The Gentle Strength of Gerry McKay — Vis Companion and Friend

Gerry McKay at the Neighborhood CleanUp (right in glasses)

by Dave Nimmer,* Guest Blogger

To say Gloria “Gerry” McKay has roots in her North Minneapolis neighborhood (old Highland) is something of an understatement.  McKay has been there longer than most of the trees on the north side.  She moved into her house on Fremont Avenue with her parents in 1928 – when she was two months old.

“I feel spiritually enriched by the Sisters. They show me, and all the others they’re connected with, kindness, gentleness and an open heart.” — Gerry McKay

This past Mother’s Day, she celebrated her 89th birthday and the 28th year of living alone in the family home.  And the week before her birthday, McKay was on a ladder trimming a tree next to her driveway.  She still drives a car, runs her own errands and more than occasionally pitches in with teenagers in a neighborhood cleanup.

“[Gerry] is a deeply spiritual person who knows the God who lives inside of her…and her neighbor.  She’s a steadfast family member and a loyal neighbor, who has a wry wit and a ready smile.” — Sr. Suzanne Homeyer

“I am pretty good at taking care of myself,” McKay says.  “Over the years I learned how to do a lot of things”  They include painting storm windows, shoveling snow, trimming trees, tending gardens nd hanging Christmas lights and watering grass.

In fact, she was watering grass when she first met the Visitation Sisters, several years after they moved into their house on Fremont Avenue..  Katherine Mullin noticed McKay in the yard and went over, said hello and invited her to meet the other Sisters.

Gerry McKay accepted the invitation and she’s been involved with the Sisters ever since, attending the monthly Monday Salesian meetings and becoming a Vis Companion (people who deepen their commitment to the Visitation Monastery, through, prayer, study and community service).

“I feel as though I’ve been adopted by the Sisters,” McKay says.  “They kind of adopted the whole neighborhood.  Everyone around here seems to know them and they seem to have a calming influence on those they meet.”

Gerry shares a thought at Salesian Monday Night

Calm, conscientious and confidant aptly describe Gerry McKay: the life she’s lived and the woman she’s become.  She grew up in a family with six siblings, five sisters and a brother.  “You better believe we raised him right,” she says, with a smile.  “He turned out to be a good and gentle man.”

And McKay turned out to be a very good daughter.  She attended Ascension Elementary School, Franklin Junior High and graduated from North High School. She got an award at North for never being late for class or missing a day of school.  She spent a year at the College of St. Catherine, planning to be a nurse.  Because her father was a contractor and frequently away, McKay had to quit and come home to help her mother, looking after her and the rest of the family.

She did it without resentments and found her role satisfying.  Over the years, she cared for her mother, two sisters and brother, who lost a battle to esophageal   cancer.  “I discovered I could be there when the going got tough,” she says.  “I always seemed to find the strength I needed.” She’s been the executor of three of their estates.

What McKay finds from the Sisters is another kind of strength.  “I feel spiritually enriched by them,” she says.  “They show me, and all the others they’re connected with, kindness, gentleness and an open heart.”

Sister Suzanne Homeyer says she draws inspiration from McKay: a single woman, growing old gracefully, taking care of her house, doing her own yard work, getting involved with her community and being unafraid.

“She is a deeply spiritual person,” says Homeyer, “who knows the God who lives inside of her…and her neighbor.  She’s a steadfast family member and a loyal neighbor, who has a wry wit and a ready smile.”

YouTube Channel: Tune into a video recording of the Interview with Gerry here.

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* This is the eleventh 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! 

Think VIP!

From our Winter newsletter...

VIP Alum Cody Maynus and Vis Companion Linda Goynes share treats at our Christmas party.

By S. Karen Mohan, VHM

What do a Monastic Studies grad student, a physical therapist, a Visitation alumna, a European Salesian spirituality “seeker” and a married woman now leading women’s programs in Afghanistan have in common? Did you think “VIP”? If so, you’re right on! Our former VIPs are now in these endeavors, fueled by Salesian spirit and Gospel focus from their service in north Minneapolis.

Encourage someone you know to consider a year of service with the Visitation Sisters.

These VIP alum spent a year in our monastery’s Visitation Internship Program which began in 2011. Community living, development of relationships among the people of north Minneapolis, Salesian spirituality and ministry on the north side are essential components of this volunteer program.

VIPs spend 10 months living in the neighborhood in housing provided by the Sisters. After visiting the many options for ministry in north Minneapolis, they offer 30 hours of service per week at a site that fits their talents and interests; they also spend 10 hours of service with the Sisters. Living simply, studying Salesian spirituality and praying and working with the Sisters in the monastery give both VIPs and Sisters a strong sense of community. Spiritual direction and prayer opportunities are important personal and spiritual supports for VIPs.

..if you are a young adult considering a year of “giving back and growing in your faith” in a vibrant, urban setting with a monastic community, consider this unique opportunity and “Think VIP”!

The Visitation Internship Program is open for women and men between the ages of 21-35 years.

Our website has specific information about the application process and the program itself. The website also has a recent video interview with one of our former VIPs, Anna Dourgarian and is delightful to view!

