Walking With Us: Servant Leader Anne Attea

A mother’s heart: Anne and Bela

by Dave Nimmer,* Guest Blogger

At a time when Latino communities throughout America are uneasy and uncertain over government travel bans and immigration crackdowns, Latinos at Ascension Catholic Church in North Minneapolis could be grateful for Anne Attea: She’s had their backs – every day, for the past nine years.

Her title is pastoral associate and she brings to the job a minister’s education, a missionary’s experience and a mother’s heart. She’s got a master’s of divinity from Loyola University-Chicago. She’s served in Mexico, Guatemala and Chile. She’s the mother of 11-year-old Isabela.

Attea’s mission at Ascension is to help Latino members grow in their Catholic faith, to develop new leaders, to provide access for families to a myriad of public and private assistance programs and, perhaps most important, to offer her prayerful support.

“I feel the stress that is in the air for our Latino community,” she says. “I want to be of help day to day. I can write letters for them. I can help them fill out paperwork.  I can help them find legal assistance when they need it. And, of course, I can pray with them.” — Anne Attea, Pastoral Associate at Church of the Ascension

Gerardo Escamilla Vargas, his wife and four sons are Ascension members. He owns a roofing and siding company – As Professionals, We Have You Covered – with 12 employees and is one of the 400 to 500 parishioners who attend the mass every Sunday for Spanish speakers. The mention of Attea’s name brings a smile to his face.

“She’s been like my mentor,” Escamilla Vargas says. “She teaches me about our faith. I like the way she lives hers. She’s a good leader who sees the God in all of us. And she helps without question.”

Attea knows her help, and her prayers, are needed now more than ever. She says Latino church members tell her that some people have become emboldened to say hurtful things and harbor racist thoughts about immigrants and those whose color and culture are different from their own.

“It’s the children who suffer the most,” she says. “They fear that when they get home from school, one of their parents could be missing (arrested or deported). Attea feels that immigration authorities are no longer just targeting criminals for deportation.

 “I am comforted to know [Anne Attea] is at Ascension, helping the community I care so much about.”– Sr. Mary Virginia Schmidt

“I feel the stress that is in the air for our Latino community,” she says. “I want to be of help day to day. I can write letters for them. I can help them fill out paperwork.  I can help them find legal assistance when they need it. And, of course, I can pray with them.”

Attea has developed that helping hand since she was an undergraduate at Notre Dame. She decided medicine was not for her and majored in theology, recalling that a course in “liberation theology” was eye opening.

She got a chance to put it in practice in Chile, in a volunteer program with Holy Cross Associates. “I worked in the town parish,” she says, “and I learned the Holy Cross fathers had a great commitment to the poor. I was 24 years old and got to do a little of everything: teaching, administering, serving whoever and wherever I could.”

Serving was just a part of Attea’s personal faith formation, shared and shaped by the Holy Cross Associates. The rest of the foundation included notions and admonitions of simplicity, social justice, spirituality and community. These are right out of the daily playbook of the Visitation Sisters of North Minneapolis. Attea met them in 1998 and ever since has been attending their Wednesday morning mass.

The Sisters are people who walk the talk,” she says. “They have included my daughter in some of their youth programs. They share their benefactors with us at the church. And I support their causes. Most important, I feel I am walking with them.

The Sisters have no doubt about that. “I remember when Anne first walked into our Wednesday mass,” says Sister Mary Virginia Schmidt. “She’s very caring and concerned, but I also sense her independence, combined with determination.”

“Those (qualities) are needed to help the Latino members at her church. Anne needs to help them get answers and assistance. I am comforted to know she’s at Ascension, helping the community I care so much about.”

Schmidt says she’ll never forget the day when Attea, who had wanted so badly to adopt a child, came into the monastery carrying Isabela in her arms. Attea adopted her daughter when she was just an infant in Guatemala. Isabela has a strong connection to her roots and may one day want to return to her native country. Here in the Twin Cities, she is doing well in school, fluent in two languages.

