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One of our Affiliates is the Monastery of the Visitation in Snellville, Georgia. In some recent correspondence to us, they indicated that their choir stalls came from Mary Ward’s chapel in Elizabethan England. That makes them 400 years old!! How they got to Snellville is a mystery I shall have to solve down the road!
It is funny/strange that Mary Ward’s choir stalls should end up in a cloistered monastery because she was infamous in her day for founding religious communities that worked outside of the convent in nursing the sick, visiting prisoners and teaching, etc. All the kinds of work that active sisters do today and that we take for granted. Like St. Angela Merici, she suffered for her revolutionary initiatives. However, the Church always recognizes God’s workings in the end, and Mary Ward was declared Venerable by Pope Benedict XVI in 2009.
The Snellville monastery is the only cloistered contemplative monastery in the Archdiocese of Atlanta. They were founded in 1954 when Mother Francis de Sales came with her nine sisters from the Visitation monastery in Toledo to begin this new foundation. Their original monastery was purchased from the owners of the Coca Cola Company and in 1971, they purchased the land outside of Snellville. The current monastery is surrounded by 27 acres.
The nuns have no foundation and live month to month. Their maxim, taken from their Father St. Francis de Sales, is : “Ask for nothing, refuse nothing!” When their benefactors ask what they need, they say, “Whatever you give us, we need!”
The sisters were kind enough to thank the IRL for our work in directing potential vocations to them via our website. They have helped several women discern an active vocation, and they have had novices and final professed sisters who “discovered” the Visitation monastery through our website. A bishop and several priests have also corresponded with them requesting prayers through the IRL website. We are so happy to have others “discover” these beautiful sisters.
The Snellville visitation monastery does not have a website. The community is of note because they do consider belated vocations. They can be reached at:
Monastery of the Visitation
2055 Ridgedale Drive
Snellville, GA 30078
The event is called “Cyber Discernment Week” and it will be hosted by Sr. Susan Marie Kasprzak, a Visitation Nun. Sr. Susan Marie will offer her counsel each day throughout the week, from 9 AM to 11:30 AM (EST) and 1:30 to 4 PM (EST), answering questions about such topics as the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales, one’s vocation in life, monastic living, and responding to life’s daily challenges. Phone calls made outside of that time will be returned.
“People we talk to are on all spiritual levels and walks of life, and it often surprises me how I can bring the spirituality of our co-founder, St. Francis de Sales, to bear on a person’s situation,” said Sr. Susan Marie recently.
Sr. Susan Marie, who was interviewed on the “EWTN Live” program last May, has been hosting a weekly “Living Jesus Chat Room” on the Visitation’s Second Federation (First Federation monasteries observe papal enclosure) website for almost two years. Each Sunday night at 7:30 PM Eastern Time, a lively online discussion between Sister and various participants can be seen in real time.
“There are many Catholics out there who struggle to draw closer to God,” Sister said. “Some are very knowledgeable in their faith; some are not. They often need an encouragement or some directive to help them in their progress,” Sister said.
Men and women age 18 and up are invited to contact Sr. Susan Marie during the upcoming week. Sister will be responding to emails sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you may visit the “Living Jesus Chat Room,” or call Sister at (718) 745-4452. The event is being publicized by Vocation Promotion, which serves religious communities by providing internet-savvy know-how to assist communities’ work of promoting vocations.
The Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary was founded in 1610 by St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal in Annecy, France, “to give to God daughters of prayer, and souls so interior that they may be found worthy to serve His infinite Majesty and to adore Him in spirit
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
In September, 2011, Pope Benedict XVI paid a special visit to a Pietà located in the shrine at Etzelsbach (Thuringia), Germany. Every year there is a traditional equestrian pilgrimage, which is held on the second Sunday after the feast of the Visitation. This commemorates the healing of horses who were cured when taken to the shrine during an equine epidemic.
The Holy Father obviously loves the pilgrimage site and has pondered deeply the miraculous image contained within. Located in East Germany, it survived most recently the Nazi reign of terror and the Communist takeover of the region. Here are excerpts of his relfections:
“In most representations of the Pietà, the dead Jesus is lying with his head facing left, so that the observer can see the wounded side of the Crucified Lord,” explained the Pontiff. “Here in Etzelsbach, however, the wounded side is concealed, because the body is facing the other way.”
It seems to the Holy Father that “the hearts of Jesus and his mother are turned to one another; they come close to each other. They exchange their love.”
