Our Friend: Wazeer Brown

Meet Wazeer Brown

Meet Wazeer Brown

by Dave Nimmer, Guest Blogger

Wazeer Brown, and his brother Emmanuel, are the first youngsters the Visitation Sisters “met” after they decided to locate their monastery in North Minneapolis in 1989.

The two boys, about three and four years old, were standing on the street corner at 16th and Fremont as the Sisters were driving by.  “Here are these two kids waving at us like crazy,” recalls Mary Frances Reis.  “They had a big smile on their faces.  We couldn’t help but noticing their pure joy and excitement.”

In fact, the brothers got so close to the Sisters they had to start a special time – Windsock –  for neighborhood children to come by the Fremont house.  And come they did – for time, treats and attention.

“The Windsock time was really good for me,” Brown recalls.  “It was different from the rest of my life.  It was cheerful and stress free.  I didn’t find that at home or on the streets.  The Sisters were just there for me and brought peace into my life.”

Wazeer and Emmanuel brought their presence into the sisters’ lives, sometimes sitting on the retaining wall in front of the Fremont house.  When they felt it was needed, they’d offer a little advice to  prospective visitors:  “You can’t go in now because the Sisters are prayin’.”

“I’d tell all who wanted to better themselves and change their lives,” he says, “they ought to get to know these women (the Sisters).  They shaped who I am as a person, the person I wanted to be.  I think they kind of put the spirit of the Lord in my heart.” –Wazeer

The Sisters have prayed for Wazeer since those Windsock days two decades ago. Over those years, they’ve read to him, found a mentor for him, promoted a scholarship for him and stood by him through the speed bumps, potholes and sharp curves along his way.

Today, at the age of 29, Wazeer is studying to get his GED diploma, helping raise his two daughters, Destiny, 9 and Serenity,5, holding a full-time job at Walmart and staying in touch with the friends who helped him get this far, including the Sisters.

“What I’m really impressed with,” says Mary Margaret McKenzie, “is how much energy and enthusiasm he’s putting into getting that GED.  A while back, he told me, ‘I’m getting fractions.’  He is actually into his mathematics and, yes, he’s understanding fractions for the first time.  I think that is remarkable.”

McKenzie says she remembers years ago when she helped him and Emmanuel work on a science project to make and inflate a hot-air balloon.  “I don’t recall exactly how that turned out but I do recall thinking that Wazeer was really smart.  You only have to show him or tell him once, and he gets it.”

He “got it” about the importance of going back to school, this time at the Adult Education Center in Minneapolis.  “I think I just realized it’s time,” Brown says.  “My mind is ready for it.”  Once he gets the GED, Brown says he might think about going to a two-year or community college, to help him land a job that makes him joyful and useful.

He already knows how to work hard, according to Jeff Pearson, who, along with his wife Maryann, has been long-time friend and supporter of the Sisters.  They enlisted Pearson to be kind of a mentor/father figure for Wazeer.

“I used to have him come over to my house on Saturday mornings and we’d work in the yard,” says Pearson.   “He hadn’t done a lot of yard work but, I tell you what, he worked hard.  You know, I feel I have a life-long friendship with him.”

The Sisters feel the same way and they haven’t hesitated to call on him to do a favor or two, like talking to a group of seniors at Visitation High School who are spending a week at the monastery, getting immersed in life on the North Side.

“He got up in front of these young women,” says Mary Margaret, “and talked confidently about the value of being grounded when they go away from home to college.  His talk, and his message, were really quite wonderful.”

Wazeer got up in front of another group at his grandmother’s funeral, to talk about who she was, what she did and how she lived.  He has developed this kind of presence in his life and the Sisters have been there to nurture it and, now, to feel it.

Wazaeer in Arabic means “minister.”  Brown is not given to preaching but he’s accumulated enough wisdom for a homily: Change is inevitable.  Get used to it.  Being positive is always a key.  Keep busy in life and work on being a better “you.”  And one more thing.

“I’d tell all who wanted to better themselves and change their lives,” he says, “they ought to get to know these women (the Sisters).  They shaped who I am as a person, the person I wanted to be.  I think they kind of put the spirit of the Lord in my heart.”

 

* This is the sixth 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! 

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

 

“Team” Fremont/ Girard: Family Winter Olympics 2014

S. Mary Frances and Olympian Mom

S. Mary Frances and Olympian Mom*

by S. Mary Frances Reis, VHM

While “Windsock Time”* as we have known it has become a part of our Sacred History of “Vis in the ‘Hood,” our relationships with families continue to grow and grow, from one generation to the next!

The most recent family bonding time took place on Saturday, January 25, 2014, when we had 15 families come to our Girard house for an afternoon we dubbed “Family Winter Olympics.”   As guests arrived, each family made a banner with name and decorations and mounted it on a pole.   And then it was off to the Games!

“[O]ur relationships with families continue to grow and grow, from one generation to the next!” – S. Mary Frances Reis, VHM

Neighborhood teens ran eight different activities such as ‘Kick the marshmellow’,  ‘Light as a feather’,  ‘One yard Dash’ and ‘Eye on the Ball’….Each participant got a different household prize at every game, such as paper towels,  trash bags,  Kleenex,  laundry  detergent, bathroom cleaner and fun things like boxes of Valentines, cupcakes and cookies with the decorations  to decorate as a family project at home, canned goods, and breakfast cereal.  These were placed in a family box on the front porch.  What a stash of stuff!!!  Everyone needed a ride home on this day!

Vicki Bailey Winter Olympics

“Queen of all Party Givers,” Vicki Bailey surrounded by friends, neighbors and Sr. Suzanne.

The official Olympic music boomed out as each family joined a parade through the house complete with banners and tiny battery run torches.  (It was reminded of how the first chaotic Palm Sunday parade must have been.)  There were even some tears and goose bumps as our families marched together!

Not to be outdone, our Queen of all Party Givers, Vicki Bailey, ‘awarded’ each family member with an embossed Olympic medal on a red, white and blue ribbon.

It read:  2014 Fremont House winter Olympics Champion.  One of the youth exclaimed upon receiving his, “I’m going to keep this forever and put it in my scrap book!!!”  Later that week he and his family moved to St. Louis.  We believe that this young man will not soon forget this special family time in North Minneapolis.

Not only did we have a great time, it’s our guess that these young families will be watching the BIG Olympics this year.  We trust that this was an opportunity for all of us to grow closer.

***

READ ON:
–To View More Pictures from the Family Olympics Event, click here.

–Click here for more from our Archives on the Windsock Time.