by Anna Anderson on Sunday, December 31, 2023

Every year, the Visitation Sisters of Minneapolis ring in the new year with what they call their “New Year’s Chapter”: a meeting that establishes a primary theme for reflection throughout the coming year. The reflection often transforms into action as the year goes on. For example, five years ago, their theme of “home” strengthened their attention to homelessness in their neighborhood and launched their search for a new monastery – the fruits of which we see today in their new 1615 Fremont Ave N home!

2018 New Year's ChapterThe Sisters reflect on their new year’s theme of “home” in 2018

For the year 2023, the Sisters took the theme of “compassionate vision.” They took this theme at a time of tense conflict throughout the world, from Ukraine to Syria to the southern US border, issues that we often feel powerless to affect. It encouraged them to find ways to companion our aching world beyond the reach of their monastery. It challenged them to be mindful of the world and to be present to its pain from a distance while they attended to their daily commitment of prayer and relationship in their neighborhood.

Throughout the year, they have pursued a compassionate vision in unique ways.

In some ways, their lifestyle lends itself to the theme naturally. Take, for example, their recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours in coordination with myriad communities all around the globe, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Similarly, Sister Mary Paula seems to be naturally in sync with the suffering as she prayerfully knits and knits and knits shawls for the sick. Sister Katherine taught me years ago that when she wakes up at night and can’t get back to sleep, she prays for those who have nowhere warm or safe to rest. In these ways, the Sisters had already incorporated broad mindfulness into their daily life.

In other ways, they introduced new prompts into their environment to expand their awareness of and empathy for the global community. Sister Suzanne displayed a newspaper article on the living room table about civilian casualties in an armed conflict zone. Sister Brenda took up the practice of saying the rosary on her morning walks; as she walks and prays, she calls to mind the troubled people and places in our world and ends with a special supplication to Mary the Untier of Knots for those complex situations. Sister Karen attended a naturalization ceremony, celebrating a life-changing event for 359 new citizens representing 39 countries. Sister Mary Frances and Sister Mary Paula designed an Advent reflection with a focus on nonviolence, supported by quotes from world leader Pope Francis. These creative additions to their usual day-to-day habits and rituals inspired new attentiveness to the misfortune beyond their sight.

Sister Karen and Sister Brenda had opportunities to take attentiveness one step further and be physically present to communities beyond the borders of North Minneapolis. Sister Karen spent ten days on pilgrimage in Assisi and Rome, Italy, led by Brother Mickey McGrath, OSFS. Immersed in the artistic holiness of these historic cities, she developed new visuals of sacred spaces in her mind and heart. On a pilgrimage to the area of Annecy, France, Sister Brenda reawakened friendships with the Visitation Sisters there, 4500 miles from Minneapolis but close at heart. They greeted her by name and reminisced about her final profession of vows, which they had attended via livestream. In turn, Sister Brenda witnessed their delight in playing basketball and surprised them by replacing their failing hoop. For both Sister Karen and Sister Brenda, these opportunities abroad strengthened their prayer and their bond with the global community.

It all started with a theme from a New Year’s Chapter. From there, the Sisters’ deliberate pursuit of “compassionate vision” has made 2023 a year of deeper connection between their single monastery and the rest of the world.

Sister Brenda's PilgrimageSister Brenda on her pilgrimage in Annecy, France
Sister Karen's PilgrimageSr. Karen and Br. Mickey with Pope Francis in Rome, Italy