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Life in Community| Holy Thursday Reflection by Cody Maynus

Life in Community, Aidan Hart with contributions from Donald Jackson, Copyright 2002, The Saint John’s Bible, Saint John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota USA. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Life in Community, Aidan Hart with contributions from Donald Jackson, Copyright 2002, The Saint John’s Bible, Saint John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota USA. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

by Cody Maynus

Ask any monk or nun to name the best and the worst parts of their religious life and you will likely get the same answer: life together in community.

Community can be difficult, regardless of the form it takes. Living together, studying together, working together, praying together takes an immense amount of work. In an age such as ours, which prides itself on individualism and uniqueness, it is often—always, even!—a real challenge to share space with another.

On the other hand, there is something absolutely holy and formative about community. When we live intentionally with other people, we privilege the needs and desires of others before our own. Not because our needs and desires are wrong or harmful or selfish, but rather because the experience of the whole is more important than the experience of the individual. Living in community allows us to step back, to take check of our lives and the lives others, and to respond with spiritual detachment. We become detached from our own agendas in order for collective wisdom—always inspired by the Spirit—to emerge. Our weaknesses are met by others’ strengths. Our gifts build up others’ weaknesses. Individually, we are small players in an awfully large and daunting game. In community, we have substance, we have gravitas, we have a body.

And Jesus had a body. In fact, Jesus’ body has been, is, and continues to be of absolute importance for Christians. Our God is the God who took on our human flesh, who was born of a woman, who was raised in a family, who engaged with others, who lived a human life, who died, and who rose again. Ours is a God who looks like us, who is re-membered, re-fleshed in every human being.

And that is the real gift of community: when we live together, study together, work together, pray together, we do so surrounded by God incarnated in the other members of our community. God makes Godself known—physically, literally—in those with whom we share our life.

This is the gift the Church gives us today: a vision for an incarnated community—a community who prays together, serves together, holds life in common together, breaks bread together. We gather tonight in our churches, monasteries, and cathedrals to begin practicing the good, hard work of living together in community. We will break bread together, pray for the world together, give to the needs of the poor together, and wash each other’s feet.

And, as a community who shares life together, we will move into the darkness of Holy Week. We will clear the altar tonight, removing the candles and cloths and contending with a naked and broken table stripped of everything comfortable, everything sacred. We will take the Eucharist from its usual place of reservation and move it—together, in procession—to a temporary place of holding, a place removed from the heart of our liturgical life.

The only way we can contend with Holy Week—the awful crucifixion, the terrible rejection, the silent abandonment—is to come together around the altar of our God who, in a few short days will smell like fiery hell and musty tomb, but who tonight smells like soap and oil and bread.


Cody Maynus, VIP Volunteer

Cody Maynus

Cody Maynus is studying monastic spirituality and history at Saint John’s School of Theology and Seminary. He is presently discerning monastic life in the Episcopal Church. He is a former Visitation Volunteer Intern.

This piece is re-printed here with permission. It runs concurrently at the Seeing the Word blog, published by St. John’s School of Theology.

Commissioning Cody — Visitation Volunteer Intern Commitment and Blessing Ceremony

by Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion

Welcome VIP Cody! Photo by Brian Mogren

Welcome VIP Cody! Photo by Brian Mogren

One of the first things you might notice about Cody Maynus is his quick wit; the second is his penchant for all things gracious and hospitable. As a new member of our Visitation Community, we are so fortunate to have this fine fellow among us for this next year serving as a Visitation Volunteer Intern.

“I commit myself to be a stable presence, to practice hospitality, to honor holy flexibility, to “Live+Jesus!” in the northside.”

A month ago, we welcomed Cody formally to our lay community in a commissioning ceremony at Girard House, followed by a blessing of his new digs at Alafia Place with intentional community member, friend, flatmate, and northside minister: Heidi Schleif. What follows is Cody’s Commitment Statement, along with a link to “Welcome New VIP: Cody Maynus!” a photo album of the evening’s events.

We invite you to follow Cody as he makes his way on the northside — exploring Salesian Spirituality; living a life of prayer and service among the northside Sisters and friends; and weaving together his gifts of service, humor, wit, and words with his giant mystical heart.

Please keep him in your prayers, eh?

