-Prayer, that remind us of the journey to Christ’s birth and God among us.

Advent at the Monastery. Anna and Laura Presents

Photo #2: Anna and Laura Dourgarian dropping off Christmas presents from the staff at TempWorks Software. (Two friends from countless organizations and community networks that generously donate to our community at this time of year.)

Here are a couple photos highlighting our Advent to date. We invite you to write a creative caption for any of these photos below in our comment section.

 

Advent Christmas Cookies with SS

Photo #1: Sr. Suzanne Making Christmas Cookies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Prayer and Santa Party

Photo#3: Sr. Karen leading prayer in the chapel at the Christmas prayer and Santa Party.

 

Christmas Story Vis Seniors

Photo #4: Vis School Seniors read from the Christmas story as Sr. Katherine and children look on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

***Visit our Facebook page and Flickr albums for more pics from this season.