by Anna Anderson on Sunday, June 18, 2023

Praying in the chapel
Listening to local leaders
Playing bingo with elders

In today’s Gospel reading at Mass, we heard Jesus say, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest,” before sending off His apostles to serve the suffering (Matthew 9:36-10:8). The apostles had not started out ready to serve, though; Jesus did not summon Peter from his fishing boat (Matthew 3:18) and immediately commission him to work miracles. Instead, the apostles spent many chapters of the Gospel learning: they watched Jesus heal the sick and cast out demons; they watched some people trust Him, others argue with Him, and others beg Him to leave; and they heard His Sermon on the Mount, including His teaching of the Lord’s Prayer. Sometimes they themselves were the recipients of Jesus’ healing power, like when He healed Peter’s mother-in-law or calmed the storm around their boat at sea. The apostles spent time immersed in the community following Jesus before ever starting their service work.

In a similar way, a group of students recently spent two weeks of immersion, not service work, in North Minneapolis with the Visitation Sisters. The students were about to graduate from Visitation High School in Mendota Heights, and in fulfillment of a two-week service project requirement, they chose to spend their time learning about the North Side community. They got to know young children at Northside Child Development Center and elders at Heritage Park. They got to hear stories about the founding of the Cookie Cart, the mission of We Push for Peace, the gentle strength of From Death to Life, and the leadership of Don and Sondra Samuels. They enjoyed the hospitality of Brian Mogren at the St. Jane House. They processed their experiences through prayerful journaling under the guidance of Sister Suzanne. The students came, they listened, and they learned.

Their transformation and inspiration were powerful. Listen to what they learned about North Minneapolis and about life:

  • “I learned things I probably never would have sought out on my own and I truly got to see how the good outweighs the bad.” – Kazi Hankee
  • “I learned about one older man, Tom…. I love [his] idea that we can be all we want to be and we can do it at different staggered moments in our lives; it’s less pressure than being everything we’ve aspired to be at once.” – Julia Harms
  • “Though I already knew that one can always find joy in the simple things, spending time in the infant room helped me to find those simple things each day, when I might otherwise not have cared to look, or been too preoccupied to notice.” – Kathryn Looney
  • “The snot and diapers are only a small portion of the job with these children, the most important things are the giggles and smiles that they give and receive.” – Clare Olson
  • “I believe that you will not see good things, unless you choose to look for it.” – Mia Stone
  • “I am leaving this experience with more empathy, confidence, a widened perspective, and a great appreciation for North Minneapolis and the people who live here.” – Isabella Tucker
  • “We are called to take all the lessons, values, friendships, and faith that we learned into whatever the future holds.” – Elizabeth Fox

One day, these students will devote hours to important service work—feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, teaching the illiterate. When the Lord finally commissions them to do that work, their service will be strengthened by the understanding they gained in the two weeks they spent with the Sisters focused on listening.

Visitation Sisters and Students