The New Season of Grace has Begun

The Alleluia banner before the Ash Wednesday service.

By S. Karen Mohan, VHM

“Each new season renews an aspect of the great mystery of Christ living and present in the Church. Each recurring season shows us some new way in which we live in Christ and in which Christ acts in the world….”- Thomas Merton

As I lit the fire to burn last year’s palm, preparing the ashes to mark our foreheads for the Ash Wednesday “signing”, I noticed how quickly those palm flowers dissolved. What had been was now becoming the symbol for our Lenten “springtime” renewal.   At Vespers on Ash Wednesday eve, we sang the Alleluia for the last time until the Easter Vigil, and then rolled up our Alleluia banner, “burying“ it in a box until it is unfurled once more at the Great Sabbath. We were ready for Lent to begin.

The 35 people ages 9-95, who gathered in our living room for our Ash Wednesday Mass today were ready, too.   What a privilege for our community to host such a gathering! Some were “regulars”; some were there for the first time ; all were affirming by their presence in the sacredness of this “Christian community retreat”.

Thomas Merton once wrote, “Each new season renews an aspect of the great mystery of Christ living and present in the Church. Each recurring season shows us some new way in which we live in Christ and in which Christ acts in the world….”

The new season of grace has begun.   We enter it together, with faith, hope and love.

On Pilgrimage: Reflections on Seeing Pope Francis

Pope Hopeby S. Karen Mohan, VHM

Until going to Philadelphia in late September,*  I had only seen one other Pope, and that was Pope (now Saint) John XXIII. I was 14 years old, with my Mom, my Aunt Ann and my Aunt Paddy on a special trip to Rome! We were all so excited! This took place before Pope John had “opened the window” of the Catholic Church to the modern world by convening the Second Vatican Council. The Holy Spirit was at work then and now, and we were travelling east to be a part of the energy and love surrounding Pope Francis’ presence.

 “[I]n the people, the care, the palpable faith “in the air”, I saw the power of the Spirit through this man of God and through the thousands of people standing in line with me.” — S. Karen

Driving straight through from Minneapolis to Philadelphia is a feat in itself– a 20 hour one! Travelling with three wonderful women and having the support of community, family, friends and fellow pilgrims – -all this added to our joy!   Our brother Oblates of St. Francis de Sales were offering us hospitality and we had our walking shoes and “regulation size” back packs ready.

“Life means getting our feet dirty from the dust-filled roads of life and history. All of us need to be cleansed, to be washed. All of us are being sought out by the Teacher who wants to help us resume our journey …   May this knowledge inspire us to live in solidarity, to support one another, and see the best for others.“  — Pope Francis

When I returned, people kept asking me, “Did you see Pope Francis?”   Well, I did see the Pope-mobile go by, and he must have been waving at me! However, in the people, the care, the palpable faith “in the air”, I saw the power of the Spirit through this man of God and through the thousands of people standing in line with me.

SKaren Mohan 1966 crop

S. Karen Mohan, circa, 1971


This unique moment in the life of the Church and of the world is converging with my own personal history.
When I made my first vows as a Visitation Sister at the St. Louis Monastery on June 6, 1966, the Church’s windows were being opened, the II Vatican Council was in session, and a young Jesuit in Argentina was living his commitment, preparing (though he did not know it) for this moment in history.

As Pope Francis said in Philadelphia to the Inmates of the Curran-Fromhold Prison, “Life means getting our feet dirty from the dust-filled roads of life and history. All of us need to be cleansed, to be washed. All of us are being sought out by the Teacher who wants to help us resume our journey …   May this knowledge inspire us to live in solidarity, to support one another, and see the best for others.“

May we do just that as we live our commitments, one day at a time.

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*Click to see photos from S. Karen’s trip to Philadelphia to see Pope Francis

On Contemplative Presence: Notes from Phase II Resident Lay Community Conversation

What is contemplative presence?

How do you practice contemplative presence in your life?

We’ve been meeting every other Sunday since January. In our convening for Phase II* of the Resident Lay Community conversations, lead by Sr. Mary Margaret McKenzie (and the Holy Spirit), there is a richness — a provocative nature to the questions posed, the stories shared. On any given Sunday, as our room of 8-12 lay women and men meanders into the Sisters’ formal invitation to unpack their Essentials of Community Living, there is an a informal integration at work of these Salesian principles of monastic living into our own lives.

The following are notes from a recent meeting for Phase II of the Resident Lay Community Conversations. Perhaps they will speak to you?

CONTEMPLATIVE PRESENCE and SALESIAN STABILITY

-compiled by Brenda Lisenby, Monastic Immersion Experience resident

The meeting began with an introduction of the essential “contemplative presence” and Salesian stability by Sr. Mary Margaret:

“Be where you are, and be there well.”

