A SISTER’S PRAYER

Sisters Mary Frances and Brenda at morning prayer.

by Sr. Suzanne Homeyer, VHM

O Lord, open my lips

and my mouth shall proclaim Your praise.

               From the Liturgy of the Hours — Morning Prayer

As a sister I am often asked about prayer. “How do you pray? Do you really pray 4 times a day? What forms of prayer do you like best? What is the easiest prayer to remember? How can I teach my children to pray?” These and many other questions arise when we consider prayer.

“Prayer should be the key of the day and the lock of the night.”

“Prayer should be the key of the day and the lock of the night.” This great quote is taped to the night stand next to my bed as a reminder. It has been a part of my personal prayer for a little over a year ago when I first discovered it on retreat with the Carmelite Sisters. There are some days when I forget to open the day with prayer and the joys and riches of that day seem out of reach for me until I become conscious of the need to unlock those delights with prayer.

Similarly, if I forget to lock my day with prayer before bed I toss and turn with anxious thoughts and cares running through my mind. If I can remember to lock up the day….even if it’s 3 am …my sleep becomes restful and I am graced to wake up refreshed!

With one voice: Generations joining in prayer

Protect us Lord, as we stay awake;

watch over us as we sleep….

That awake we may keep watch with Christ;

and asleep, rest in His peace.

            From the Liturgy of the Hours — Night Prayer

O! the luxury of being able to pray in a personal way as I begin a new day…by reading, journaling or just staring at the sunrise or the pine tree outside my window. Prayer is a gift for me to unlock — the gift of God’s love and care!

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.

The Gentle Strength of Gerry McKay — Vis Companion and Friend

Gerry McKay at the Neighborhood CleanUp (right in glasses)

by Dave Nimmer,* Guest Blogger

To say Gloria “Gerry” McKay has roots in her North Minneapolis neighborhood (old Highland) is something of an understatement.  McKay has been there longer than most of the trees on the north side.  She moved into her house on Fremont Avenue with her parents in 1928 – when she was two months old.

“I feel spiritually enriched by the Sisters. They show me, and all the others they’re connected with, kindness, gentleness and an open heart.” — Gerry McKay

This past Mother’s Day, she celebrated her 89th birthday and the 28th year of living alone in the family home.  And the week before her birthday, McKay was on a ladder trimming a tree next to her driveway.  She still drives a car, runs her own errands and more than occasionally pitches in with teenagers in a neighborhood cleanup.

“[Gerry] is a deeply spiritual person who knows the God who lives inside of her…and her neighbor.  She’s a steadfast family member and a loyal neighbor, who has a wry wit and a ready smile.” — Sr. Suzanne Homeyer

“I am pretty good at taking care of myself,” McKay says.  “Over the years I learned how to do a lot of things”  They include painting storm windows, shoveling snow, trimming trees, tending gardens nd hanging Christmas lights and watering grass.

In fact, she was watering grass when she first met the Visitation Sisters, several years after they moved into their house on Fremont Avenue..  Katherine Mullin noticed McKay in the yard and went over, said hello and invited her to meet the other Sisters.

Gerry McKay accepted the invitation and she’s been involved with the Sisters ever since, attending the monthly Monday Salesian meetings and becoming a Vis Companion (people who deepen their commitment to the Visitation Monastery, through, prayer, study and community service).

“I feel as though I’ve been adopted by the Sisters,” McKay says.  “They kind of adopted the whole neighborhood.  Everyone around here seems to know them and they seem to have a calming influence on those they meet.”

Gerry shares a thought at Salesian Monday Night

Calm, conscientious and confidant aptly describe Gerry McKay: the life she’s lived and the woman she’s become.  She grew up in a family with six siblings, five sisters and a brother.  “You better believe we raised him right,” she says, with a smile.  “He turned out to be a good and gentle man.”

And McKay turned out to be a very good daughter.  She attended Ascension Elementary School, Franklin Junior High and graduated from North High School. She got an award at North for never being late for class or missing a day of school.  She spent a year at the College of St. Catherine, planning to be a nurse.  Because her father was a contractor and frequently away, McKay had to quit and come home to help her mother, looking after her and the rest of the family.

She did it without resentments and found her role satisfying.  Over the years, she cared for her mother, two sisters and brother, who lost a battle to esophageal   cancer.  “I discovered I could be there when the going got tough,” she says.  “I always seemed to find the strength I needed.” She’s been the executor of three of their estates.

