Update: News from the Northside*

by Sr. Mary Frances Reis, VHM

“As we settle into a time of transition from a full and fruitful year to a season of planning and “planting” for the coming year, we are grateful for our Visitation way which calls us to live in the PRESENT MOMENT and to treasure the graces in the relationships.  Our daily rhythm of Eucharist, Liturgy of the Hours, personal prayer and door ministry keeps us centered on Living Jesus in a profoundly incarnational way in the midst of the city!”

A Few Highlight of  “the year that has been”:

The St. Jane House, our urban spirituality center, served as the gathering place for women’s retreats, men’s spirituality & centering prayer groups, several high school and college inner city immersion experiences, discernment evenings, leadership training, From Death to Life meetings, etc., etc. (We even had a baby shower there!)

  • What does the future of the Visitation Community look like?

    What does the future of the Visitation Community look like?

    Our Visitation Internship Program (VIP) was launched this year, and two lovely young women recently completed their year of community service and in-depth experience of our charism.

  • Children and their families enjoyed a myriad of activities: field trips as diverse as the Holidazzle parade, the Children’s Theatre, Minnesota Science Museum, & The Minnesota History Theatre, parties sponsored and run by Vicki Bailey and friends of Mendota Visitation, etc., etc.
  • Mendota Visitation seniors were pioneers during their community service weeks here from May 21st thru May 31st. Instead of going to Guatemala, they came to North Minneapolis!  It was a great Mission Trip right here in the city!!!  The school motto “Not for School but for Life” was in full swing.

A few Highlights of summer 2012:

  • Our dear Sister Karen recently completed six years of selfless and Spirit-filled leadership of our community.  Sister Mary Frances succeeds her and will endeavor to follow her example of empowering the gifts of each of our Sisters and lay counterparts.
  • CYC Campers at Send Off

    CYC Campers at Send Off

    Thanks to the generosity of many benefactors & volunteers, we were able to send 75 children and 7 teen “Counselors in Training” to Catholic Youth Camp in McGreggor, MN; 4 teens to St. Louis to participate in Vistory, a program which brings Visitation students from around the country together to serve and learn about Salesian spirituality; and 2 teens to an intensive program at St. John’s University:  YTM, Youth in Theology and Ministry . . . As Father Michael O’Connell often says, “Our youth are our future.”  We are grateful for opportunities to affirm and form them in positive ways.

A Few Highlight of “things to come”:

  • We recently welcomed the first participant into our Monastic Immersion experience, a 6-month stay in our monastery.  Not unlike St. Jane de Chantal, Marsha West, who hails from Forks, Washington, has had many life vocations as wife, mother, grandmother, widow, and on and on! She brings many gifts our way and we are happy to share our life with her.  Welcome Marsha!
  • We are in the process of interviewing New VIPs for the coming year.
  • Our dear Maryann Pearson has “retired” as coordinator of the Visitation Companions, our lay community.  Thanks to her untiring dedication, we have about 15-20 members!  Jody Johnson has accepted the role of coordinator and will work with Sr. Mary Frances and Linda Goynes to keep the movement growing.

*Published in our Summer Newsletter – which you can view in its entirety here.

How does this garden grow? Putting down roots in north Minneapolis

"bloom in the garden..."

"bloom in the garden where He has planted..us..."

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

“Truly charity has no limit; for the love of God has been poured into our hearts by His Spirit dwelling in each one of us, calling us to a life of devotion and inviting us to bloom in the garden where He has planted and directing us to radiate the beauty and spread the fragrance of His Providence.” –St. Francis de Sales

I’ve been doing a fair amount of gardening lately. Last weekend, I rented a sod cutter and took up a 6′ x 20′ stretch of grass and clover with the intention of putting in a perennial garden. The goal of having plants return each spring, enlivens me; the labor necessary to make this happen is staggering and also invigorating. I have to really work the soil and tend to the roots I put down  if I really want things to grow — if I’m invested in the future of this garden. The garden’s sustainability, tender beauty now and in days to come,  requires not only my diligence, but the support of knowledgeable beings, ongoing attention, and faith.

“I feel like one of the Sisters’ tender shoots that has blossomed, in many ways, by virtue of their love and special care.” — Melissa, Vis Companion

This process takes me closer to my beloved Visitation Community. I think of how their presence in north Minneapolis is akin to that of a gardener’s. For the last twenty three years, the Visitation Sisters have been putting down roots, cultivating soil, tending to young seedlings, nurturing mature plants, and celebrating the harvests of their labor. They have done all this work quite literally in their back yard gardens, as well as figuratively, in their ministry of prayer and presence — living the Visitation charism. And the Sisters, not unlike their soil, many landscapes and neighbors, have been transformed by the process.

