“Live joyfully, brimful of God.” – St. Francis de Sales
My heart is on fire as I sit, reflect, write. I am seated at the Bean Scene, Too Coffee and Bakery shop in North Minneapolis. I have just come from the General Mills sponsored community meeting at Farview Park known as “The Hawthorne Huddle.” Convened inside this community and recreation center at the corner of 29th and Lyndale Avenue North, were leaders and outreach specialists invested in the well-being of the people of North Minneapolis. It was in this setting that I had an opportunity to experience the connections and serendipitous encounters that so inspire my faith and work in this world. It was here that questions of my role and ministry were challenged in an awesome way. It was here that I felt Love alive and in our midst!
I chose to attend this community meeting with a simple goal of networking and spreading the word about the Visitation Sisters’ upcoming events and internship program. I found myself being turned inward to contemplate the network of relationships that stir something large and loving in my being. In the course of the 90 minute meeting, I found myself mulling over questions that strike at the heart of our Salesian charism and fuel my passion in this vocations arena.
“Who are the Visitation Sisters of North Minneapolis?”
“What role do they play in this community?”
“How do I relate with the nuns as a lay woman? What is my gift or contribution to being a prayerful presence with this order of vowed religious?”
“What do the Visitation Sisters have to offer this community that is unique, loving, educational, transformational? How do I/we communicate this simply?”
“Who is called to be a Visitation Sister and in relationship with the Sisters? How do I/ we extend this contemplative invitation?”
“How does the Spirit of our Co-Founders, Sts Jane and Francis infuse and guide our work and interactions?”
The thing is, I love being in the community. I love connecting with other people who are passionately and maybe even, not-so-passionately, engaged in their work. In this setting, I’m acutely aware and tuned into the spirits of people, the fire in their hearts, and the actions being carried out by their limbs.
Today’s topic at the “Huddle” was around Diversity and Tolerance. There were six panelists representing five organizations:
- Anne Luce, Director, and Jacquelyn Randleman, Outreach Coordinator from Bright Water Montessori and Elementary School
- Charlene Hatcher, Managing Attorney of Adult Services Division for Hennepin County Attorney’s Office
- Scott Mayer, Director of the Minnepapolis MOSAIC arts program
- VJ Smith, Founder of MAD DADS
- Vivian Jenkins Nelson, Co-founder of INTER-RACE (The International Institute for Interracial Interactions) at Augsburg College.
Through the blessed and skilled facilitation of Hawthorne Huddle leader, Ellen Luger, each panelist presented – reflecting on and sharing information about how their organization lives and intentionally advocates for, in this case, diversity and tolerance.
“What I mean is that in all your good works you should unite yourself to the Will of God’s good pleasure.” -St. Jane de Chantal
As each presenter spoke, something stirred in my being. What stirred was a resonance, a kindred knowing and enthusiasm for their respective roles around this topic of inclusive, compassionate, just living and working practices. I heard about Maria Montessori alive and at work in North Minneapolis with our young people. I took note of the way attorneys and legal aid professionals in this largest county in the state envision and practice diversity in the justice system. I was tickled by the opportunities present for artists from all walks of life to participate in the MOSAIC performance and instillation program in Minneapolis; I was inspired especially by mention of a collaboration between North Indian dancers and gospel musicians performing together. I was moved by the charismatic and authentic approach of a father working vigilantly on the streets for a less violent and more peaceful community. I felt alive by the civil rights lineage infusing the heart and communication practices of our last presenter. I was in love. I found myself contemplating the spirit of our co-founders Jane and Francis spinning around in the room with these beautiful people.
Part of the story of this morning that is so central to my experience of feeling alive and in awe of the work of Love, of being a Visitation Companion attending this meeting, was the context in which I encountered it all. Entering the meeting room at Farview Park, I ran into Harriet Oyera, a Ugandan friend formerly of Redeemer Lutheran, who I got to know at Centering Prayer at St. Jane House. After hearing about her latest role with Environmental Justice Advocates of Minnesota (EJAM) as a traditional foods healthy communities organizer, I turned to center myself at the table of convening participants. What were the chances of meeting my East-African-Prayer-Quilting-Gardner-friend in this setting?
About five minutes into the meeting, as a representative from Minneapolis Police Department’s 4th Precinct gave an update on safety, my social justice committee friend and participant in the Following the Spirit Discernment Series, Devin Clarkson, pulled up a chair next to me. The convergence sent me spinning.
Prior to attending this meeting, I was brainstorming names of advocates and allies of the Visitation Sisters who might enjoy and benefit from attending the Hawthorne Huddle. Devin came to mind. As a Tuesday morning participant in St. Jane House’s centering prayer group, (not unlike Harriet Oyera) and young adult Christian who articulated his desire to “give back” to the sisters in some way, I wondered if Mr. Clarkson might not be interested in making an announcement about the Sisters’ upcoming events whilst also experiencing this meeting where so many gather who connect with his primary work role with youth in the neighborhood. While I declined from acting on this brainstorm, the fact that Devin appeared: idling up along side me, struck me as less than happenstance. I felt the Spirit alive again and guiding me. Us.
I moved through the entire meeting with the knowledge of these serendipitous encounters anchoring me, reminding me of how small this world is, and how large Love can be, if we allow ourselves to expand with the activity of such joyful occurrences.
“Please tell the Sisters that Vivian Jenkins says, ‘Hi’ and that I love them.”
I know exactly how she feels.