What McKay finds from the Sisters is another kind of strength.  “I feel spiritually enriched by them,” she says.  “They show me, and all the others they’re connected with, kindness, gentleness and an open heart.”

Sister Suzanne Homeyer says she draws inspiration from McKay: a single woman, growing old gracefully, taking care of her house, doing her own yard work, getting involved with her community and being unafraid.

“She is a deeply spiritual person,” says Homeyer, “who knows the God who lives inside of her…and her neighbor.  She’s a steadfast family member and a loyal neighbor, who has a wry wit and a ready smile.”

YouTube Channel: Tune into a video recording of the Interview with Gerry here.

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* This is the eleventh 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! 

Prayer Books Come and Go…

by Sr. Suzanne Homeyer, VHM

Grandpa Albert’s German Prayer book

This is the prayer book that my maternal grandfather, Albert Krueger, brought to the ‘new world’ when he was just 13 years old in 1912. It is typeset in the old German print style and doesn’t have pictures. There are some great hymns in it that I do remember Grandpa singing as he worked in the garden or as he relaxed with his Prince Albert cigar after a hard day at work!

What items remind you of your life – past or present?  Will they be part of your legacy?

Why is this blog about books and cigars appearing now on the Visitation Monastery website?

This weekend is the Sisters’ Annual Retreat for women in the neighborhood and the facilitator has asked us to bring an item from our own history — past or present to be shared in small group. Karen Westbrooks is known for creative ways for getting women to share their personal stories! She has been a speaker several

Liturgy of the Hours prayer book

times for our group and we are looking forward to “OWNING HISTORY AND HARNESSING HOPE” — a presentation she put together after a visit to the Smithsonian’s Museum of African American History and Culture.

What items remind you of your life – past or present? Will they be part of your legacy?

I imagine my great nieces and nephews someday looking at the prayer book I use for the Liturgy of the Hours and wondering about their Aunt Sister Sue.

 

You are Invited to Salesian Second Monday: November 14; 6pm-8pm

Sisters Suzanne and Karen share fellowship with neighbors and friends.

Sisters Suzanne and Karen share fellowship with neighbors and friends.

The Visitation Sisters Invite you to Salesian Second Monday on November 14; 6pm-8pm at Visitation Monastery.

This year’s series is entitled, “LIVING JESUS AS WE MOVE THROUGH OUR DAILY LIFE.” 

The Sisters and their friends will be sharing stories unpacking how they live their spirituality every day, focusing on Gospel Living through a Salesian lens in the marketplace, families and neighborhoods.

We invite you to join us for food and fellowship, input and reflection, before closing our evening with prayer.

Salesian Second Monday

Visitation Monastery — 1619 Girard Avenue North

6pm: Dinner
6:45pm-8pm: Presentation and Prayer

Come for either part, as you are able!
Questions? Call Sr. Suzanne at 612-501-5096.

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

Heart to Heart: Reflections on a Women’s Retreat by Sr. Suzanne

by Sr. Suzanne Homeyer, VHM

Gathering Heart to Heart: Women’s Retreat at St. Jane House

!Hola! Me llama Hermana Susanna.

That is how I began the most recent Women’s Overnight Retreat at St. Jane House. Each year for Mothers’ Day we Sisters invite the women of our neighborhood to participate in an all day retreat in honor of their nurturing presence on the north side. As a follow up we host three overnight retreats during the year for groups of 5 – 7 women who had been part of the larger gathering.

The final follow-up overnight was Bi-Lingual. That’s right, I did say Bi-Lingual. Sr. Mary Virginia and I gathered the women together for reflection, sharing and prayer. This is the first time we hosted a bi-lingual retreat. Luckily Sr. Mary Virginia was born in Mexico and speaks fluent Spanish. I studied Spanish for two years when I was in high school— that was in the early 60’s and it is only by the grace of God that I could remember how to greet the retreatants in Spanish!

“We were not only able to converse and share stories, but to laugh and cry together. We admired the beauty of each others’ lives.”

The Holy Spirit is alive and well and was very present to those of us gathered: a mother and daughter from Peru, a mom from Guatemala, a French-speaking neighbor from Nigeria, two long-time African-American neighbors and the two gringas!’ We were not only able to converse and share stories, but to laugh and cry together. We admired the beauty of each others’ lives. We worked creatively alongside one another. As part of our retreat time tougher, we created mandalas as a way of getting deeper into our own hearts — where God’s spring of love meets each of us.

