Homeless: In the Shelter of our Hearts

The following post is from our Newsletter Archives. It first appeared in our Winter 1994 Newsletter.*

"da homeless mother and child" by the artofgriffin.

“da homeless mother and child” by the artofgriffin.

by S. Mary Margaret McKenzie, VHM

Homelessness happens: tenants have to move because a landlord can’t meet the mortgage payment; a single parent needs more space for growing children; a family of nine cannot stay indefinitely with already crowded relatives, but what the law requires for housing seven children is not affordable; a person in recovery from chemical abuse slips, loses his job and therefore, his apartment; a young woman volunteering her time and talent for the enrichment of children no longer has a place when the outreach is cut back; a young mother involved in some “activity” has to move before she is evicted or reported; another mother away from her abusive husband with two small children knows the quickest eviction of all from a catastrophic fire. Theres are our neighbors, our friends, and their options are few.

“..until we could enter into our own suffering, we would not be able to support others in theirs.” 

The man in recovery sleeps on a shelter floor for the first time. The large family is dreading the shelter, but if they go, they will get emergency help from subsidizing housing which has a two year waiting list. Without newspaper, phone or car the long search for a “place to stay” begins. We have never heard the homeless talk about a place to “live.

It did not occur to me as a child, even though I grew up during the Depression, that homelessness could happen. Children in North Minneapolis know that it does. The young boy whose name means, “heart of the valley” came home from school one day to find that he was moving that afternoon. His mother told him to come with his little sister to say “goodbye” to us. They appeared at the door during Evening Prayer in too much shock and pain to talk, just looking at us out of a numbness that was holding on to everything. They left with many embraces and a care package. Each time they turned to wave, another one of us began to cry.

“Prayer does bond us in our mutual suffering.” 

Archbishop Roach warned us that it would be “hard, very difficult, terrible, awful” to stand with such pain and be helpless. We were not expecting it to come in the homelessness that seems to have plagued the neighborhood this winter. We have often recalled the counsel of Bishop Carlson that until we could enter into our own suffering, we would not be able to support others in theirs.

“Windsock time” with the children has prepared us for “phone time” with some who use our phone to make real estate appointments. While they wait for calls to be returned, we pray with them or they join us for one of Hours of the Office. One woman brought her sister-in-law along just for the prayer. Prayer does bond us in our mutual suffering, and once prayer brought a friend willing to make his properties affordable to to any reliable tenants we could recommend. Also, there is that amazing grace that flows in and through and around us when the homeless stand by us, too, in our helplessness in helping them and we learn that the “heart of the valley” is not the terrain of hopelessness.

 

***

Original article: Homelessness by SMM Winter Newsletter 1994

 

On the Virtue of Patience: From Vis Companion and Doula, Heidi Govednik

Heidi Govednik

Squeezing her niece, Vis Companion Heidi Govednik

The following is an excerpt from Vis Companion Heidi Govenik’s recent blog post, “On Being A Doula”. We share this with her permission as part of our exploration of Salesian Virtues in our Second Monday Salesian Spirituality Series. Heidi spoke about patience in light of her work as a doula, or birth coach, at our Monday, October 14, 2013 evening at the monastery. We are grateful to highlight her inspiring thoughts and experience here.

Doula: The word “doula” comes from the ancient Greek meaning “a woman who serves” and is now used to refer to a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth; or who provides emotional and practical support during the postpartum period. (Definition taken from the DONA International website.)

“[As a doula, I’m learning] to submit to something larger than myself. I like to say I do this in my relationship with God on a regular basis, but the truth is I have a certain measure of control over my life that I daily choose to submit to God or cling to. ( I usually am doing the latter.) In birth, there is nothing you can do but be present to what is happening in labor and wait. I just wait. I watch. I am there, fully there…with no control but to choose to succumb to the steady, often slow, rhythm of labor. It is truly the only area of my life that I submit fully to patience and have no measure of control. What unfolds is incredible…every birth follows the same pattern somewhat like a song. Each is different, but follows the musical pattern of verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge….chorus…maybe a doxology in a hymn. Each birth is different, yet I usually can expect a the steady pattern of early labor, the intensity of contractions as active labor takes over, the peak of emotions and physical motion in the transition stage, and the overwhelming anticipation as the urge to push takes over. And then I know, without a doubt, that after all those hours of patience and the steady beat of a woman in labor, a baby will in fact come out. Just like that.

During a birth this winter I was sitting on a chair in the corner of a dark room, well into the night, watching the monitor steadily go up and down with each contraction as the mother slept deeply with her epidural. The labor had been long and I was coming into the awareness of the lack of control I have in being a doula, and how much patience I was learning in turning off the rest of my life for a time to be present during a birth. I was thinking how I fail so much at doing this in my faith: resting in God’s presence and His timing. I know He is unfailing in His love, and He is faithful to His children…so why can’t I trust that if I am submitting myself to Him that I can rest in His truth? I always try to make my own way, make my own plans and ask God to come along. In the process of birth, there is something so beautiful and so sacred when the baby comes out….whether it was 35 hours of labor or only 2, I know the labor needed to happen for the gift of life to come. I always am full of joy as I leave the hospital, knowing that the long hours were worth being able to witness the miracle of a little boy or a little girl emerge from a woman. I want to learn that same patience in my life submitted to Christ. His Kingdom is worth it. My prayer is that I can have the strength to surrender to labor in life, to dwell in the moments, and the grace to wait for the joys to come.”

*********************************************************************************************
To read Heidi’s entire post, click here: “On being a Doula” 

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

IMG_3691

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

IMG_6202

Unloading at the Monastery

IMG_6204

So many helpers!

IMG_6205

The Easter Bunny in a U-Haul?

IMG_6206

More basekts!

IMG_6207

Abundance!

Snapshots from the Sisters: Title this!

Photo by Sr. Katherine Mullin, vhm

Care to provide a creative caption?

Care to provide a creative caption? Share one in the comment section below!

This past weekend our neighborhood kids were taken by Visitation School students to Holidazzle! They all came back to the monastery for cocoa, cookies and Christmas carols around the fire. Some entertained, some were entertained. All had fun! –SK2

To see more photos from our Advent gatherings, visit us on Facebook.