Monthly Archives: April 2011

Sacred Heart Devotion & the Visitation Tradition

Written by Visitation Alumna, Anne Williams, ’82, Director of Salesian Studies at The Convent of the Visitation, Mendota Heights, MN

Art Work by Michael O'Neill McGrath, OSFS

Art Work by Michael O'Neill McGrath, OSFS

Most Catholics are aware of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. But not as many know that a Visitation Nun, born in France in 1647, was instrumental in promulgating the spread of this worldwide devotion.

Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, entered the Visitation Community at the Monastery of Paray-le-Monial, France. It was there that she began to receive in her prayer, visions of Jesus, asking her to share the message of his heart burning with deep love for his people.

The vivid images she saw were challenging her to spread to others the message that the Heart of Jesus, was a treasure of love and mercy, which offered sanctification and salvation.

As a monastic, contemplative nun, Margaret Mary could not literally go out and spread the message, so she collaborated with her confessor, a Jesuit priest named Father Claude de la Colombiere.

Father Colombiere was instrumental in verifying Sister Margaret Mary’s revelations as authentic and in promoting devotional practices to the Sacred Heart as she had relayed in her messages from Christ.

The Visitation Sisters were asked to devote their prayer and dedication to the Sacred Heart to make reparation for hearts grown cold throughout the world.  While Sr. Margaret Mary’s private devotion to the sacred heart was not new, Visitation was the first religious group to publically consecrate themselves to this devotion.   Sr. Margaret Mary and Fr. Claude were canonized, Saint Margaret Mary in 1920 and Saint Claude de la Columbiere in 1992.

Contemporary Devotion

During this past year of celebrating the 400th Anniversary of the Visitation Order, our school community focused on the Sisters’ motto “Live Jesus”.   In the words of the Visitation founder St. Francis de Sales, “To ‘Live Jesus’ is to have the name of Jesus engraved on one’s heart.  It is to allow that name to become one’s own true name, to allow one’s entire self—body, thoughts, affections, actions, decisions, work, devotion—to be animated by the reality of the person known by that name.  To allow Jesus to live, you do not simply learn about Jesus or pray to Jesus or even imitate Jesus.  One surrenders the vital center of their being – your heart, as understood in the wholistic biblical sense, to another living presence.”   (Letters of Spiritual Direction, Thibert)

Art Work by Michael O'Neill McGrath, OSFS

Art Work by Michael O'Neill McGrath, OSFS

How do you Live Jesus? The spirit engendered by the founding Saints, Francis de Sales and Jane de Chantal, suggests that is it by doing little things in the midst of our ordinary and busy lives.   Living each day well, and rising to the daily challenges to treat yourself and others with love.

In this issue of Vision you will read many examples of how students and alums Live Jesus by modeling gospel values of peace and justice with the result that they have become catalysts for positive change.   Visitation students are taught to look carefully at existing social issues, cognizant of their responsibility to help solve these problems, particularly those of marginalized peoples. Students are often exposed to people and organizations that are making contributions to justice and peace in our global community.   As St. Francis de Sales exhorts, “to carry God on the tongue with beautiful words, to carry God in the heart with beautiful affections, is not everything.   We must carry him in our arms with good works.”

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus can serve as a synopsis of Salesian spirituality.   Jesus’ heart — alive, pulsing, and burning — actively yearns for each one of us to be nourished in our relationship with Him.  Then, inspired and fueled by this profound, unconditional love, we are invited to reach out to our brothers and sisters in the world.

As I write this column, the Visitation Community is preparing to welcome two special visitors from Paray-le-Monial, France.  On March 8 and 9, Father Edouard Marot and Sister Alicia Beauvisage of Paray-le-Monial, France will present conferences in Mendota Heights on the devotion to the Sacred Heart.   They have been on an eight year world tour, often with the relics of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque.  Father Marot describes Devotion to the Sacred Heart as devotion for today, not an archaic tradition, because it is about tapping into the love of Jesus’ own heart.

If you would like to learn more about Devotion to the Sacred Heart or Saints Margaret Mary Alacoque and Claude de la Colombiere, stop in at the Salesian Office or contact me at awilliams@

“Everywhere, in society, in our villages, in our neighborhoods, in our factories and our offices, in our meetings between peoples and races, the heart of stone, the dried up heart, must change into the heart of flesh, open to one’s brothers, open to God. The survival of humanity depends upon it. It is beyond our power. It is a gift from God. A gift of His Love”  (John Paul II, October 5, 1986, at Paray-le-Monial).

