“Honey, oh honey, come down with me and get yourself a banana, ” it was the seventh grade, and this is how I was greeted each morning after getting off the bus at 7:30 am. Somehow Sister Marie Therese, more endearingly referred to as Sister Honey, knew I probably had not eaten breakfast. More importantly, she knew a little extra TLC would go far for me. I had just entered The Convent of the Visitation School in Mendota Heights having transferred from the parochial school I attended wanting to follow in my older sisters footsteps, and my parents were in the midst of a divorce. This enclave, of a small school environment geared toward young women, was where I would thrive. Not only because the academics were challenging enough to engage a young mind and keep it curious, but also because the sisters added the humanistic touch to educating not only the mind, but the heart as well.
In eighth grade I often had detention for chewing gum and not tucking my shirt in, so almost every lunch period I would help Sister Honey clear plates into the trash. I became a regular helper, and they gave me my own apron. We mutually looked forward to the time spent together. I learned how to do work joyfully from the Sisters, and at the end of the year my teacher, Mrs. Harvey, who gave me my daily detentions, said, “I was the most joyous worker she’d encountered,” and baked me cookies. Rewarding trouble? Perhaps. But Mrs. Harvey saw beyond the detentions to the value that was being instilled in me, joy.
Through my six years of formal education at the Visitation I came to intimately know the Sisters. When Sr. Katherine left the Convent of the Visitation in Mendota Heights to join the Monastery in North Minneapolis her departure brought with her an invitation to all at the Mendota Heights Visitation—an invitation to expand the horizons and the education. Sr. Katherine and the Sisters of North Minneapolis remain educators. Sure it is not in the formal sense of four walls, nor in the classic sense of Shakespeare, but it is in the real sense of what St. Jane de Chantal advocated, “Live simply, so that others may simply live.”
It is through their actions, through their post, that the Sisters of North Minneapolis remain educators of the mind and the hearts of young people. Their presence of hospitality teaches tolerance, as all are welcome who ring their doorbell. – Beth Eilers Sullivan, Vis Alumna, ’93
It is through their actions, through their post, that the Sisters of North Minneapolis remain educators of the mind and the hearts of young people. Their presence of hospitality teaches tolerance, as all are welcome who ring their doorbell. Their resourcefulness of finding suits for those about to go on a job interview, black dresses for those about to attend a family funeral, prayers for those who need them teaches resilience and hope. Their joyful spirit that celebrates birthdays of children in the neighborhood, graduations, and welcome home celebrations from those getting out of prison teaches the utmost value: love of self, God and others, which allows for the healing of violence in the neighborhood. These Sisters have taken the value of a Visitation Education offered at the college preparatory schools across the nation and brought it to those who might never have access to it. The Sisters also bring with them the Mendota Heights Visitation Community who might never have access to the North Minneapolis neighbors. It is this bridge that brings the whole of the Visitation together! St. Jane de Chantal’s quote that
hung on the stairwell in the Mendota Heights Visitation sang: “There is nothing as strong as real gentleness and nothing so gentle as real strength.” This value is alive and well at the North Minneapolis Visitation. This is a value I pass intentionally on to my three boys, when they learn “So big!” as babies, we follow it with “So strong,” and flex the muscles, and then end it with, “So gentle,” and pretend to rock a baby in our arms. These women continue to feed me perhaps not with a breakfast of bananas, but with the legacy of Salesian Spirituality they instilled in me.
“There is nothing as strong as real gentleness and nothing so gentle as real strength.”
Please join me in my heartfelt thanks for the Visitation Sisters’ commitment to education no matter what form it takes, these dedicated women are educators of the heart, the mind, and the spirit. Might you be one of these dedicated women or know one? After all, it is an education that is not for School, but truly for Life, and I for one am grateful to them!
Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan, A proud Visitation Alumna ’93