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 the historic house with their parents, the family who–together with the Sisters of Mercy–founded the center. I squint at the young faces of the siblings, marveling at how much Frank looks like his father. Rasheeda Hastings, our Community Engagement Coordinator, shares a photograph she took recently of the women veterans, Cranaleith program participants. The women smile for the camera while perching precariously on the rocks of the Lenape memorial near the driveway. Children grin at me from the photo taken while they were on-site to rake the leaves last fall. Here is a retreatant lost in thought with her journal as she sits in a curved window seat in the house; there is Ira on the front porch, his face turned upward toward the blue sky, an expression of yearning and hope clearly evident on his face. Twenty-five years of images—hundreds and hundreds of photos of volunteers, staff, retreatants, program facilitators, participants—years of faces caught in the light of the camera’s lens.

But I also see that what happens here doesn’t happen everywhere. In center city late last night, I walked alone in the dark and found myself stepping around a young man lying on the sidewalk in front of the entrance to Suburban Station. He was slumped over, unconscious; I couldn’t see his face. What can I do? Whom do I call? Why don’t I know? Yet another faceless person in the city, needing help, but I couldn’t stop. I hurried to catch my train.

For twenty-five years, Cranaleith has been the place where we can look for one another’s faces, listen deeply to our shared stories–a place to find ourselves and one another. Here we can pause in the quiet and listen for the voice of God. Here we can find what to do—and what we are called to be. As Henri J. M. Nouwen reminds us “[w]e are God’s chosen ones, even when the world does not choose us” (Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World). At Cranaleith, we can stop hurrying in the dark. We can see our faces in the light. That’s the promise. That’s our hope.

In Peace and Mercy,

Dawn L. Hayward

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