Monastic Immersion Experience

The Visitation Sisters invite women to live with them for six to twelve months to experience the urban monastic way of life. Participants become members of the monastery, engaging in the prayer life, household responsibilities, and active ministries of the community.

Women from any Christian faith tradition are welcome to apply.

Why should you consider Monastic Immersion Experience?

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If you are at a stage in life where you are craving prayer and community, this could be the home you are looking for. You will live at the monastery and help plan liturgies, decorate for feast days, and cook community meals. As our founder St. Jane said when she entered the first Visitation monastery, you will find that “this is the place of our delight and rest.”

If you are hoping to deepen your faith in everyday life, you will enjoy devoting yourself to the study of the Salesian charism. You will practice finding God in the smallest of moments, and you will learn to take joy even in your faults. You will help keep the Salesian charism fresh and alive.

If you want to test the waters of religious life without making the lifetime commitment of vows, this is the ideal flexible opportunity. You will support the tradition of the Divine Office, focus on private prayer during community quiet hours, and greet Jesus at the door when neighbors drop by. Embraced as a member of the community, you will find if this is the life for you.

Who has participated in the Monastic Immersion Experience before?

Brenda Lisenby

Brenda Lisenby, from Beaumont, Texas, began the Monastic Immersion Experience in 2014. She has since professed vows in the Visitation Order.

I am reminded of Mary’s exclamation of “How can this be?” when the angel announced the news of her pregnancy! Mary’s question is often my question and always alerts me to the work of the Holy Spirit. “This” can only be by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit has graciously accompanied me along the way, often through very practical, everyday things that I needed to tend to such as changes in ministry, burnout, depression, and physical illness.

As I tend to the daily, I realize I am learning to walk with God in a new way. I can and do make decisions and plans, but I am learning to trust what follows as the unfolding will of God. In short, I am learning to “listen” to my life. I once read that listening to one’s life is a form of prayer, and this idea has stayed with me and borne fruit.

A friend and I have joked about the new “monapostolic” approach to religious life and emerging faith communities that integrates the values of monasticism (stability and balance) with the values of apostolic communities (ministry, social action). It is exciting to see the things stereotypically associated with monasteries (prayer, contemplation) come into one with the things stereotypically associated with apostolic groups (action). Contemplation and action are no longer seen as separate roles, but are coming together to form a complete whole, in individuals and in communities, that is being present in a new and dynamic way in this day and age. Perhaps the Spirit is bringing forth new wineskins for new wine!

During my time with the Vis sisters, I hope to deepen my own integration of contemplative prayer and daily action, learning love and humility within the monastic community and the circle of communities that surround them. I also want to learn more about Salesian spirituality—what little I have studied resonates deeply with my own understanding of the spiritual journey.

I am surprised that it doesn’t feel “big city” to me. I have mostly lived in high-rise or condo apartments in large cities for the past 15 years, so I like living in a neighborhood of houses with little traffic. I often am greeted by people as I walk.

Marsha West

Marsha West began the Monastic Immersion Experience in 2012.

I am 74 years old. I was married for 53 years. My husband died in March of 2009. I have three children, eight grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. I have lived in the same house and been part of the same little Catholic parish in the Pacific Northwest for the past 38 years. I’m a retired teacher, and have a great group of friends, mostly other retired teachers. I’ve loved my life there.

After my husband’s death, I began to experience a call to leave that life to give the rest of my life to God as a religious sister. But I am clearly too old for that. So the challenge has been to find a way to live out that call.

I came to Visitation Monastery in North Minneapolis for a week’s retreat. I had read about the Sisters on their website and was curious to learn more about their life in this urban setting. When I shared my story with the Sisters here, they invited me to become their first applicant for a new program called a “Monastic Immersion Experience,” I accepted that invitation and asked to come and live here at Visitation Monastery for six months and be immersed in their monastic way of life.

Immersion means being plunged into something (ordinarily liquid); being filled up and soaked through. It has come to have an expanded meaning of a “deep mental involvement” in something. It’s significant to me that there is a close connection between the words immersion and baptism. Baptism also means to be “plunged into, soaked, and filled.” I came here this July to begin my “immersion” in monastic life. And in being here, I am also living out a new dimension of my own baptismal call.

I am plunged into their way of life, soaking in their pattern of prayer and spirituality, sharing their daily life in every way. I join them in the chapel four times a day to pray the Divine Office. I join them for Mass here at the monastery at least three days a week and go out with them to neighboring parishes for liturgy on the other days.

Each Sister spends an hour and a half each day in private prayer and another half hour in spiritual reading. I try to do the same. I share in the ordinary work of the household, assisting with cooking and clean-up; I also help in the library.

I am studying the writings of their founders, St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal, and soaking in this Salesian spirituality. I take my turn at what they call the “ministry of the doorbell.” Every time the doorbell rings, a Sister goes to answer it, with the expectation of meeting Jesus on the threshold, with the intention of “being Jesus,” to that person. I saw that happen last summer. I experience it every day here. I love it!

I love living in a situation where every minute of every day is totally centered toward a single end – to be “a peaceful, prayerful presence” in the neighborhood, to see Jesus in the face of the other; to be Jesus to others. That’s what life here is all about. And I am so privileged to be here with them and to be part of it. This Monastic Immersion Experience is deeply satisfying to me. I wouldn’t have missed it for all the world.

 

What does the application process look like?

1. Visit the monastery, including overnight stays, so you and the Sisters can get to know one another.
2. Submit the following forms:

Application Form

Medical History Form

Three References

3. We will contact your provided references.
4. We will run a criminal background check and credit check, and we ask that you sit for a medical exam.

Whom should you contact for more information?

If you would like to learn more, please reach out to Sister Mary Frances Reis, whose contact information is below. We look forward to hearing from you.

 
Sr. Mary Frances

Sr. Mary Frances Reis
1527 Fremont Avenue North
Minneapolis, MN 55411 USA

phone: (612) 529-8215
email:  maryfranreis (at) aol.com