"Those who anticipate their neighbor with the blessings of sweetness will be the most perfect imitators of our Lord."


- St. Francis de Sales

True Salesian Spirituality


By Caroline Mendoza Horrigan '98 (Maddie '19 and Emma '20)


Last year's Visitation Salesian Network theme, "A Tradition of Letters: Heart Speaks to Heart," calls to mind for some an antiquated form of communication. In this day and age of rapid-fire texting, it seems we sometimes fall short on time for others. We abbreviate, send one word replies, and generally have little opportunity to connect. Rarely do we send cards or letters anymore. But with Valentine's Day around the corner, I wanted to share a very special card I recently found that I had saved for years but had been too busy to contemplate. This letter captures perfectly the Salesian Little Virtue of "thoughtful concern for others." It is a Valentine from Sister Claire Joseph O'Neill, VHM who many will remember ran the infirmary at Visitation in the space that is known today as the "Cub Shoppe".

I am certain that many alumnae cannot walk by the "Cub Shoppe" without thinking of her constant and faithful presence on that porch. We passed her countless times as we rushed through the Green Gate to Saint Joe's or to what is today Founders Hall. You could depend upon her to be sitting outside in her rocking chair, watching the girls with their heavy backpacks rushing by. She was always making time for those of us who stopped to chat with her. How could you not stop? Visiting with her was like being with Mrs. Claus, only better! She had an eternal smile on her face that was always filled with understanding and care for each and every one of us that shared a moment with her. She cared about our day, how our classes were going, the weather, the weekend – anything and everything! We quickly became friends my freshman year and she was the highlight of many of my days where her twinkling eyes and giant smile made me stop and take note.

After I graduated and went on to college we became "pen pals" of a sort. I would write to share stories and she would faithfully reply. My roommates at Boston College thought it unusual and seemed a little thrown that I had a Sister as a pen pal. That certainly wasn't the norm, but each time she wrote, I couldn't wait to read her news about Visitation, hear her words, and know that she genuinely cared about how I was doing in a new place far from home.

"Dearest Caroline, When I think of all the dear people
who have been like Valentines in my life – bringing sunshine and happiness you came to my mind in a special way. Tomorrow night is Snowball so there are many girls planning a good time. I pray all goes well and is safe."

Looking back, so many years after her passing, I feel so incredibly blessed that I was able to form that kind of a close relationship with her and one which continued for many years afterwards. It was a gift to be near someone who was filled with so much faith, optimism, and cheer. She did not keep that to herself, but rather shared it with each person she came across, probably hundreds of times a day. That to me is true Salesian Spirituality. Her kindness, gentleness, and thoughtful concern for others made each person she spoke to feel God's love for her in a very personal way. Where else but at Visitation would I have ever had that tangible opportunity to forge this type of unique friendship? There was never a moment where she did not have time and a smile for others, and that is a lesson I have tried to learn from her.

Happy Valentine's Day to you, Sister Claire Joseph, and to all the Visitation Sisters!


Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary,

that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection,

implored thy help, or sought thy intercession was left unaided.

Inspired with this confidence, I fly to thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother;

to thee do I come; before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful.

O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions,

but in thy mercy hear and answer me.

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Special thanks to Cecilia Kane '16 for the banner photo.