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Educating the Mind and Heart in the Visitation Tradition

Icon of Mary and Elizabeth embracingThe National Visitation Salesian Network created a guide for all those engaged in the educational ministries of our schools. The guide, titled Educating the Mind and Heart in the Visitation Tradition, presents the Visitation educational philosophy and our mission as educators in this tradition with six goals that reflect the charism of the Visitation.

The following are ways in which we translate these principles into action and embrace a commitment to live the Salesian spirit as we minister to the young women, girls and boys entrusted to our care.

Visitation Schools...

foster a personal relationship with God, which leads to a faith-filled vision of life.

The Salesian charism is characterized by relationship: to live before God with great humility and with neighbor in gentleness. Following are just some of the ways in which this is fostered at Visitation:

  • The community gathers in prayer or liturgy as a whole and in smaller groups
  • Teachers encourage prayer in the classroom
  • The life of Jesus comes alive through service for each other and our broader community
  • Retreat experiences are integrated into Middle School and Upper School
  • Professional development integrates opportunities for spiritual growth
  • Choral groups and orchestra perform sacred music
  • We annually focus on a Salesian virtue and quote
  • Prayer buddies help students in Middle and Lower Schools
  • We celebrate the Salesian feast days of St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal.

integrate a strong academic course of studies with a Salesian spiritual dimension.

This goal focuses on our commitment to educating all aspects of our students to encourage development of mind, body and spirit. Francis de Sales said that “Growing in wisdom interests me only to the extent that through it, I also grow in holiness.” Following are just some of the ways in which this is fostered at Visitation:

  • Religious themes are taught across the curricula
  • Catholic teachings inform discussions of ethics in science
  • Technology is used judiciously to enrich, supplement and expand curriculum and skills
  • The Catholic Social Teachings are incorporated in classroom discussions and service projects
  • The Salesian virtues program in the Upper School helps root students in deeper spiritual growth
  • We strive to encourage balanced living in choices regarding curricular and extra-curricular activities

build faith communities which call their members to understand the value of diversity and to respect the dignity of each person.

Francis de Sales said that “the church is a garden patterned with unlimited flowers; it is necessary that they should be of various sizes, various colors, various odors and to sum it up, different perfections.....all of them provide a beauty most pleasing and perfect.” Some of the ways in which the Visitation community seeks to grow in this area include the following:

  • Opportunities for awareness of our global community both in the classroom and beyond
  • Service learning to offer reciprocal opportunities for exposure to a different culture or community
  • The STAND student leadership organization, which sponsors Multicultural Week, among other cultural and social awareness initiatives
  • Faculty and staff read a summer book pertaining to our global community and discuss the book during our back-to-school workshop week
  • School-wide participation in food and clothing drives, and fundraising for community or global crisis; students participate directly, donating $1 in exchange for the privilege to dress casually
  • School assemblies where speakers educate us on a justice issue
  • Policies and programs to support a variety of student academic, social and economic needs

promote the development of liberty of spirit, which empowers students to make life-giving choices.

St. Jane de Chantal taught her early community by example and in word, saying, “Lead those in your care with a kind and understanding heart; give them a holy liberty of spirit and remove from your mind and theirs any unhealthy spirit of constraint.” Some of the ways in which the Visitation community practices this include the following:

  • Students participate in developing classroom codes of conduct
  • An honor code is signed by all students
  • A focus on wellness and “not for school, but for life” aids our efforts at life balance
  • Our student groups, such as CHOOSE and STAND, give venue to address issues of justice, ethics and morality
  • Student-to-student mentoring programs such as Peer Ministry, Peer Helpers, and Big Sister/Little Sister offer support
  • Many student leadership opportunities are offered across all of the grade levels
  • Faculty and staff Salesian mentoring builds community

embrace and model gospel values of peace and justice in order to be catalysts for positive change.

In striving toward this goal, we experience the Salesian spirit of gentleness and respect for others. St. Francis de Sales leads us with his words: “To carry God on the tongue with beautiful words, to carry God in the heart with beautiful affections, is not everything. We must carry him in our arms with good works.” Here are some ways in which we embrace this goal within our daily school life:

  • The principles of Catholic Social Teaching are applied within our curriculum
  • Christian service initiatives exist at all levels within the school to help us become aware of social justice issues and learn how to respond with compassion
  • The school encourages faculty to incorporate an awareness of social and political issues in the classroom
  • We assist students in leadership development and guide them in the process of discernment, to encourage them to be active members for our broader global and local communities
  • Student groups such as Student Council, Leadership, Peer Ministers, Peer Helpers, Class Council, and other extracurricular groups are expected to help set a positive tone in our Visitation community
  • Faculty and staff read a summer book, which addresses an awareness of more global diversity; we gather to discuss how this issue impacts us and the students we teach here at Visitation.

encourage an awareness of and care for the gifts of God’s creating hand.

Here are some ways in which we embrace this goal within our daily school life:

  • The school’s beautiful campus reflects the beauty of God’s creation. The outdoor classroom is a very tangible way to bring students closer to an appreciation of the beauty which surrounds them each day.
  • We encourage the conservation of resources and energy.
  • Educational programs help students recognize when consumerism can control us, and we challenge them to embrace a lifestyle grounded in Salesian simplicity.
  • We focus efforts on helping all, adults and students, become stewards of shared spaces and share responsibility for the care of our school environment.
  • St. Jane de Chantal exhorts us, “Let us pray then, fervently for all of the world, that it may please our Lord to spread his grace and mercies over all his creatures, that all may walk towards the end for which he created them.”