On Monastic Immersion Experience

From our Winter 2015 Newsletter...

MIE participant, Brenda Lisenby, helps facilitate a listening session.

by Brenda Lisenby, MIE Participant

“It has been exciting to experience this commitment to prayer and presence in fresh ways as I am immersed in the daily life of the Visitation Monastery in north Minneapolis.” – Brenda Lisenby

Immersion in the daily life and mission of the Visitation Sisters in this north Minneapolis neighborhood is a joy, yet not without its challenges! The Monastic Immersion Experience (MIE) is designed by the Visitation Sisters to be a mutually enriching experience. Women of any Christian faith tradition are welcomed into their community for six to twelve months to experience the monastic way of life, to join in daily prayer and faith sharing, and to learn more about Salesian spirituality, a spirituality that I feel is particularly suited to lay people in all walks of life. The Sisters in turn are excited to experience the revitalization of Salesian spirituality as it is shared with women who join them in community and participate in their mission of prayer and presence in north Minneapolis.

My journey with the Visitation began in the spring of 2014 when I was exploring options for a continuing sabbatical. I am attracted to monastic life and I discovered the blog of a previous MIE and resonated with the experiences she was sharing. So I contacted the community to begin a time of mutual discernment about participating in the Monastic Immersion Experience. After several visits to get to know the community, I arrived in September to begin my experience. After a few weeks of prayer and reflection, I was formally welcomed into the community with a simple commitment ceremony. In my commitment statement, I wrote:

Brenda’s Statement of Commitment

I am very much aware of the precious gift you are giving by inviting me to participate in the Monastic Immersion Experience of the Visitation Monastery of Minneapolis. You are gifting me by:

  • welcoming me into the intimate spaces of your community life
  • providing a safe environment for me to discern my next step
  • sharing your lifetime of lived Salesian spirituality

I wish to acknowledge this precious gift. In return, I honor it with my own commitment to live and learn and love in light of the seven practices identified by the community as essential to their mission as I am immersed in the monastic life of the Visitation Sisters for the coming six months. 

Recently, I had a mid-point check-in with the community. We went back to my commitment statement to evaluate the experience thus far. Both the community and I have found this to be a mutually enriching experience. I have had a positive experience of vibrant community life, received much prayer and support as I discern next steps for my life, and been excited by the things I am learning in my Salesian studies.

As for the dailyness of my life as a MIE participant, I have found the monastic rhythm of prayer and work to be nourishing. In addition to prayer, I help in the kitchen, answer the door as a part of our “Door Ministry,” provide administrative support for monastery outreach events, etc. The challenge for me has been to find and maintain this balance, to find my place and personal rhythm within the community. This is a monastery, but not the monastery of traditional cloistered sisters. The “cloister” is the neighborhood and the community of communities that have emerged from the Sisters’ commitment to prayer and presence. It has been exciting to experience this commitment to prayer and presence in fresh ways as I am immersed in the daily life of the Visitation Monastery in north Minneapolis.

Our Ever-Expanding Community!

Anna Dourgarian, 2012 -2013 VIP

Anna Dourgarian, 2012 -2013 VIP

From our Fall Newsletter:

Over four hundred years ago St. Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor of the Church and Founder with St. Jane de Chantal of the Order of the Visitation, wrote The Introduction to the Devout Life, a classic which has never been out of print over these hundreds of years!  In the quaint language of his day he wrote in the introduction:  “ …My intention (in this book)  is to instruct (in the devout life) such as live in towns and families and at court, and who by their condition are obliged to lead, as to the exterior, a common life.” It is often commented that Francis was a Vatican II man.  His strong conviction that every person is called to union with God was articulated for posterity in two basic tenets of the Council: The Universal Call to Holiness & The Age of the Laity.

Jody Johnson, VC Coordinator

Jody Johnson, VC Coordinator

As the Church celebrates the 50th anniversary of Vatican Council II, we, the Visitation Sisters of North Minneapolis, dedicate this issue of our newsletter to the hundreds of lay women, men and children who have partnered with us to root the gentle, peaceful, loving presence of the Heart of Jesus in the City.  Let us continue to “build the City of God!”  We invite you to hear from a few of our lay friends….

