Letters from our Executive Director

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The Sanctuary That is Cranaleith Spiritual Center

The Sanctuary That is Cranaleith Spiritual Center

Dear Friends, Elizabeth (Director of Hosted Groups) and I kneel on the rough planks of the front porch of the Knowlton Mansion trying to fix the frame of a canvas backdrop.  Inside, Carolyn dangles delicate earrings on an acrylic stand for the auction table, propping Sr. Helen David’s original painting on a golden easel. Maryanne tests the fairy lights, Loretta and Claire arrange candles at each table. Stesha, George, and Arlene rush to finish the last-minute tasks. The celebration for Cranaleith’s 25th anniversary begins in just a few minutes.  The night’s emcee, Rev. Dr. Lorena Blake-Marshall, arrives with a hat...

Seeing Our Faces in the Light

Sunlight streaming through a blossoming tree in a vibrant green field with clear skies and a forestry backdrop.

May 5, 2024 Dear Friends, Photographs lie in neat piles on my desk, but I am stressed because of a tight deadline. Over two hundred people are gathering for dinner to honor Joyce Hadley, Sr. Mary Scullion and our own Sr. Maria DiBello at Cranaleith’s 25th anniversary gala scheduled for May 16, and we have to decide which pictures to include in the video we are creating for the event. I hold up the slightly faded color picture taken in the seventies of Sr. Mary Trainer, her sister Kathie, their brothers, Frank and Tom. They stand in the kitchen of...

Shadow and Light

A close-up of small white daisies with yellow centers in a lush green field, slightly blurred background, with a 25th-anniversary logo in the corner.

Dear Friends, My husband, youngest daughter and I will be racing to upstate New York this Monday, chasing the solar eclipse. In the Path of Totality, we hope to stand in the moon’s shadow, marvel at the stars revealed in the daytime sky, stand breathless in the darkness and watch in wonder at the radiant halo of the sun’s corona. We have our glasses at the ready. Last week, Cranaleith hosted author Ani Tuzman for a reading from her recently published book, Angels on the Clothesline: A Memoir. In front of a packed room, Ani read selected vignettes depicting her...

The Glimmering Light of Hope

Sunlit pastoral landscape with lush green fields, a dirt path, trees, and a dynamic sky with clouds, showcasing a stamp for "25 years of deep listening" in the corner.

Dear Friends, The tour guide, ten college students and I walk as quickly as we can from the parked bus, down the Spanish Steps, breathing heavily as we hurry under the black night sky along the glittering lights of the streets in Rome, Italy. We race toward the Pantheon, desperate to get into the building before its closing time. We sprint through the doors, talking, laughing, not really paying attention to where we are, what is happening. Caught up in the rush of movement, the students laugh and call to one another. Once inside, all of us fall into a...

Listening for the Waters to Rush Free

A person wearing mittens holding snow in their hands.

“May the God of hope fill you will all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13 Dear Friends, At the staff/volunteer luncheon, Mark (our much-loved volunteer) shows me the video on his phone of a large storm drain well-outside Cranaleith’s property line. It had been fully blocked, and he tells me the story of how he filled and removed twenty-seven contractor-grade bags of trash, old tiles, broken concrete, plastic bottles. I can’t take my eyes away from the video of the water from...

A New Journey

A number 2 0 2 4 surrounded by christmas decorations.

Dear Beloved Cranaleith Community, As we stand on the threshold of a new year, all of us at Cranaleith are filled with profound gratitude and anticipation. The journey we’ve collectively traversed in the past year has been one of both challenges and triumphs, growth, and reflection. We find ourselves humbled by the resilience and love that defines our community. As we embark on the blank canvas of the coming year, please let us share a few thoughts on the significance of this moment. The turning of the calendar is more than just a change in dates; it is an invitation...

Listening Deeply: A Profoundly Powerful Act

A red bird sitting on top of a tree branch.

Dear Friends, Parked in the cell phone lot at the Philadelphia International Airport, I listen for a call. Two of the facilitators for Cranaleith’s staff/board “racial healing initiative” weekend retreat are arriving soon from California and Missouri, and I am here to give them a ride to the center. The phone should ring at any second. In the silence of the car’s closed space, I hear the muffled sounds of jet engines, buses, cars, the laughter of four men joking with one another outside my passenger door. It is quiet in here, but my mind is noisy with anticipation and...

Listen for the Language of Wholeness

A wooden table with leaves and berries on it.

All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. 2 Corinthians 4:15 Dear Friends, At last month’s Harvest Festival at Cranaleith, four women from the neighborhood stand in front of the small table where we are giving away for free a few hundred of the native trees and shrubs remaining from the 2500 trees that had already been distributed as part of our partnership with the Keystone 10 Million Tree Partnership initiative. Recent immigrants to Somerton, the women speak no English, only...

Listen to the Space Between

A path through the woods in autumn.

“Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10.   Dear Friends, At Cranaleith, the crickets chirp loudly in the meadow behind the historic house, in the space we are actively turning “wild,” crisscrossed by winding pathways Fred (core volunteer) has mown into the deep, tall grass. In 1897, Amos Dolbear found that the rate of the crickets’ chirping directly correlates to the ambient temperature of the air. Cold? Slow chirps. Warm? Faster. Try it for yourself. Count the number of chirps in 14 seconds, then add 40 to find the temperature in degrees Fahrenheit. You will find that...

A Wellspring of Mercy

A flock of birds flying in the sky.

Dear Friends, Stepping out barefoot on the warm boards of our back deck, my younger daughter and I crane our necks to watch in amazement as hundreds of black birds, Common Grackles, fly through the trees in our woods, sliding between the branches, wings rustling, forming and reforming in synchronized groupings, swooping across the sky, settling briefly on the branches. We marvel at their silence and occasional soft chattering. My daughter tries to capture it happening on video. She wants others to see it–see what’s happening. At Cranaleith, we are preparing to celebrate Mercy Day on September 24–a day set...

If These Walls Could Talk

A horse and some other animal in the distance.

Dear Friends, “Negative space” is a term used in art to describe the space surrounding a subject–that essential and important “empty” space surrounding the positive space in a composition.I am thinking about that concept while standing with Sr. Ellen Murray in the impossibly crowded, narrow hallway of Sr. Helen David Brancato’s art studio. Ellen and I are there to preview Helen’s #BlackLivesMatter art exhibit, scheduled to be hosted at Cranaleith this September. Surrounded by the layers of Sr. Helen’s framed paintings, I listen to Helen’s quiet, soft voice as she describes the profound beauty and dignity of every person’s story...

The Deep Springs Within Us

A hand is reaching for water from the ocean.

Dear Friends, Members of the staff have been watching closely the water of the pond, worrying about several ropey, green strands of algae.Because the waterfall has been temporarily blocked, the bright orange goldfish gather around the submerged bubblers, gills flashing as they gulp for oxygen. At our staff retreat, Sr. Maria begins by reminding us of the time when Cranaleith’s natural springs were once thought crushed, lost–until those digging the pond uncovered two fresh springs–sudden, gushing geysers of water. She pauses her storytelling and invites each of us to pour water from the clear glass pitcher into the round bowl...