Basil’s Family at the Basilian Spirituality Center


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outside view of chapel
Basilian Spirituality Center.

Located in Fox Chase Manor, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia, the Basilian Spirituality Center is part of the Eastern Byzantine Ukrainian Catholic Church, under the umbrella of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia.

basil mary macrina mother gregory
The Basilian Family at the Basilian Spirituality Center.

Icons play a significant role in the Eastern Byzantine rite.

The “Basilian Family” icon, located on a wall within the retreat center is especially core to the Sisters of the Order of St. Basil the Great. Central in the Basilian Family is Mary, her arms outstretched and the name of her Son, “IXC”, radiating from her body. In Eastern Byzantine rite this is called The Theotokos, Mary Mother of God. Macrina The Elder is to the right of Mary, to whom St. Basil attributed much of his spiritual formation. She is dressed in green, the symbol of the Holy Spirit, a woman of spiritual gifts and the wisdom of God. To the right of Macrina the Elder is St. Gregory of Nyssa, brother of St. Basil, holding the gospels as a symbol of his preaching abilities and is dressed in the ecclesiastical garb of a Bishop. To the left of The Theotokos is Macrina the Younger, Basil’s sister, in monastic garb as a foundress of the community of Neocaesarea and next to her is St. Basil also dressed as a Bishop carrying the gospel.

song of songs
Song of Songs poem.

Inscribed above the wall of the Basilan Family, is the love poem from Song of Songs v8:6-7
“Set me as a seal on your heart, for love is as strong as death, its flames are flames of fire, many waters cannot quench love.”

overall holy trinity chapel
Holy Trinity Chapel. The Solemnity of the Holy Trinity was celebrated here on June 15th.

The Byzantine rite is one of several Eastern rites recognized in full communion with the Bishop of Rome; Pope Francis. Its origin can be traced to the ancient city of Byzantium (modern-day Istanbul), renamed Constantinople when the emperor Constantine relocated his capital city there from Rome in A.D. 330.

mother and childe 2
The Theotokos.

On the rear wall of the Holy Trinity Chapel, the Chapel of the Sisters of the Order of Saint Basil the Great, is the “Theotokos” icon, meaning “God Bearer” or ‘Mother of God’. Mary is the Theotokos, the one who gave birth to God. This was the Council of Ephesus (in 431) and the Council of Nicea’s definition of Mary since Jesus was true God and true Man, so Mary could be called “Mother of God”. It appeared in the Archbasilicas of Rome, built by Constantine in one of the first churches ever built.

jesus icon
Jesus at the Garden of Gethsemane

The Eastern Ukrainian Byzantine Church has 5.5 million followers. Typically the sanctuary is separated from the congregation by an iconostasis, a screen covered with icons. Leavened bread is used for the consecration of the body of Christ in the liturgy (not called the “Mass” in Eastern rites), which is either the liturgy of St. John Chrysostom or that of St. Basil the Great. Communion is received under both kinds and administered by the priest using a spoon to the faithful.

icon looking up in HTC
The Pantocrator.

Located on the ceiling in the nave of the Chapel is the Pantocrator Icon, “Ruler of All”, Christ blessing his people. The Pantocrator is present in most Eastern Byzantine churches along with the Theotokos described earlier.

holy trinity chapel

Byzantine Catholics operate under a different code of canon law. They also celebrate a somewhat different liturgical year with some unique feasts and saints. Latin-rite Catholics can attend a Byzantine liturgy to fulfill their obligation to attend Mass.

two at tomb
Two at the Tomb icon.

easter eggs
Pysanky eggs photo on display at the Basilian Spirituality Center.

sign Basilian Spirituality Center
Entrance to the Basilian Spirituality Center complex.

Creating an icon.

Each year an icon presentation and icon writing workshops are held at the Basilian Spirituality Center in Philadelphia Pennsylvania. This year (2014), famed iconographer Rev. Damian Higgins conducted the icon workshop. Rev Damien is from the Holy Transfiguration Monastery also known as Mt. Tabor Monastery in Redwood Valley, California.

