Sister Mary Paula
Has 31 nephews and nieces,
45 great-nephews and -nieces,
and too many great-greats to count!
After many, many years, I have actually crossed the river! I, Sister Mary Paula McCarthy, grew up just a block from the Mississippi—on the St. Paul side—never expecting to be a Minneapolitan. I was the seventh of eight children in a strong Catholic family. We all went through St. Mark’s Grade School, followed by St. Thomas Academy for the four boys and Convent of the Visitation for the four girls.
It was at “Vis” that I fell in love with what has been called “Inspired Common Sense,” the mode of spirituality lived and and taught by Sts. Francis de Sales and Jane de Chantal. After four great years at the first (and I say the best) women’s Catholic College in the U.S.—Trinity in Washington, DC—I entered the Visitation community in 1951. I have taught, over the years, almost every subject except science, to those of every age from fourth graders through adults. I have completed graduate programs in Educational Administration, Guidance/Counseling, Linguistics, and Theology.
Usually, a Visitation Sister enters one monastery and remains there for her entire life, but I have had the opportunity to study and/or work at Visitation monasteries in Georgetown, DC; Baltimore, MD; Wheeling, WV; and St. Louis, MO; as well as in St. Paul/Mendota Heights, MN. I also have had the special permission to work at the Center for Religious Education at St. Thomas College (now University). There we prepared lay persons for Church ministry through parish and other programs. As Associate Director, I helped to develop a graduate course, now conducted at St. Paul Seminary as MAPS (Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies).
As I reflect on my life, I can sing, “These are a few of my favorite things”: planning/directing worship; history (especially Salesian and Minnesotan); chaperoning high schoolers in VISTORY (Visitation In Service To Others through Responsive Youth) for twenty years; travel—two pilgrimages to Israel, two to France; planning/administering annual Salesian Conference for twenty years.
Now, as our Monastery in Mendota Heights closes, I have received a loving welcome from the Sisters of the Minneapolis Monastery of the Visitation, and I am committed to its ideals of prayer, community, and presence. Change always involves challenge, but I keep recalling the words of our Founder, “Blessed are the pliable hearts, for they will never break!”
Fun Fact: Loves to garden
Hello! I am a native of Minnesota, born and raised in Minneapolis. Attending high school at Visitation in St. Paul gave me the best of both worlds! It was there, at Visitation that I met the best nuns in the world! After college at Marymount in New York, I entered the St. Paul Monastery and began a life of intentionally living the Gospel shaped by the spirit of Sts. Francis de Sales and Jane de Chantal, which invigorated me. I chose Visitation over other orders that I knew, because I found the nuns to prayerful, authentic and fun! Maybe I was hoping to be all those things too!
I spent many fine years teaching at Visitation in the middle school and later had many wonderful years doing admission work for the school.
I believe I had a “call within a call,” when I discerned that I was being called to transfer to the Visitation Sisters of Minneapolis in 2001. I am in relationship with our neighbors; tutoring children, helping with our teen group and various other groups, but you might say that my main engagement is to connect and visit with women all over the country as they discern their future in religious life or wherever God is leading them.
Sister Mary Margaret
Fun Fact: Wields a quick wit
HOW I chose Visitation:
My spiritual director gave me a catalog with summaries and pictures representing the various religious orders so that I could look for a “fit.” In those days it was our version of Match.com. The habits were important to me, because if I had to wear one, I wanted to look like it had meaning and was wearable. They were all questionable because they seemed so out of touch with authenticity and inspiration. I wanted to be a religious woman without facade, because, as in a marriage, there is so much work to do if you live relationally.
WHY I chose Visitation:
I was a degreed RN by profession. When I turned toward the religious life, I searched out the contemplative communities for options because it was my way of initiating a life of wholehearted self-giving. My younger sisters’ name was Jane, and from early childhood I had a slight acquaintance with St. Jane Frances Freymot de Chantal whose name we loved to chant. After visits with several orders, I still hadn’t found the right fit. By the time I visited the St. Louis Monastery (the monastery where several of the Visitation Sisters originated) my options had run out. In spite of questions and concerns I knew I was going to have to make this one work if I really wanted to be a nun.
