Today, the Feast Day of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, is a good to day to highlight the Visitation Nuns in the US. Three are Affiliates of the IRL: Tyringham, MA; Toledo, OH; and Snellville, GA.
Visitation communities are usually of interest to women of an older age, widows, etc. who feel a call to religious life, perhaps newly realized or a call always there that is now being pursued. The communities in Snellville and Toledo do consider belated vocations. As the Snellville nuns told us, “The founder set no age limit for admission.”
St. Margaret Mary was educated in a Poor Clare school but when she visited the Visitation convent in Paray-le-Monial, France, she heard these words in her heart: “This is where I want you.” The Order was founded by St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane Frances de Chantal in 1610. The emblem of the Visitation nuns is a heart pierced by two arrows, surrounded by the Crown of Thorns. It was a foreshadowing of revelations to come, 60+ years later, to St. Margaret Mary who received the revelations of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In these revelations, Jesus made known that He was not despot to be feared but a God of love who invites us to come to Him as a child to a Father.
Today is also the anniversary of the Militia Immaculatae, founded by St. Maximilian Kolbe on this day in 1917. The MI’s mission is “To Lead Every Individual With Mary to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.” The day after his ordination in 1918, Maximilian celebrated his first Mass in Rome at an altar at the Basilica of S. Andrea delle Fratte where the Blessed Virgin Mary had appeared to the Jewish Alphonse Ratisbonne who was instantly converted. May the Immaculate Heart of Mary lead us too to a love for the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
The Catholic Chronicle of the Diocese of Toledo had an interesting article on the Visitation Sisters of Toledo as the Diocese celebrated Pro Orantibus Day (“For Those Who Pray”) on the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s Presentation in the Temple. It so happens that this day, November 21, is also the day that all members of the Visitation Order renew their vows.
The Visitation Sisters were founded in 1610 by St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane Frances de Chantal in Annecy, France. The sisters came to Toledo in 1915 to offer their prayers for the diocese, priests, religious and lay people. The Toldeo Visitation consists of 21 women (“22 if you count the dog”), three of whom have made solemn professions in the last year, with three more in formation.
Sister Sharon Elizabeth Gworek, the superior, describes the Monastery, which has the privilege of papal enclosure, as a “trysting place – the place where God and I meet….It’s the garden enclosed where we can be with the Beloved, and be attentive to Him.”
The sisters have some interesting vocation stories. Sr. Kaspar spent some years away from the Church and was briefly married. Later, she broke off an engagement and entered the Toledo Visitation. Sr. Maria Consuelo was in another religious order when she felt in her heart that it was “time just to be with Him.” Sr. Josefa Maria is truly a “late” vocation. She likes to say that it took her 69 years!
What is the special spirit of the Visitation? I have always judged it to be a spirit of deep humility before God and of great gentleness towards our neighbor — Saint Francis de Sales
Within the last year, the Sisters of the Visitation of Toledo, Ohio, have had many reasons to celebrate. In February, Sr. Josefa Maria made her Solemn Profession and Sister Marie was received into the Novitiate, and in March, Sister Susan pronounced first vows.
And the sisters were able to experience “Hollywood” firsthand! With the permission of their Bishop, Holy Trinity Apostolate came to film some scenes for the movie “Leonie!” The film is based on the life of Leonie Martin, one of the sisters of St. Therese of the Child Jesus. Leonie had a difficult childhood and after several attempts was professed a Visitandine at the monastery in Caen, France. The movie still needs a distributor but the sisters were able to see the finished product in July.
The Visitation community around the world encourages everyone to explore on foot or via the internet the Visitandine museum, Musée de la Visitation, in Moulins, France where chalices, chasubles and silk liturgical items that have been produced and acquired by the Sisters of the Visitation are on display. A new 5 minute video with music by Vivaldi and English text, gives people a glimpse into these liturgical treasures.
The theme is “Sacred Silk.” Unique in all of France, these artifacts illustrate the genius and creativity of the weavers in the production of silk, interwoven with gold and silver, from the late sixteenth century. Ten thousand objects have been assembled,many of them on loan from Visitation monasteries from 19 countries throughout the world.
On the occasion of the feast of St. Jane de Chantal in 2010, the museum lent His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI jewelry and vestments for the celebration of the Mass.