The tradition for Visitation Seniors to complete their education with 48 service hours began when I graduated in 1993 from The Convent of the Visitation. It continues today, as the senior women engage in a placement that speaks to their desires and interests and responds to the placements’ needs.
This year the seniors who joined the Visitation Sisters in north Minneapolis were Kathleen Egan, Annie Gavin, Frances Fyten, Ellie McDonald, Katie Moran, and Jessie Wyatt. I had the good fortune of meeting them when I joined them to hear Princess and Constance share their stories. I have had the privilege of reading their reflections from the two weeks they spent in north Minneapolis. Each morning began at the Northside Child Development Center. The Vis Seniors were separated into five different classrooms, toddlers through school-aged children. After spending their mornings at Northside, the seniors returned to the monastery for lunch and the sisters lined up many neighbors to come and talk with them about their mission in making north Minneapolis a better place. Throughout the two weeks the Visitation Seniors had the opportunity to meet with a sister who served as their mentor, and were available to them to answer questions or concerns they had. In the afternoons the seniors worked in the sisters garden with Visitation Companion, Linda Goynes, at Sister Jean’s Cookie Cart, visited the elderly, helped with the tornado clean-up, or planned a graduation party for disabled students.
For those discerning what living with the sisters as a peaceful presence to their neighbors would be like, I offer you a glimpse from these graduating seniors’ perspectives:
“The main reason why I chose this project was to be able to spend time with the sisters. I was fortunate enough to get to know Sister Suzanne [as my adviser] over the course of the past two weeks. By being able to spend extra time with her, I was reaffirmed at what a remarkable woman she is. Holding a variety of enticing jobs to finally deciding on living Jesus in the north Minneapolis community. Sister Suzanne inspires me.” -Jessie Wyatt, gap year studying in Barcelona and service, then will attend Harvard University in the fall of 2012. Jessie enjoys speaking Spanish and working with kids.
“After spending two weeks with the Visitation Sisters from north Minneapolis my life has been altered beyond belief….witnessing their generosity and Salesian values practiced.” -Ellie McDonald will attend University of Iowa Fall of 2011, and enjoys cooking and country music.
“To walk amongst such selfless souls, who have discarded their holy shrouds for veils of solidarity has been a truly unbelievable experience….They are real people helping real people….If I had to pick a single adjective to describe my time in the neighborhood, I would have to choose ‘transformative, transformed'” -Annie Gavin will attend Macalester College in the fall of 2011 and enjoys working with kids and hanging out with friends.
“Upon arriving the first day, I was pleasantly surprised by how welcomed and comfortable I felt in the sisters’ home. There was a certain spirit about them that made me feel special, warm, and loved–a spirit that now I would describe as the Holy Spirit. I think their profound connection with God is actually palpable, and I am inspired to be like them in that way–so connected with Christ that others would sense him through me.” -Katie Moran will attend University of Notre Dame in the fall of 2011 and enjoys running, and spending time with family and friends.
What the group shared with their peers back at the Visitation in Mendota Heights is the “inspiration they gained from hearing the speakers, the life and energy they got from the kids they worked with, understanding the importance of community, and what a great example of faith the Sisters are in north Minneapolis.” The senior apostolic is a way that encourages the women to deepen the Visitation motto “Non scholae, sed vitae,” which means not for school, but for life. The Salesian education bestowed on us is truly an education of the mind, heart, and hands–making the Visitation Alumna truly women for others.