Live + Jesus!

S. Mary Frances and Cody

Commitment Statement,
by Cody E Maynus:

“In the strong name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

In the presence of Almighty God, my family and friends and these Sisters of the Visitation, I commit myself

  • to be a stable presence — grounding myself firmly in the north side of Minneapolis, locating myself gently between Word and Sacrament, surrounding myself with community, and rooting myself to the life of this monastery;

Cody in Vis Community

  • to practice hospitality — loving the Christ in every person whom I encounter, even and especially those most difficult to love;
  • to honor holy flexibility — allowing the Spirit of God the room to upset my plans and preconceptions; and
  • to “Live Jesus” in the northside — to cultivate the virtues of Salesian spirituality: patience, simplicity, gentleness, interiority, joy and hope.

I will endeavor to do these things relying on the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Elizabeth, St. Jane, St. Francis, St. Hildegard, and the whole company of saints in light.”

Signed: Cody E Maynus, Sr. Mary Frances Reis
September 12, 2014.

See photos of the Commissioning and House Blessing at: “Welcome New VIP: Cody Maynus!” a Flickr photo album.
Follow Cody at his blog: Come, Oh Thou Travellor Unknown
To read more about Cody, see his About page Bio.

Think VIP!

From our Winter newsletter...

VIP Alum Cody Maynus and Vis Companion Linda Goynes share treats at our Christmas party.

By S. Karen Mohan, VHM

What do a Monastic Studies grad student, a physical therapist, a Visitation alumna, a European Salesian spirituality “seeker” and a married woman now leading women’s programs in Afghanistan have in common? Did you think “VIP”? If so, you’re right on! Our former VIPs are now in these endeavors, fueled by Salesian spirit and Gospel focus from their service in north Minneapolis.

Encourage someone you know to consider a year of service with the Visitation Sisters.

These VIP alum spent a year in our monastery’s Visitation Internship Program which began in 2011. Community living, development of relationships among the people of north Minneapolis, Salesian spirituality and ministry on the north side are essential components of this volunteer program.

VIPs spend 10 months living in the neighborhood in housing provided by the Sisters. After visiting the many options for ministry in north Minneapolis, they offer 30 hours of service per week at a site that fits their talents and interests; they also spend 10 hours of service with the Sisters. Living simply, studying Salesian spirituality and praying and working with the Sisters in the monastery give both VIPs and Sisters a strong sense of community. Spiritual direction and prayer opportunities are important personal and spiritual supports for VIPs.

..if you are a young adult considering a year of “giving back and growing in your faith” in a vibrant, urban setting with a monastic community, consider this unique opportunity and “Think VIP”!

The Visitation Internship Program is open for women and men between the ages of 21-35 years.

Our website has specific information about the application process and the program itself. The website also has a recent video interview with one of our former VIPs, Anna Dourgarian and is delightful to view!

We are now taking applications for the 2017-2018 year. Encourage someone you know to consider a year of service with the Visitation Sisters. Pray for young adults as they discern how to live out the Gospel, and if you are a young adult considering a year of “giving back and growing in your faith” in a vibrant, urban setting with a monastic community, consider this unique opportunity and “Think VIP”!

Visitation Resident Lay Community: Meet the Founders!

On Sunday, January 24, 2016, on the Feast of our co-founder St. Francis de Sales, we celebrated the commissioning of Aimee Fritsch and Heidi Schleif as the first two members of Visitation Resident Lay Community. What follows are their statements of commitment and a bit about their callings to found the lay community in north Minneapolis.

Meet Aimee Fritsch

Aimee Fritsch, Visitation Resident Lay Community

Aimee Fritsch, Visitation Resident Lay Community

Commitment Statement:
“In all the joys and sorrows, frustrations and delights of being in this place and time, and being here well, I commit  myself:
-to growing closer to God through personal and communal study and practice of Salesian Spirituality.
-to being grounded and engaged with the people and places of our beloved North Minneapolis
-to my vocation as a laywoman, bringing my daily life to my prayer and my prayer to life in the world
-to living in community where we support each other in being who we are and being that well.

To all this as part of the Visitation Residential Lay Community!”

