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!

 

Celebrating Valentine’s Day: Expressing Love in North Minneapolis

St. Valentine

How many ways are there to communicate love for your community? For the families that inspire and nurture our very existence? What are we called to say, do, be — in response to the outpouring of God’s love born out through one another? How do we, as the Visitation Community, express our love to you, as friends and beloved strangers, who call us daily into our ministry of prayer and presence?

This year, as we mark the Feast of St. Valentine, we share with you snapshots from two different expressions of our community outreach and prayer-born love and gratitude.

valentine artist 3

Valentine’s Party

 

 

–The first is our Family Valentine’s Day Party, with Visitation School and Convent partner, Vicki Bailey. (Click to view our Flickr photo album and reflection by S. Mary Frances.)

 

 

16333606968_87a8e629bb_o

At Bethune!

 

–The second is our visit to Bethune Elementary School, to deliver a special Valentine to the faculty and staff who care for and educate so many northside children. (Click to view Flickr photo album and reflection by Companion Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde.)

 

How many ways can you see the Visitation embrace in these photos? Where do you spot Mary and Elizabeth? Can you detect a leaping womb, heart, or mind? Live+JESUS!

 

“Saints are not supposed to rest in peace; they’re expected to keep busy: to perform miracles, to intercede. Being in jail or dead is no excuse for non-performance of the supernatural. One legend says, while awaiting his execution, Valentinus restored the sight of his jailer’s blind daughter. Another legend says, on the eve of his death, he penned a farewell note to the jailer’s daughter, signing it, “From your Valentine.”” — from Catholic Online

 

“Team” Fremont/ Girard: Family Winter Olympics 2014

S. Mary Frances and Olympian Mom

S. Mary Frances and Olympian Mom*

by S. Mary Frances Reis, VHM

While “Windsock Time”* as we have known it has become a part of our Sacred History of “Vis in the ‘Hood,” our relationships with families continue to grow and grow, from one generation to the next!

The most recent family bonding time took place on Saturday, January 25, 2014, when we had 15 families come to our Girard house for an afternoon we dubbed “Family Winter Olympics.”   As guests arrived, each family made a banner with name and decorations and mounted it on a pole.   And then it was off to the Games!

“[O]ur relationships with families continue to grow and grow, from one generation to the next!” – S. Mary Frances Reis, VHM

Neighborhood teens ran eight different activities such as ‘Kick the marshmellow’,  ‘Light as a feather’,  ‘One yard Dash’ and ‘Eye on the Ball’….Each participant got a different household prize at every game, such as paper towels,  trash bags,  Kleenex,  laundry  detergent, bathroom cleaner and fun things like boxes of Valentines, cupcakes and cookies with the decorations  to decorate as a family project at home, canned goods, and breakfast cereal.  These were placed in a family box on the front porch.  What a stash of stuff!!!  Everyone needed a ride home on this day!

Vicki Bailey Winter Olympics

“Queen of all Party Givers,” Vicki Bailey surrounded by friends, neighbors and Sr. Suzanne.

The official Olympic music boomed out as each family joined a parade through the house complete with banners and tiny battery run torches.  (It was reminded of how the first chaotic Palm Sunday parade must have been.)  There were even some tears and goose bumps as our families marched together!

Not to be outdone, our Queen of all Party Givers, Vicki Bailey, ‘awarded’ each family member with an embossed Olympic medal on a red, white and blue ribbon.

It read:  2014 Fremont House winter Olympics Champion.  One of the youth exclaimed upon receiving his, “I’m going to keep this forever and put it in my scrap book!!!”  Later that week he and his family moved to St. Louis.  We believe that this young man will not soon forget this special family time in North Minneapolis.

Not only did we have a great time, it’s our guess that these young families will be watching the BIG Olympics this year.  We trust that this was an opportunity for all of us to grow closer.

***

READ ON:
–To View More Pictures from the Family Olympics Event, click here.

–Click here for more from our Archives on the Windsock Time.