(Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)

“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.”

- St. Francis de Sales

Dear Friends,

For many of us, Visitation is so much more than a school. It is our spiritual home. It is where we mature as women of faith, vision, and purpose; where we meet the friends who will shape our lives, support us along our journeys, challenge us, and lift us up; and where we learn to Live Jesus.

Recently, a Visitation friend invited me to reflect upon what it means to Live Jesus in relationship with our LGBTQ alumnae.

As a professed Sister of the Visitation for 67 years, I have devoted my life in service to the Catholic Church. The Church is clear in its teaching on same-sex marriages. But, it is equally clear in its teaching that we are all children of God, that we each have dignity and are worthy of respect and love. I have been blessed to live my vocation here at Visitation, where I have welcomed and come to know, respect, and love thousands of unique, intelligent, passionate, and faithful women, each made in the image and likeness of God.

As I have prayed over this contradiction, I keep returning to this choice: we can focus on Church teaching on gay marriage or we can focus on Church teaching on the Gospel commandment of love. We know from history - including very recent history - that the Church, in its humanity, makes mistakes. Yet, through the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, it learns and grows. And so, we choose the Gospel commandment of love.

Beginning with the fall issue of our alumnae magazine, we will publish news of our alumnae’s same-sex unions, along with all updates our alums choose to share with their classmates.

We reached this decision as a school and Monastery leadership after much prayerful consideration and thoughtful dialogue. We welcomed - as we always do - the respectful, earnest, faith-filled comments of several community members who contacted us directly. We encourage each of you to reach out to us when you have a question or concern. We all can grow through these courageous conversations.

As a Salesian school, it is our mission and ministry to understand the value of diversity and respect the dignity of each person. Our faculty and staff, along with the Board, Parents Association, and newly formed Alumnae Diversity & Inclusion Committees strive daily to ensure that Visitation is welcoming to all members of our community, including LGBTQ students, alumnae, and families. This change is an important part of ensuring that every individual is respected.

You are each in my prayers - and those of all our Sisters - as you heed St. Francis’s maxim to “Be who you are and be that well to honor the Master Craftsman whose handiwork you are.”

Please know that you always have a home on Thirty-fifth Street.

In peace,

Sister Mary Berchmans Hannan, VHM, ‘48 & ‘50

Monastery Superior & President Emerita