Thursday, January 19, 2017

The nuns next door

A contemplative order of women religious lives as a spiritual presence in a marginalized urban community.

It looks like just another house on just another block in just another American neighborhood. Tidy hostas line the walkway to the front door, pretty wicker chairs are circled on the front porch, and the doorbell chimes in a familiar four-note melody.

The sweet-faced, gray-haired women who answer the door look familiar, too: They might be AARP members, someone's great aunts, or even just friendly next-door neighbors to anyone in any city. They greet callers with warm smiles and understanding nods, sometimes dispense a lemon bar or a glass of water, and love to hear the news about who's just had a new baby down the block or who's in from out of town to visit relatives.

But this house sits in one of the most violent, poor, and crime-riddled neighborhoods in Minneapolis, and the six women in it are Visitation sisters living a monastic life in an inner-city setting. The monastery is housed in two typical neighborhood homes a block apart in the Near North area of Minneapolis, a neighborhood that, in crime maps of the city, has one of the highest concentrations of gunshots fired and violent crimes.

The sisters are there to live a spiritual life in an urban setting and to participate in a community of people who are often marginalized or overlooked. 

They are, as their neighbors fondly call them, "nuns in the hood." 
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