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.

Brian Mogren: Being Who He is and Being That Well

Brian Mogren: Vis Companion, Director of St. Jane House

by Dave Nimmer,* Guest Blogger

“Be who you are and be that well.” St. Francis de Sales

It’s been a decade since Brian Mogren quit a long-held job at Target Stores to heed the call of St. Francis de Sales to “Be Who You are and Be That Well.” In that time, what Mogren has been is the provider of shelter to the temporarily homeless, the purveyor of a quiet space for spiritual seekers and a persistent, insistent, consistent friend of the Visitation Sisters, his neighbors in North Minneapolis. His work won him the Virginia McKnight Binger Award in Human Service from the esteemed McKnight Foundation, given to those who “give their time to improve the lives of people in their communities.” He’s done that all right and along the way served as an unofficial counselor, coordinator, gardener, director and caretaker for those who use his home on Emerson Avenue North. “This opened up a world of possibility for me and my life,” Mogren writes on his website, “that I could not have imagined: bringing my unique gifts, creativity and connections to contribute to the transformation of North Minneapolis.”

A Call to the Northside

With Two Marys: Brian and FDTL Founder Mary Johnson Roy and Sr. Mary Margaret McKenzie

Mogren’s transformation began, in part, when he met the Sisters. Since 2008, the Sisters have leased his home (The St. Jane House) for retreats to women seeking empowerment, students wanting enlightenment and mothers shedding resentment. A grass-roots group, From Death to Life, counts the St. Jane House as its home. Its founder is Mary Johnson, a mother who sought out, and forgave, the man who killed her only son. Mogren serves on the board.

“This is what it’s all about – connecting across difference and discovering our common humanity.” — Brian Mogren

His journey owes something to an epiphany moment years ago when he was leaving a parish council meeting at St. Philips Catholic Church on 26th and Bryant Ave. N.   He noticed a woman frantically trying to pick up papers strewn about the street; she’d left them on top of her car as she pulled away. Now she was scurrying to pick up the papers and sheet music and Mogren gave her a hand. They walked back to the church arm in arm. The moon was out. The evening was quiet. And Mogren felt at peace. Suddenly a car with dark-tinted windows pulled alongside, rap music pounding as the back window began to roll down. Mogren’s moment of bliss turned to terror, fearing they could get hustled, hassled or hurt. Just then, a teenage boy stuck his head out the window, smiled and said, “Hi, Miss Muggs.” This was a teenager talking to a 70-year-old Irish Catholic.

Role model and friends.

“They had love and affinity for one another,” Mogren recalls. “Later I wept. I thought, ‘Oh, my Gosh.’ This is what it’s all about – connecting across difference and discovering our common humanity. I felt called to move to the Northside.” He did, building what would become the St. Jane House in 2003. .He moved in and became an official North Minneapolis resident, still holding on to his creative job at Target. He decided to quit, after 24 1/2 years, following another epiphany experience – this time while listening to a tape of students’ spoken-word poetry.

“[Brian] has mentored a few young people who look on him as a role model and friend. He loves North Minneapolis and it shows.” Sr. Karen Mohan,VHM

I remember hearing the urgency in their voices,” he says, “and in that moment my heart was burning. I needed to do what I could to ease the pain and provide a path for those who needed it. I wanted to make a difference.” A big part of the difference began when the Sisters and Mogren got together with the St. Jane House. He had the space. They had the plans. They’d bring the people. He’d be the director.

St. Jane House Ministry

St. Jane House: A Place of Rest and Delight

In the years that followed, the St. Jane house has provided guest rooms for overnight visitors, hosted a weekly centering prayer group, offered retreats for healing and support groups and served as home base for students – high school and college – seeking an “immersion experience” in the flow of neighborhood life.

“I feel loved and celebrated by the Sisters….They embody the God of my understanding, and they define the notion of inclusion. I am able to give to others what I receive from them.”

It doesn’t surprise Sister Karen Mohan that Mogren can handle such varied groups with finesse, grace and hospitality. It was modeled by his parents, Jerry and Arlene, who were quick to welcome others to the Molgren family. He’s had a lot of practice. “When we became ‘family and friends’ with Brian,” she recalls, “we inherited all his brothers – 11 brothers and no sisters. When our community went to his mom’s home for one of the family get-together suppers, we were welcomed by a big sign outside on the lawn. “’WELCOME SISTERS. WE ALWAYS WANTED SISTERS. And now we have them. YOU.’ We love the Mogren boys and we loved Arlene, their mother. After her funeral a few years ago, the 10 living brothers all carried her casket singing, ‘She’s ain’t heavy. She’s our mother.’ There wasn’t a dry eye around.”