“Loving Ourselves Where We Are On Life’s Journey” was our theme. We are all in mid-life someplace and regardless of our chronological age it is an appropriate time to look at where we have been, where we are now on our life’s journey,  and to appreciate how God has worked with us along the path from then until now. Joyce Rupp’s Book Dear Heart, Come Home includes poetry and journal entries, as well as reflection questions, and it is well worth the read — or at least a serious look-see by anyone needing affirmation of God’s love for them at this point on their journey.

Our closing ritual of the retreat was an affirmation circle. Each woman spoke to every other participant — affirming a quality or strength she had come to learn over the past 24 hours.

My personal ‘take-away’ from the retreat was hearing and understanding (with my limited knowledge of Spanish) that I was appreciated by my Peruvian friend because our hearts spoke to each other during the entire retreat and we didn’t need words to communicate God’s presence and love in our lives! The language of the heart promises to enrich all of our future retreats and I look forward to my next retreat and the experience of cor ad cor loquitur.

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Engagement Resources:
To learn more about making a retreat at the monastery, click here.
For more about our ministry through St. Jane House, click here.

BRIGHT DARKNESS OF THE FUTURE

Sisters with Candles Catholic Spirit

Photo by Dave Hrbacek, The Catholic Spirit

by Sr. Suzanne Homeyer, VHM

As we planned our recent Visitation Companion Advent morning of prayer and reflection Jody, Linda and I spent some time sharing about our community Advent focus of Promise. A phrase from the 2008 – 2014 Vision Statement of our order somehow spoke to all of us about this time of the liturgical year: “As we move forward in the bright darkness of our present.”

This image, ‘Bright Darkness’ seems like an impossible thing to grasp — a paradox at best. In darkness we don’t see ANYTHING, we don’t see the future. However, internally we hope for the future. This kind of seeing of the future is dependent upon what we bring to the present, including our faith, our attitudes, our belief and our experiences.

“…the Bright Darkness of the future leads us to Christmas…the Incarnation of the One who has always been faithful to the Chosen People.”

Look at this time of year in terms of our ancestors: they saw the days were getting shorter and colder; the natural world was passing into a deep darkness; shorter days and less sunlight; dwindling crops; winter brought death after the ripeness of fall. If they were astute, our early ancestors may have noticed things in the natural world like squirrels hiding away extra nuts/ birds disappearing in flocks/ animals getting fatter and slower/ and with a thicker coat of fur and maybe some wise ones had inklings of the concept of hibernation. Perhaps some looked at this time of no fresh food and figured out how to preserve some foodstuffs —- just in case the end was not immanent and the shorter days might not end in death. People learned how to prepare for this time of year.   Externally they used more hides for warmth; they tended to hunker down indoors — around the fire with others. It became a communal time of waiting with the hope or expectation of longer days….more warmth…spring growth and new life.

As Christians we experience externals but have more hope — scientific knowledge and our faith tell us that the sun, s-u-n, will return but that the Son, s-o-n, will return and bring new life into our old world.

We can understand that phrase Bright Darkness of the Future. We need to look at where we have been, what has happened to humankind and assess the present moment.

The Old Testament stories of the Chosen People are full of lack of appreciation for creation, jealousy between siblings, lack of respect for others, crimes of passion, wars between people everywhere. God leading people to a PROMISED land and people grumbling on the way. People separating themselves from God or each other — going alone. Once in a while there would be a knowledgeable voice calling for PREPARATION for what is to come. The greatest of these voices according to scripture was a bright and shining light on a stand….calling out in the dark wilderness….a flicker of hope.

There IS more to come….another…whose sandals John was not even worthy to untie. The One who was the Son. The One who promised the new heavens and a new earth. One who promised to be faithful. One who promised eternal life. One who brought light into the darkness. It is this One who gives US hope, Wisdom and the ability to believe in the bright darkness of the future. This is the One who is the fulfillment of Promise. The One who is to be Wonder, Counselor, Prince of Peace. Almighty God. We can see where this is going…the Bright Darkness of the future leads us to Christmas…the Incarnation of the One who has always been faithful to the Chosen People.

God has Chosen all of us to step into the Light.

 

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Click here to see photos from the Advent Retreat. 

THE VOWED LIFE — A Commitment to Live; to Share and to Act!

