Post 25 Years — Thinking Ahead

The following article comes from our Winter 2014 Newsletter: Number 75
"What will our future community look like?"

“What will our future community look like?”

What will our future community look like?

We are aware that more and more lay people are deeply committed to the values and virtues of Visitation/ Salesian Spirituality but not necessarily to the vows.

For 25 years we have lived, deepened, evolved by continued reflection and discernment where we find the will of God. Our first endeavor to meet the above mentioned awareness we called The Visitation Neighbors, a group of men and women, living in community in our neighborhood and participating in our life as far as possible. That group evolved into The Visitation Companions, a broader based group of people now numbering about twenty, not necessarily residing in the neighborhood, but connected to the Monastery.

SK2 Sonny SMVThe “engagements” that were added two years ago now include: The Monastic Immersion Experience, when women can come to live the monastic life with the Sisters for up to one year; The Visitation Internship Program when women or men can volunteer for one year to live and serve in the neighborhood.

Now we envision a Visitation community of laity alongside the monastic community of vowed religious who would embrace the will of God by living Jesus in the midst of our immediate neighborhood. They would have a life of prayer; would extend hospitality, embrace diversity, become self-sufficient, practice mutuality in

"We envision a Visitation Community of laity alongside the monastic..."

leadership as they minister and serve; all done in LOVE. This group would enter into the ministry and activities the Sisters now have, join in the monastic prayer at times and share in the mission to be a prayerful presence in North Minneapolis.

The members could be single men or women, married, families with children, living in north Minneapolis, building on relationships established by the sisters the past 25 years.

So what will our community look like in the future?

 

By Mary Virginia Schmidt, originally from the St. Louis Visitation Monastery, is one of the founding members of the Minneapolis Monastery. 

 

 

 

From Table to Table

Eucharistby Sr. Karen Mohan, VHM

“Our faith tells us that the Eucharist is the ultimate Thanksgiving meal and the best preparation for being sent.”

For the past 25 years our monastery dining room table has been the setting for good food, stimulating  conversation  and  amazing people  who enrich and inspire us to “walk the talk”  of our mission embodied in the motto of the Visitation Order,  “Live Jesus“.

This Fremont table was a gift from previous owners,  Lacious and Margaret Burgess who raised six children  and fed many  friends and neighbors long before we arrived in north Minneapolis. We learned from their pastor that no one was turned away at the Burgess’  home.

The Sisters  recognize the sacredness of this  table.   We  hope that those who have been fed at our table   will  “taste  the blessing”  received  “where two or three gather “ in Christ’s name.   Such blessings  flow from  the nourishment  received at the “Table of Thanksgiving”  which we  call “The Eucharist”.

As part of our way of life as Visitation Sisters, we participate in the great prayer of the Mass daily.

“Feeding on the Body of Christ strengthens and unites us as we are sent forth to share Christ’s love…”

Mass at MonasteryMany priests have made time in their schedule so that we can celebrate Mass regularly in our monastery. We are very grateful to them and to others who join us for  this  great prayer.  On some days the congregation may be small; on other days  we are “shoulder to shoulder”  as we pray!

The word, “Mass“  means  “to be sent”;  Eucharist  means  “Thanksgiving”. Our faith tells us that the Eucharist is the ultimate Thanksgiving meal and the best  preparation for being sent.  We come as the family of God, to praise and thank God for the blessing of life and to intercede for  the  people and  needs of the whole  world.  We ask for mercy. We listen to and share the Word of God in union with people across the globe “breaking open” the same Scriptures. We witness the Spirit alive and active among us as we share.

In the Eucharistic prayer  the crucified and risen Lord gathers us all into unity.  With confidence, then, we join our hands and pray as he taught us, share his peace with each other and partake of his very life in communion. Feeding on the Body of Christ strengthens and unites us as we are sent forth to share Christ’s love that day.

I am aware that  the Mass holds the intimacy of Christ loving me as I hear his Word and unite my life with his offering to his Father. I am also aware that the Mass holds the expansiveness of Christ’s transforming presence in the community gathered at this “covenant meal”.   As a deeply personal prayer and a communal prayer, the Eucharist prepares us to live the mandate of Matthew 25:

  “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, you do to me.” 

I like how C.S. Lewis once put it, “Next to the Blessed Sacrament, your neighbor is the holiest object present to your senses.”

In this, our 25th anniversary year,  I  can imagine those who once came for Eucharist at our monastery but now celebrate the “full vision” of  Christ’s presence in heaven  joining us as we continue to acclaim at every Mass,   HOLY  HOLY  HOLY…. HEAVEN AND EARTH ARE FULL OF GOD’S GLORY !

 

Snapshots from the Sisters: Title this!

And Lent begins….

We welcome your creative captioning on any one of the following images taken at our Fremont House and our Ash Wednesday commencement services. Please enter your proposed title(s) in the Comments section below. Thanks!