Loved and Celebrated by the Sisters

Family and Friends: The Mogren Brothers, Mother, and Visitation Sisters

“It’s wonderful to be in the presence of the [Sisters’] non-judgmental, joyful spirit. They have helped me to be gentle with myself and that helps me to be gentle with others.” 

Mogren remembers first meeting the Sisters at St. Philips where he started attending mass because of his respect for Father Greg Tolaas. He met them there, but he really got to know them after he moved to North Minneapolis. “I feel loved and celebrated by the Sisters,” Mogren says, “ever since I met them. It’s wonderful to be in the presence of their non-judgmental, joyful spirit. They have helped me to be gentle with myself and that helps me to be gentle with others. They embody the God of my understanding, and they define the notion of inclusion.

“I don’t see any other than the life I’m living,” he says. “I get to be who I am and to be that well.”

“I am able to give to others what I receive from them. They have entrusted me with their platform and space.” He’s been a fine defender and caretaker of that Salesian spirituality, in the opinion of Jeff Pearson, a long-time friend and benefactor of the Sisters. “Brian can weather the storms,” Pearson says. “If it doesn’t work one way, he’ll figure out a different way. He’s got the kind of compassion that keeps him coming back.”

Brian with Alafia Foundation Members

Sister Karen notes that Mogren, now 51 years old, is something of a Renaissance man, who’s an artist, a graphic designer, a photographer and a fun-loving guy with a sense of humor. Mogren, who lives in the basement of the St, Jane House, prefers to think of it as “the garden level.” “Brian was inspired to begin the Alafia Foundation to encourage leaders from the neighborhood,” Mohan says. “He has mentored a few young people who look on him as a role model and friend. He loves North Minneapolis and it shows.” Mogren would smile at that description. He’s a man who loves where he is: in his city, in his heart, in his life.   “I don’t see any other than the life I’m living,” he says. “I get to be who I am and to be that well.” That’s why the welcome mat is out at the St. Jane House.

* This is the thirteenth 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 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.

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

* 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! 

In the News: Vis Companion Linda Goynes Featured

We are thrilled to share this story of our good friend and neighbor,
Linda Goynes, who is featured in this month's Minnesota Good Age Magazine. 
Reprinted here with permission of the author.

Worth the wait

Linda Goynes, Visitation Companion

By Dave Nimmer

At a time when most senior citizens are thinking about selling their houses, downsizing to a townhome or heading to assisted living, 64-year-old Linda Goynes just bought her first house in December on Newton Avenue in North Minneapolis.

“I looked at three other houses,” she said, “but when I came to the one on Newton Avenue, I dropped to my knees. I did. I said, ‘Thank God. This is the house.’ For one reason or another, it just felt like home.”

The one-story house was built in 1918 and features two bedrooms, a dining room, living room, kitchen and bathroom. Goynes admitted the real selling point was the sun porch. She’s also got a washer, dryer, snow blower and room for a small garden.

 “I was at rock bottom at one time and here I am with a place to call my own.” – Linda Goynes

Being a happy homeowner was not in the cards for Goynes 25 years ago. She’d been divorced, battled a cocaine addiction and lapsed into a coma, following a heart attack. Doctors told her she’d die if she continued to use the drug. She said she made a bargain with God, promising she’d change her ways if she recovered.

And she did.

Challenges along the way

In 1996, she met her second husband. They moved into a house next door to the Sisters of the Visitation on Girard Avenue North. Goynes stayed clean but her husband was using drugs and, occasionally, selling them, too.

“I never knew what was going to happen. One day I’d be on the ground in handcuffs after a police raid,” she said. “And another we’d be robbed by somebody looking for a drug stash or the money. But I always had the Sisters to talk to, and I never felt alone.”

With help from the Visitation Sisters, Goynes ended up moving out of their rented house into an apartment in 2008; White died in 2015. Ironically, he also loved the Sisters, shoveling their walk., attending some of their neighborhood meetings and even putting up their Christmas tree every year. But he couldn’t stay away from heroin.

“Linda is one of the most courageous women I know,” said Sister Katherine Mullin. “She knew she had to leave him after all those years of his addiction. She made her decision, found an apartment and kept it together.”

Working and saving

Now Goynes has found a home and, along with it, peace of mind. “After my struggles and trials, I’m grateful to have a house at this time in my life,” she said.   “I was at rock bottom at one time and here I am with a place to call my own.”

