Think VIP!

From our Winter newsletter...

VIP Alum Cody Maynus and Vis Companion Linda Goynes share treats at our Christmas party.

By S. Karen Mohan, VHM

What do a Monastic Studies grad student, a physical therapist, a Visitation alumna, a European Salesian spirituality “seeker” and a married woman now leading women’s programs in Afghanistan have in common? Did you think “VIP”? If so, you’re right on! Our former VIPs are now in these endeavors, fueled by Salesian spirit and Gospel focus from their service in north Minneapolis.

Encourage someone you know to consider a year of service with the Visitation Sisters.

These VIP alum spent a year in our monastery’s Visitation Internship Program which began in 2011. Community living, development of relationships among the people of north Minneapolis, Salesian spirituality and ministry on the north side are essential components of this volunteer program.

VIPs spend 10 months living in the neighborhood in housing provided by the Sisters. After visiting the many options for ministry in north Minneapolis, they offer 30 hours of service per week at a site that fits their talents and interests; they also spend 10 hours of service with the Sisters. Living simply, studying Salesian spirituality and praying and working with the Sisters in the monastery give both VIPs and Sisters a strong sense of community. Spiritual direction and prayer opportunities are important personal and spiritual supports for VIPs.

..if you are a young adult considering a year of “giving back and growing in your faith” in a vibrant, urban setting with a monastic community, consider this unique opportunity and “Think VIP”!

The Visitation Internship Program is open for women and men between the ages of 21-35 years.

Our website has specific information about the application process and the program itself. The website also has a recent video interview with one of our former VIPs, Anna Dourgarian and is delightful to view!

We are now taking applications for the 2017-2018 year. Encourage someone you know to consider a year of service with the Visitation Sisters. Pray for young adults as they discern how to live out the Gospel, and if you are a young adult considering a year of “giving back and growing in your faith” in a vibrant, urban setting with a monastic community, consider this unique opportunity and “Think VIP”!

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.

“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.

 

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.

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”.

 

Honoring Our Brother Brian Mogren, aka. “Mr. St. Jane House.”

2013 Virginia McKnight Binger Human Services Award recipient Brian Mogren surrounded by family, collaborators and northside friends.

He’s making the news, this time being seen for his role in supporting our northside brothers and sisters. We couldn’t be prouder of our dear friend, lay companion and brother, Brian Mogren, who was honored this week with the Virginia McKnight Binger Human Service Award.

“I accepted the award on behalf of everyone I conspire for good with on the north side. It truly takes a village and I’m surrounded by a whole bunch of extraordinary people doing important and good work.” – Brian Mogren, Visitation Companion, St. Jane House Director

As director of St. Jane House, Brian exudes the charism of our Visitation order in and through his hospitality, service and quiet leadership. We can only imagine our co-founders St. Jane de Chantal and St. Francis de Sales smiling broadly down on our brother Brian this day — as he goes about building relationships and “Living+Jesus” in North Minneapolis — and beyond!

We invite you to get to know our dear friend and Visitation Companion who resides just two blocks away from our monastery in the St. Jane House. Come and pray with him on Tuesday morning at Centering Prayer. Or treat yourself to an afternoon of reflection or overnight stay under the hospitable care of brother Brian — and learn first hand what his heart and mind are up to as he seeks to “be who he is, and be that well”.

Read more about Brian and the Virginia McKnight Binger Human Service Award:

 

Engage with Us: Summer Volunteer Opportunities

Service Immersion: Welcome to the Class of 2013 Visitation School Seniors!

Service Immersion: Welcome to the Class of 2013 Visitation School Seniors!

Come and pray with us! Come and serve!
Come and join us!

As we welcome the Visitation School students – here for their Senior Apostolic Service experience and urban plunge – and with Memorial Day rapidly approaching,  we know summer is right around the corner! The Visitation Sisters of Minneapolis would like to invite you to prayerfully consider ways that you might engage with us these warm weather summer months.