– an adaptation of St. Francis de Sales “Be Who you are and be that well.”

Contemplative presence is the stability of the present moment…to be at home, to be at rest, to give yourself wholeheartedly, to enter into relationship believing God is there, here, today, at this moment, to enter into our alive Center.

Question: How do you practice or realize stability/contemplative presence in your life?

Responses:

  • Trying to be very aware of God’s presence throughout the day—when I do this, I have a sense of stability, a continual little nod to that Presence
  • Practicing contemplative presence with bread baking, a contemplative activity
  • Have  a sense of stability by having a change in bread making method—changed from machine to hand’s on, and I feel more alive, feel more ownership, feel more stable
  • Contemplative presence is the awareness of the present moment, whatever the activity (chopping carrots, ironing, etc.)
  • For me it is an image: the process of centering the clay; nothing happens until it is centered; in the same way, nothing happens until I am centered, then can be in the moment with others
  • Being, not doing—to be with people, to be part of community
  • Contemplative presence is the slow work of God; an image that comes to mind is gardening—slow work; presence is also loving the place where you are, a place to give and receive love
  • Contemplative presence is a spaciousness; it is the economy of grace (vs the economy of meritocracy)
  • Contemplative presence is to receive all that comes in the moment as coming from the hand of God…from the beginning of time, God has held this moment for us and so we receive it as a grace gift and TREASURE it
  • To live in the world as a contemplative is to be present, to have a receiving stance of all things, all things received through the senses (smelling, seeing, touching, hearing)…the 20 minutes of centering prayer each morning allows me to develop the muscles to be in this open heart space, to be present…this is contemplative presence, and it allows us to live into transformation of self and world
  • “touching the now”, being open to what is happening immediately
  • “being at home”, making where I am home for me and others
  • There is a sense of “rightness” when I am present in a contemplative way
  • Singing…being fully present to the moment—the words, my voice, the music, is a time when I am fully present, and open to inner transformation by the Spirit
  • Bro Lawrence, “Practicing the presence”, a way of being present in the world through all the ordinary daily activities (washing dishes, cooking, etc.)—being present to the moment, which puts one in the presence of God, and is a stance of continual prayer
  • Contemplative presence is being open to receiving the moment, the gift of presence given by others
  • Contemplative presence is also related to identity as well, because we bring our “other places” with us to where we are—other “places” of gender, age, race, culture, etc.
  • A reminder that “all is done through love, nothing through force.”
  • A comment: Phase II has been an experience of contemplative presence, an organic unfolding.

 

*A brief articulation of the phases:

  • Phase I: a time of listening to constituents response to the Sister’s proposal
  • Phase II: a time of exploring and/or addressing practicalities through the essentials
  • Phase III: a time when individuals who feel called and are free to respond to the call move forward in discernment and commitment.

Read more about the Resident Visitation Lay Community.

 

 

SisterStory: S. Katherine Mullin reflects on knowing our neighbors

Sister Katherine Mullin VHM has been featured on SisterStory, an ongoing story of National Catholic Sisters Week, aimed at broadening awareness of Catholic sisters across the nation.

This SisterStory snapshot features S. Katherine reflecting on an experience in north Minneapolis and coming to know God through a neighbor. This is the third in a series of these videos recorded by Gina Giambruno at St. Catherine University.

Is knowing your neighbors important to you?

 

You can also view all of the videos of Sr. Katherine here:

https://www.sisterstory.org/gina-giambruno/sister-katherine-mullin-vhm-fall-2014-snapshot-collection

SisterStory: S. Katherine Mullin reflects on Discernment

Sister Katherine Mullin VHM has been featured on SisterStory, an ongoing story of National Catholic Sisters Week, aimed at broadening awareness of Catholic sisters across the nation.

This SisterStory snapshot features S. Katherine reflecting on her call to come to north Minneapolis, after entering at Visitation Mendota. This is the second in a series of these videos recorded by Gina Giambruno at St. Catherine University.

On Discernment and Ministry

 

You can also view all of the videos of Sr. Katherine here:

https://www.sisterstory.org/gina-giambruno/sister-katherine-mullin-vhm-fall-2014-snapshot-collection

Join us for our 25th Anniversary Celebration!

25th postcard print no crops.2

To honor the 25th anniversary of our founding, and to celebrate and thank the many people who have made our presence here possible, the Visitation Sisters of Minneapolis invite you to join us and our Master of Ceremonies, Father Michael O’Connell, for an evening of hospitality, prayer & sharing dreams.