She’s been saving for this place for several years. Goynes, who joined Ascension Catholic Church is 2010, has been working there as a pastor outreach assistant: organizing luncheons, setting up for funerals, arranging the food shelf, changing the candles and opening the church. In her spare time, she also helps the Visitation sisters in their monastery/home a few blocks away from the church.

“If ever we needed help with some event, celebration or some project, Linda has been there,” said Sister Mullin.

Gratitude Always

I’ve had the opportunity to see Goynes at work, for the sisters and the church. What I’ve noticed is her steady demeanor. She’s helpful, hopeful, purposeful, soulful and joyful. For almost 20 years, I’ve asked her how she is. Her answer is always the same. “I’m blessed,” she says.

She’s caused me to change my reply when someone asks how I am. My standard answer was one I took from my father: Always room for improvement, he’d say. For the past couple of years, when someone asks the question, I now reply, “It’s a good day.” It’s even a better day when I get to see Linda Goynes.

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

Sondra Samuels: Northside Pride and Hope

Sondra Samuels, CEO NAZ

Sondra Samuels, CEO Northside Achievement Zone

by Dave Nimmer, Guest Blogger

Sondra Samuels is not a shrinking violet who wilts under pressure or withers from conflict or criticism.

That’s part of the territory when you’re the CEO of the Northside Achievement Zone (NAZ), a partnership of community organizations and schools with a jaw-tightening task:  to prepare 2,300 children in a 18 by 13-block square of North Minneapolis to graduate from high school and go on to college.

“Sondra is an astute educator, a caring mom and wife and community advocate. She is a doer.  She brings pride to the Northside and our achievements on behalf of future generations.” Sr. Suzanne

If this job isn’t enough, add in her husband’s.  Don Samuels was the 5th ward councilman and is now a member of the Minneapolis School Board.  Sometimes the pace can be relentless, the criticism approaches nastiness and the goals can appear hopeless.

These are times when Samuels, the girl who grew up in Newark, appreciates the Sisters who live in Minneapolis. They share a belief in society where character, conscience and courage replace color, class and creed to measure a person’s worth.

“I knew these Sisters were different.  When I asked them what their day was like, they told me when the doorbell rings, ‘We know it’s Jesus at the door.’  And they really mean it.” — Sondra

Samuels remembers her first meeting with the Sisters, at a time when she and Don were grieving yet another gunshot death of a Northside teenager and confronting what they felt was unfair criticism from community loudmouths.

Click to hear Ms. Samuels interviewed by Dave Nimmer

Click to hear Ms. Samuels interviewed by Dave Nimmer

“I remember Sister Suzanne (Homeyer) met me at the door,” Samuels said.  “I fell in with a limp body and I think I shed a bucket of tears.  We went into the Chapel.  We prayed.  And I felt comforted and embraced when I left that house.”

Homeyer remembers that day, too.  “She particularly asked for prayers for her husband and neighborhood concerns, too,” she said.  “There were tears, sharing, laughter, tissues and hugs.  It was the way we meet so many of our neighbors and we both kept our promises.  Sondra has come back to visit with, and without, her family.”

Kind of amazing for someone who isn’t even Catholic.

“That doesn’t matter,” Samuels said. “I knew these Sisters were different.  When I asked them what their day was like, they told me when the doorbell rings, ‘We know it’s Jesus at the door.’  And they really mean it.”

The Sisters feel their support of Samuels is being repaid in full by the work she is is doing in their backyard through NAZ, which got its start with a $26 million federal grant over five years.  That funding is gone now and Samuels is working to raise $11 million a year from the coffers of the state, the city and corporate and private charities.

Part of her pitch she already outlined in an Op-Ed column published in June in the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

“We also recognized that schools can’t do it alone so we surround students with a team that provides everything from extra academic opportunities, parent education and early childhood services to behavioral health counseling, housing and career support.  In partner schools where the supports are most layered for NAZ students, they are doing significantly better than their peers in reading.”

sondraSamuels gets animated and excited when she describes a recent 12-week program for parents on the resources, skills, tools and techniques they’ll need to better raise their infant children.  “We’re getting Dads to show up for this course,” she said, “and one of the women talked about learning that she doesn’t have to be ‘a screaming mother,’ yelling at her child.”

Samuels is finely attuned to the complexity of life for minorities in America, dealing with the realities of discrimination and prejudice while avoiding the passiveness and pessimism that comes from playing “the victim” role.

