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.

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

You are Invited: The 5 Year Anniversary Party for St. Jane House!

St. Jane House Anniversary Event ImageYou are invited to at this open house and garden party celebrating 5 years of the St. Jane House!

5 Year Anniversary Party
Sunday, June 9, 2013
1-4pm
1403 Emerson Avenue North
Minneapolis, MN 55411

At 2pm, there will be a brief program which will include the unveiling of an new painting of St. Jane de Chantal by Brother Mickey McGrath commissioned for the occasion. Whether you are a regular or a new visitor to the house, we’d love to have you join us!

St. Jane House is a ministry of the Visitation Sisters of Minneapolis and their companion Brian Mogren, located at 1403 Emerson Ave. N.

To RSVP for this event, please visit the St. Jane House facebook page.

For more about the St. Jane House, visit: www.bewhoyouare.info

The Gift of Neighboring: Our Salesian Spirituality Center

By S. Mary Margaret McKenzie in collaboration with Brian Mogren

st Jane House

You are invited to the FIFTH Anniversary Celebration of the St. Jane House Sunday, June 9, 2013 1403 Emerson Ave North Open House: 1-4 pm Program with special guests: 2 pm RSVP by June 1 to vmonastery@aol.com or to 612-521-9282 (St. Jane House phone number)

Five years ago in our long range planning we envisioned a third house. This was inspired by our need to respond to many persons who were drawn to enter into our neighborhood ministry more than into our monastic lifestyle. This would be their house more than ours and could accommodate both men and women for overnight retreats or hospitality. It would be called the St. Jane House.

Where would it be, and how could we maintain and direct it? Clearly this would have to be God’s “make-over.”
When Brian Mogren heard what we were mulling and that we were looking to rent rather than buy, he offered his newly built, beautiful home on Emerson—his commitment to the neighborhood. He had given up his job as graphic designer for Target to give his time and talent full time to the Northside. Plus, his instincts had already directed him to and steeped him in Salesian spirituality.

Under Brian’s direction and gift of making dynamic connections we find ourselves sponsoring and at times participating in outreach ministry that embraces:

•    The practice of centering prayer
•    Support in living discerning lives
•    Bringing together for dialogue those who need a neutral space
•    Healing for those suffering because of violence and killing
•    Openness to forgiveness and reconciliation
•    Offering retreats to a variety of groups and individuals
•    The home-base for Vis Companions
•    Discussion groups around inspiring books and films
•    Encouraging and developing lay leadership
•    A safe place for teens to be developed as leaders
•    Urban immersion for college and high school groups
•    A safe place for people to connect across differences to discover our common humanity

All of this is fertile ground for the growth of Salesian spirtuality and holy ground for contemplative presence and hospitality.

As we ready ourselves to celebrate the 5th anniversary of St. Jane House, we are anticipating a new portrait of St. Jane by our dear brother and friend Brother Mickey McGrath, OSFS. We also see more clearly what God has created out of our visioning—a very specifically focused Salesian Spirituality Center. The primary sources and resources offered are persons relating and inter-relating—our gift to neighboring that has even gone global with the heartfelt use of social media to Live Jesus.

Once a Teacher, Always a Teacher

Christ, the Teacher, by Brother Mickey McGrath. All Rights Reserved

"Christ, the Teacher" by Brother Mickey O'Neill McGrath, OSFS. All Rights Reserved

by Sr. Suzanne Homeyer, VHM

There is some truth in the saying, “Once a teacher, always a teacher,” don’t you think? Here’s a bit of my personal history that makes me believe this.

When I was in kindergarten (kindergarten, yes at age 5!) my report card bore the following prophetic word: “would make a great teacher!” I honestly don’t know if I believed that but my parents sure did and never let me forget it…..even when I was in graduate school and a part time campus minister my dad would still send me ads from the Chicago newspapers for teaching positions!

The truth is I have taught English, Speech, Journalism, Drama and even German to junior high, high school, and college students in addition to numerous religious education classes and several sessions of the RCIA….and I LOVE TEACHING!!!!!

Now, back to “once a teacher…”

The religion department at Visitation High School in Mendota Heights invited Sr. Mary Frances and me to speak to the members of the Senior Class about service opportunities in North Minneapolis that they could use to fulfill their class requirement.

What would a presentation to these students include to make them want to come to North Minneapolis in their free time to do ‘homework?’

Since I am the ‘field trip czarina’ in our community I thought how perfect the timing of this invitation was —- considering all of the pre-Christmas special events and the opportunity for work with families and children preparing during Advent. What would a presentation to these students include to make them want to come to North Minneapolis in their free time to do ‘homework?’

Elizabeth and Mary: Teachers, Students, Student, Teacher

Elizabeth and Mary: Teacher, Student; Student, Teacher

Sr. Mary Frances and I prepared a simple class outline, gathered materials and walked into the classroom just as the door was closing…no bells in this school!  As  I began to talk about the families and children of the neighborhood that would benefit from their actions I felt the teacher in me rise to the occasion…I had personal stories on the tip of my tongue and I felt my own relationship with our neighbors come alive as I spoke….AND the students were connecting….eye contact and appropriate laughter (always a good sign that your words are hitting home). The first class period just flew by…

The message had gotten through…the beauty of our ministry and the loving relationships our neighbors invite us into was now being passed to the next generation…Isn’t that what teaching is all about?

Then IT happened — every teacher’s nightmare — the AV equipment failed. In my previous years’ teaching it was a well known fact that I couldn’t thread a movie projector and if the students knew I was planning to show a film they just instantly developed an attitude that said ‘yeah, right.’

I had to wing it with my own verbal rendition of what I remembered of the DVD. The students laughed when the sound of the DVD did come on in the midst of my speaking and the screen behind me came to life and I was only momentarily stunned.

Less than 12 hours later we received a phone call from the first student to volunteer to chaperone a few children to a special Minnesota Orchestra holiday show…..and she had already asked her parents if it was OK. I was probably grinning from ear to ear at this news.  The message had gotten through… the beauty of our ministry and the loving relationships our neighbors invite us into was now being passed to the next generation…Isn’t that what teaching is all about?

Once a teacher, always a teacher!

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If you are interested in tuning into the “teacher-energy” of Sr. Suzanne Homeyer, consider joining us at St. Lawrence Catholic Church and Newman Center on Tuesday, November 15, 2011 at 7:30pm for Theology on Tap.
Address: 1203 5 Street SE (Click for link to map)
Minneapolis, MN  55414

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For more information on how you could accompany a northside family to the MN Orchestra or Children’s Theater, call Sr. Suzanne at 612-521-6113