“The abundant spiritual fruits which devotion to the Heart of Jesus has produced are widely acknowledged. Expressing itself notably by the practice of the holy hour, of Confession and Communion on the First Fridays of the month, it has contributed towards encouraging generations of Christians to pray more and to participate more frequently in the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist.” Pope John Paul II, October 5, 1986

*Published in Vision Magazine, Spring 2011. Shared here with their kind permission.

Easter Images: “From Death to Life” Retreat with the Sisters

Posted by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion; Photos by Sr. Mary Frances Reis, VHM

Easter People: Two Mothers in "From Death to Life"

Easter People: Two Mothers in "From Death to Life"

The following pictures were taken by Sr. Mary Frances Reis while on retreat with mothers and board members from the “From Death to Life” healing group. On the heels of our Easter Celebration, we offer you images of the resurrection in real time: as these mothers and their families heal from the tragic loss of life and experience transformation – possible only through radical Love and forgiveness. Easter Blessings to all!

To read more about the Retreat, click here .

For more entries on Mary Johnson’s “From Death to Life” healing ministry, click here.

On Retreat: Sisters Join “From Death to Life” Mothers

On Retreat: Sisters Reflecting in Sacred Space

On Retreat: Sisters Reflecting in Sacred Space

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion, and Sr. Mary Frances Reis, VHM

What is it to go “on retreat”? To step back from the world, from daily life and expectations and busy tasks and tend to our spirits? To reflect and renew – in order to more fully re-engage with the world and people around us?  Who makes time to do such “work”? Can you fathom what this kind of reflective time includes, say when you are really “smacking”? When your soul aches, or you feel a distance from God/ Love/ support? Can you imagine this experience in the wake of losing a dear member of your family? A child or sibling or parent? Can you enter into the space of retreat and healing if that person’s  life was taken through violence?

“How do we integrate core values and core hurts into our lives in order to become whole?”- Regina Irwin, “From Death to Life” Mother on Retreat

Smiling retreatantsTwo weeks ago, a group of eight women from the Death to Life Healing Group started by Mary Johnson engaged in such a retreat endeavor. They were joined by two of our beloved Visitation Sisters, Mary Margaret and Mary Frances, along with other supporting FDTL board members, including Visitation Companion, Brian Mogren.

Sr. Mary Frances writes of the weekend: “We had the most AWESOME retreat experience with the eight women who are in the group.” Housed in the sanctuary space of the Mogren Family cabin about three hours north of the Twin Cities, the women spent time reading, talking, sharing, engaging in ritual; all in all the group members were tending to their bodies, minds, and spirits.  Sr. Mary Frances continues, “I was invited to give massage — which I did: six in two days!” Trained as a massage therapist for just such ministries, Sr. Mary Frances was able to extend this gift of healing touch.

Spiritual Friends: Sr. Mary Margaret and Mary Johnson

Spiritual Friends: Sr. Mary Margaret and Mary Johnson

The retreat was shaped by the participants themselves, as Sister tells us, “Regina Irwin, one of the mothers, gave her input. Her topic was ‘core values and core hurts’ and how we integrate them into our lives in order to become whole.” It was collaborative and restorative, a mutually honoring and engaging time for all the members comfortably secluded in this place of healing and wholeness.

Sr. Mary Frances concludes, “The women shared profoundly of their tragic losses, processing the loss of their sons to homicide. In all, Mary Johnson [as leader of the group] integrated fun, bonding and prayer; I was so graced to be a part of it!”

Let’s keep these women in our prayers as they heal. Let’s recognize how we are all wrapped up in the journey of reconciliation, tending to wounds, and moving closer to the Divine in our midst.



To read more blogs about Mary Johnson and her ministry of healing and forgiveness, see the following links:
In the News: St. Jane House Friends Mary and Oshea
Claiming Connection: Finding Family, Hope and Faith with a Man who Committed Murder
Encountering the Face of Forgiveness
Contemplating the Holy Family
From Death to Life Homepage

21st Century Stations of the Cross

This was sent to me by my beloved Aunt Mary White, a Benedictine Nun in St. Paul, and with it she wrote:

“Good Friday today.   If you want a prayer to meditate on. It associates the events of Good Friday with our present world.”


She takes the time each holy day to send out prayerful reflections and for her and these I am grateful.

-Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan, Visitation Alumna

21st Century Stations of the Cross written by Emilie Ast Lemmons

There is something powerful about revisiting the final moments of Jesus’ life as a human being. That’s what draws many Catholics to meditate on the Stations of the Cross.