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IMG_6545

Ash Wednesday alter

Weaving together Humility and Gentleness: An Invitation to Consider the Warp and Woof of Love

SMF warp woof

Weaving as Metaphor: S. Mary Frances shares a tapestry made by Mary Johnson at the SAORI Weaving Studio.

by Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion

Through the slanted wood shades of the Girard House living room windows, morning light fell on the red, black, and white cotton and silk fibers woven together by our friend Mary Johnson.

As Visitation Minneapolis’ community leader Sr. Mary Frances Reis presented the tapestry to me, she spoke the following words:

“We are called to the practice of love, rather than austerity. Two virtues in particular form the warp through which the woof of love is woven. These are humility and gentleness.”

Quoting from the Companion to the Rule of Life of the Visitation Order, Sister traced her fingers along the color lines and weaving pattern, illustrating her metaphorical point.

According to wikipedia, woof and weft derive from the Old English word “wefan”  which means “to weave.” Warp is the lengthwise or longitudinal thread in a roll, while woof is the transverse thread. The warp and the woof ultimately form a fabric.  Figuratively, then these Salesian virtues of humility and gentleness, woven together become the fabric of love for our lives.

Can you imagine how humility and gentleness are threaded through love? Can you see the sisters in their urban monastery, “living Jesus” as consciously as possible: stitching together experiences at the door with neighbors in need or want of prayer – a meal, a bus token, warmth – all drawing on Christ’s love? Can you count the ways you practice living in such a manner — checking your ego, releasing anger or hostility in any given moment, and letting these virtuous acts knit you more closely with Love and Creator?

It’s not often that I get to meet one-on-one with Sr. Mary Frances. Convened to discuss themes emerging in our vocations and engagement work, our conversation took us to these Salesian elements that envelop the sisters’ ministry in Minneapolis, and inspire me in my own intentional, contemplative life.

Listening to “SMF” I am moved. I am reminded of how our co-founders Sts. Francis de Sales and Jane de Chantal believed we were all called to holiness. The Sisters. Our priests. Our bishops. You. Me. The neighbor. We can all live and practice these virtues that are part of the Rule of Religious life.

In my next breath, I imagine this metaphoric cloth of virtue being the cloth in front of me: all red, and black and white perfection and blemish in its unique beauty. I can jump then and fathom the ordinary gray pants and purple sweater I wear as equally made, as intentionally stitched, as that which I don with a full heart and desire to live with integrity. I imagine myself gentle, humble and eeking love as I encounter each member of creation.

And this conversation, this fabric, becomes my prayer for the day.

I invite you to hold this meditation and consider what the warp and woof of your heart is this day. May Love bless and guide us all.

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RESOURCES

For more on Salesian Virtues and Rule of Life:

Click here to learn about the Pop Up SAORI Weaving Studio at St. Jane House.

Marking our 25th Year in North Minneapolis

A "Bonding experience" in their first year, perhaps different than St. Francis or St. Jane every imagined?

1989: In their first year, the Founding Four Sisters on a police ride-along in north Minneapolis. A “bonding” experience– perhaps different than St. Francis de Sales or St. Jane de Chantal ever imagined?

Greetings Friend of Visitation Monastery of Mineapolis far and near!

We are embarking on a special time in the history of the Visitation Monastery as the Sisters and their neighbors and friends  mark the 25th year of this community!

On September 29, 1989, Sisters Mary Margaret, Karen and Mary Virginia said tearful good byes to their beloved St. Louis Visitation to come to establish, with Sr. Mary Frances, the Visitation Monastery of Minneapolis.

On October 2, 1989, Feast of the Guardian Angels,  Archbishop John R. Roach commissioned the Sisters to bring the gentle, non-violent charism of their founders to this inner city community. In his words, “I am happy I am sending the angels with you!.”

There is much to celebrate and mark in the coming months of the Lord’s amazing grace, right here!

S. Mary Frances in our fall newsletter writes about the founding of the monastery:

“Directed by the Holy Spirit through the ten years of discernment that preceded this foundation, we came with no other plan than to be faithful to our monastic way of life, which is centered on prayer and community, and to welcome and listen to those who came to our door. (Jesus promised us he would be there!) By faithfully listening to our neighbors, our agenda began to gradually unfold.”

 Click here to read more from the fall newsletter. Fall 2013 Newsletter

Relax in Prayer: “Don’t try too Hard”

SFDS quoteby Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion

I hyper-extended my knee during prayer this past week. The experience has left me wanting, wondering, and takes me to the center of my reflections on what it means to pray well.

I was off to a rocky start Tuesday morning. Was I running late? Was I anxious about the flow of the morning? Concerned about my responsibilities in attending to – or providing for- some festive, post-prayer-party atmosphere? Who knows. I just know I was a bit off in my rhythms.

