Will Wallace

Will Wallace and Dave Nimmer

Will Wallace and Dave Nimmer

by Dave Nimmer, Guest Blogger

A NOTE OF APPECIATION: Dave Nimmer has traveled with us the 27 year journey of the Visitation Monastery of Minneapolis. His unconditional love and presence to our community from Day #1 moved us to honor him with our Cross of Affiliation. No one knows more profoundly than Dave the essence of the relationships we have nurtured and been nurtured by over the years. We so appreciate that in his retirement years, he continues to share his considerable literary gifts with us!  

                           Welcome to Blog # 7! Sr. Mary Frances and the Visitation Sisters of North Minneapolis

The relationship between Will Wallace and the Sisters of the Visitation Monastery of North Minneapolis is the stuff of a movie script: Former gang member meets up with a group of nuns and over the years they form a friendship, develop a bond and share a dream.

They’ve known each other for 15 years and, in that time, the Sisters have helped Will get a house, support his family, survive the setbacks, burnish his skills and nurture his soul. And Wallace has been there for the Sisters, talking to their supporters, distributing their holiday gifts and even providing bodies to shovel their walk.

 “No one does a better job in talking with [the Visitation Students] about the realities of life over here,” says Sister Mary Frances Reis.   “He can be spellbinding. He tells the truth and talks from his heart. He is not afraid to cry.”

It’s no exaggeration to call the relationship one based on trust, respect and, yes, love. “I do love the Sisters,” Wallace says.   “I mean, they talk about being respectful, being peaceful, being useful. That’s what they show me since the very beginning. When I’ve needed ‘em, they’ve been there.”

It was Christmas Day a few years ago when he needed comfort and consolation after his brother was shot and killed in Clarksdale, Mississippi. He went to the Sisters early in the morning, filled with grief and stoked with rage.   He lay on the floor, shed his tears, told the story and left with a little peace.

Wallace, a former Gangster Disciple who caught a break from a judge, got a high school degree from an alternative school and managed two years at The University of St. Thomas before succumbing to the pressures of a full-time job and four courses a semester.

Vis Seniors with some of our northside friends from Emerge and From Death to Life

Vis Seniors with some of our northside friends from Emerge and From Death to Life

The Sisters have celebrated his perseverance and invited him to talk with seniors from Visitation High School who spend a week with them, an immersion experience in life on the Northside. “No one does a better job in talking with them about the realities of life over here,” says Sister Mary Frances Reis.   “He can be spellbinding. He tells the truth and talks from his heart. He is not afraid to cry.”

“I do love the Sisters,” Wallace says.   “I mean, they talk about being respectful, being peaceful, being useful. That’s what they show me since the very beginning. When I’ve needed ‘em, they’ve been there.”

Will’s ability to relate to others was obvious at The City, where he got his high school diploma and then worked, starting as a daycare supervisor. “To everyone’s surprise,” wrote Tom Helgeson, a friend and supervisor, “Will thrived as a daycare employee. Later he was hired as the full-time supervisor of The City’s job training program.. Will is doing an outstanding job.”

Those remarks helped Wallace get into the University of St. Thomas and two years there helped him land a job with Emerge, a program reaching out to gang members, offering them training and helping them find jobs – and stay with those jobs. Will Wallace was available for “his guys” to talk with 24/7. His cell phone was always busy.

And it still is, in his job with GAP (Guadalupe Alternative Programs) working with young bothers in the Minneapolis Public Schools, grades one through eight. In effect, Wallace is a mentor, a (surrogate) father, a confessor and a counselor. His goal is to keep them in school, into their classes and out of trouble.

One of the messages is straight from his interaction with the Sisters (and their patron saint Francis de Sales). “’Nothing from violence. Do everything through love. I tell them. I really do. It’s what the Sisters preach and what I try to practice. Look, I know first-hand what violence does and how it can take families apart. I am not afraid to offer love – and a little patience and understanding.”

Wallace has developed that “softer side” with his wife, children and grandchildren. He can lay down the law, all right, but he can also ease up on the judgment. He figures he’s got the tools to be a new-generation leader in North Minneapolis and one day run his own program. The Sisters helped nurture that dream.

Will Wallace and Sr. Mary Frances celebrate the Northside Leadership Pilot Program

Will Wallace and Sr. Mary Frances celebrate the Northside Leadership Pilot Program

As long as he’s dreaming, Will would love to have his own place on a small lake where he can kick back and simply go fishing. He’s an artist with a rod and reel and something of a “fish whisperer” in a boat: “C’mon girl, come to Papa.” On a lake he exchanges problems and quarrels for peace and quiet.

He’d like to pass some of that on to his young charges in school, whose lives are often chaotic and contentious. Wallace tells them that life can be better – and bigger – if they can see a little further down the track.

“A lot of these kids have only known the north neighborhood,” Wallace says. “They haven’t been across the river, where Lake Street turns into Marshall Avenue. They’ve never seen a private college. They’ve never been able to sit in a boat on a quiet summer day and fish crappies, tell stories and laugh at each other.”

Will Wallace HAS crossed the river to attend a private college. While he hasn’t discovered the Promised Land, he’s blazed a promising path for others to follow.

 

* This is the seventh 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! 

SisterStory: S. Katherine Mullin reflects on knowing our neighbors

Sister Katherine Mullin VHM has been featured on SisterStory, an ongoing story of National Catholic Sisters Week, aimed at broadening awareness of Catholic sisters across the nation.