By looking at depictions of the 14 scenes from his death sentence to his burial and meditating on them, those who pray with the stations recognize that Jesus suffered, and that he understands human suffering. There is comfort and consolation in that.

But knowing that Jesus died in reparation for our sins, while pondering Jesus’ suffering and death and resurrection we can take the further step of relating Jesus’ journey to life today in our own world, in our own lives.

Image from St. Brigids Parish, San Diego, CA

Image from St. Brigid's Parish, San Diego, CA

The following 21st Century Stations of the Cross invite this type of meditation.

I. Jesus is condemned to death.

Whom does our society condemn? Whom do you condemn by not honoring Christ’s presence in all people?

II. Jesus takes up his cross.

What crosses do you carry every day? How do you endure your suffering and challenges with grace and courage?

III. Jesus falls for the first time.

What weaknesses cause you to stumble and fall under the weight of your burdens? Do you secretly ridicule others when they fall?

IV. Jesus meets his mother.

What is it like to watch a loved one suffer and know there is nothing you can do to help? How might you better appreciate those who care about you?

V. Simon helps carry the cross.

When you are asked to help an unpopular person or cause, do you do so willingly or reluctantly?

VI. Veronica wipes Jesus’ face.

Can you overcome fear and peer pressure to be compassionate and gentle to one who is suffering?

VII. Jesus falls a second time.

How do you summon strength and perseverance to carry on in the face of failure?

VIII. Jesus meets some grieving women.

Can you keep your burdens in perspective enough to empathize with the sorrows of others?

IX. Jesus falls the third time.

How do you react when you see someone beaten down by repeated cruelty?

X. Jesus is stripped of his garments.

What does it feel like to be humiliated and robbed of your human dignity?

XI. Jesus is nailed to the cross.

In what ways do people cause unbearable pain to others with their words and actions?

XII. Jesus dies on the cross.

When a part of your life dies, are you able to move past your anger and forgive?

XIII. Jesus is taken down from the cross.

How well are you able to honor and embrace the inevitable partings in your life?

XIV. Jesus is placed in the tomb.

How is an ending the beginning of something new?


The 21st Century Stations of the Cross was written for Lent 2001 by Emilie Ast Lemmons, and first appeared in The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Lemmons, an award-winning writer, blogger, wife and mother of two young boys, succumbed to cancer in 2008, we remember her here.

Great Love: Sharing Salesian Spirituality Through Email

Guest blogger and Visitation Alumna, Claire Kranz

Courtney & Claire Kranz and Sr. Karen on Claire's Gradutaion Day from Vis

Courtney, Claire Kranz and Sr. Karen on Claire's Graduation Day from Visitation School

My name is Claire Kranz and I am a freshman at St. Louis University. I’m currently studying Biology with the intent to become a doctor. I graduated from Visitation School in Mendota Heights in 2010. During my senior year, I realized how important Salesian Spirituality has been in shaping the person I am today.  So, building on a format first used by  Vis grad Meghan Wenger (’09), I sent out weekly emails to classmates and younger Visitation students with a Salesian quote and my brief reflection about the quote’s application to the daily life of a student.

I send the Salesian quote of the week to five college freshmen across the country, a few current Vis girls, and a few Vis teachers. I love Salesian Spirituality because, in its simplicity and humanity, is is so accepting of shortfalls and flaws and uplifts you where ever you are in your path to holiness. – Claire Kranz

I continued my weekly emails even after starting college because I really missed the Salesian Spirituality at Visitation School and the Visitation monastery in North Minneapolis. Now, I send the Salesian quote of the week to five college freshmen across the country, a few current Vis girls, and a few Vis teachers. I love Salesian Spirituality because, in its simplicity and humanity, is is so accepting of shortfalls and flaws and uplifts you where ever you  are in your path to holiness. I continue Salesian quote of the week because I love finding just the right  quote to share with my friends, and take joy out of knowing that women across the country are applying it to their lives too.

St. Francis de Sales

St. Francis de Sales

Inspired by St. Francis De Sales, Claire reflects on Holy Week:

“The opportunity of doing great things does not come often, but at every moment we can do little ones with great love.” -Saint Francis De Sales

As we enter Holy Week, this quote seems particularly fitting.  On Good Friday, we remember the greatest sacrifice of love ever.  Jesus died so that we might go to heaven and spend eternity with God in all his glory.  It was the greatest sacrifice, one that none of us will ever make, but at each moment, every minute, and every day, we can chose to make little sacrifices with great love.  It comes down to L+J, to living Jesus and trying to make our words and actions mirror the goodness of His.  This week as we remember Jesus’ sacrifice for us, I pray that each of us with find more little ways to love.

