Praying a Good-Bye, Praying a Hello

by Sr. Mary Frances Reis, VHM

Theologian and retreat leader Sister Joyce Rupp reminds us that before we can say hello to new beginnings, we need to pray our good-byes.  This wisdom applies to many of our life’s journeys as we move from dying  to rising.

For the past seven years, Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde has served as our amazingly gifted social media specialist,  keeping our website and various platforms current and creatively relevant.  We cannot count the times people have commented on our “five star” presence in the world of social media.

It is with a twinge of sadness that we pray our good-bye to Melissa in her capacity of Visitation’s social media specialist, but it is also with a prayer of hope and anticipation for her new beginnings: as a spiritual director, and as she and Francois embark on a brand new endeavor with their new bakery!

Anna Dourgarian and Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde

We could never have enough words of heartfelt gratitude for Melissa’s wonderful work in spreading our beloved Salesian spirituality!

An amazingly graced moment happened the very week we received her letter of resignation!  Anna Dourgarian (Visitation High School graduate, former Visitation Immersion Program volunteer, and Visitation Companion) appeared on the scene and will take over where Melissa left off.  She brings a variety of technological gifts and a love for our spirituality to her new position as our social media specialist.  It is with grateful hearts that we pray our hello to our dear Anna!

These two women will always be our Visitation Sisters!  Thank you, Holy Spirit!

Advent 2017: From Cave to Cosmos

by Sr. Mary Frances Reis, VHM

 

A Blessed Advent to Everyone!   We have only 22 days from the first Sunday of Advent to Christmas.  Each year we select a particular focus for this sacred season.

In our monastic community, we are directing our thought, prayer, and planning to that time of stillness in the cave/womb that prepares us to reach out to the cosmos and “all nations” at Epiphany. Spiritually, a cave symbolizes spiritual protection, rebirth, and the invitation to something new. The cosmos beckons us to share our reborn selves with the world. For instance, especially at this time, we are called to change ourselves and support the world through Pope Francis’ encyclical letter on the environment.

The Cosmic Advent Wreath

To complement our focus, we have prepared a Cosmic Advent Wreath, an adaptation of the traditional Advent wreath.  Each week emphasizes a different dimension of the cosmos.  Week 1 focuses on the Birth of the Universe. Our centering prayer says:

 

COME Sacred Source of All Life

Today as we light the candle of the Birth of the Universe unfolding in God who fills it, we pray for an awareness of the oneness of the universe, vast and vibrating with the sound of its beginning. Like the First Flaring Forth, this small flame reminds us of our presence in the Christ in whom we live and move and have our being in this ever-expanding universe.

 

 

May this sacred time of preparation for Christmas find us in that place of stillness (cave/womb) that will lead us to Live Jesus in outpoured love: “From the Cave to the Cosmos!”

 

Summer Reflections from the Monastery

S. Mary Frances and Ben; CYC

S. Mary Frances and Ben; CYC camp

Sr. Mary Frances Reis, VHM

Greeting to our Faithful web site and Facebook readers!

As I compose this overview of our summer on the Northside, we are grieving and praying with families all over who have known the tragedy and horror of violence these past weeks. Our prayers go across the river to Falcon Heights and St. Paul, down to Baton Rouge and over to Dallas, and now across the Atlantic to Nice, France; we lift the world over.

Here at the monastery, I characterize our summer days as “gently alive” — filled with “Hello’s” and “How are you’s?” on our front porch, from neighbors, and as we walk to and from the Girard and Fremont Houses of our Monastery.  Children often need a little help with their bikes, these days, hoping for a treat or drink to go with it when they stop by. Neighbors are tending to their yards and we, to our gardens.  Summer is a perfect time to bond with our families here!

