An association of Christian Faithful is a group that can be formed within the Catholic Church that is comprised of laity, or a combination of laity and religious, whose purpose is to spread our Catholic faith. Christian Faithful associations can be private, such as the Knights of Columbus, or they can be public, in which case the association has a formal role in the Church structure and is bound by canon law.
At Visitation, our ACF is a public association of Christian Faithful. Our statutes were approved by the Archbishop of St. Louis, as required. Also, as a formal part of the Catholic Church structure, we are required to provide an annual report of our activity to the Archbishop.
The Visitation Sisters recognized that religious vocations were declining at the same time as the laity were recognizing their increased call to service. In response to this Spirit-driven transition, the Sisters developed the ACF to assist them in fulfilling their mission. Should they no longer be able to perform their active responsibilities in our Visitation Academy and wider community, the ACF will be able to assume their role in preserving our Catholic Salesian spirituality into the future.
Our mission is to serve side-by-side with the Visitation Sisters to preserve and promote their Catholic Salesian mission of Living Jesus into the future. We make a deep commitment to a life of love and prayer in the spirit of St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal by serving God and our neighbor in humility, gentleness and liberty of spirit as Mary did at the Visitation. We dedicate ourselves to ongoing and in-depth Salesian study so that we may understand the charism and embody the teachings of St. Jane and St. Francis to the best of our ability. We are dedicated to the life-long study of Salesian spirituality in order to be prepared to assume all of the Sisters’ responsibilities in the school and the wider community, if needed, including serving as the sponsor of Visitation Academy.
A primary way for a school to be identified as Catholic is to be sponsored by a religious entity that is part of the Church’s structure, such as a religious order. Another way is by an Association of the Christian Faithful. Since the ACF is integrated into the Catholic Church’s structure, the ACF may serve as a sponsor for Visitation Academy to be recognized as a Catholic school. Currently, the ACF shares the duties of sponsorship with the Sisters as “dual sponsors” for Visitation Academy.
Governance of any organization is the structure that is created to assure the success and continuance of the mission. At Visitation, all decisions are made with the mission in mind. The Sisters and the ACF actively participate in the governance structure at Visitation by serving on the Board of Directors and as “Members of the Corporation.” The Members of the Corporation hold specific reserved powers to assure key decisions remain in their control. Should the Sisters no longer be able to participate in active ministry, the ACF will assume the full responsibility for exercising the reserved powers.
The Board of Directors set the policies to guide the operation of Visitation Academy. The Head of School, administration, faculty and staff then implement these policies into school operations and are responsible for the daily practice of the Catholic-Salesian life of Visitation Academy. The ACF is not involved in the daily operations of the school.
The ACF is composed of 3 Visitation Sisters, a chaplain provided by the Archdiocese of St. Louis and members of the laity. The Visitation Academy Salesian Coordinator participates ex-officio in the ACF. Currently, there are 17 lay women and men who have made long-term commitments to living a lifestyle rooted in Salesian spirituality and who are committed to serving side-by-side with the Sisters to continue their educational and religious ministry in the spirit of St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal.
To become a member of the ACF, candidates must be practicing Catholics in full communion with the Church, have an association with the Visitation community and be willing to participate in a formal Salesian formation program. The Monastic Superior invites candidates to become members.
ACF members assist the Visitation Sisters in their educational and religious mission in any way the Monastic Superior and Monastic Councilors request. ACF members currently serve alongside the Sisters as members of Visitation Academy’s Board of Directors, participate in various Board of Director committees, and assist in the review of the Visitation Salesian Network report (See questions 12 and 13 below). In addition, ACF members fulfill all ACF committee responsibilities. ACF committees provide service to the Sisters in the areas of: Salesian Formation, Communications, and Membership. The ACF Council (an executive council whose name reflects the nature of the Monastic Council) advises and assists the Monastic Superior and the Monastery as needed. The ACF holds a minimum of 4 business meetings and participates in at least 4 formation sessions, annually.
Formation refers to the Salesian education of the ACF members. The ACF members meet outside of business sessions to delve further into Salesian teaching and the history of Visitation through readings, workshops or lectures, and sharing Salesian perspectives. Salesian formation is the heart of how we build community with each other and enrich our understanding of the mission.
VSN is the acronym for the Visitation Salesian Network. The VSN was created by the Visitation Second Federation (See question 14) to oversee a formal evaluation of Visitation schools for the presence and practice of Catholic and Salesian teachings, to encourage Salesian studies in our schools and to enrich the daily practice of Salesian living.
The Federation Collaborative Leadership Committee is an organization of Sisters and their associated lay groups charged with the responsibility of studying and implementing ways to collaborate and share resources, as well as providing support for further growth of Salesian spirituality in our individual communities.
First and foremost, anyone can support the ACF by living the Salesian charism; also by participating in the various associations at Visitation such as the Associate program and Alumnae Association, and by attending events that highlight the history and spirituality of Visitation.
In 2003, the Sisters’ community was comprised of 23 Sisters, with 7 serving on the ACF. There were 5 lay ACF members. In 2015, there are 8 Sisters in community with 3 serving on the ACF. There are 17 lay ACF members. The last several years have allowed the Sisters and the ACF to gradually develop a unique community with dedication to living and preserving the Sister’s mission at its heart. We will continue this journey and evolution with devotion, hard work and faith to keep our Visitation spirituality alive and vibrant into the future.