Three years ago I moved into an intentional community for the first time. It was a 25 person Christian community located in an old fraternity house next to the University of Oregon. Christus House showed me the value of this community, and after living there for a year and a half while I finished my degree, I then moved across the country, into another community, as a Jesuit Volunteer in north Minneapolis. As a JV I was placed at Listening House, a drop-in center for homeless and low-income adults in downtown St. Paul. This ministry of presence has made my life so much richer, and I am very thankful that I was asked to stay on staff upon finishing my year of service and beginning grad school at the University of Minnesota. I’m also so grateful to be able to continue to live life in community as a part of the Visitation residential lay community. Community is a home for hopes, dreams, sorrows, frustrations, and joys, and in community I am better at being who I am, and being that well.

Meet Heidi Schleif

Heidi and Aimee with their Salesian Medals

Heidi and Aimee with their Salesian Medals

Commitment Statement:
“As I try my best to always live a life fueled by my faith, I decide to intentionally ground myself in this place of North Minneapolis and in Salesian spirituality. I commit myself to continue to build relationships in both my internal and external communities, and to grow in faith by the example of Francis and Jane. I commit myself to prayer and awareness of God at all times; in the people that I meet and in the challenges that this community and its community face.”

I had experience living in community during my year of service in Ecuador through the program Rostro de Cristo (Face of Christ), and I also lived in community with Cody Maynus last year during his year with the Visitation Intern Program. I currently work at the Church of St. Gerard in Brooklyn Park as the Children’s Ministry Coordinator. I believe that it is very important to acknowledge that everyone who is a part of the Church, not just women and men religious, is called to live out their spirituality in every aspect of their lives and that lay people really have to claim that—each in their own way—in order for the Church to really be as strong and vibrant as it can be. Sharing in community as lay people is what makes us strong and helps us to figure out where we fit in the world and what God is calling us to do with our lives as well as how God is calling us to live our lives. The support and friendships from my communities in the past and the sharing in challenges together has helped me immensely to become the person I am today, and I am very excited to continue living in community through the lens of Salesian spirituality and the specific challenges and joys that come along with being part of the north Minneapolis community.



These background articles first appeared in our Winter, 2016 Newsletter. 

Encountering Christ in the Hood: Reflections on a Year of Service

Cody (left) with Monastic Immersion Experience participant Brenda Lisenby

Cody (left) with Monastic Immersion Experience participant Brenda Lisenby

By Cody Maynus, Visitation Intern and Volunteer (from our Summer Newsletter)

“This is the place of my delight and rest!” – St. Jane de Chantal

These words of our holy foundress, St. Jane Frances de Chantal, have become my daily prayer of gratitude over the past ten months. The Visitation Internship Program is this monastery’s response to the growing trend of young adults giving a year (or two!) of service after graduating from colleges and universities.

In September, I moved to the neighborhood, fully aware of its reputation for gang violence and drug activity, and began the best year of my life. Building on the service of previous VIPs, I continued to extend the Sisters’ ministry of nonviolent presence and contemplative prayer throughout the neighborhood.

I spent the majority of my service time serving Christ in the K-6th grade scholars at the Patchwork Quilt after school program and Ascension Catholic School. My Tuesdays were spent behind the coffee bar at Venture North Bike + Coffee, serving Christ a cup of hot coffee and the occasional bicycle spoke or two. I served Christ around the board room table, taking the minutes for the Alafia Foundation Board of Trustees. Alongside the Sisters, I served Christ whenever I answered the doorbell.

The Visitation Internship Program is a valuable asset, not only to the northside and monastic community, but also to the young women and men who, listening to the whispers of the Holy Spirit, offer a year of service, learning, and prayer among the most loving, most faithful, most creative people in all of creation.

Join us in wishing Cody well in his return to St. John’s University as a graduate theology student!


To learn more about VIP, apply for a volunteer year, or share the opportunity with other young adults, check out our website page:  Visitation Volunteer Internship Program (VIP)

Breaking Bread Visitation

by Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion

How many ways are there to make community?

How many ways are there to be community?

Cheesy grits topped with cajun shrimp. An herbed biscuit paired with a freshly brewed cup of coffee. Fruit, yogurt and granola parfait next to a side of over-easy eggs. All served on an outdoor patio along West Broadway in North Minneapolis. It’s not the usual scene for our communion table, nor typical Eucharistic feast — but it is where I experienced a sacred meal this past Monday morning that took me into the heart of a Eucharistic celebration. Together, with members of the Visitation Community, in the heart of the northside community: we broke bread; we enacted a sacred ritual.

