The community of the Monastery of the Visitation first began in Toledo, Ohio with 40 sisters. In 1954, they made a foundation in Georgia, and have been in Snellville for nearly 44 years, the address was 1820 Ponce de Leon Ave., N.E., which had once belonged to the Coca-Cola King Warren C.Candler. The 12 nuns of this monastery belong to the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary, which was founded in 1610 by St. Frances de Sales and St. Jane. It is the heartfelt desire of a cloistered nun that was as realized when she founded a monastery of her order in her home state of Georgia. Mother Francis de Sales Cassidy, a Visitation nun from a Macon Catholic family, brought nine nuns from the Toledo, Ohio, monastery and the spirituality of this contemplative order to the Archdiocese of Atlanta in 1954. With the help of one of her brothers, James Cassidy, and other benefactors, the order acquired a mansion on Ponce de Leon Avenue in Atlanta and within its walls created a monastery. Sister Francis de Sales Cassidy served as the first mother superior of the new monastery. During the 1950s and ‘60s the monastery was located on Ponce de Leon Avenue in the Druid Hills neighborhood in a renovated mansion.
In 1974, the new monastery was built in Snellville off what was then a dirt road near Highway 124 on Ridgedale Drive. Nestled away on 27 acres of land just east of Highway 124 in Snellville sits the Monastery of the Visitation. This monastery is home to five cloistered nuns of the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary. The monastery also has three women in formation. Their simple, traditional way of life follows the path tested by 400 years of prayer and community. Yet even in this cloistered contemplative monastery, the entire world is displayed. Attached directly to the monastery chapel is a series of stalls where the sisters gather for community prayer. The Choir Stalls are over 500 years old, probably handcarved before the persecution of the Catholic Church in England, but we cannot prove this. They were carved in Yorkshire, England, from a species of wood that no longer grow in Yorkshire. They were in Mary Ward’s Chapel, near London when sold for the foundation of the Monastery of Stamullen in Ireland in 1958. In 1995 they were sent to our Monastery here in Snellville, because our Sisters of Stamullen wanted something more modern. They gave them to us, and even paid for the shipment! They had loved Sister Mary Helena!
There are over 180 carved flowers, no two alike! There are also 6 angels, two of which play musical instruments we do not recognize, they are so ancient; and one with an ancient shield, probably of the family that had them carved; there are also carvings of the apostles,and many symbols of Gospel themes. There are no nails in the original stalls.
This is not a monastery that is open to the public. They are a cloistered community with only a handful of nuns living and working together. It is amazing to feel the serenity and quietness of the small campus.
The picture shows an inspiring front lawn statue of two women reaching out to one another. The two women have to be Mary and Elizabeth, embracing as they share the good news of their pregnancies.
Picture credits to Michael Alexander, Georgia bulletin