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Meet the ACF

This article first appeared in the Summer 2023 issue of Vision Magazine.

In early May, the Visitation Sisters informed the Board of Trustees and School that now is the time to enact the next stage of plans for the school’s Catholic, Salesian identity. Through approval from the Church, the HOPE (Help Our Plans Evolve) Committee, a succession group established 10 years ago, transitioned into a new canonical entity called the Association of Christian Faithful (ACF). Going forward, the ACF will maintain the school’s independent, Catholic, Salesian identity by serving in the same governance role as the Sisters have always. The ACF includes Visitation Sisters and those who have served on the HOPE Committee for the past decade: Sister Mary Frances Reis, VHM ’55, Sister Mary Paula McCarthy, VHM ’47, Bill Brady, Anna Marie Ettel ’63, Bob Gilsdorf and Brian Wenger.

The governing structure of the school will remain essentially the same. The Head of School and administrative council lead the day-to-day management and operations of the school. The Board of Trustees provides strategic oversight for mission and vision. The ACF will operate alongside the Board of Trustees as the Sisters have always done – sponsoring the Catholic, Salesian identity of the school and making any final decisions on major changes to the direction of the school, including hiring the head of school and final approval of board members. The current ACF includes individuals who were invited by the Sisters to participate with them. They have been working with the Sisters for the past decade and are trusted by the Sisters to carry their wishes forward.

Meet the ACF 

Sister Mary Frances Reis, VHM

  • Administrative Superior, Mendota Heights Monastery
  • Graduate of the Class of 1955 and vowed member of Visitation for 60 years
  • Taught all levels from Montessori through high school, chaired the Religion department and founded the Campus Ministry program

I am committed to companioning the emerging ACF during this time of transition.

Sister Mary Paula McCarthy, VHM

  • Graduate of the class of 1947
  • Former faculty member and Trustee
  • Carries the history of the community and school from 1873 to present
  • Honorary chair of the 150th Anniversary Committee

As a member of the emerging ACF, I want to walk alongside the lay members in this time of transition.

Bill Brady

  • Former Trustee and Board Chair
  • My mother was a Visitation graduate in 1935 and two daughters in 2007 and 2012.
  • Sister Mary Paula McCarthy is my aunt.

As the Sisters transition their legacy to the laity, the ACF members provide the governance structure and guidance to assure the successful continuation of Visitation School as a Catholic school in the Salesian tradition. I hope to provide governance and professional skills. I have a deep love and understanding of the history of Visitation and its importance to our community.

Anna Marie Ettel

  • Began at Vis in first grade and graduated in 1963
  • Current Trustee and past Alumnae Board member
  • Partnered with Sr. Péronne Marie Thibert on a book, worked with Sister Mary Paula on archival projects, and with Sister Mary Paula and Brenna Murphy ’63 on restoring the alumnae class photos that are displayed in the school hallways.
  • Served on the HOPE Committee to help the Sisters discern the future of the Monastery and the School.

I first encountered Vis in September 1951 as a first grader and graduated in 1963. In those days, there wasn’t the same intentionality about teaching Salesian values that there is today, but as I say ‘we weren’t taught it, but we caught it’ from our lived daily experience with the Sisters. Those Salesian values have informed my imperfectly lived life ever since.

Bob Gilsdorf

  • Financial and business background and have provided support to the Sisters for more than 30 years
  • I have a genuine and lifelong friendship with the Sisters of the Visitation.

In my role as a member of the ACF, I hope to represent the vision of the Sisters as the school moves forward. I’ll do this by combining my enthusiasm for Catholic education, experience in business and my commitment to the legacy of the Visitation Sisters in passing on their charism. I pray that the ACF can support the school as it builds on its rock-solid foundation of 150 years of educating children to be the best version of themselves and become active, caring members of the broader community.

Brian Wenger

  • Former Trustee
  • Two daughters attended Vis.

I saw beautiful growth in their faith, character, self-confidence and education. Our role is to help carry on the vital connection between the spirit of the Sisters and the school so that future generations can benefit and grow as our daughters have. I hope that my experience as a lawyer who specializes in governance, and my involvement on the Board and HOPE Committee helps me perpetuate the Salesian Spirituality and strong governance that is part of Visitation today.

ACF members in May 2023: Sister Mary Frances Reis, VHM '55; Bob Gilsdorf; Sister Mary Paula McCarthy, VHM '47; Brian Wenger; Anna Marie Ettel '66; and Bill Brady

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