Sr. Suzanne

S. Suzanne signing the Book of Vows November, 2014

by Sr. Suzanne Homeyer, VHM

“Thank you, for your commitment!” was one of the final comments I heard on my profession day. They were spoken by one of my BOF (Best Oblate Friends) as he was leaving our monastery for the wintry drive back to Michigan after the festivities. Those words meant a lot to me that night and they still do — in fact, they mean more to me each day as I live this Visitation life and each time I renew my vows on the first day of the month — or each time I sign the community vow book on November 21st, when all other Visitandines and Oblates of St. Francis de Sales have their yearly renewal of vows.

“Signing the vow book is more than putting ink to paper…perhaps it is like writing ‘Live Jesus!’ on my heart.” – S. Suzanne Homeyer

This year our Renewal of Vows retreat gave me the time to reflect on how my commitment so many years ago was really a response to God’s promise that we find in the book of Proverbs:

“Happy the one who listens to me, attending daily at my gates, keeping watch at my doorposts; for whoever finds me finds life, and wins favor with the Lord.”

My understanding of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience has changed over the years.

S. Suzanne signing the Vow Book of the Monastery of Annecy, France in June, 2009 during the 400th Anniversary Pilgrimage.

S. Suzanne signing the Vow Book of the Monastery of Annecy, France in June, 2009 during the 400th Anniversary Pilgrimage.

On Poverty …

The first time I signed the Book of the Vows I knew I was promising to live as our neighbors here on the north side of Minneapolis. I knew, too, that I would probably not be spending my nights sleeping under bridges or in homeless shelters during the coldest Minnesota nights.  And our monastery was not cold and drafty — a concern my mother often voiced. During my years here I have struggled with whether to purchase something new, find the item at a thrift store or just do without. There is a difference between wants and needs. I may want a calf-length down coat but a warm wool jacket may be enough for doing errands or getting to church on a cold day. Could I attend a conference or workshop out of town and still be living my vow of poverty. A wise friend settled that in my mind by suggesting that if I attend the conference I might learn something to help me better meet the needs of those who come to our door! Isn’t that good stewardship?

On Chastity…

Being loyal and true to those I am in relationship is part of how I live my life chastely. I have to be authentically my self in how I interact with others. I often ask myself if I am being sincere, loving and as open with all others as I would like them to be with me. This type of transparency allows relationships to be nurturing for me and generative for others.

Sr. Suzanne reciting first vows in 1999 at Church of St. Philip parish in north Minneapolis

Sr. Suzanne reciting first vows in 1999 at Church of St. Philip parish in north Minneapolis

On Obedience…

From my first study of the vows as a novice I learned that obedience comes from the same root word as listening. I listen to God in His word, in the words of others and in my own heart. I pay attention to what I am hearing. I let it motivate me. If I do this prayerfully I find myself called to action.   I am not merely reacting to situations but acting as I am called to act by this God to whom I am committed. No matter what, I am committed. And God moves me forward in this commitment each day, each month and each year. Signing the vow book is more than putting ink to paper…perhaps it is like writing ‘’Live Jesus!” on my heart.

 

 

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Salesian Second Mondays Begin! This Year’s Theme: “Holiness is for Everyone”

On Monday, September 8, 2014, the Sisters and Visitation Companion Coordinator Jody Johnson convened our annual Salesian Second Monday series. This monthly event runs from September through April and includes a light pot luck supper and fellowship; followed by guided conversation around a topic related to Salesian Spirituality; and closes with Night Prayer. This year’s theme is “Holiness is for Everyone.” All are welcome!

Drawing from the Vatican II emphasis on the laity, as well as the writings of St. Francis de Sales, we are considering what it means to be holy in any walk of life. We reflect on how Salesian virtues may be expressed in different kinds of vocations.

To kick off the season focusing on (what the Church calls) the “universal call to holiness“, each Visitation Sister shared from her life, offering us some grounding insights on this theme.

Click to hear Visitation Sister Suzanne Homeyer offer a few stories that illustrate holiness.
To watch more of the Sisters reflecting on this theme of “Holiness is for Everyone”, tune into our Visitation Monastery YouTube Channel.

Remaining Salesian Second Monday Dates:

Monday, October 13, 2014
Monday, November 10, 2014
Monday, January 12, 2015
Monday, February 9, 2015
Monday, March 9, 2015
Monday, April 13, 2015

Join us!