“I think Black Lives Matter, and the protests, cause me to say, ’They finally see us.’ They know we’re here,” Samuels said.  “And our problems are the problems of all poor people and we do have to be working for all people.

”But to the people of color, I say, ‘They aren’t coming to save us.  We determine how we’ll do.  I am not bent over.  We can help each other but you’ve got to show up and do your part.”

Will Wallace, who knows the Sisters and Samuels, uses the same message in his work with Emerge, trying to prod young brothers (and sisters) off the streets, out of gangs, into school and onto jobs.  “Sondra Samuels,” he said, “is the real deal.  She’s got the best interests of the Northside young people in her heart.”

The Sisters echo that sentiment, having watched Samuels in action – in good times and bad.   “Sondra is an astute educator, a caring mom and wife and community advocate,” Sister Homeyer said.  “She is a doer.  She brings pride to the Northside and our achievements on behalf of future generations.”

Samuels and the Sisters: a neighborhood partnership that gives hope to that future.

 

* This is the eighth 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! 

Praying with Art: An Invitation to Encounter Love

by Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion

Inspiration by Anne Goetze

“Inspiration” by Anne Goetze

I’ve never been to Annecy, France.  But I can imagine it. Cobblestone streets. Turquoise winding river. Stone arches bridging water. That pristine lake.  The Alps. The 14th, 15th, 16th century architecture: stucco and brick exterior walls, some vine-covered in my mind’s eye.  A red door here. Tiled roof tops.  All buildings close-pressed to one another. If I squeeze my eyes closed tightly, I imagine hearing the buzz of cafe chatter; I feel the Lake Annecy breeze on my face and note the click of heels on narrow paved walks. Perhaps an echo of chapel bells rings off of the mountains. There is a calling to this city, to this landscape, that I know in my own prayerful meditation.

Artist Anne Goetze knows this calling. She has made it part of her life’s work to bring the beauty of not only this place, but of a particular community of people, to all of us.

In her mixed media art form, combining photography, ash and oil paint, Ms. Goetze brings alive this landscape of our founders, St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal. In addition, she has captured the community of Visitation Sisters living there cloistered in our Order’s first monastery.

Praying with Art:  ‘Confering’ /’S’entretenir’ by Anne Goetze

"Confering" by Anne Goetze Annecy Nun Series (with permission)

“Confering” by Anne Goetze Annecy Nun Series (with permission)

When I look on this particular photographic art piece, ‘Confering’ /’S’entretenir,’ by Anne Goetze, I’m struck by the two central figures, clad in all black. Their back sides to me, they are shrouded by veils and near-floor-length skirts. They seem to be leaning in, and as the title suggests: conferring.  I notice my own impulse to lean in. I want to hear them.

On either side of this path, I note the grey and brown hues that frame them, flecks of blue and green pepper the wall and walkway. A stone building with high windows is ahead. The burnt orange of fall foliage appears, too, dusty, cloud-like in the background. My eyes return to the central figures.

Two Visitation Sisters conferring.

For a split second, I think about my mom, in Nebraska, standing at her sink, perhaps contemplating the fullness of the day. My mind darts back to north Minneapolis, to S. Mary Margaret McKenzie and the last time I saw her at Girard House monastery. A fleeting smile on her lips, her downward gaze as she chimed the bell announcing the start of Salesian Monday night. I see S. Mary Frances, then, in the Fremont chapel, it’s Saturday morning prayer and we share raised-eyebrow-smirks, and suppress giggles –some line catching each of us during the chanting and reflection on psalms.

Images of each of these north side Visitation Sisters rush into my mind. S. Katherine, in her swivel chair in the basement office, ever intent and sweet-spirited, as we review engagement efforts and our social media work. S. Karen, post-prayer, coming into close proximity to whisper or share her own fervent noticing of Love at work. Sister Suzanne on a shut-down Thursday, breaking bread with me at the north Minneapolis cafe that goes by this same name, and detailing a moment from her winter journey to Rome. I can see S. Mary Virginia in my mind’s eye, smiling as she comes in to kiss my cheek and offer her ever ready embrace of me, my daughter, husband, following mass at Ascension. And there’s my new friend, Brenda, walking me to the door after a visit to the community, to hug me out, and bid me a warm good bye until we meet again.

Ms. Goetze’s image depicts our religious counterparts an ocean and continent away, but the Sisters’ activity connects here, in the intimacy of my own heart and lived experience – locally. I know this encounter of conferring,  of being companioned and companioning. Despite their faceless presentations, these Sisters come to me fully imaged, featured, in my own holy encounters with northside nuns — with members of my family and local community.