ONGOING OPPORTUNITIES:

  • Join the Sisters for Prayer and/or Masses: The Sisters pray four times a day at the monastery; Centering Prayer is every Tuesday morning at 8am at St. Jane House. Call ahead if possible. Contact: Sr. Mary Frances Reis: maryfranreis@aol.com, 612.521.6113.
  • First Friday Adoration and Mass:    10:30 a.m. the first Friday of each of each month. Call ahead if possible.
  • Cursillo Men Prayer Time: 7:00 a.m. the first Tuesday of each month: Time of prayer and fellowship. Call ahead if possible.
  • Code Red: Join with the mother’s of From Death to Life and others (MAD Dads) to pray for peace and be a silent witness: Second Saturday of each month. Prayer 1⁄2 hour, stand near Broadway 1 hr. Contact: Sr. Mary Margaret.
  • Movies with Jane: Join with others at St. Jane House to watch a selected movie and then discuss. See the St. Jane House Facebook Events page  for more information or contact Brian Mogren at:
  • Books with Jane: Join with others at St. Jane House to discuss a selected book. See St. Jane House Facebook Events page for more information or contact Brian Mogren.
  • Mentor a Neighborhood Individual or Family: Establish an ongoing relationship with a neighborhood individual or family. Examples: Teach how to clean house gutters, make small repairs; Teach how to budget or make meals from scratch; tutoring, etc.    Contact: Sr. Suzanne.
  • Sisters Garden: Help plant and weed the gardens at Fremont House. Contact: Sr. Suzanne.
  • Door Ministry: Greet visitors to the monastery; Hand out tokens or cub cards; Pray with visitors; Training provided. Contact: Sr. Suzanne.
  • Library Assistant: Help with dewy decimal labels; Record new books on spreadsheet; Help shelve returned books/dvds/cds/vhs. Contact: Sr. Mary Virginia.
  • Family River Cook outs: Invite a neighborhood family to join you at a cook out down by the river. Purchase and make food; Plan some games. Contact: Sr. Suzanne.

MAY-JUNE-JULY-AUGUST EVENTS

The sisters have a whole list of events that require volunteers this summer. Please see our calendar as we update it. Here’s a sampling of upcoming activities:

  • Friday, May 24, 1pm: Women’s Retreat Set Up Contact Sr. Suzanne.
  • Saturday, June 8, Neighborhood Mothers March for Peace Contact: Sr. Mary Margaret
  • Sunday, June 9, St. Jane House 5th Anniversary Party Contact: Sr. Karen Mohan
  • June 15-21,  Camp de Sales Contact Sr. Karen Mohan
  • June 16 and 29: Provide rides for Youth in Theology and Ministry to St. John’s University
    Contact: Sr. Katherine Mullin
  • Heart to Heart Ministry: Visitation Co-founders Sts Francis de Sales and Jane de Chantal

    Heart to Heart Ministry: Visitation Co-founders Sts Francis de Sales and Jane de Chantal

    June (date to be determined) Catholic Youth Camp Send-off Contact: Sr. Mary Frances

  • June (date to be determined): Back to Summer Party! Contact: Sr. Mary Frances
  • Water Park Chaperone Contact Sr. Karen Mohan
  • August (2nd week) Neighborhood Night of Peace Contact: Sr. Mary Frances
  • August (date to be determined): Valley Fair Family Fun Day Contact: Sr. Mary Frances
  • August (date to be determined): Back to School Party! Contact: Sr. Mary Frances

“An action of small value performed with much love of God is far more excellent than one of a higher virtue, done with less love of God.” – St. Francis de Sales

On Suffering: Finding Comfort in Community

Visionary, abstract, digital, and fractal art by Jack Haas.

Visionary, abstract, digital, and fractal art by Jack Haas.

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

I hurt my eye. After thirty years of wearing contacts, it got dry. It turned red. It really started to ache — so I went in to the eye doctor and she informed me that the surface looked like the equivalent of a “dry, cracked and bleeding hand.” She immediately instructed me to quit wearing my contact lenses, gave me some drops and an antibiotic gel to put in  twice a day. A week later, things were worse. When I returned to the doctor, she told me how glad she was that I had come back. Turns out, it was much more serious than she initially thought: I had a herniated cornea.