As riots were breaking out in Baltimore last week and protest marches were held across our nation, a northside organization called Appetite for Change held a grand opening for its latest operation called “Breaking Bread Cafe.” With its mission to “use food as a tool to build health, wealth and create social change,” the cafe opened just three blocks north of the monastery — almost like a prayerful response to the unrest in our world. This is where Sr. Katherine Mullin, our monastic immersion resident Brenda Lisenby, Visitation intern Cody Maynus and I dined on Monday morning.

We sat outside on the patio facing west Broadway,  our dining area sharing a border with the headquarters for Minneapolis Public Schools — situated across the street from Shiloh Temple — where Barway Collins’ funeral service was held two days prior. Together, in this space, we broke bread.

Breaking Bread Cafe: serving "Global Comfort Foods for breakfast and lunch."

Breaking Bread Cafe: serving “Global Comfort Foods for breakfast and lunch.”

In the literal sense, we split an herbed biscuit and savored bites of the comfort food. In the figurative sense, we became Eucharist for one another– sharing stories, our joy, our heart’s questions and longing. We talked about poverty and violence. We mused on missionary work and ministry. We reflected on sustainable programming and our roles in service work. We wondered about past, present and future vocations.  We laughed at ourselves and said “Amen” — all in the space of an hour spent leisurely lingering over our communion food.

It makes me wonder: How many ways are there for us to enact the Eucharist?  To be the body of Christ — communion, community,  food –for one another? As we go about our respective days, in what ways do we consciously “LIVE+ JESUS” – as our co-founders St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal urged?

And: when Appetite for Change’s founders had the vision for “Breaking Bread” as a youth training and employment program, who came up with the name? How many religious and secular traditions have bread at the center of transformation and healing? These questions, this meal, still continue to feed me and inform my prayer. I encourage your own contemplations of holy dining experiences, at this new northside cafe, and at your own local tables.

Holy Thursday Foot Washing (or The Absurdity of Love)

Cody Maynus, VIP Volunteer

Cody Maynus, VIP Volunteer

The following post by VIP Volunteer Cody Maynus is reprinted with permission.

Much of what we know about the liturgy of Holy Week comes down to us through history from a 4th century nun named Egeria, who documented in detail her three-year pilgrimage through the Holy Land. It seems fitting then to be celebrating Holy Week–and especially the Triduum, the Three Days–with 21st century nuns.

The Visitation Sisters celebrate the Triduum in a wholly unique way. We began these three sacred days with washing one another’s feet. While many Christians are accustomed to washing one another’s feet, the heart of Jesus’s Mandatum or mandate to love one another, very few, celebrate Jesus’s new command in such an intimate way. Although we’ll join the parish community in their foot-washing tonight, the monastic community gathered in chapel this afternoon to sing, to pray, to read Jesus’s challenge, and to wash, bless, and kiss one another’s feet.

As we washed each other’s feet–the Sisters washing their prayer partner’s feet, Sister Mary Virginia washing Brenda’s, Heidi and I washing each other’s–we were invited to spiritually wash the feet of a disinherited group, provided for us on a slip of paper. The Sisters have been working and praying to curb global indifference this Lent, culminating in these prayers around the basin today. I prayed for those living in war zones. Another prayed for women being trafficked in our neighborhood. Another prayed for at-risk children and youth.

After each foot washing, we sang a modified version of a familiar hymn:

Photo credit: Cody Maynus

Photo credit: Cody Maynus

Jesu, Jesu,
fill us with your love,
teach us how to serve
the sisters we have from you

Our very intimate liturgy ended in a circle, hands clasped together, eyes closed, and praying to the Father in the words that Jesus gave us.

Washing feet is a profoundly uncomfortable experience–in Jesus’s time, as in ours. When Jesus bent down to wash his disciples’ feet, everybody felt uncomfortable. The disciples were unaccustomed to their teacher serving them. I’m sure that Jesus, who knew his place in society and his role in salvation, was really weirded out doing this thing that he had never done before, that he was never expected to ever do. The whole affair  was absolutely bizarre. The same is true today. Heidi and I live together in community, but pouring water over her feet, washing them, drying them, and kissing them in blessing was profoundly uncomfortable, only slightly less uncomfortable than her repeating the process with my feet.