We were celebrating five years of Centering Prayer at St. Jane House on Tuesday, along with Director Brian Mogren’s recent Human Services Award. It was a party — a joyous occasion.

I wore a short skirt, and taking my place in the circle of 17 or so other festive-centering-prayer warriors, I all of a sudden got self-conscious.

“What if I flashed someone across the circle?” Ugh. The thought of it took me outside myself, and then inspired a conscious physical correction. “I”ll just cross my legs and all shall be well.”

More easily thought and said than done.

When we pray at Centering Prayer, there’s a universal invitation to position yourself in an open stance. You take a seat. You relax. You soften your gaze. You open your palms and plant your feet firmly on the ground. You take a deep breathe. You let Love pour through you in each inhale and exhale. You take up your sacred word and let this guide you in clearing your mind completely, and letting God have all your thoughts. If you are in a really blissed-out place, or lucky, you have more than 3 seconds of an awareness that Love permeates all things and is the author of all that is good and true and is in charge in this world. You are forgiven and held and know compassion and calm.

But if you cross your legs, and hyper-extend your knee during centering prayer, this bliss is not easily yours.

Sometimes, I think this sort of hyper-extension is true for all of us. We are simply working too hard at prayer;  we are getting too self-conscious of what may be exposed; we are afraid to be truly vulnerable with God. And so we protect ourselves. We cross our legs, so to speak, and avoid all openness with our Creator.

Or not. Maybe some of us are more perfected in the art of prayer — more relaxed in age, experience, development, or practice. I think the sisters are pretty good at prayer, actually. They are my role models. But I know that they would resent this sort of praise or idolizing to a point. They would attest, “Ah, Melissa, we are all human. We all have times of darkness or difficulty in prayer.”

My point is: How do you pray? What is your prayer life like these days? Where do you find yourself in the art of relaxing, giving yourself over to the divine, offering up words of thanks or request or praise? Or simply showing up, presenting your heart to God? 

I’ll close with these sage words from our co-founder, St. Francis de Sales:

“When you come before the Lord, talk to Him if you can. If you can’t, just stay there, let yourself be seen. Don’t try too hard to do anything else.” 

Contemplative practice: Just do it!

Hermann Hesseby Phil Soucheray, Visitation Companion

I just got done reading Hermann Hesse’s “The Glass Bead Game.” Until a few weeks ago I had never heard of the book. I did not know that it was the final full-length novel by this noted German writer. Heck, he won the Nobel Prize for the darn thing back in 1946.

How did this one slip by me? If the book isn’t on the shelves of the library at the Visitation Monastery in Minneapolis, it should be. (Hint, hint).

“..what sets the Visitation Community apart and continues to attract me to them is that their objective is not simply in fostering a life of the mind, but fostering it in way that reflects the greater glory of God.”

The setting is somewhere in Europe, perhaps sometime in the 25th century, at a time when the life of the mind has been elevated by society to almost religious significance. An entire church-like province has been established and is dedicated to study of arts and culture. “The Game,” which involves players delving into all recorded knowledge around a selected topic and showing connections between apparently disparate disciplines, is considered the peak and pinnacle of man’s creative spirit.

The story is presented as a biography of the man, Joseph Knecht, and relates his personal conflict as he comes to be aware that the life of the mind is empty unless the fruits of it are used to positively influence the course of human relationships.

If you have stayed with me this far and you are graced to have an appreciation for the Sisters of the Visitation Monastery of Minneapolis, that last paragraph hopefully will resonate with you. To my way of thinking, this community of contemplative monastics in the inner-city represents the pinnacle of efforts to synthesize the life of the mind with positively influencing the world.

But what sets the Visitation Community apart and continues to attract me to them is that their objective is not simply in fostering a life of the mind, but fostering it in way that reflects the greater glory of God. God is the peak and pinnacle. They seek a unity of life, heart and mind with God, so that God can be reflected by them into the world.

I found myself thinking about the nuns and my spiritual life often while reading “The Glass Bead Game.” I was particularly struck by how Hesse’s representation of pursuing the life of the mind parallels my understanding of how to pursue life in the spirit; specifically, the necessity of contemplation and meditation in both.

This was highlighted for me in Hesse’s book by one particular scene. In it, Knecht has shared with a beloved master that he is antsy and seeking to gain his freedom from the rigors of the monastic-like life represented by the intellectual province. The esteemed teacher understands, going so far as to tell a story of his own bit of straying as a youth.

The beauty of his ultimate lesson is not one of chastisement, but one of encouragement. He reminds Joseph that the life of the mind is worthy, but cannot be the end all. It must be balanced with meditation; which in the context of the sisters I translate to mean contemplation focused on God.

It becomes easy to let the practice become an afterthought. So, what I hear my inner voice saying to me is, “Just do it!”

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