To read more about Engaged Lay Members:

Marsha West 2012 MIE Participant

Marsha West, 2012 MIE Participant

Introducing Anna Dourgarian,
Visitation Internship Program  (VIP) (Click to read…)

Introducing Jody Johnson,
Coordinator of Visitation Companions (VC)
(Click to read…)

Introducing Marsha West,
Monastic Immersion Experience (MIE) Participant
(Click to read…)

Marsha’s Musings….Insights to Monastic Life

Ms. Marsha West, MIE participant

Ms. Marsha West, MIE participant

The following post by Marsha West, Monastic Immersion Participant, was excerpted from her blog, “Marsha’s Musings.” Click here to read this in its entirety and see her photo documentation of life at Visitation Monastery north Minneapolis.

Saturday morning in the neighborhood-North Minneapolis

Sr. Mary Frances calls the group to prayer before starting distributing door prizes at the conclusion of our party.

Sr. Mary Frances calls the group to prayer before starting distributing door prizes at the conclusion of our party.

August, 2012

Visitation Monastery follows a regular schedule: we gather together four times every day to pray the Divine Office. Morning prayer on weekdays is at 7. On Saturdays it’s at 8, and on Sundays 8:30. We either have a mass celebrated here at the Monastery or we go out to a neighboring parish. On Saturday mornings we generally have a Communion Service. Dinner is at 6:15. But in and around those regularly scheduled practices, all sorts of other things happen. THIS Saturday, August 25, was one such day!

So this Saturday morning, we gathered at 8, and several neighbors and friends joined us. We had a busy morning planned since the annual Back-to-School party was scheduled to begin at 1 PM.

But there was more! The Urban League sponsored a community parade which came down Girard Street where I am living. It was a great little community parade – with lots of young people from drum groups, dance companies, politicians leafleting the neighborhood as their supporters marched in their support. A couple of car clubs drove their cool cars, filled with family members and friends, past our house.


Update: News from the Northside*

by Sr. Mary Frances Reis, VHM

“As we settle into a time of transition from a full and fruitful year to a season of planning and “planting” for the coming year, we are grateful for our Visitation way which calls us to live in the PRESENT MOMENT and to treasure the graces in the relationships.  Our daily rhythm of Eucharist, Liturgy of the Hours, personal prayer and door ministry keeps us centered on Living Jesus in a profoundly incarnational way in the midst of the city!”

A Few Highlight of  “the year that has been”:

The St. Jane House, our urban spirituality center, served as the gathering place for women’s retreats, men’s spirituality & centering prayer groups, several high school and college inner city immersion experiences, discernment evenings, leadership training, From Death to Life meetings, etc., etc. (We even had a baby shower there!)

  • What does the future of the Visitation Community look like?

    What does the future of the Visitation Community look like?

    Our Visitation Internship Program (VIP) was launched this year, and two lovely young women recently completed their year of community service and in-depth experience of our charism.

  • Children and their families enjoyed a myriad of activities: field trips as diverse as the Holidazzle parade, the Children’s Theatre, Minnesota Science Museum, & The Minnesota History Theatre, parties sponsored and run by Vicki Bailey and friends of Mendota Visitation, etc., etc.
  • Mendota Visitation seniors were pioneers during their community service weeks here from May 21st thru May 31st. Instead of going to Guatemala, they came to North Minneapolis!  It was a great Mission Trip right here in the city!!!  The school motto “Not for School but for Life” was in full swing.

A few Highlights of summer 2012:

  • Our dear Sister Karen recently completed six years of selfless and Spirit-filled leadership of our community.  Sister Mary Frances succeeds her and will endeavor to follow her example of empowering the gifts of each of our Sisters and lay counterparts.
  • CYC Campers at Send Off

    CYC Campers at Send Off

    Thanks to the generosity of many benefactors & volunteers, we were able to send 75 children and 7 teen “Counselors in Training” to Catholic Youth Camp in McGreggor, MN; 4 teens to St. Louis to participate in Vistory, a program which brings Visitation students from around the country together to serve and learn about Salesian spirituality; and 2 teens to an intensive program at St. John’s University:  YTM, Youth in Theology and Ministry . . . As Father Michael O’Connell often says, “Our youth are our future.”  We are grateful for opportunities to affirm and form them in positive ways.

A Few Highlight of “things to come”:

  • We recently welcomed the first participant into our Monastic Immersion experience, a 6-month stay in our monastery.  Not unlike St. Jane de Chantal, Marsha West, who hails from Forks, Washington, has had many life vocations as wife, mother, grandmother, widow, and on and on! She brings many gifts our way and we are happy to share our life with her.  Welcome Marsha!
  • We are in the process of interviewing New VIPs for the coming year.
  • Our dear Maryann Pearson has “retired” as coordinator of the Visitation Companions, our lay community.  Thanks to her untiring dedication, we have about 15-20 members!  Jody Johnson has accepted the role of coordinator and will work with Sr. Mary Frances and Linda Goynes to keep the movement growing.