And that’s how it should be.

The Triduum should make us feel profoundly uncomfortable–and in many different ways. It’s a very emotional and spiritually draining few days (not to mention exhausting physically if you’re at all involved in parish liturgy.) We wash feet, process with the Sacrament, crucify, genuflect, reverence, sit in vigil, wait, light fires, baptize, sing, rejoice, scream, jump for joy, shout every last Alle—- we can muster…

…and all in the span of three short days.

The exhaustion and the emotions are all a part of the experience. We do not come to the Triduum as disembodied spirits. We come as real, living, flesh-and-blood persons with plenty of personal, communal, and institutional baggage.

Just like the disciples did.

And just like Jesus does.




*Read more of Cody’s reflections at his blog: Come, O Thou Traveller Unknown


Meet the VIP’ers

Cody Maynus

Cody Maynus

Cody Maynus, 2014-2015

Hello! My name is Cody Maynus and I’m serving as the Sisters’ Visitation Intern for the 2014-2015 term. I said “YES!” to the Sisters’ invitation to move to North Minneapolis, to serve my neighbors, to be the hands and the feet of the Sisters in the neighborhood, to study a 400-year Salesian spirituality, to pray, to weep, to love. And it has been the best decision of my entire life!

I have a pretty ecumenical background, but I’m a member of the Episcopal Church and am in the process of discerning priesthood. I studied English, theology, and gender studies at the College of St. Benedict| St. John’s University. Before moving to the northside, I served for a year in New Haven, CT with the Episcopal Service Corps. In my spare time (of which there is only a little bit), I like to read, write, and bake. My week is usually divided up between Patchwork Quilt‘s after-school program, Ascension School, Alafia Place, and a small, young adult night prayer which I started. I also spend a considerable amount of time at the Monastery greeting Jesus when he rings the doorbell and helping out the Sisters in their various projects.
Read about Cody’s commissioning ceremony and his Commitment Statement.


Anna  Dourgarian

Anna Dourgarian, 2012-2013 VIP

Anna Dourgarian, 2012-2013 VIP

Few laypeople can compare to the Visitation Sisters in joy, peace, and hospitality, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try. In fact, if we’re aiming for Heaven, Salesian spirituality is a good place to start. Who can find God without simplicity or humility?

Sadly, embracing Salesian spirituality is no easy feat. I was raised in an amazing Catholic family, received a solid foundation of Salesian spirituality at Visitation High School (Class of 2008), and studied Psychology at the University of Minnesota (’11), so you would think that I’d have gotten the hang of being kind and everything. Unfortunately, I didn’t. As I entered the corporate world, I was still struggling to reconcile God with my materialistic life. And where do you go when you can’t find God? To your local saints on earth, of course: 1527
Fremont Ave N, Minneapolis, Visitation Monastery.

There, the Sisters got me all hooked up with the perfect job: volunteer work, forty hours per week, living two blocks away from the monastery so that they can keep an eye on me. Here on the Northside, I get to tutor children, visit seniors, and facilitate office operations (phone calls at a non-profit donation organization, etc.). I also get to study Salesian spirituality from the women who know it best, and Sister Mary Virginia is even going to teach me Spanish. What do the Sisters get in return? (I clearly get the better half of the deal, but don’t tell them that!) While they manage the house and provide reliable hospitality to their neighbors, I go spread the word that their gracious household exists. I get to be the “Out Sister,” going where the Sisters cannot go and witnessing to those who would not otherwise see. In the likeness of Saint Francis’ favorite animal, the Visitation Sisters are the queen bee, loving and blessing those who come to their door, while I am the worker bee, gathering those to be loved and blessed.

Organizations on the North Side have been blessedly welcoming. Of the six where I volunteer, four were eager to turn an acquaintance with the Sisters into a fuller partnership, and the other two were excited and generous in their response “No, I don’t know the Sisters, but bring them here; I want to meet them and show them around!” Through these organizations, I get to care for the community just as the Sisters would if they had an extra forty hours each week.