For eighteen days, I was in a lot of pain. I mean a lot. My entire eye socket throbbed. I couldn’t bear to have the lights on, window shades open, or be in the sun. I wore dark glasses – I had five different pairs of varying shades to protect my eye and the non-stop headache that accompanied my blurry vision. I cried a lot and craved daily naps and early bedtime hours. I was prescribed a much more potent antibiotic to apply hourly. And I was told to just wait.

How do we conduct ourselves in any kind of prayerful manner when we are physically suffering? (Are we called to be polite patients of injury? Or our authentic “ouchy” selves?) What does our state of mind/ heart/ spirit reveal about us in our most vulnerable states? Where do we put our trust? How do we wield our anger or rage? What do we make of our most wanting selves?

These are some of the questions that have come to me in my reflections on this past month’s experience. My eye is on the mend, but now I’m inviting my heart to catch up with what I’m learning about such physically uncomfortable journeys.

In the Visitation community this past month we have had four of our six sisters endure physical challenges: starting on Easter Sunday, when Sr. Karen slipped on a slice of remaining sidewalk ice and shattered her ankle. Following the spill, and subsequent surgery requiring new pins put into her body, were two planned surgeries that likewise addressed the repair of body parts. Sr. Mary Virginia got a new knee and Sr. Mary Margaret had heart surgery. In the space of these medical procedure navigations there was another slip on some unseasonal sidewalk snow that left Sr. Suzanne with a sprained ankle. (And this doesn’t even count the two brain surgeries that Sr. Mary Frances had last Fall!)

In the midst of all this physical discomfort, I have found radiant spirits. I have witnessed faithful, joyful women with confidence in their recoveries, who have sought solace in a resurrected Christ who carries all of our wounds and helps us trust in transcendence.

While I have been weeping and wining in my process of healing, the sisters have been praying for me. When I believed myself to be possibly forever disabled, or unable to endure another hour of watery eyes, excruciating headache and bright light, the sisters invited me into a space of comfort and alliance with their knowing and faithful community anchored in the Living Jesus. I wasn’t alone.

This kind of comfort, community, is priceless. I invite you today to reflect with me on where you find such alliance in love.

On Silence: More from VIP Anna D (Or: What do Gandalf, Dumbledore and St. Francis de Sales have in common?)

Anna Dourgarian, 2012 -2013 VIP

Anna Dourgarian, 2012 -2013 VIP

by Guest blogger Anna Dourgarian, Visitation Intern Volunteer

The 2012-2013 Salesian Monday Night series focuses on the 7 Essentials of Monastic Life that the Vis Sisters have outlined for their community. The following post is part two* of VIP Anna Dourgarian’s co-presentation with Sr. Karen on Silence.

My two favorite role models have shown me the fruits of silence. These role models are—drum roll, please—Gandalf from Lord of the Rings and Dumbledore from Harry Potter. They are two serene and wise men who are so in tune with their surroundings that their every word and action is powerfully beneficial. How do they do it? How do they always know what’s going on, and how do they always know how to make it right? They don’t do it by chattering their heads off. They are intensely attentive. They choose their words carefully. They know when their world needs them to talk, but otherwise they settle back and let the world do its thing.

We have another role model who demonstrates the same art: St. Francis de Sales. We know how much he achieved, and he did it with silence. When he was serving as bishop of Annecy, after his long and hectic days, he would retreat to his room and—when you or I would probably fall straight to sleep—sat up for hours and meditated by candlelight. This fulfillment of his need for silence let him accomplish his loving acts with people during the day.

If you’ve ever tried to be quiet, though, it immediately becomes apparent that not talking isn’t the whole story. It’s a big part, but you could not talk and still not be attentive. It’s like there are two voices: one in your mouth, and one in your head. You have to stop talking to listen, but you have to stop thinking to hear.