“It is not self-fulfilment that truly enables people to flourish…. Rather it is an attitude of self-giving directed towards the heart of Mary and hence also towards the heart of the Redeemer.”
Happy Feast of the Visitation!
A three-year survey of women’s religious life in the United States has concluded with the filing of a final report by the Vatican-appointed apostolic visitator, Mother Mary Clare Millea. “Although there are concerns in religious life that warrant support and attention, the enduring reality is one of fidelity, joy and hope,” Mother Millea said in a Jan. 9 release announcing the submission of her findings to the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. Along with her comprehensive report on women’s religious communities, Mother Millea is presenting individual reports on nearly 400 religious institutes to the congregation’s secretary, Archbishop Joseph Tobin.
These reports are likely to be completed by the spring of 2012. Cardinal Franc Rodé, the congregation’s former prefect, began the visitation in December 2008 to “look into the quality of life” of communities nationwide. Mother Millea, who is the superior general of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and hails from the U.S., oversaw the process and conducted much of the research. Her review of women’s religious institutes spanned 2009 and 2010, with a further year dedicated to compiling and summarizing the findings. Its first three stages involve meetings, questionnaires and other communications, along with visits to around a quarter of the groups nationwide.
The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life has not yet set a date to announce its own conclusions from the report. But Mother Millea said the apostolic visitation had “generated widespread interest” and was already reaping “tangible benefits” in the U.S. Church. “The attention to it has resulted in a renewed appreciation for the role of religious in the Church and society and has increased dialogue and mutual awareness among the various communities in the United States,” she noted. Not all of the attention drawn by the visitation was positive, as some communities challenged its mandate and opted not to provide requested information.
However, Mother Millea called the three-year process “demanding, but equally refreshing,” a reminder of religious orders’ “history and vital
role in the Church in the United States.” She said after submitting her report to the Vatican congregation, “As I learned of and observed firsthand the perseverance of the religious in the United States in their vocations, in their ministries and in their faith … I have been both inspired and humbled.”
As Visitation Sisters around the world look forward to the feast of St. Francis de Sales on January 24th, the sisters in the United States say that an interest in the spirituality crafted by St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal remains strong and shows signs of growth.
That’s true, judged by web visits to the Sisters’ new Second Federation website, begun last February 26th. Visits have increased to 650 per month, according to the Order’s federation of five houses throughout the eastern and mid-western United States. The website has posted a steady stream of articles on Salesian spirituality, while explaining little-known devotions and facts concerning the lives of the two founders, St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal.
A video produced by the Second Federation, “Longsuffering Leader: the Life of St. Jane de Chantal” has gained nearly 3,000 views since its publication in August. And its “Living Jesus Chat Room” has attracted a vibrant Sunday audience on its website, at which participants talk about the Salesian spirituality and vocation.
The Order, formally known as the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary, was founded in 1610 by Saint Francis de Sales and Saint Jane Frances de Chantal in Annecy, Haute-Savoie, France. The charism of the Visitation Order combines gentleness with a valiant spirit; initiative with communal support; dedication to prayer with presence in the world, and a contemplative life with an apostolic dimension. The order’s motto is “Vive Jésus” (French for “Live Jesus”).
The Order spread from France throughout Europe and to North America. Today they number approximately 2,500 Sisters in more than 150 monasteries throughout the world. The group is growing in Africa; there is a monastery in Korea; and in South and Central America the houses continue to expand. In the United States there are 11 monasteries in two federations. Six are dedicated to the contemplative life, and the others–Georgetown, St. Louis, Mendota Heights, Brooklyn, and Minneapolis–add apostolic works to their contemplative life.
For more information on the Visitation and its spirituality for religious and laity, visit the Second Federation of the Visitation.
At the age of 28, Jane de Chantal, a French noblewoman, was faced with the difficult task of getting beyond her husband’s accidental death and raising five children. Beyond that, she was compelled to live at her father-in-law’s estate and put up with his irritations.
A very devout woman, she then met St. Francis de Sales and the two formed a lifelong friendship. Francis confided to Jane his desire to found a religious order that would be welcoming to women who seek a deep relationship with God, but who for one reason or another could not live with the physical rigors of traditional religious life.
In 1610, the two officially established the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary. Before she died, St. Jane de Chantal founded 86 houses of the Visitation.
All of this is recounted in a new video on the life of St. Jane de Chantal, which has been viewed over two thousand times on Gloria.TV in the first week of its debut.
The video was produced by VocationPromotion.com for the Second Federation of the Visitation in the United States and is featured on the website www.VisitationSpirit.org.