Peace and Prayers this Holy Week.


*If you would like to be on Claire’s weekly email blasts, please email her with the subject “Salesian Quote request.” Her thoughts tend to be geared toward the young student drawing on where she is currently in her own life, but she is happy to share them with whomever may be interested.


Related Post: Sharing Salesian Spirituality: One Quote at a Time!

Happy Birthday Sr. Mary Margaret!

Srs. Mary Frances, Mary Margaret and Mary Johnson

Srs. Mary Frances, Mary Margaret and Mary Johnson

Posted by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion; Photos by Brian Mogren, St. Jane House

On Monday, April 18, 2011, we celebrated Sr. Mary Margaret McKenzie’s birthday. Included in the Sisters’ outing were Visitation Companion, Brian Mogren, and dear friend and Salesian Leader, Mary Johnson.  What a way to start Holy Week, eh? Happy Birthday, Sr. Mary Margaret!

Christ’s Wounds, Our Wounds: A Meditation by Fr. Richard Rohr

Posted by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM, Center for Action and Contemplation

Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM, Center for Action and Contemplation

As we head into Holy Week, and the fullness of Christ’s Passion, the following words from Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM, struck me as keenly relevant to our journeys as humans. One of the things Christ so beautifully offers us in His crucifixion, death and resurrection, is His complete surrender to suffering; as God’s child, He shows us what it is to transform and trascend circumstances, but only by first living in and through them – utterly in a state of faith. The implications for our lives are drawn out further in Fr. Rohr’s teaching meditation below.


By Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM

You will be wounded.  Your work is to find God and grace inside the wounds.  This is why Jesus told Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands.  Reach out your hand and put it in my side” (John 20:27).  Thomas was trying to resolve the situation mentally, as men usually do, so Jesus had to force direct physical contact with human pain—the pain of Jesus, Thomas’ capacity for empathy with that pain, and very likely with Thomas’ own denied pain.  Deep healing has to happen corporeally and emotionally, and not just abstractly.

Jesus wanted Thomas to face and feel in his body the tragedy of it all—and then know it was not tragedy at all!   In that order.  That is how wounds become sacred wounds.  This is the pattern of all authentic conversion in the Christian economy of grace: not around, not under, not over, but through the wound we are healed and saved.

From On the Threshold of Transformation: Daily Meditations for Men,
p. 256, day 247
Used with permission of Loyola Press.

Related posts:

Fr. Richard Rohr on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Mystic Inspiration: Fr. Rohr, Meister Eckhart, Fr. O’Connell

Happy All Souls Day! -A Reflection from Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM

“Seeing with Contemplative Eyes” – Juxtaposing Richard Rohr and Rumi

Get Thee to the Wild! Into Nature! An Invitation from Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM

Tending to our Interiors: Introducing Inspiration from Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM

Holy Week: From Death to Life

crossWritten by Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan, Visitation Alumna

Today as we prepare to enter Holy Week, I prepare to welcome our fourth child into the world. After anticipating this baby for more than 9 months, now overdue, my thoughts go toward Mary who carried Jesus in her womb for nine months, traveled across rocky terrain to birth him, and then walks his final journey with him during what is a parents deepest sorrow, worst fear, the death of their child. I get the chills at the thought of this. My heart breaks for Mary this week as she watches with the deepest love, sorrow, and faith of motherhood and stays by Jesus’ side as he transcends this world and resurrects into Easter Morning.

I think of Mary Johnson’s story of losing her son. The incredible journey she has been on from deepest grief, to anger, to forgiveness, to her embrace of Oshea. It is the story of the Resurrection. Would I have her courage, her faith, her perseverance to find a way through the loss back toward life? I pray I would, but her story of grace and life in the midst of loss daunts and inspires me. Challenges me toward holiness and wholeness. How did Mary, Jesus’ mother, transcend her loss, her sorrow after his death? Each of us is someone’s child; a child to a parent who waited in anticipation of bringing us into this world.

As Christians, we are invited to participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation to prepare for Holy Week. I leave you with this examination of consciousness shared by a Georgetown Visitation Alumna, Peggy Kravitz, thank you Peggy.

