On following the nuns

“Why North Minneapolis?” is the question that I’ve been getting quite a lot lately.

I anticipated this question from folks outside of North Minneapolis–my family in Montevideo, my friends in St. Paul, etc.–but I did not anticipate folks from the northside asking me why I’m serving in their neighborhood.

My answer to this question often varies based on the person asking it. I’ve cited diverse reasons–the breadth of opportunities, the desire for a challenge, and even the similarity to New Haven. While chatting this morning with a pastoral associate at the local parish, I realized the real reason why I picked North Minneapolis.

The Visitation Sisters of North Minneapolis: (l-r) Sisters Karen Mohan, vhm; Katherine Mullin, vhm; Mary Frances Reis, vhm; Suzanne Homeyer, vhm; Mary Virginia Schmidt, vhm; and Mary Margaret McKenzie, vhm.

The pastoral associate told the story of a nun-friend of hers–a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet, a local community with a lauded history of social activism–who told her that “While the boys in St. Paul sit around tables and discuss what to do, we Sisters are on the ground doing it.”

That Sister is absolutely correct. The nuns are the ones on the ground and doing the work of the Gospel. While I have a very high regard for academic theology and philosophy, anything which does not have direct impact on the daily lives of God’s people seems to me like it ought to come second. The Gospel is absolutely liberating and these nuns know that. The priests and bishops know it, but the nuns know it, if you get my meaning.

Wherever oppression of any kind exists, the nuns are there. More than just working for justice–organizing, lobbying, legislating, administrating–the nuns are present and they’re praying.

In North Minneapolis, for example, the Visitation Sisters are rooted into a deep network of activists, teachings, and community leaders. They contribute charitably to their neighborhoods and facilitate the charity of other donors. They teach from time to time and contact their legislators when necessary. More often–and more powerfully–the Visitation nuns are present to their neighbors–at high school football games, on the sidewalks, at the parks–and they’re praying for their neighbors. These women gather four times a day to pray together, although their prayers are never just for one another. They hold their neighbors deep in their hearts and bring those neighbors into the ever expansive heart of God.

While Roman Catholic Sisters do not often have any formal positions of power within the official structures of the church, they are truly the most powerful people in the hearts and in the minds of God’s people.

And so that’s why I’m in North Minneapolis, because I followed the nuns. 

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