Thursday, September 27, 2012

Cranaleith, so this is who thou art!

Cranaleith Spiritual Center, 13475 Proctor Road,  Philadelphia, PA 19116. Photo from their website.

Today from 4 to 6 pm was their Open House Wine n Cheese party. Carly and I set out from the Willow Grove Giant Supermarket, our meeting spot, an hour early. Knowing me, I knew we would get lost. Where was this Procter Road supposed to come in off  Byberry Road.

Yep, a Philadelphia police officer - not this dude from Wiki - was on a side street we pulled off.

He was coming home from work, still in his uniform, and looked up the info on his phone.

"Don't believe what you read about us in the Daily News," he said. Apparently, they're well-informed about their public image. Reminds me that I haven't been stopped by a cop in ages. I'm a minor speeder but I always stop at stop signs due to a $125 fine 15 yrs ago.

Which one is a Sister of Mercy? Which one is Carly Brown, my friend from our Writing Workshop who drove down with me.

Sister Maria DiBello stood outside to greet the guests on this open house for nonprofit orgs. Carly is chapter prez of TOPS, take off pounds sensibly. The woman is irrepressibly cheerful, loads of fun, and always joking.

This is where Sister Maria lives with another sister. It's up the hill from the wine n cheese party. The house has an amazing history. Ready?
In 1891, Rachel Foster Avery, a suffragette and close friend of Susan B. Anthony, purchased the property and built a large three-story stone house on the hill with windows facing out on every side and five fireplaces warming the interior.  Besides being a home for the Avery family, the house was designed to serve as a gathering place for suffragettes to plan together with Anthony when she came to Philadelphia (from their website).
So, on this sacred ground, we have the beginnings of doing important work for the larger community.

Susan B. Anthony slept here. What could be better than that?

Now, here's where it gets interesting. This is Sister Mary Trainer, whose family bought the property. In their will, they left this sacred beautiful space with beautiful trees and gardens to Cranaleith Spiritual Center, a nonprofit foundation, created by the family to sponsor a ministry in partnership with the Sisters of Mercy.

Mary and Frank's daughter, Sister Mary Trainer, has served as its director since its inception. And Carly and I had the pleasure of meeting her.

The Sisters of Mercy work with the downtrodden. This particular place hosts groups of homeless individuals and the mentally ill who come down a couple times a week to enjoy the dignity of work such as gardening. They become transformed, finding a purpose.

Let's throw a tennis ball for Harley to fetch.

Hello Sister Anne. You really wouldn't know these women are nuns in their attractive attire.

Dolly, the director of development, is often taken for a nun but she is one of the Trainers by marriage. The Trainers, remember, once owned the property, so she's the sister/law of director Sister Mary Trainer.

Jeannine Lisitski does extraordinary work at her nonprofit Women Against Abuse.Their services include emergency shelter, transitional housing, legal services, counseling so you're not gonna meet another abuser, education and advocacy.

Right on!

This center was built from the ground up and is still being finished. They were hosting a group from the Philadelphia Chamber, but the plumbing wasn't finished, so they put them in the big house, which has conference rooms.

I estimated this blog post would take me two hours. Am gonna stand up and stretch my legs like you're supposed to, and have half-glass of soy milk, and some organic cherry tomatoes, which are sweet as sugar.

 The moment Renetta Holloway entered the room, I liked her and wanted to talk to her. She's the director of advancement at Pendle Hill, a Quaker foundation.

The center, in Wallingford, Delaware County, is very similar to Cranaleith. I'll read about it on their website after I'm done bloggin and checking the latest bad news in the Times.

View of the backyard. In the center is a sparkling fountain arising from the lake.

When I saw this stonework, I knew I had to go out in the backyard. Carly and I stepped outside and sat talking on the stone bench on the left.

I learned more about her than I ever knew. She gets the Bowen technique for her scoliosis at $10 a session. She's also working on an essay for our Writer's Group about "tapping."

These steps are one of the ways to get up to the big house.

We had a good view of the facility from out back. They plan to build a chapel for the projected cost of $700,000.

They do get the funds, tho I'm sure it isn't easy.

Sister Honora. What a name! Silent H. I asked her if she wondered what it would be like to be a layperson. Yes, she said, only today she did. We didn't finish our discussion cuz more people were coming in.

She asked me if I ever wondered what it would be like to be a nun. Yes, I said. Even tho I'm Jewish, I thought of becoming a nun when I was a teenager. My dad and I would watch Bishop Fulton J Sheen together. I was hooked!

Here is Cindy, who does amazing work. Can't find her biz card tho. I actually had the presence of mind to bring New Directions' brochures.

Cranaleith loves that I work with the mentally ill - tho I don't consider us mentally ill - since one of their missions is serving the homeless mentally ill, who are housed at Project HOME, Sister Mary Scullion its famous director.

Dolly Trainer showed me this painting of one of the buildings done by her mother/law when she was 91. The artist, who lived with Dolly and her husband, recently died at 101.

I do love the reflections that show up in my photo, giving it an air of the surreal, like life itself.

They all said they could not believe when the building we were in was actually going up and growing into a finished edifice. Exactly like a growing baby, like my 7-week old gestational grandson Max.

View from the big house where Maria and Mary live. Let's get closer and enter.

Okay, we'll stride along and enter thru the front door. Thanks, Mark Viggiano, marketing director, for holding it open. Wonder if Susan B Anthony let men open doors for her.

Once inside, there were a few old-fashioned doors.

Dig this baby!

The living room.

I could live in a house like this. Could you?

Hardwood floors and Oriental carpets.

Intricately carved piano, intricably blurred by moi.

A staircase is a thing of beauty. Reminded me of the staircase at the late Liddon Pennock's house, Meadowbrook Farm.

Nother old door. So many people used this old house. So many people came and went. The doorknob is filled with the handprints of everyone who came and went since 1891. Can you hear the voices of the Suffragettes as they gave talks around Philadelphia, many of them booed at the outrageous idea of women voting and having equal rights as men, including working?

Anthony (1820 – 1906), from Adams, MA, came from a Quaker activist family.

Imagine the discussions that occurred in the dining room. Nothing like a white dining cloth. Oops, sorry, Sister, I didn't mean to spill my pinot noir.

Plants add to the serenity of the room.

Mark was our patient guide, gratifying our every wish to view the house and grounds. Thanks, Mark!

This huge old tree grows in front of the house.

On this ground, dwelled the Lenape tribe. When construction began on the house, one of the Trainer women insisted that their symbolic stone arrangement be preserved. Its perfect setting is down from the house.

Every home should have its own labyrinth.

Farewell Cranaleith, named by the Irish Trainers which in Gaelic means "sanctuary of trees."

The road home.


  1. Interesting day, intersting place and interesting post. I have a friend who used to be on my staff, who was once a Sr. of Mercy many yrs ago.

  2. Replies
    1. And getting smaller all the time, it seems!