WHY I celebrate my choice:
I am a Marquette woman, educated by the Jesuits when they were doing much of their teaching in person. I wanted to be a Jesuit.
Imagine my delight as all of the connections between the Jesuits and the Visitation unfolded. The Visitation, as the Sisters lived the contemplative life, was fertile ground for a neophyte exploring a life of prayer. I found the strong community life very supportive. Most of all, I found our Salesian Spirituality based on love and lived out in prayer and community to be highlighted with a wholeness/common sense that does not allow for the canonization of dysfunction.
Living in this small, urban monastery in the “’hood,” I am inspired by my fellow sisters and neighbors. We interact, supporting one another in a spirit of faith and hope that has opened the way for God to build our beloved community out of the dailiness of lived life. This lived life is guided by the spirituality of St. Francis and St. Jane de Chantal who lived the Gospel as a way of love.
Fun Fact: Paints beautiful meditations
I entered the Visitation Monastery of Minneapolis on All Saints’ Day in 1995. I was 46 years old, ‘a delayed vocation’ as some might say. I prefer to think of the various vocations, jobs and avocations throughout my life-time merely as stepping stones that God has put on my unique path through life. God is a God of surprises! I didn’t like the idea a kindergarten teacher suggested on a report card when she wrote, “would be a good teacher!” I fought against that idea in college by taking so many non-education classes that the only way to combine them by senior year was to put them under the umbrella of ‘teaching minors’. The result was a secondary education teaching certificate with enough areas of expertise to get me a variety of substitute and teaching positions from 7th grade to junior college, in several states and for several years. I was able to pay the bills and pick up 2 MA’s; travel to many places domestic and international and pursue a few glamorous careers such as news director at an NBC affiliate radio station and managing a coffee shop in a Victorian train depot!
Along the way God was gently leading me down another path. One that included political activism; founding a Catholic Worker House, sponsoring a Vietnamese boat family; being a city council representative and working with youth at a teen leadership camp. This path made its way into and out of church groups, civic organizations and other places where God showed me his people —- people in need; people who had more than they needed; people who all were my brothers and sisters. God invited me to make a permanent commitment to living life with and among His people and here I am doing just that in north Minneapolis.
When we take vows in our community we expect to live right here until God calls us home, we transfer or we found another monastery. The God of surprises this year offered me the opportunity to attend an International Forum of Vowed Men and Women in Rome. This special gathering marked the end of the Year of Consecrated Life called by Pope Francis and I was able to meet with 39 other Visitandines from as far near as Brooklyn, New York and as far away as Rwanda. I look forward to the next stepping stone God will place on my path!
Sister Mary Virginia
Fun Fact: Speaks Spanish fluently
My name is Sister Mary Virginia Schmidt. I was born and raised in Mexico, the only daughter in a family
of five brothers. I was educated by the Visitation Sisters in St. Louis, Missouri, and then went on to
receive my bachelor’s degree at Manhattanville in New York. I continued my studies at St. Louis
University and St. Xavier College, earning two masters degrees. After resisting the religious tug for
years, I decided to give in to the calling my senior year in college. I entered the Visitation because
the sisters I had in high school were the ones I knew and loved best. They had a lovely, gentle and
unpressured spirit that drew me once I finally made up my mind to try the religious life.
I try to reach out in the community by teaching Spanish and theology to 4th grade and high school
students. And it was recently my distinct pleasure to lead my religious federation committee in writing
the booklet “Justice Shall Flourish: Changing the World From Within.”
During my free time, I thoroughly enjoy reading Don Quixote and other novels, listening to
and watching movies.
I have a heart for peace and equality. I am certain that God is with and in the world, inside of every
person. I feel strongly that God wants us to be happy and to love one another that he wants us to live
in union with him. I take daily inspiration from my neighbors who are so brave, so humble and so
Sister Mary Frances
Fun Fact: Is a skilled party planner
Greetings! I am a native of St. Paul and one of six children. I was raised hearing my mother’s stories
about boarding for twelve years at Convent of the Visitation School in the same city. When I was a
sophomore at St. Catherine’s College, I discerned that I was being called to live a life of intimacy
with God in the midst of this beloved community of sisters who had served as “family” to my mother.