Saturday, October 4, 2014 5:30-7:30 pm

Program begins at 5:30
Capri Theatre
2017 West Broadway Avenue Minneapolis, MN 55411

Please RSVP by Monday, September 29
612-529-8215 or maryfranreis@aol.com

www.visitationmonasteryminneapolis.org

 

Sacred Places and Artwork in our Monastery

by Sr. Mary Virginia Schmidt, VHM

As we continue to mark our twenty fifth year in north Minneapolis, as an inner-city monastic presence, we highlight sacred elements of our community. This blog features images of artwork in our Fremont and Girard Houses that comprise some of the inspiring spaces where we pray daily.

Perhaps this work might move you, too?  We invite you all to come and see it in person!

Come and pray with us this year!

WINDOW OF VISION This stained glass window was created and installed in the Girard House dining room by John and Mary Scanlon in 2008. A piece of purple glass with an unusual image in its coloring the resembled a Visitation of Mary and Elizabeth was the inspiration for its creation. This gift and its presence in our house offers inspiration and hope.

WINDOW OF VISION
This stained glass window was created and installed in the Girard House dining room by John and Mary Scanlon in 2008. A piece of purple glass with an unusual image in its coloring the resembled a Visitation of Mary and Elizabeth was the inspiration for its creation. This gift and its presence in our house offers inspiration and hope.

PEACE POLE...Around the year of 1998 we planted a peace pole in our backyard at the Fremont House. One of our Visitation Neighbors, Paulette Sankofa, had a project to spread these peace poles throughout our neighborhood. She knew that being a gentle presence was our focus as it was hers: An alternative to violence around us.

PEACE POLE*
Around the year of 1998 we planted a peace pole in our backyard at the Fremont House. One of our Visitation Neighbors, Paulette Sankofa, had a project to spread these peace poles throughout our neighborhood. She knew that being a gentle presence was our focus as it was hers: An alternative to violence around us.

CRUCIFIX The bronze crucifix, created by our artist-friend Rob Nicpon, is in our chapel at Fremont. Having worked on it for several months in our monastery, he felt that it had a lift of its own with us. He gave it the title: That We May Live. The stories around this crucifix abound.

CRUCIFIX*
The bronze crucifix, created by our artist-friend Rob Nicpon, is in our chapel at Fremont. Having worked on it for several months in our monastery, he felt that it had a life of its own with us. He gave it the title: That We May Live. The stories around this crucifix abound.*
STAINED GLASS WINDOW IN THE CHAPEL
Donated to us by the artist Ditriech Spaun, and hung by him in our chapel on Fremont behind the Crucifix, this window could depict a flame, a flower, a dancer. For each one who gazes at it, it is a symbol that draws one into mystery.

 

A VISITATION  Brother Michael McGrath, OSFS, who created for us the "Windsock Visitation" that hangs in the Fremont living room, also created a Visitation that hangs in the stairwell at Girard. The women in the painting could be of any ethnic background. He had heart that teh initial experience of pregnancy is like a butterfly, here depicted under Mary's heart.

A VISITATION
Brother Michael McGrath, OSFS, who created for us the “Windsock Visitation” that hangs in the Fremont living room, also created a Visitation that hangs in the stairwell at Girard. The women in the painting could be of any ethnic background. He had heard that the initial experience of pregnancy is like a butterfly, here depicted under Mary’s heart.

CHRISTMAS CRECHE Soon after we had arrived in north Minneapolis, we received a gift from Brother de Paul, who was a tireless worker in Haiti. This creche, carved from one piece of wood in Haiti's worst slum, has been the centerpiece for every Christmas celebration since then. Ask Sr. Mary Frances Reis why she likes this carving so much; she would love to tell you!

CHRISTMAS CRECHE
Soon after we had arrived in north Minneapolis, we received a gift from Brother de Paul, who was a tireless worker in Haiti. This creche, carved from one piece of wood in Haiti’s worst slum, has been the centerpiece for every Christmas celebration since then. Ask Sr. Mary Frances Reis why she likes this carving so much; she would love to tell you!

CRUCIFIX IN THE DINING ROOM AT  FREMONT A most precious gift to us from our St. Louis Community as three of the sister left there to come to Minneapolis, is this wood crucifix. It was probably carved by a prisoner in jail where our monastary chaplain was also a chaplain, so somehow this crucifix was in the sacristy for many years. What happened to the prisoner that he did not finish the work? There is no insignia and no crown of thorns. On the back is written a prayer by St. Francis de Sales and signed by of the members of the community at the time.

CRUCIFIX IN THE DINING ROOM AT FREMONT
A most precious gift to us from our St. Louis Community as three of the sister left there to come to Minneapolis, is this wood crucifix. It was probably carved by a prisoner in jail where our monastary chaplain was also a chaplain, so somehow this crucifix was in the sacristy for many years. What happened to the prisoner that he did not finish the work? There is no insignia and no crown of thorns. On the back is written a prayer by St. Francis de Sales and signed by of the members of the community at the time.