And, yes, there is a spike in violent crime across the Twin Cities; our North Minneapolis community is no exception. While a very small percentage of Northsiders are responsible for the headlines you are reading, many neighbors carry the pain and sorrow of recent killings. On the heels of Jamar Clark’s death last Fall, our community has also experienced the murder of a grandmother shot in crossfire while sitting in a van at a stop sign, and a young man shot to death in the parking lot behind the Cookie Cart. Last week, on the heels of Alton Sterling’s and Philando Castile’s deaths at the hands of police, came the shooting of two toddlers seventeen blocks away. Too often in the coverage of these crimes we read: “No suspects in these cases.”

Pope FrancisAs I ponder the suffering of the survivors, I find some consolation in the words of Pope Francis:

 “I don’t know what to say to you, but the Lord does know what to say to you…All I can do is keep silence and walk with you all with my silent heart.” – Pope Francis

We trust that our prayerful presence and unconditional welcome helps to ease the pain while families and friends tell their Sacred Stories and seek justice for their loved ones.

We speak the victim’s names. We lift survivor’s stories. We open our hearts to all who grieve and hope. We pray.

Sr. Karen and her mom

Sr. Karen and her mom

Here are a few musings on our summer days, that extend our prayer and hope for the world:

  • Visitation High School Seniors helped us kick off the summer through their Immersion experience of two weeks. (See photo albums: Welcome Visitation School: Service Project at NAZ )

  • Sister Karen’s Golden Jubilee of Vows brought family and friends from near and far! What an opportunity to ‘showcase’ our beloved community here. (FB Photo Album.)

  • Our dear friend and mentor Sister Jean (of Cookie Cart fame and lots more) went Home to God in early June. People loved by her ‘came out of the woodwork’ to sing her praises and express their gratitude for her outpoured life, spanning over 35 years of tireless ministry. (Read more: “Madonna of the Streets”.)

  • YTM friends and Emily

    YTM friends and Emily

    We rejoiced in the opportunity to sponsor and send off young people to a variety of camps: Catholic Youth Camp in McGreggor, MN; Salesian Leadership Camp in Michigan; and Youth in Theology and Ministry Camp at St.John’s University in Collegeville, MN. The youth, vitality and energy of ‘our kids’ keeps us young! Thanks to the many benefactors that made these camps possible. (See pictures of: CYC Send Off; YTM presenters;; and #SLC2016 on Twitter.)

  • Bryce Johnson, husband of Jody , (Vis Companion team), retired after a rich and fruitful ministry in the Methodist tradition. Congrats, Bryce, and thanks for inviting us to celebrate in such a memorable way with you, your family and friends.

  • We hosted the celebration of a very special Quinceanera. Jennifer Meraz’ family and the Sisters planned a beautiful Mass and Fiesta to give her that extra ‘boost’ into womanhood. We love you, Jennifer! (FB pix.)

  • We had our very own version of Summer Olympics for our families! Vicki Bailey outdid herself once again with fun, games, prizes in the form of household goods and summer toys, complete with an Olympic medal for each participant and a door prize for each family! Kudos, Vicki !!! You are the best! Thanks for helping our kids to be kids! (FB pix.)

  • Juste and neighborhood children

    Juste and neighborhood children

    Juste Siauciunaite, our summer guest from Lithuania, brings joy to our community and to our Somalian children as she teaches them English 3 times each week. She and Sister Karen even took them to their first ever 4th of July Fireworks display! (FB Pix.)

  • Sisters Mary Margaret and Brenda attended the Monastic Institute at St. John’s University focusing on Monastic Profession. Sister Silvie from our Georgetown Visitation joined them.

  • In all of this summertime activity, we continue to make pilgrimage with Heidi Schleif, our resident lay community co-founder, and her friend Monica, as they make the Via de Compestela (FB pix.)

  • Of course summer will not be complete without a family outing to Como park and our annual Back to School party!

  • Within the next few weeks, Sr. Karen will be traveling to Annecy, France for a special conference on the Treatise on the Love of God by St.Francis de Sales. Bon Voyage, Karen!

