Becoming An Oblate: Travis Salisbury

Mission Advancement Department
New Director:  Travis Salisbury, OblSB

 The Department of Mission Advancement welcomes Travis Salisbury, OblSB, as our new Director.  Travis brings a wealth of experience to Mission Advancement and a deep reverence for Benedictine Spirituality.  He formerly served as Co-Chair of the Oblate Program and assisted Sister Mary Lou Dummer, Oblate Director, in many important ways.  For the past two years, he has coordinated Saturday Oblate conversations by Zoom to keep Oblates connected during the pandemic.  (Read more about that experience below.)  Welcome, Travis!

Travis Salisbury, OblSB
In His Own Words


I sought out Oblate formation in 2014. The spark for this journey came through witness. A volunteer at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis went through a conversion that impressed me. It was gentle, calm, anchored, and it caught my attention enough for me to ask her what happened to shift her presence so wonderfully. She shared her encounter with Sister Eleanor Wartman, OSB and participation in the initial formation at St. Paul's Monastery. I didn't even know the Monastery existed, let alone what an Oblate was (and I worked for the Church!). My faith was strong, but thin. I was as an employee of a large parish but found I could not fully participate in liturgical events (since I was working at them).  The liturgy couldn't hold my longing solely, but I didn't know where else to turn. What I saw in the witness of this Oblate is what my heart longed for. So, I reached out to St. Paul's Monastery, and in 2015 after a great year of formation, I made my Oblation in the chapel of the Monastery. My job continued to cause stress and distance. I appreciated that my Oblation was "as much as my station in life allows," as I was rarely able to be at the monastery for events, liturgies, or retreats but still felt a strong affiliation even without really seeing either the Sisters’ or Oblates’ communities.


COVID obviously changed the world fast and profoundly. At the Basilica, I had to shift to engaging volunteers virtually (and creatively!).  I wasn't able to engage lectors as readers remotely, nor Eucharistic Ministers, nor ushers, but needed to stay engaged with them until this lockdown was going to end. Was it days? weeks? months? I don't think any of us ever imagined that the pandemic would still be very much among us and we would still be struggling to creatively meet people. I started doing lectio and visio divina on Zoom with the volunteers I served at the Basilica, as well as Liturgy of the Hours and psalm study. I thought if it worked for the Basilica, maybe it could work for the Monastery. I reached out to Sister Mary Lou Dummer.  The timing was providential, as she was having conversations about the annual retreat. I made a commitment to help guide the community with a completely virtual Oblate retreat with Abbot John Klassen. From this successful event emerged a regular monthly ongoing formation event that we called "Oblate Conversations" modeled on the example of Saint John's Abbey. We also led a virtual retreat for Holy Week, 2021. While there are many shortcomings to using Zoom as a gathering tool, several benefits have been the inclusion of Oblates who live out of state or out of the country (or are prevented from joining in-person events due to illness or age). By having regular monthly touch points, Oblates are finding stronger anchors in the Monastery community, which can only help build community when in-person gatherings are more regularly encouraged.


As we prepare to celebrate 75 years of St. Paul's Monastery history and look to the future, it is exciting to see the Oblates of St. Paul's Monastery take ever more seriously their role in advancing Benedictine values in their own lives and in the world they encounter. Oblates increasingly understand that as the Sisters age, the Oblates themselves are called to serve, not only alongside the Sisters, but to carry the strong legacy of the Sisters' ministry forward into the next 75 years.  We rejoice in the gift that is and has been the Sisters of St. Paul's Monastery.