 

From the Archives…
To read more about the Crucifix by Rob Nicpon, click here: Newsletter from Summer, 1998.
To read more about the Peace Pole, click here: Newsletter from Summer, 1999.

 

 

 

 

Loving our Failure: Salesian Insight on the virtue of Humility and Abjection

Sr. Mary Virginia Schmidt, VHM

Sr. Mary Virginia Schmidt, VHM

by Sr. Mary Virginia Schmidt, VHM

“[H]ow do we deal with failure that is so much a part of our lives?” – S. Mary Virginia

We are, most of us in the US, infected with the virus of perfectionism – in all areas: business, science, religion… It is the heart of advertising, is it not? So how do we deal with failure that is so much a part of our lives?

St. Francis de Sales, in his lists of little virtues, has one that he calls “love of our own abjection.” It is not one of his more popular virtues, probably because we do not know what it means, especially in a society that values success so much. Basically it means to love our failure and humiliations — our wretchedness. If we pay attention to these, they always teach us something.

St. Francis de Sales, Co-Founder of the Visitation Sisters

St. Francis de Sales, Co-Founder of the Visitation Sisters

“That Humility makes us love our own Abjection”
– Title of Chapter VI of St. Francis de Sales’ “The Devout Life.” 

The Gospel teaches us how to pay attention and be still in order to learn. So to love a failure is a form of humility which acknowledges our littleness and imperfections: our share in the suffering of Christ. We learn our need for mercy.

Actually it is one of my favorite virtues, one that I make frequent use of. It is one that will not make me proud and one that teaches me that I am never removed from God’s mercy.

Amen.

Clearing to Hear

Sr. Katherine Mullin, VHM

Sr. Katherine Mullin, VHM

by Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion

I deleted 1, 400+ emails. I am down to having one message in my inbox at this moment. ”

Who does this? Who among us is able to claim this feat of clearing out our email inboxes? I tell you, I almost toppled when I read my dear Sr. Katherine Mullin’s facebook post declaring her Saturday morning accomplishment. But what really struck me, was the intention behind her action.

In the status update space on the Visitation Community’s facebook page, SK2 disclosed her motivation for the e-cleaning activity:

“I could hardly hear God’s voice I had so much static.”

The note inspires my own reflection this day: Where is the static in my life? What is getting in the way of me hearing God’s voice? What do I need to clear or clean out in order to feel more directly tuned in?

“We cannot always offer God great things, but at all times we can offer God little things with great love.” – St. Jane de Chantal

As we begin this month of July, I invite you to convene your own “Saturday morning session” ala Sr. Katherine, and give yourself the space to clean a closet, unload a dishwasher, clear off a desk, assemble a stack of papers, or delete extra tweets or texts from your smart phone.

Perhaps the static in your world takes on a less tangible form.  Who among us has an inbox in our brain where all the negative spam messages are stored that remind us we aren’t good enough? We need to do more, buy more, be more, in order to be loved. Time to purge that space. Who hears that voice in their head that broadcasts messages of fear or self- doubt? Let’s turn the channel, eh?

Get clear, with a goal to hear.

God is calling you in significant and sweet ways. Can you detect Love’s still, small voice?

Building Bridges from Suburb to City

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From L to R: Julie Fitzgerald, the organizer, embracing Sr. Karen; Father Tim Wozniak, pastor of St. Thomas Becket parish; Sr. Mary Frances, and one of our dear neighbors

by Sr. Mary Frances Reis, VHM

Here are a few photos from our absolutely graced time with the Families of St. Thomas Becket parish family in Eagan and our North Minneapolis  families. They arrived Sunday, March 10, 2013,  with a U-Haul truck filled with 75 family Easter baskets for our families.  Some baskets were delivered by Vis Companions, our relatives  and our neighbors to homes in the community; some to Turning Point….  Some were delivered to Girard House where families from both communities shared in a prayer service that included breaking of bread, Word  and fellowship.  The From Death to Life Mothers hosted our ‘party’ at Girard.

All in all it was a wonderful experience of bridging and bonding families from near and far. The pictures were taken, first, at St.Thomas Becket Church–with students shown here loading the U-Haul…..The baskets were unloaded at the monastery by teens from the neighborhood and the St.Thomas Becket folks.  The second picture is of Julie Fitzgerald, the organizer, and Father Tim Wozniak, pastor of their parish.  This project is a 15-20 year tradition at St. Thomas Becket and for our neighbors.

LIVE + JESUS!

At St. Thomas Becket: Loading the U-Haul

At St. Thomas Becket: Loading the U-Haul

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Unloading at the Monastery

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So many helpers!

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The Easter Bunny in a U-Haul?

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More basekts!

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Abundance!