*Published in our Summer Newsletter – which you can view in its entirety here.

“Living in the Yes” — Marsha West’s Commitment to Monastic Immersion with the Visitation Sisters of north Minneapolis

Welcome MIE participant, Ms. Marsha West

Welcome MIE participant, Ms. Marsha West

by Sr. Mary Frances Reis, VHM and Marsha West, Monastic Immersion Participant

“When I came here last summer, I discovered that this is the place my heart has hungered for – a place where everyone lives every moment of every day oriented toward the presence of God, where all the activities and concerns of each day are infused with prayer.” — Marsha West, Monastic Immersion Participant

Recently, prompted by the Holy Spirit, we Sisters of the Visitation of Minneapolis, launched yet another initiative here in our little monastery: MONASTIC IMMERSION EXPERIENCE. The goal of this offering is to provide an opportunity for women desiring to deepen their spirituality in a monastic setting for a temporary period of time.  Each participant is invited to enter fully into our life of prayer, presence and ministry during her stay.

We are happy to report that we have a wonderful first participant!  MARSHA WEST is living with us for a period of six months; On Friday, August 3, 2012, we had a simple commitment ceremony in which Marsha expressed her desire and promise to share life with us for the next six months.

Rather than do any more explaining, I invited Marsha to elaborate on her hopes and desires for the coming months:

MARSHA:  I have been at Visitation Monastery here in N. Minneapolis for a month now. I visited here last summer for a week – came for a few days again last March – and now I’m here to stay for six months for what they call their “Monastic Immersion Experience” – a very apt phrase for what is happening here.

In my own blog, Marsha’s Musings, where I am keeping a chronicle of my journey, I wrote early in my stay:

When I made my other two visits here, I sat on the edge of the pool and wet my feet and watched. Maybe walked out ankle-deep in the pool. This time I’ve plunged in, gone in over my head, bobbed around, gasped for breath, floated briefly from time to time, splashed and rejoiced.

Now, a couple of weeks later, I would say that I have gotten my bearings and I am sinking more and more deeply into the life here, and I am loving it.

Marsha’s Statement of Commitment

Sr. Mary Frances embraces Marsha at her commitment ceremony

Sr. Mary Frances embraces Marsha at her commitment ceremony

The sisters asked me to write my own statement of commitment for our little ceremony last week. Here is a portion of it:

When I came here last summer, I discovered that this is the place my heart has hungered for – a place where everyone lives every moment of every day oriented toward the presence of God, where all the activities and concerns of each day are infused with prayer.

I remember asking Katherine, “What do I not know about you that makes you the way you are?” I know now what it is. It is the way you live these monastic rhythms, the way you have learned to be with each other and with the neighborhood.

That recognition awakened in me a fierce longing to live this way – I believe that longing was God’s call to me to leave what I have known and receive the gift I have so long sought.

I am deeply grateful to you for inviting me to share this way of living.

I commit to you that I will try to live out of the spirituality of Saints Francis and Jane. I will cultivate gentleness and quiet within myself. I will enter willingly and eagerly into the rhythm of your common and private prayer. I will try to be observant about what I can do to serve the needs of the community. I will try to set aside my own agendas to work wholeheartedly toward your goals. I will look for Jesus in the faces of the neighbors and friends who come to your houses. I will listen and value what you have to teach me about living this way.

. . . I will try to make each day of these next six months the fulfillment of that old longing – to live every day – all day – in conscious awareness of the Presence of God in prayer, service, and community. I can’t imagine any place where that might be more possible than right here.

I commit myself, with God’s help, to share your life in this way for the next six months.

The sisters had invited me to select a song for the service. I didn’t hesitate for a moment: I asked for “Here I am, LORD.” It says it all for me. I believe God called me here. I said Yes. And now I’m living in the Yes.

She’s here! Welcome to our new Monastic Immersion Experience Participant: Marsha West!

Welcome MIE participant, Ms. Marsha West

Welcome MIE participant, Ms. Marsha West

We want to issue a warm welcome to our first Monastic Immersion Experience (MIE) participant, Ms. Marsha West!

Marsha arrived Thursday, July 5,  2012, from her home in Forks, Washington, and plans to be with us for a six month period —  immersing herself  in our northside monastic community of prayer and presence.

More information shall follow, but join me in the warmest Visitation embrace of Marsha, will you?