Andrej Rublev
One of the all time famous icons every created, “The Holy Trinity” by Russian iconographer Andrei Rublev (1360-1370).

three crosses
Symbolism in the three spires on Holy Trinity Sunday.

“A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.”
St. Basil the Great

Saint John Paul II Embraces The National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa


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Saint John paul II Saint John Paul II, The National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa, Philadelphia Pennsylvania.

On April 27, 2014, Divine Mercy Sunday, Pope Francis canonized Blessed Pope John Paul II. He attended the Second Vatican Council initiated by Pope John XXIII, who is also being canonized on this day. Born Karl Wojtyla, Pope John Paul was an actor, poet, athlete, playwrite, priest and philosopher. As Charles Chaput, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia stated: He proved by his life the words of St. Irenaeus that “the glory of God is man fully alive.”

outside with JP2

St. John Paul II visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa on two occasions while a cardinal. Karol Cardinal Wojtyla first visit was in 1969 and again in 1976 while attending the Eucharistic Congress held in Philadelphia. He became the 264th Pope of the Catholic Church two years later in 1978. John Paul II was the first non Italian pope since Pope Adrian VI who died in 1523.

Coat of Arms of Pope John Paul II with the Marian Cross. The Letter M is for Mary, the mother of Jesus, to whom he held strong devotion.

john paul at the door full view

John Paul II created Divine Mercy Sunday which is celebrated on the Sunday after Easter. It is originally based on the devotion to the Divine Mercy that Saint Faustina Kowalska reported as part of her encounter with Jesus. St. Faustina Kowalska, a Polish nun reported visions and visitations from Jesus and conversations with Him. John Paul II beatified Sr. Maria Faustina Kowalska on April 18, 1993 and canonized her on April 30, 2000.

St. Paul the Hermit, a strong influence at the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa.

The Order of St. Paul the Hermit was founded during the first half of the 13th century in Hungary. The members of the Order were actual hermits who lived in the caves in Hungary. For their patron they chose St. Paul the Hermit, thereby acquiring the name “Pauline Fathers”. John Paul II had an affection for the Pauline Fathers religious order, and helped persevere the order in Poland. The Pauline Fathers, like John Paul II, have a strong devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Their main monastery is in Czestochowa, Poland, where they continue to reside. The Pauline Order received permission from the Holy See to establish a monastery in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, and subsequently built Our Lady of Czestochowa Shrine.

upper church 2

In the main church is the Miraculous Icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa, which was blessed by Pope John XXIII on February 10, 1962, who also became a saint. The Icon of Our Lady hangs behind the altar in the main nave and depicts the Holy Trinity. God the Father, with His arms stretched out like the wings of a large bird, enfolds Jesus Christ and all God’s people. Above them is shown a dove, the symbol of the Holy Spirit. Below them, a choir of angels, with their golden horns, extol the glory of God.

our lady of czs lower church adoration day

The Chapel of Our Lady of Czestochowa, located at The National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa on Adoration Day.

This chapel is a replica of the chapel found at the Jasna Góra Shrine in Poland. At the heart of the chapel is a copy of the Miraculous Icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa, blessed by Pope John Paul II, now a Saint.


chapel of divine mercy
The Chapel of Divine Mercy, within The National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa, Philadelphia Pennsylvania. John Paul II died on the vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday, April 2, 2005.

Entrance to the shrine complex.

john paul at the door
Saint John Paul II
Feast day is October 22nd, the anniversary of his inauguration to Pope in 1978.

John the Cross – Man on Poetic Fire


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John of the Cross (1542-1591) was a reformer of the Carmelite Order and is considered, along with Saint Teresa of Ávila, as a founder of the Discalced Carmelites. Saint John the Cross was also a Spanish mystic and a Doctor of the Church. Scholars agree that John the Cross is probably the greatest poet in the Spanish language, not for the volumes produced but for the content “polished and re-polished ceaselessly” to perfection.

