The Visitation Monastery of Minneapolis was founded in 1989 as an urban monastery with the desire to express contemplative life in a new way—a commitment to be one with those who live on the edge economically and who are often marginalized by society. The Visitation Sisters are present in inner city North Minneapolis to “Live Jesus” by sharing prayer, hope and God’s blessings with the people in their multicultural neighborhood.
Visitation Companion and Vocation Partner Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde reflects on engaging their community around questions of vocation, starting with the Called to Life program. The Visitation Sisters joined the Exploring Vocation in Community program in 2013.
What impact have you seen in your community as people begin to explore their sense of God’s calling?
People are hungry to know God’s calling and voice in their lives. They are also hungry for a safe community in which to explore their faith and utilize different tools to discern that often-evolving calling.
As discerning individuals have come forward to explore vocation with us in the “Following the Spirit” discernment series – using the Called to Life curriculum – it has had this mutually buoying effect on us and them: stimulating our collective work as faithful beings tuning in to love, and as our Visitation Co-founder St. Francis de Sales says, “Being who we are, and being that well.”
In the eight sessions that we have offered the discernment series around vocation, a diverse community of lay women and men of many ages, faiths, cultural and socio-economic backgrounds has emerged.
At the same time, our facilitators have taken a step back and asked, “What does the future of religious monastic life look like? Who are we as an inner city monastery inviting single, Catholic women to join us? And who are we with this overwhelming response and desire by so many to examine God’s call in their lives — outside of a strictly traditional religious vocation?”
We wonder, “What is our role as a community of women religious and a burgeoning engaged laity in helping form and nurture vocation?”
What new insight have you gained about vocation through helping to lead your community’s efforts?
Vocation is something that evolves over a lifespan. At the heart of God’s calling is the invitation to love, and be an outpouring of God’s love. We are called to be who we are and to be fully human — while hopefully recognizing God’s grace and mercy.
For each of us, the road to living that vocation is informed by our circumstances and our commitments to a certain way of life. Are we vowed religious? Vowed married people? Vowed single?
For me, wrestling with a vocation—as a wife and mother, a Companion to the Visitation community and a writer—has elicited these insights about the nature of vocation and helped shine a light on the stories of the founding members of the north Minneapolis community.
While each of the sisters of the Visitation Order had a vocation to religious life, that vocation to the Visitation community has evolved over time, and through the work of the Holy Spirit, prayer and discernment, resulted in the establishment of a new community expanding the charism and bringing their spirituality to whole new group of people in an urban environment.
Seeing this kind of “calling within a calling” is one that gives us all permission to listen deeply to God and be present to the way the Spirit may move us to new forms of love’s expression.
What advice or suggestions would you offer to congregations interested in exploring vocation in their own community?
Pray about your goals and hopes, both as individuals and as a small cohort of leaders or facilitators. Before you convene a group from your congregation or community, explore the curriculum together as leaders. Be open and honest, vulnerable with one another, and let this bond you and inspire a transparency and authenticity in your journey with your congregants.
Don’t have all the answers. Listen to one another and to the stories each brings. If you aren’t already in spiritual direction, consider finding or having a director to support you as you support others.
What group within your community would you next like to engage around vocation? Where do you see the greatest need to help people come to a deeper understanding of calling?
The next group we’d like to engage around vocation is one already forming around their calling to live in north Minneapolis, and to love, serve, and pray alongside the Visitation Sisters. At the end of May at St. Jane House, a large group of people convened to discuss Jonathon Wilson-Hartgrove’s book, Strangers at My Door: A True Story of Finding Jesus in Unexpected Guests. This book highlights a bit of our Visitation/Salesian charism as a group of women religious that meet Christ at our door whenever the bell rings, but is written from a Baptist minister and married person’s perspective.
Perhaps our greatest need to help people to come to a deeper understanding of calling is to unpack some of these stories (Jonathan’s, ours, their own) within a Salesian context. We would like to engage the hungry group of folks who find this book resonant and look at possibilities for their own callings and next steps.
We are open. We are listening. We are praying.
Click here for more on the Called to Life program that inspired St. Paul & the Redeemer’s ongoing work on vocation.
Image courtesy of the Visitation Monastery of Minneapolis.