The Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary is the oldest closed Catholic religious order for girls and women. The nuns who are members of the order are also called the Salesian Sisters. In Ottawa, there were nuns like these at the Monastery of the Visitation of Holy Mary. Learn more at ottawanka.com.
History of the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary
The Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary appeared in the early 17th century in one of the French towns. Initially, the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary came not as a religious order at all. This was a community without any vows. However, the nuns observed the monastery attendance for only one year. It was in the monastery, during the year, that the nuns underwent training and education called novitiate. After a year of novitiate, the nuns would leave the convent to visit the sick and poor citizens. That was why the order got its name, Visitation of Holy Mary so that the nuns would follow the example of the Virgin Mary.
Its very first abbess of the Order of the Visitation of Saint Mary was Saint Jane Frances de Chantal and the very first spiritual director was Saint Francis de Sales. Only eight years after the Order’s founding, Pope Paul V approved its charter. Basically, the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary was created to accommodate those who could not practice the ascesis that was mandatory in other religious orders. In the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary, the nuns read the Little Service of the Blessed Virgin Mary at half past nine in the evening instead of the night canonical service. The sisters in the Order of Holy Mary did not abstain from anything, nor did they fast for long periods, as other monasteries did.
Ten years later, there were about 13 such monasteries in France. In the 1640s, the number of monasteries of the Visitation of Holy Mary reached well over 80. As the 17th century drew closer, the Orders of the Visitation of Holy Mary sprung up in other countries. So the Monastery of the Visitation of Holy Mary came into existence within the territory of Ottawa.
Opening of the Monastery of the Visitation of Holy Mary in Ottawa
The Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary in Ottawa appeared only in the early 20th century. The government allocated an old building on Richmond Road for the monastery in Canada’s capital city. In total, an area of the monastery occupied over 5.2 acres of land. The area around the building was enclosed by a high fence, but the grounds inside were densely planted with greenery. It was a perfect place for a new religious order.
The Monastery of the Visitation of Holy Mary, established in Ottawa in the early 20th century, welcomed all women, regardless of their status. That was one of the primary spiritual features of the order. Unlike other monasteries in Ottawa, senior women, widows, sick women and women with disabilities could come to this monastery. There were no restrictive rules for admission to the nuns at the Monastery of the Visitation of Holy Mary in Ottawa. Another feature of the Monastery of the Visitation of Holy Mary in Ottawa was the internal discipline of the sisters, which was made possible by two practices, humility and gentleness. Its motto for the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary was the expression, “Live Jesus!” Also, the monastery of the Visitation of Holy Mary in Ottawa had its own coat of arms that depicted a crown with a heart pierced by two arrows and a cross rising from the heart at the top.
By the early 21st century, only eight nuns remained at the Monastery of the Visitation of Holy Mary in Ottawa. This drastic reduction in the number of sisters at the monastery led to its closure and real estate sale. All of the monastery’s possessions, located in a building on Richmond Road in Ottawa, were collected and sent to other monasteries of the Visitation of Holy Mary in different cities and countries.