As I pray with this image this day, I invite you into this kind of contemplative stance. I encourage your own close encounter, conferring with the art, taking note of what it stirs in you. How does this Visitation depiction speak to you? What does it say to your longing, to your own lived experience encountering Love?

****

See this work at the Basilica of St. Mary.

Pray to Love: The Annecy France Nun Series

Photographic Paintings by Anne Goetze
Exhibit:  April 9—May 22, 2016
Reception: Sunday May 22, 4:30pm with talk at 5:30pm
For more information: Basilica of St. Mary event listing

Linda Goynes: Our sister and friend*

Linda Goynes

Linda Goynes

by Dave Nimmer, Guest Blogger

Linda Goynes* is a colorful, consistent and continuous thread in the life fabric of the Visitation Sisters of North Minneapolis. For 12 years she was their next door neighbor. Today she proudly wears their Cross of Affiliation, in effect making her an honorary sister.

Over the years, Linda has eaten at their table, shared in their prayers, joined their church (Ascension), cleaned their house, packed their gift baskets and greeted their guests.

In her 63 years, Linda Goynes has suffered enough reversals to relish the recoveries, weathered enough storms to enjoy the sunshine and survived the trials to appreciate the triumphs. So it’s probably not surprising when asked how she’s doing, her answer has always been the same, whether it’s Tuesday or Friday, January or June. “I am blessed,” she says, with a smile on her face.

“It was such a joy to get the Cross of Affiliation from the Sisters. To me it represents the face of the nuns and the work they are doing. I feel what I am doing is taking their spirit out to the world.”-– Linda Goynes

Her journey includes some rough and rocky travelling. She married her first husband in 1984 and they had three children. Two years later she discovered her husband abused the oldest daughter. He was arrested and eventually sent to prison. Linda felt she was partly responsible for her daughter’s abuse and turned to crack cocaine.

It didn’t take long for the drug to control her life and cause a heart attack. She quit – cold turkey. She was clean and sober for six to seven months, until she began getting threatening letters from her now ex-husband, still in prison. She turned again to the cocaine and in 1990 suffered a second heart attack.

This time she lapsed into a three-month coma and doctors warned continued drug use would kill her. She prayed to God to restore her health, promising she would devote her life to serving Him. She recovered. In 1996, she met Robert White, who would become her second husband. They moved next door to the Sisters on Girard Avenue and continued their life together.

Linda stayed clean but Robert was using, and occasionally, selling drugs. “You know,” she said, “he was a good man but he just couldn’t stay away from heroin. He was using until his last days on earth.” (Robert died in 2015).

In service: Linda working at the Church of the Ascension Food shelf

In service: Linda working at the Church of the Ascension Food shelf

“I never knew what was going to happen. One day I would be on the ground in handcuffs after a police raid. And another we’d be robbed by somebody looking for the drug stash or the money. But I always had the Sisters to talk to, and I never felt alone.”

Ironically, Robert also loved the Sisters. He shoveled their walk in the winter, went to some of their neighborhood meetings and even put up their Christmas tree from year to year. But the chaos from his heroin habit eventually got too much for Goynes and she moved out of the house in 2008, to an apartment on Plymouth Avenue.

“Linda is one of the most courageous women I know,” says Sister Katherine Mullin. “She knew she had to leave Robert after all the years of his heavy addiction. She made her decision, found an apartment and kept it together. And then one day (with help from the Sisters) she quietly moved out. But in the years that followed, she also took him to the hospital for his cancer treatments.”

The Salesian spirit has truly penetrated her heart. If we ever needed help with some event, some celebration some project, Linda has been there.”  — S. Katherine Mullin

In 2010, she joined Ascension Church and became a pastor outreach assistant, organizing committee luncheons, setting up for funerals, arranging the food shelf, changing the candles and opening the church.

A few months ago Linda was dealing with a lung problem, making it difficult for her to take long, deep breaths. But she was at the Monday night Salesian gathering, sitting at the table, eating with the others, picking up the trash and staying for the night prayer.

On my way out, I asked her how she was doing. She said she’d be glad to get home and on the inhalation machine that delivered soothing vapor to her lungs. Then she smiled. “You know,” she said, as if to dispel any complaint, “I am still blessed.”

Yes, Linda, we know. And so are those of us who are to be counted among your friends.

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Tune into YouTube video interview here: Vis Companion Linda Goynes Interviewed

* This is the fifth 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!