Two major events happened in recent days. One seems like a resurrection and another seems like a death, but they are both aspects of the Pascal Mystery we live throughout our lives.
On August 26, 2019, 13 years after the last retreat at the Dominican Retreat House in Elkins Park, PA, the 42-acre property was finally sold to a new owner who will bring it back to life. Plans include a boutique hotel, restaurant, gardens, micro-distillery, spa and other features. It will be a new economic engine for Cheltenham Township, provide jobs, and a new sense of life in the area. Here is a link to a news story that might help you appreciate the beauty and historic significance of its architecture. It cannot begin to describe the people whose lives were changed by their experience of retreat there.
Over its lifetime, beginning in 1932, over 875,000 people came through its doors. Some came every year to the same weekend retreat: mothers, daughters, and granddaughters. Our sisters, associates, promoters, and staff provided a place of welcome, of spiritual nourishment, a door to God’s forgiveness and compassion. God’s Word was spoken and heard there in a powerful way. Truly, a long-awaited resurrection is at hand. Countless prayers, and a tenacious belief that someday new life would emerge, have borne fruit.
Over the weekend of September 7, 2019, members of the Leadership Team visited the sisters at the Oxford Motherhouse to share with them the decision to close the motherhouse and St. Mary’s Retreat House. Truly, this feels like a death. For most, it is an ending that is sad, painful, and requires great courage and trust. Many of our sisters and associates have recognized there are fewer sisters, an increasing need for care, and higher costs at the Motherhouse. The retreat house is dependent on the Motherhouse for some of its internal operations. For many, the decision to close was not unexpected — rather it has been known and sadly anticipated. Plans will begin to unfold and sisters there are in the process of considering where God might be calling them along the journey. Retreatants will plan for their last retreat.
This is not an unfamiliar experience for some of us, but for those who are experiencing it as new, it is most acute. Death hurts. And promises of future new life sometimes ring hollow, when in the midst of grasping the present reality.
The important word in all of this is mystery. Pascal Mystery. We only see God’s hand in a veiled way, like trying to see through frosted glass. We know God is there on the other side of our understanding, and we naturally wish to know and see more clearly what the future holds. I can imagine Jesus felt the same way from time to time as His journey unfolded. Our journey mirrors his death and resurrection.
Sometimes resurrection doesn’t happen right away. But it will. It has. New life is emerging where once we could only see as if through frosted glass. The prayers of those who surround us give us the hope we need to wait for the next resurrection. We can bear witness to it today.