Spring Break at Grandma’s

Nicole Battista, Reporter

Editor’s Note: Nicole Battista spenther spring break on a Campus Minis- try service trip to Philadelphia, and she provided The Highlander with her reflection.

I spent my spring break in Philadelphia. I did not go to the zoo or to Chinatown and I did not eat a cheesesteak. I spent a rewarding four days at the Cranaleith Spiritual Center learning how to cook and garden and reflect on life.

I do not like knives because I am clumsy and I do not want to accidentally slice my finger off. In fact, one of the Sisters joked about losing fingers as she handed me a thick glove for using the mandolin slicer to cut up carrots. I avoided the knives in the kitchen until the last day, when I peeled and cut up apples, removing the cores.

Sometimes fear has to get put aside to get the job done.

Along with fear, sometimes comfort has to get put aside, like when my shoes got soaked as I walked through the snow, clearing the walkway with a broom because there were only three shovels. Or, when my sweatshirt had
dirt caked on it as well as cookie dough.

I like getting my hands dirty, and one of our projects was to soak dirt and place seeds into it. Thesewill be planted when the weather is warmer. We also rescued some aloe plants by separating and re- planting them in smaller pots. We were then allowed to take a plant home. I was assured that they do not require a lot of care, only sunlight and to water them about once a month.

Another project that some of the group members did was cutting disks from thick branches. These disks were then decorated as signs for the garden. I watched my group members use hand saws to create about fifteen disks. It took a lot of arm power and some time, but the project was completed. A lot of the work that we did was not earth shattering. We did not build a house or work with underprivileged children. We chopped up cucumbers, wrapped silverware, washed dishes, and made a mess in the kitchen. There were a few times when some of us did not have a task to do. I was reminded that sometimes service is just about being there, not necessarily running around doing a million tasks.

Sister said that although some of the tasks seemed mundane and simple, they were very helpful. The desserts that were baked would be used to feed the group coming in after us. The silverware that was wrapped would be used to quickly put out meals for others. The sticks that we picked up in the yard will make the yard look cleaner when the snow melts. The seeds that we planted will be used in the garden in the spring.
It is the little things that make the most impact. Ash Wednesday occurred while we were on the trip. We had a reflection and passed around the bowl of ashes, taking turns putting them on one another. I felt a true sense of togetherness and community once we were finished.

The other group of volunteers working in Philadelphia joined us for dinner. Our group prepared the food and we all ate together. This was one of my favorite parts of the trip. I learned from them that every experience is individualized and different, but still meaningful.

The group provided a service to Cranaleith which indirectly provided a service to those who come to Cranaleith. Cranaleith offers spiritual retreats and conferences and opens the garden to the community, which includes poor people and those with disabilities.

“Sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, Cranaleith offers a contemplative space for all those seeking wholeness and transformation for themselves and society. We are committed to making Cranaleith accessible to all, especially to per- sons who are poor and those who work in solidarity with them,” the mission statement reads.

Cranaleith offers “truly quiet time in a warm atmosphere with simple hospitality” according to the brochure.

I was instantly reminded of Grandma’s house when I arrived at Cranaleith.

Grandma’s house is always warm. When I go to Grandma’s, I relax. I sink into the leather couch and listen to the grandfather clock chime at every hour. The stairs creak and there are afghan blankets everywhere. My grandparents lived in the same houses my parents grew up in, so there’s the comfort of history in the beds and floorboards. Cranaleith felt just like that.

The room that I stayed in was something out of a fairytale. It was a single room with three lamps and an overhead light. There was a recliner with an afghan on top of it at the end of the bed, facing a nook. The nook had three windows: two angled at the bottom. Underneath the right window was a wooden desk and chair. It was a view for dreamers and writers and thinkers.

The room was great for relaxing, and I was able to read by the window and fall asleep by 10 p.m. Service trips, I think, should be relaxing and comforting.

The house has seven private rooms and three double rooms. There are two bathrooms on both the second and third floors. The house had a bomb shelter in the basement, and more doors than
I could count. The doors are long and tall as well as shorter and wider. There are keyholes in the door handles.

The house was built in 1891 by Rachel Foster Avery, according to the brochure. She purchased the property, which was previously land for the Lenni Lenape tribes. Avery built the house to be used as a family home and a gathering place for suffragettes, members of the women’s organization movements. Susan B. Anthony had stayed in that house.

The Trainer family then bought the property in 1906 and named it Cranaleith, meaning “a sanctuary of trees.”

In 1996 it became the Cranaleith Spiritual Center, a “not-for-profit ministry in partnership with the Sisters of Mercy.”

It is very fitting that one of the spring break trips was to Cranaleith. Our charisms of Mercy are service, justice, mercy, and hospitality. The house contained those who fought for justice for women, and the workers there now show mercy to the community and welcome everyone with open arms. They provide a service by using hospitality.

Spring break service trips went to the New Dawn Earth Center with the Sisters of Mercy, Cranaleith Spiritual Renewal Center with the Sisters of Mercy, City Mission of Schenectady, New York, Charlotte County Habitat for Humanity in Charlotte County, Florida, and Community at Visitation in Philadelphia.

Service trips are offered during fall and spring breaks. There are also trips during winter and summer breaks internationally.

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