What does the future of the Visitation Community look like?

Visitation Senior Service Immersion Project, Class of 2012

They take my breath away, these gardening nuns. I ache with awe, wonder, love, joy —  such deep appreciation for how they have nurtured me, personally,  over the past decade or so. I feel like one of their tender shoots that has blossomed, in many ways, by virtue of their love and special care. I know I am one among many, hundreds, thousands, millions? of people that has felt touched by this community, inspired to return time and again, not unlike a perennial plant or being.

This gardening analogy takes me into the heart of my contemplative prayer today. As I think of soil, sun, seed, questions rise up in my soul:

  • What does the future of this monastery in north Minneapolis look like?
  • What seeds have been planted that are deeply rooted after twenty three years?
  • What perennial plants exist on a literal level, and how do they manifest in a figurative way?
  • Who are the community members, friends, lay associates, companions, discerning individuals that feel called to return and thrive in this spiritual setting?
  • What does God’s garden look like at 16th and Fremont and 17th and Girard?
  • How do other literal and spiritual gardeners join the ranks of these sisters to continue to plant and nurture life, and in turn, be nurtured, even transformed, by it?

Everywhere I turn in the Visitation Community, I feel like I can point to other “seedlings”, if you will….

  • The countless seniors from Visitation School in Mendota Heights who come each spring and spend two weeks in service…
  • The Vistory women who travel from all over the US to participate in Salesian Camp and are involved in the sisters’ urban ministry of prayer and presence…
  • The Salesian Leaders who have been cultivated by the sisters as they  nurture their visions for the northside…
  • The hundreds of children and teens who have been sent by the nuns to Catholic Youth Camp…
  • All of the windsock ministry children and their families…
  • The Visitation Intern Volunteers…
  • The former Visitation Neighbors…
  • The new Monastic Immersion women…
  • The list goes on and on…..

Will you join me in prayer this day as we hold images of a thriving garden, a peaceful, beautiful kingdom where Love may reign and the divine may be known — all in the space of north Minneapolis and beyond — extending the Visitation charism to “Live Jesus!”

Visitation Snapshots: Preparing for our Feast Day

How do you celebrate the Feast of the Visitation?

How do you celebrate the Feast of the Visitation?

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

“…blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”,–Luke 1:42

This Thursday we celebrate the Feast of the Visitation, the story that is our order’s namesake, that anchors our charism and presence in communities all over the world — especially in north Minneapolis. This feast remembering Mary’s visit to her older cousin Elizabeth, who is six months pregnant, holds the beautiful tenants of our communities’ faith: for as members of the Visitation, we all work to tune into one another as vibrant, life-bearing, divinely-inspired creatures; we look for the Elizabeth in all who come to our door; we seek to be Mary, emulating her in relationship with each other — we look to receive the gifts of Our Lady and her cousin in how we are counseled, mentored, visited by all who knock and enter.

"Windsock Visitation" by Brother Mickey O'Neill McGrath, OSFS

"Windsock Visitation" by Brother Mickey O'Neill McGrath, OSFS

“…as members of the Visitation, we all work to tune into one another as vibrant, life-bearing, divinely-inspired creatures…”

In preparation for this feast, I offer a few snapshots of our Thursday Feast Day calendar that speak to me of the Visitation narrative:

–Thursday marks the Visitation Senior Students’ last day of service on the northside; we will have a ceremony honoring and acknowledging the way these young women have been among us for two weeks. Can you imagine the faces of Mary and Elizabeth as we convene at St. Jane House and reflect on our time together?

–Thursday evening we bury our longtime friend and prayer companion, Deacon Dale Timmerman, who passed away on the eve of Pentecost. Will you join us in celebrating Dale’s northside presence to us, along with his wife Nancy’s, as a Visitation one?

As we literally mark this feast day in our community, squeezing in a ritual of sorts in our afternoon prayer, we are joined by our newest community member, who comes to us from another religious Order altogether and creates for us another opportunity to be the Visitation. Sr. Mary Mao, our housemate and dear Maryknoll sister from China, who lives with our community while she completes her graduate coursework, allows us to breathe and receive Mary/ Elizabeth energy as women religious all over the world do. May we continue to grow in our relationship and be nurturing of life-giving love and witness to our Lord!

How do you see Mary and Elizabeth alive in your world, work, home? Join us in prayer, as we pause to thank God for all the ways that divine “Visitations” are a part of our daily lives.