As for her own future, Attea is open to “wherever the spirit calls” her, perhaps in Latin America or in the Twin Cities.  “One thing is very clear to me,” she says. “I do feel called to walk with those who are struggling.”

In the life she’s lived so far, Anne Attea has had plenty of practice.

* This is the twelfth 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! 

The Angelus: Garden Meditation

“The Garden Guest” photo by Anisa

by Sr. Mary Virginia Schmidt, VHM

In the evening, as I stood in the garden at Girard watering the plants after a dry spell, I could hear the Basilica bells ringing out the Angelus — that lovely prayer that Catholics pray 3 times a day.

As that sound echoed across the city to our monastery, as a reminder I began:

“The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary, and she conceived by the Holy Spirit. Hail Mary…..”

At that moment the tiniest bird I had ever seen landed in the stream of water that my sprinkles created and began a splashing bath.

Could the Holy Sprit take such a small form?

I continued:

“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.  Hail Mary….”

A young mother carrying her infant walked by and greeted me.

“Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.  Hail Mary….”

My prayer was made real by the shouts of angry voices on the corner.

And so I concluded,  as we always do in the morning and at noon:

“Pour forth, we ask you, Oh Lord, thy grace into our hearts; that we to whom the incarnation of Christ your Son was made known by the message of  the Angel, may, by his passion and death be brought to the glory of the resurrection.”

The flowers stood straighter, the hastas seemed sturdier, the impatients were more colorful.
Where was that tiny bird? Where was that young Mom going? What hushed the angry voices?

Amen.

Summer Vegetable Treats

Delicious!

by Sr. Mary Virginia Schmidt, VHM

It was one of those HOT summer days. Sister Mary Frances prepared the grill on the back deck. She filled some foil “baskets” with onions, strips of carrot, bright red and orange peppers, cherry tomatoes, fresh green beans, and asparagus spears… She added garlic, basil from our garden, Virgin Olive Oil, salt and pepper;  cooked the vegetables on the grill for about half an hour.  What a meal they made: colorful, tasty, nutritious, elegant!

The rest of us prepare the same ingredients in different ways, all equally delicious.
Fall will bring us squash and cabbage! Yum.

I am coming to the conclusion that the children who stop by should get a vegetable for a treat instead of a cookie.  What do you think?

Zumba with Jane

by Sr. Mary Virginia Schmidt, VHM

Zumba, anyone?

Zumba, anyone?

St. Jane House always amazes me.

Last Wednesday evening, our own Jody Johnson, Visitation Companion Coordinator, full of the gentle wise spirit of St. Jane herself, exploded in a burst of energy and strength (also St. Jane’s charateristics) in an hour of Zumba.

She acted as if we could all keep up with her, just as Jane always expected others to keep up with her, motivating our “bruised bones to dance (psalms)!” The up-beat Latin music and the glorious weather acompanied Jody’s expert and graceful movements.

BRAVO JODY!
BRAVO ZUMBA!

***************************************************************************

For more information on “Zumba with Jane”, see our Events page, or visit the St. Jane House facebook page.  Our next class is Wednesday, August 14th, from 7pm-8pm. Will you join us?

Pray with the Windows Open

Image from Inspiration Bit

Image from Inspiration Bit

by Sr. Mary Virginia Schmidt, VHM

“Never pray in a room without windows,” Joan Chittister counsels.

“Pray with the windows open,” suggests Mother Theresa. I realize that such advice is because prayer is not just about me.

What does Jesus mean by praying in secret to the Father?

As I look out my window I see the school bus picking up children from the drug house across the street; I hear the squeaking breaks and the early birds making their voices heard.

My dialogues with God always end up as monologues. But if I am quiet, still and silent in front of an open window, I would like to think that I am carried beyond myself into union with ALL; that I touch that energy that created ALL. But what experience is the open window!

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