by Anna Dourgarian on February 7, 2020

Thirty years ago, Sister Mary Paula was cleaning the Fremont house as the founding members of the Visitation Monastery of Minneapolis moved in. She supported and loved them from the very beginning. Now, in an unexpected turn of events, she has joined them.

Sister Mary Paula painting the ceiling of the chapel on Fremont Ave N in 1989

The transition has been challenging. Through it all, she has never lost her joy or her energy.

There have been some fun times in her first year! She loves the expression of community at Ascension Church—“a microcosm of the universal Church played out in reality,” as she poetically puts it. The parishioners deeply care for each other. She can’t go to Communion without a few hugs along the way.

She also had a blast celebrating her ninetieth birthday, where she connected her giant biological family with her giant “coterie” of neighbors.

Sadly, there have been some low times. The Divine Office, which is so precious to her, is in a slightly different translation than she is used to, so she trips over the words.

Also, she must adjust to the different lifestyle. She was surprised by the hustle and bustle from the door ministry. She can’t sit still for an hour without the doorbell ringing 2-3 times!

But good luck slowing down Sister Mary Paula. Regarding the Divine Office, she says with her characteristic determination, “Give me a year or two, and I will get it.” As for the lifestyle adjustment, she relies with confidence and gratitude on the compassion and understanding of the other Sisters. Sometimes she retreats upstairs for quiet.

One year ago, Sister Mary Paula arrived at the Minneapolis monastery with two bottles of wine for a festive evening in her new community. But the bottles were not opened: that afternoon, Sister Mary Virginia fell, cutting short the celebrations with a trip to the hospital.

Such is the way with transitions. You never know what to expect. They keep you on your toes.

She is more convinced than ever that the Vis way of life, “inspired common sense,” is her calling and has validity in every community. It works! She advises, “Keep remembering that you trust in God. It is His plan and His journey—the journey to Him—that you’re on.”

Family and neighbors at Sister Mary Paula’s 90th birthday


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