Carmelite Monastery of St. Joseph and St. Anne. Inside is the Chapel of the Holy Spirit. These are true gems of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

inside carmalite monestary
Inside the medieval looking Chapel of the Holy Spirit. The Carmelite nuns celebrate Mass on the other side of the reredos immediately behind the altar.

john the cross closeup
Closeup of St. Elisha the prophet on right and St. Teresa of Jesus on the left at the Chapel of the Holy Spirit, Mount Carmel, Philadelphia PA. The prophet Elijah is in the chariot of fire at top, being carried into heaven.

face of john
Face of St. Elisha.

Up to John the Cross’s time, there had been very little mystical prose at all, except for poetry of the mystical experience, called the Prayer of Quiet (similar to contemplative prayer). St. John of the Cross had to invent phrases in order to express ideas which previously had no outlet in Spanish.(1) His greatest poetic work, the Spiritual Canticles was composed for the most part while imprisoned by his own religious order, the Carmelites, who resisted the change he was promoting.

A Spiritual Canticle of the Soul

(1) Reference: St. John of the Cross | Fr. Thomas Dubay, S.M. | From Fire Within: St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, and the Gospel–On Prayer

nuns wall


My Beloved is the mountains,
The solitary wooded valleys,
The strange islands,
The roaring torrents,
The whisper of the amorous gales;
The tranquil night
At the approaches of the dawn,
The silent music,
The murmuring solitude,
The supper which revives, and enkindles love.

– STANZAS XIV, XV, from The Spiritual Canticle of the Soul

Waterfall Lenten Meditation


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The Waterfalls:
Takkakaw Falls, Yoho National Park, B.C.
Tower Falls, Yellowstone National Park, MT
Yosemite Falls, Yosemite National Park, CA
Bridal Veil Falls, Yosemite National Park, CA
Mistaya Canyon Falls, Banff National Park, Alberta
Johnston Canyon Falls, Banff National Park, Alberta
Tangle Falls, Jasper National Park, Alberta
McWay Falls, Big Sur, California
Lake Agnes Falls, Lake Louise, Banff National Park
Virgina Falls, Glacier National Park, Montana
Athabasca Falls, Jasper, National Park Alberta
Sunwapta Falls, Jasper, National Park Alberta
Panther Falls, Jasper National Park Alberta

In High Definition (1080p)

Opening the Doors to St. Patrick


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patrick window

St. Patrick was the founding bishop of the Irish church. According to legend the three leaf clover or Shamrock was coined by Saint Patrick for the Holy Trinity. Saint Patrick’s Day is observed on March 17, the date of his death.

In the background of this turn of the century bavarian stained glass window is St. Kevin’s tower (a 5th century monastery) in Glendalough, County Wicklow, Ireland. It is near the village of Laraugh, home of Thomas Kinsella, the poet laureate of Ireleand. From stained glass window at St. Basil the Great Church, Chester County, PA.


Shown above is St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Avenue in New York City. Photo taken from the Rockefeller Center.

bronze doors3

The bronze doors of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. In the main door are six figures, (including St. Patrick) each playing a significant role in local church history in the State of New York and surrounding area. Just above them is the Figure of Christ the Redeemer surrounded by the twelve apostles, the Virgin Mary, St. John the Baptist and two angels with scrolls.

Saint_Patrick on the door

St. Patrick, the patron of the Archdiocese of New York and apostle of Ireland stands in the upper right section. On his left is the mystical phoenix rising to renewed life and the word “gratis” or gratitude. On his right is the Celtic harp and the word “laus” or praise.

St. Joseph, the upper left statue holds a budding staff, token of his espousal to the Virgin Mary and a carpenter’s square, symbolic of the saint as patron of workingmen. The design to his left refers to his position as earthly father of Christ, to his right the design is symbolic of his purity of life and intention.


The middle left figure is Issac Jogues, the French Jesuit priest, who was the first Catholic missionary to enter New York state. He holds a crucifix representative of his mission to the Iroquois. The palm branch to his left is a martyrs symbol. The Greek letters ICXC and the word nika mean “Jesus Christ conquers”; the word passio means passion. The other panel has a chalice and the letters AMDG, which is the Latin motto for the Society of Jesus.

