Salesian Reflection

Reflection on Hospitality: Open Arms
Theresa Thomas '18


Class of 2022 Welcome Mass

May 3, 2018

Open Arms

Four years ago, I sat right where you are now. I remember the coral dress I wore, the butterflies in my stomach, and the excitement I had as I walked into the Nolan Center, wondering what the future would bring. I know for many of you this is a dream come true. You are fulfilling a family tradition and becoming a member of the Visitation family. However, I also know that there are others of you out there unsure of what to do and completely overwhelmed by the traditions because, like me, you are the first in your family to attend Visitation.  

This brings me to this month’s Salesian theme, hospitality. As a student without any family connections to Visi, I felt overwhelmed and nervous. I wondered how I would fit in with these confident girls who appeared to all know each other through their sisters. However, this all changed when I entered the Nolan family. As a freshman I became a member of the chorus where I thrived and made some of my deepest friendships. At our first club meeting I stood in the center of the stage with the other freshman where I was serenaded by the upperclassmen. Their rendition of “Ave Maria” filled me with such joy and wonder and I truly felt like I belonged. I stood side by side with new friends and with the upperclassmen who smiled and welcomed me with open arms. This openness and sense of welcome continued as I entered the theatre department. After four years of chorus, three years of madrigals, and 8 shows I can honestly say that the hospitality and friendly demeanors of everyone in Nolan changed me. Without them I would have been like a chicken without its head, running around the school. St. Jane de Chantal said that, “An open heart is a heart disposed to help the neighbor at all times. Such a heart loves the will of God in all things.”

When I think of an open heart, I often think of a heart that is open to new experiences, ideas, and knowledge. However, this quote expands on my interpretation. It suggests that those with open hearts are not only open to new ideas, but open to others. They help their neighbors through loving care and hospitality. Over the past four years I’ve found this to be so true. My Visitation sisters welcomed me with open arms into their family. Their willingness to help me find my home and show me kindness allowed me to thrive. When I was admitted and came to orientation, Sister Berchmans said that the Visitation Sisters have been praying for us since 1799. Think about that for a moment. People have been praying for you for over 200 years, long before you even existed! Not only have Visi girls “helped their neighbors” for generations, these Sisters have practiced hospitality, praying for us and welcoming us. Their prayers welcomed fellow Visi girls generations ago and will continue to for generations to come!

I will always cherish the moments I’ve had with the upperclassmen who took me under their wings when I was a freshman. They helped teach me the importance of hospitality and of approaching everything with grace. However, what I will appreciate most are the friendships I made with my classmates and my underclassmen when I opened my heart and took a moment to reach out to others. Remember that everyone can be hospitable. By smiling at your new classmate, walking with her to class, or even just taking a moment to fangirl about something you’re equally obsessed with, you can brighten your friend’s day and help them feel like they belong. (Also, a quick tip, mention anything Disney and you will have a friend for life). Like Jane de Chantal says, we must live with “open hearts” and “help our neighbors.” You are entering an exciting new chapter and it’s time to open your hearts, learn new things, and make new friends. Trust me, when you open your heart to others, it’s only a matter of time before they open their heart to you.

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