I don’t know about you, but I have this voice in my head that loves to talk. It is always going on about something: what’s for dinner, what are you doing, what were you thinking, what did you forget, wasn’t that so frustrating? It’s a little voice that just talksandtalksandtalksandtalks. It’s really distracting. Mine is especially problematic during prayer. A whole Bible passage will be read, and I’ll be sitting there—not listening.

Even Jesus told us that learning to control our thoughts is extremely important. He told us on His Sermon on the Mount that yes, it’s important not to kill, but it’s also important not to get angry at our brother. Anger is a thought. If we can’t control our thoughts, then we are very vulnerable to sin.

Since I have started practicing silence, there are times when I’m aware that my brain has ceased to think. There are no thoughts, opinions, or emotions in my head. I am just living in the present moment, enjoying life.

When my mind is silent, it is free to focus on the world around me. It is open to details like how my friends are feeling, what’s going on in their lives, what they need from me. I can be truly attentive. To have a silent mind is to be cleansed, to leave a free ground for God to interpret any new information for me. When I’m not thinking, I’m not quick to judge.

*Click here to read Part One.

On Silence: Thoughts from VIP Anna D. on one of the seven Essentials of Monastic Life

Anna Dourgarian, VIP 2012-2013

Anna Dourgarian, VIP 2012-2013

by Guest blogger Anna Dourgarian, Visitation Intern Volunteer

The 2012-2013 Salesian Monday Night series focuses on the 7 Essentials of Monastic Life that the Vis Sisters have outlined for their community. The following post is part one of VIP Anna Dourgarian’s co-presentation with Sr. Karen on Silence.

I am really new to the concept of silence, but in the short time that I have known about it, I have fallen in love with it. As a Vis Intern volunteering on North Side, one of my main goals has been to serve my community, and silence has helped me do it.

“Silence is not a goal in and of itself; it is a process, a stepping stone—but for what? For me, it’s about being more useful in this world. It forces me to be attentive. I want to serve my community according to its needs, so I need to be attentive to and aware of its needs.”

I was first introduced to silence last February, at a winter campout hosted by REI. There, I met a man named Donnie who was very knowledgeable about the outdoors: he knew about medicinal herbs, tracking, and respecting nature. I wanted to know about the outdoors, so I asked if he could take me for a hike. Hikes for me were about getting outside and ambling about and getting away from electronics—exercising and chatting. But within minutes of hitting the trail, Donnie said, “Anna, you’re walking too fast, and you need to stop talking.” In other words, “Slow down and shut up.” Hikes for Donnie were about being attentive to the wilderness. On that slow, silent hike, we saw two red-winged black birds get into a territorial fight, we heard a robin get surprised by a hawk, and we spied two chickadees building a secret nest.

Over the summer I learned that the most productive hike is one where I sat still, for a whole hour, watching my surroundings. It was PAINFUL. I got restless, I got weird looks from hikers who walked by me, and I could never focus—my brain was always thinking really hard about something else. But the effect was wondrous. I got to know the birds in my area: white-breasted nuthatches in this tree, and these are the songs of a cardinal and a catbird. I noticed that the ground was just crawling with bugs. One time a coyote walked right past me. A few minutes later, a few talkative hikers walked past too and had no idea what they had just missed.

At the end of the summer, I became a VIP and stopped doing my silent sitting hikes. The skills I learned from them were not applicable to my normal life. No one wanted me to slow down; I was supposed to speed up, show enthusiasm, and make a difference in the world! Until Sr. Suzanne asked me one day, “Anna, could you please be quiet?” And I said, “Oh, is someone sleeping?” And she said, “No, you’re LOUD!”

Apparently the skills for spotting a coyote in the woods are still relevant in a monastery.

Silence is not a goal in and of itself; it is a process, a stepping stone—but for what? For me, it’s about being more useful in this world. It forces me to be attentive. I want to serve my community according to its needs, so I need to be attentive to and aware of its needs. In the case of hiking with Donnie, I wanted to serve the environment, so first I had to observe the environment.