We’ll cap off our summer with an intensive community day to reflect on the quality of our Visitation way of life in this urban setting. (Read more about this in our latest newsletter.)

May Jesus Live in each of your hearts and those of our families and loved ones!

 

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

“Living in the Yes” — Marsha West’s Commitment to Monastic Immersion with the Visitation Sisters of north Minneapolis

Welcome MIE participant, Ms. Marsha West

Welcome MIE participant, Ms. Marsha West

by Sr. Mary Frances Reis, VHM and Marsha West, Monastic Immersion Participant

“When I came here last summer, I discovered that this is the place my heart has hungered for – a place where everyone lives every moment of every day oriented toward the presence of God, where all the activities and concerns of each day are infused with prayer.” — Marsha West, Monastic Immersion Participant

Recently, prompted by the Holy Spirit, we Sisters of the Visitation of Minneapolis, launched yet another initiative here in our little monastery: MONASTIC IMMERSION EXPERIENCE. The goal of this offering is to provide an opportunity for women desiring to deepen their spirituality in a monastic setting for a temporary period of time.  Each participant is invited to enter fully into our life of prayer, presence and ministry during her stay.

We are happy to report that we have a wonderful first participant!  MARSHA WEST is living with us for a period of six months; On Friday, August 3, 2012, we had a simple commitment ceremony in which Marsha expressed her desire and promise to share life with us for the next six months.

Rather than do any more explaining, I invited Marsha to elaborate on her hopes and desires for the coming months:

MARSHA:  I have been at Visitation Monastery here in N. Minneapolis for a month now. I visited here last summer for a week – came for a few days again last March – and now I’m here to stay for six months for what they call their “Monastic Immersion Experience” – a very apt phrase for what is happening here.

In my own blog, Marsha’s Musings, where I am keeping a chronicle of my journey, I wrote early in my stay:

When I made my other two visits here, I sat on the edge of the pool and wet my feet and watched. Maybe walked out ankle-deep in the pool. This time I’ve plunged in, gone in over my head, bobbed around, gasped for breath, floated briefly from time to time, splashed and rejoiced.

Now, a couple of weeks later, I would say that I have gotten my bearings and I am sinking more and more deeply into the life here, and I am loving it.

Marsha’s Statement of Commitment

Sr. Mary Frances embraces Marsha at her commitment ceremony

Sr. Mary Frances embraces Marsha at her commitment ceremony

The sisters asked me to write my own statement of commitment for our little ceremony last week. Here is a portion of it:

When I came here last summer, I discovered that this is the place my heart has hungered for – a place where everyone lives every moment of every day oriented toward the presence of God, where all the activities and concerns of each day are infused with prayer.

I remember asking Katherine, “What do I not know about you that makes you the way you are?” I know now what it is. It is the way you live these monastic rhythms, the way you have learned to be with each other and with the neighborhood.

That recognition awakened in me a fierce longing to live this way – I believe that longing was God’s call to me to leave what I have known and receive the gift I have so long sought.

I am deeply grateful to you for inviting me to share this way of living.

I commit to you that I will try to live out of the spirituality of Saints Francis and Jane. I will cultivate gentleness and quiet within myself. I will enter willingly and eagerly into the rhythm of your common and private prayer. I will try to be observant about what I can do to serve the needs of the community. I will try to set aside my own agendas to work wholeheartedly toward your goals. I will look for Jesus in the faces of the neighbors and friends who come to your houses. I will listen and value what you have to teach me about living this way.

. . . I will try to make each day of these next six months the fulfillment of that old longing – to live every day – all day – in conscious awareness of the Presence of God in prayer, service, and community. I can’t imagine any place where that might be more possible than right here.

I commit myself, with God’s help, to share your life in this way for the next six months.

The sisters had invited me to select a song for the service. I didn’t hesitate for a moment: I asked for “Here I am, LORD.” It says it all for me. I believe God called me here. I said Yes. And now I’m living in the Yes.