This SisterStory snapshot features S. Katherine reflecting on an experience in north Minneapolis and coming to know God through a neighbor. This is the third in a series of these videos recorded by Gina Giambruno at St. Catherine University.

Is knowing your neighbors important to you?

 

You can also view all of the videos of Sr. Katherine here:

https://www.sisterstory.org/gina-giambruno/sister-katherine-mullin-vhm-fall-2014-snapshot-collection

Sacred Places and Artwork in our Monastery

by Sr. Mary Virginia Schmidt, VHM

As we continue to mark our twenty fifth year in north Minneapolis, as an inner-city monastic presence, we highlight sacred elements of our community. This blog features images of artwork in our Fremont and Girard Houses that comprise some of the inspiring spaces where we pray daily.

Perhaps this work might move you, too?  We invite you all to come and see it in person!

Come and pray with us this year!

WINDOW OF VISION This stained glass window was created and installed in the Girard House dining room by John and Mary Scanlon in 2008. A piece of purple glass with an unusual image in its coloring the resembled a Visitation of Mary and Elizabeth was the inspiration for its creation. This gift and its presence in our house offers inspiration and hope.

WINDOW OF VISION
This stained glass window was created and installed in the Girard House dining room by John and Mary Scanlon in 2008. A piece of purple glass with an unusual image in its coloring the resembled a Visitation of Mary and Elizabeth was the inspiration for its creation. This gift and its presence in our house offers inspiration and hope.

PEACE POLE...Around the year of 1998 we planted a peace pole in our backyard at the Fremont House. One of our Visitation Neighbors, Paulette Sankofa, had a project to spread these peace poles throughout our neighborhood. She knew that being a gentle presence was our focus as it was hers: An alternative to violence around us.

PEACE POLE*
Around the year of 1998 we planted a peace pole in our backyard at the Fremont House. One of our Visitation Neighbors, Paulette Sankofa, had a project to spread these peace poles throughout our neighborhood. She knew that being a gentle presence was our focus as it was hers: An alternative to violence around us.

CRUCIFIX The bronze crucifix, created by our artist-friend Rob Nicpon, is in our chapel at Fremont. Having worked on it for several months in our monastery, he felt that it had a lift of its own with us. He gave it the title: That We May Live. The stories around this crucifix abound.

CRUCIFIX*
The bronze crucifix, created by our artist-friend Rob Nicpon, is in our chapel at Fremont. Having worked on it for several months in our monastery, he felt that it had a life of its own with us. He gave it the title: That We May Live. The stories around this crucifix abound.*
STAINED GLASS WINDOW IN THE CHAPEL
Donated to us by the artist Ditriech Spaun, and hung by him in our chapel on Fremont behind the Crucifix, this window could depict a flame, a flower, a dancer. For each one who gazes at it, it is a symbol that draws one into mystery.

 

A VISITATION  Brother Michael McGrath, OSFS, who created for us the "Windsock Visitation" that hangs in the Fremont living room, also created a Visitation that hangs in the stairwell at Girard. The women in the painting could be of any ethnic background. He had heart that teh initial experience of pregnancy is like a butterfly, here depicted under Mary's heart.

A VISITATION
Brother Michael McGrath, OSFS, who created for us the “Windsock Visitation” that hangs in the Fremont living room, also created a Visitation that hangs in the stairwell at Girard. The women in the painting could be of any ethnic background. He had heard that the initial experience of pregnancy is like a butterfly, here depicted under Mary’s heart.

CHRISTMAS CRECHE Soon after we had arrived in north Minneapolis, we received a gift from Brother de Paul, who was a tireless worker in Haiti. This creche, carved from one piece of wood in Haiti's worst slum, has been the centerpiece for every Christmas celebration since then. Ask Sr. Mary Frances Reis why she likes this carving so much; she would love to tell you!

CHRISTMAS CRECHE
Soon after we had arrived in north Minneapolis, we received a gift from Brother de Paul, who was a tireless worker in Haiti. This creche, carved from one piece of wood in Haiti’s worst slum, has been the centerpiece for every Christmas celebration since then. Ask Sr. Mary Frances Reis why she likes this carving so much; she would love to tell you!

CRUCIFIX IN THE DINING ROOM AT  FREMONT A most precious gift to us from our St. Louis Community as three of the sister left there to come to Minneapolis, is this wood crucifix. It was probably carved by a prisoner in jail where our monastary chaplain was also a chaplain, so somehow this crucifix was in the sacristy for many years. What happened to the prisoner that he did not finish the work? There is no insignia and no crown of thorns. On the back is written a prayer by St. Francis de Sales and signed by of the members of the community at the time.

CRUCIFIX IN THE DINING ROOM AT FREMONT
A most precious gift to us from our St. Louis Community as three of the sister left there to come to Minneapolis, is this wood crucifix. It was probably carved by a prisoner in jail where our monastary chaplain was also a chaplain, so somehow this crucifix was in the sacristy for many years. What happened to the prisoner that he did not finish the work? There is no insignia and no crown of thorns. On the back is written a prayer by St. Francis de Sales and signed by of the members of the community at the time.

 

From the Archives…
To read more about the Crucifix by Rob Nicpon, click here: Newsletter from Summer, 1998.
To read more about the Peace Pole, click here: Newsletter from Summer, 1999.

 

 

 

 

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.