Think about These Things from The Word Among Us, An Examination of Conscience for Lent

You can probably see yours reflected in how you try to raise your children,
what you spend your money on, and how you treat oth­ers. Our philosophies
form over time through personal experiences, and theyre often
influenced—for better or worse—by the world around us. Perhaps we never
even deliberately stated our philosophies; we simply picked them up as we
went along.
In his Letter to the Philippians, St. Paul presents an inspired philosophy
of life. He urges us to fill our minds and hearts only with things that are
holy, true, and pure-things that will build up our faith. He urges us to
act like a sieve, holding on to the ways of God and letting go of every­
thing that’s opposed to him. In other words, Paul calls us to take the
spir­itual lessons that Jesus taught and put them into practice so that we
can shape our philosophies around Jesus.
This Lent, as you prepare for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, God is
inviting you to reflect on your philosophy of life. Are there areas in your
life where you havent held on to the way Jesus lived? Maybe in the way you
treat your family members or co­ workers, or maybe with how much time you
set aside for daily prayer. Are there any areas where worldly thinking
guides your decisions more than the call to holiness does? Using this
passage from Philippians 4, ask the Holy Spirit to guide your examination.
Ask him to show you how you can become more like Jesus. As you bring these
areas into the light of Christ, you will come to experience more and more
of Gods lasting, per­fect peace.
“Whatever is true .. .”
Are there ways in which I have been dishonest with those closest to me?
Are there any areas in which Im not being honest with myself and the Lord?
Am I trying to hide some sin from the Lord? Am I avoiding my need to deal
with an area in my life that is out of order?
“Whatever is honorable .. .”
Am I using my gifts and talents for Gods glory?
Do my goals in life reflect gospel values, or are they based more on
self-centered, worldly ambitions?
Do I speak to other people—and about them—in a way that is respectful
and straightforward?
“Whatever is just …”
Am I trying my best to care for the poor and the unfortunate?
Do I treat other people fairly? Have I engaged in improper deals, whether
at work or amongst my friends?
Have I focused more on the flaws of those around me than on my own flaws?
“Whatever is pure .. .”
Have I guarded my mind and my eyes against lust?
Have I acted impurely, either with someone else or with myself?
Am I treating my husband or wife with honor and respect?
“Whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious .. .”
Are there ways in which my witness to the gospel is tarnished, whether by
my speech or my actions?
Am I modest in my dress and appearance? Or am I overly concerned with how
I look before others?
Do I entertain grudges or resentments against someone else? Is there
someone I need to forgive?

“Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in
me.Then the God of peace will be with you.” —Plulippians4:8-9

Compassion is a “Spiritual Technology” – Krista Tippett

Posted by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

“Compassion” is “a spiritual technology.” This definition offered by journalist Krista Tippett at a special TED Talk held at the United Nations on the anniversary of the Karen Armstrong’s Charter for Compassion struck me. I share the following video to inspire your reflections, prayers, and continuation toward Christ’s PASSION, this Lenten season, with these potent words on compassion.

“[H]umanity, the future of humanity, needs this technology as much as it needs all the others that have now connected us and set before us the terrifying and wondrous possibility of actually becoming one human race.” – Krista Tippett paraphrasing Albert Einstein

We welcome your comments or thoughts below!

Consider the following Critical Response Protocol questions:
1. What strikes you as you listen to her words*? What words or phrases do you hear?
2. What does her talk remind you of?
3. What emotion does this inspire?
4. What questions does this raise for you? What do you wonder about?
5. Speculate on the intentions of this TEDprize@UN talk.

*To read the accompanying transcript, see

Lenten Reflection: On Hope & Acceptance

Written and compiled by Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan, Visitation Alumna

I came across three short prayers I love today. As our Lenten journey continues and the story of Jesus’ life on earth comes to a close, I can’t help but ruminate on how Jesus must have prayed for the graces to have hope in spite of his circumstances. Once Jesus accepted his circumstances did peace follow?I hope it did. Below is a prayer on hope, a prayer on accepting what is, and inspiration for living generously in our present.

Crocus- a sign of spring

Crocus- a sign of spring

New Every Morning by Susan Coolidge

Every morning is a fresh beginning,

Listen my soul to the glad refrain.

And, spite of old sorrows

And older sinning,

Troubles forecasted

And possible pain,

Take heart with the day and begin again.

Prayer by Galway Kinnell

Whatever happens. Whatever

what is is is what

I want. Only that. But that.

“Real generosity toward the future consists in giving all to what is present.” -Albert Camus