I went on to earn my bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education (St. Kate’s), a certificate in
Montessori Education (Los Angeles Montessori Training Center), a Master’s degree in Administration (St.
Thomas University), and a Master’s degree in Religious Studies (St. John’s University).
I chose Visitation primarily because of the HUMAN qualities I found in the Sisters, both through my
mom’s boarding stories and through my own experience of their
gentle, human, loving presence. I was attracted to the down-to-earth spirituality that allows one to
“be oneself and be that well.” They were always available to me.
I taught in grades Montessori through 12 at Visitation in Mendota Heights, did extensive work in
liturgy (one of the loves of my life), founded the campus ministry program, and chaired the religion
department. I am grateful for the small role I played in the formation of young people.
Through the years, unknown to me at the time, I was being prepared for the Visitation Monastery of
Minneapolis. This was powerfully revealed to me one day as I drank from the cup at Eucharist. “I have
prepared a contemplative heart in you; now take it to the poor,” a voice seemed to say.
I am a founding member of this monastery and have been here since the beginning (1989). Sharing life
and love in this urban community suits me very well, and I have found several niches in which to use my
gifts to share and to receive love from the people who are our neighbors.
Among my heroes are these greats: Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Theresa of Calcutta, Archbishop
Desmond Tutu, Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day, and Sister Mary Regina McCabe (my high school religion
There is a saying that there is not PEACE without JUSTICE. We/I continue in small ways to put this
maxim into action through prayer, presence, and advocacy. May Jesus live in those we accompany and who
Fun Fact: Loves to swim and bike
When I was growing up in a Mississippi River city at the “Gateway to the West,” I could never have
imagined that I would end up near the origin of the “Father of Waters,” right here in Minneapolis. Can
you guess my birthplace? Yes, my family is from St. Louis, Missouri, and Sister Karen Mohan is my name.
River imagery still gets my attention, and kayaking, swimming and riding my bike along the Mississippi
River Parkway near us are leisure activities I really enjoy! I also appreciate the stillness of water
with its invitation to open my heart to the depths of love that God offers.
My education at the Visitation Academy in St. Louis was the beginning of a long and blessed calling to
“Live Jesus,” the motto of our order. My undergraduate degree in English and my graduate degree in
Spirituality have enabled me to serve the Lord as an educator and spiritual guide.
I treasure the moments to meet Jesus in personal and communal prayer and in the wonderful people who
come to pray or just be with us. You’re welcome, too!
Fun Fact: Raises butterflies in the summer
In the words of my Baptist tradition, I had “given my heart to Jesus” when I made a public profession of
faith and was baptized at the age of 9. I have (tried!) to live my life in light of that gifting of my
heart to Jesus ever since then. We recently celebrated the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. As I
reflected on the Heart of Christ, I realized that when I gifted Jesus with my heart all those years
ago, Jesus had gifted me with his heart in return! The circle was complete as I have come to understand
this “exchange of hearts” (St Margaret Mary).
What is different about what I professed on May 12, 2018? As a child, I professed my faith. As an adult, I professed my commitment to live my life in a particular way. Jesus has given each of us his heart. How each of us receives and shares that gift looks different. For me, it has led to Catholic Religious Life and the Sisters of the Visitation in Minneapolis. I am choosing to live what is called a “vowed life.” I vowed to live the evangelical counsels of obedience, poverty and consecrated celibacy in a very particular and public way on May 12. Yet each of us must choose to live our life according to the gifts and callings of God—we often call this our “vocation.” No vocation is any better or more spiritual than another. No matter our vocation we are all called to LIVE+JESUS. We are all called to let the Spirit lead… encourage…transform us in difficult yet life-giving ways. I thank you for the gift of your prayers and your presence at my profession and as I begin a new chapter in my life as a vowed Religious with the Sisters of the Visitation in Minneapolis.