We are now taking applications for the 2017-2018 year. Encourage someone you know to consider a year of service with the Visitation Sisters. Pray for young adults as they discern how to live out the Gospel, and if you are a young adult considering a year of “giving back and growing in your faith” in a vibrant, urban setting with a monastic community, consider this unique opportunity and “Think VIP”!

We are taking Visitation Volunteer Applications!

VIP Promo VistoryAre you a young adult considering life after graduation? Does the idea of service and prayer, in the heart of the city, bring something alive in you? Are you called to explore your spirituality and be part of a social justice movement? Consider joining us, the Visitation Sisters, for a year of service, study and prayer as a Visitation Intern in north Minneapolis. We are taking applications now for September, 2017.

 

To hear more about the program, tune in to VIP Anna Dourgarian reflecting on her year with the Visitation Sisters in north Minneapolis.

The Law of Hope: Our friend Dorice Law interviewed*

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Dorice Law: Chaplain, counselor, confidant

By Dave Nimmer, Guest Blogger

Dorice Law leads a life that’s taken her in different directions and destinations. The 60-year-old grandmother has an office in St. Louis Park, a job in Bloomington, a divinity degree from St. John’s in Collegeville, a home in Plymouth and friends on Facebook.

But her heart remains in North Minneapolis, among the friends at Visitation Monastery and the faithful at Ascension Church, where she first met the sisters as they were discerning what their future would be. “I approached them right outside the church,” Law recalled, “and I told them, “Well, Lord knows we need you right up here.”

Law was born in Chicago, the seventh of eight children. She moved to Minneapolis when she was 16 and graduated from North High School.   But she went to Catholic schools in Chicago and was nurtured by the women of the church.

“I grew up standing behind a nun’s big, black skirt and feeling safe and secure,” she said.   “That was the way the world looked to me.”

That confidence enabled Law to raise three children, go to college, earn two master’s degrees, teach in high school, recruit for a community college, run her own insurance agency and, now, serve as a chaplain to a senior-living facility in Bloomington. It’s the role she was made for: Chaplain, counselor, confidant.

“I am convinced that I am good at this because people need someone to pray with them – for them. Since I was a kid, I could pray at the drop of a hat.”

“My personality is to be honest and frank and I am that way with the people at Friendship Village (where she serves as chaplain).   I tell them it’s impossible to shock me, that they can tell me the truth. Everyone wants to be loved and understood.”

For those closer to the end than the beginning, Law has a message of hope. “I tell them all that is God is good. All that is bad is NOT God.”  Her spiritual work is about grace, forgiveness and trust in a loving God.

That doesn’t surprise the Visitation sisters. “Dorice was someone who welcomed us and kind of introduced us to North Minneapolis,” said Mary Frances Reis.   “From the very beginning, on a Sunday morning outside of church, I thought of her as transparent, honest, generous and genuine.”

That hasn’t changed in 26 years and neither has Law’s commitment to the nuns and their ministry.

“I had always made a commitment,” she said, “that anything and everything the nuns had going I’d be a part of. I think I was at their very first study group on the Virgin Mary. This is a place where you can be yourself, speak your mind and not worry about a kick-out.”

The sisters not only didn’t kick her out, they took her in – into the family. Law recalled she got dressed for her wedding in 1991 at the Fremont house. The marriage lasted eight years; the fealty to Visitation is everlasting.

Law’s always believed the nuns accepted her for who she is, how she is and as she is. She said it was the recommendation letter from Sister Mary Frances that facilitated her acceptance into the School of Theology at St. John’s.

Although Law doesn’t live in North Minneapolis any longer, two of her children and her sister do and she’s over there every Sunday morning for church. She’s aware of the neighborhood’s pride, promise and possibilities.    She’s also concerned about the guns, gangs, drugs and violence.

The legal system makes it difficult to change things, Law said. “Once the man is a felon, he is effectively separated from his family. You don’t rent a place where the father is a felon. And if you have a job not making enough to pay the rent, it’s hard to have any hope.”

Hope is what Dorice Law is all about.

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To see a video of the interview with Dorice, visit our YouTube Channel.
* This is the second 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! 

Salesian Second Mondays Begin! This Year’s Theme: “Holiness is for Everyone”

On Monday, September 8, 2014, the Sisters and Visitation Companion Coordinator Jody Johnson convened our annual Salesian Second Monday series. This monthly event runs from September through April and includes a light pot luck supper and fellowship; followed by guided conversation around a topic related to Salesian Spirituality; and closes with Night Prayer. This year’s theme is “Holiness is for Everyone.” All are welcome!

Drawing from the Vatican II emphasis on the laity, as well as the writings of St. Francis de Sales, we are considering what it means to be holy in any walk of life. We reflect on how Salesian virtues may be expressed in different kinds of vocations.

To kick off the season focusing on (what the Church calls) the “universal call to holiness“, each Visitation Sister shared from her life, offering us some grounding insights on this theme.

Click to hear Visitation Sister Suzanne Homeyer offer a few stories that illustrate holiness.
To watch more of the Sisters reflecting on this theme of “Holiness is for Everyone”, tune into our Visitation Monastery YouTube Channel.

Remaining Salesian Second Monday Dates:

Monday, October 13, 2014
Monday, November 10, 2014
Monday, January 12, 2015
Monday, February 9, 2015
Monday, March 9, 2015
Monday, April 13, 2015

Join us!