Sometimes this vocation involves simply greeting people on the street. Sometimes it’s a subtle suggestion, like when children ask about the faces on my necklace and I get to introduce them to Saints Francis and Jane. Sometimes it’s a loud and clear announcement that I’m with the Monastery and you should come check us out!

In the year to come, I’ll get to hang out with the Sisters, help them, and learn from them. I’m relieved to be serving instead of earning money. I’m excited to adopt a lifestyle steeped in Salesian spirituality. I, a layperson, get to live life to the holiest.

Beth Anne Cooper

Beth Anne Cooper

Beth Anne Cooper

Beth Anne Cooper joins the VIP program following a year with Urban Homeworks, where she, along with six other girls, lived in an intentional urban community in the Frogtown neighborhood of St. Paul, MN.  Beth Anne listened to the Spirit within her as she evaluated her next steps, and, as Beth Anne says, “The peace and joy that I found in the presence of the Visitation Sisters led me to apply to the program and has brought me here! I am so grateful.”

Beth Anne is originally from Woodlawn, a neighborhood in the Bronx, New York.  She is very close to her parents and her older sister, all of whom still reside in NY.  Beth attended Hope College in Holland, Michigan, where she studied pre-med, pre-physical therapy and social work.

Beth Anne is very excited to be joining the VIP program and is looking forward to a year of spiritual growth.  She intends to spend time in studying Salesian spirituality and in prayer.  She also looks forward to listening to where God is calling her to be.  “As my Mom so wisely said, ‘If you grow just one step closer to God during this year, it will have been a success.’ So I guess that is what I am striving for, just a baby step closer to God, “ said Beth Anne.

Although she is a New York native, Beth Anne loves her new Minnesota home.  Beth Anne loves all of the outdoor activities that Minnesota has to offer, especially running, hiking, camping, and rock climbing, and she has even learned to cross country ski.  Beth Anne says, “I’m looking forward to sharing my love of the outdoors and sports with kids in the north Minneapolis neighborhood!”

Please join us in welcoming Beth Anne to the Visitation community!

Kelly Schumacher

Kelly Schumacher

Kelly Schumacher

Kelly Schumacher brings bountiful experience in social justice ministry to the VIP program.  Prior to joining the VIP program, Kelly worked with AmeriCorps VISTA at Project for Pride in Living (PPL) in South Minneapolis.  Her other experiences include working as a volunteer ESL teacher in Central Asia, working as a case manager within the state welfare system, serving as a children & family ministries coordinator within a parish, and volunteering in a small, rural South African community.  She was drawn to the VIP program following a weekend spent with the Visitation Sisters.  Kelly says, “Once you meet these wonderful women, it’s hard to imagine not wanting to spend more time with them!”

Kelly is originally from Chaska, MN.  Her parents have been married for over 35 years and still live in Chaska, and Kelly has a brother and a sister-in-law who reside in Fort Collins, CO.  Kelly attended Augustana College in Rock Island, IL where she obtained a degree in Political Science & Sociology, with minors in Social Welfare and Psychology.

Kelly is looking forward to living and working in the north Minneapolis community, developing more of a connection to her spirituality and what calls her to serve, while working on issues of social justice.  She feels so fortunate that this program gives her the opportunity to this, “alongside the support of the Vis Sisters and the amazing community that surrounds them.”  At the conclusion of the program, Kelly hopes to, “walk away with a feeling of community and relationship; and a feeling that I offered my skills, gifts, and talents to this community in an authentic and mutually beneficial way.”

After spending years living outside of Minnesota, Kelly is happy to be back here, as she says, “in the land of Lake Wobegon, hotdish, and food-on-a-stick!”  Kelly recently became engaged to a Luther Seminarian student named Aaron, and is already enjoying wedding planning and preparing to be a pastor’s wife.  Kelly loves to travel and has traveled extensively throughout the world.  Kelly is passionate about working with immigrants and refugees, and enjoys hobbies such as reading, crafting, knitting, exploring new places in the Twin Cities, being outside, and trying to keep in touch with friends around the world.  Kelly says, “I love learning about different, equally valid and equally beautiful ways to ‘do life.’”

Please join us in welcoming Kelly to the Visitation community!