The middle right figure is that of Mother Cabrini, wearing the habit of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart, which she founded. To her left the dolphin and star symbolizes Pope Leo XIII’s direction to extend her apostolic work to the West; the word “spes” means hope. Two hands and a rose represent her heart going out to the immigrant; cor and Jesu means “heart of Jesus.”

In the lower left of the door stands St. Kateri Tekakwitha, an Indian maiden known as the Lily of the Mohawks and the Pocahontas of the Catholic Church. The design to her left shows an American eagle with the word fides meaning faith. To her right is the coat of arms of pope Pius XII, who declared her venerable in 1943. (She was canonized on October 21, 2012, Vatican City by Pope Benedict XVI)


The statue at the lower right is of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, canonized the first American-born saint in 1975. The panel to her right shows a rose bush, for the official NY state flower and the word caritas meaning charity. On her left is the motto from Cardinal Spellman, Sequere Deum meaning Follow God. (St. Patricks Cathedral by Leland A. Cook)


View of the Cathedral from across 5th Avenue with bronze statue of Atlas in foreground at right.

St. Patrick at Charles Borremeo Seminary

Tucked away in the library at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia can be found St. Patrick.

happy st. patricks day

John Neumann’s World


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outside of church peter and paulSt. Peter the Apostle church, Upper Church of St. John Neumann Shrine in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, built in 1843.

John Neumann (1811-1860) celebrated Midnight Mass (Christmas) in 1859, a few days before his death. After his funeral services he was laid to rest in a grave in the basement of St. Peter the Apostle church. The body now lies in state, enclosed in glass under the altar at what has become the world renowned National Shrine of St. John Neumann. Feast day is January 5.

Lower Church Neumann shrine National Shrine of St. John Neumann, in Lower Church.

Prayer requests can be made to John Neumann for intersession by God to make the request realized. Saints themselves do not perform miracles, but recognized in Heaven as Saints, they can request from God to intercede on their behalf. The National Shrine of John Neumann has on record many of these realized prayer requests.

alphonsus liguori founder redemptorists Alphonsus Liguori is the founder of the Redemptorist religious order. (1732)

Saint Alphonsus Liguori is also a Doctor of the Church. Liguori was influenced by St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582), St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622) and St. Vincent de Paul. (1581-1660). As Neumann became a Redemptorist and eventually its leader, he spread knowledge about these great saints.

liguori at rest Saint Alphonsus Liguori, in state in Italy.

Pope Pius IX proclaimed Liguori a Doctor of the Church in 1871. In his book Preparation for DeathLiguori says, “While we are in the body, we are absent from the Lord.” (2 Cor. v. 6). While the soul is united to the body, it is at a distance from the vision of God, as if in a strange land, and excluded from its true country. Hence, according to St. Bruno, the departure of the soul from the body should not be called death, but the beginning of life.”

neumann icon in Upper Church Neumann in St. Peter the Apostle church, Upper Church of the Neumann Shrine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

biship nuemann diocese4
A large diocese to manage.

First appointed Superior of the Redemptorist American Mission in 1850, then on March 19, 1852 Nuemann was consecrated bishop of Philadelphia, a role he really didn’t want.

Nuemann at st. peter and paul At Cathedral Basilica of Saint Peter and Paul, St. John Neumann Chapel.

Opened in 1864, the Cathedral is the motherchurch of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. One of the first tasks when Neumann became Bishop was to complete the Cathedral. Unfortunately due to money constraints, the Cathedral completion was delayed. The cathedral was finally dedicated on November 20, 1864, where it stands today.

Neumann shrine  p and p More of Neumann in the Basilica of St. Peter and Paul.

The interior of the Basilica is in Roman-Corinthian style with a dome at 156 feet high. St. Katherine Drexel, a contemporary of John Nuemann, also has a side chapel, one in which she donated while she was alive! The Basilica is one of the finest east coast examples of architecture expressing our Catholic faith.

neumann shrine entranceThe future planned entrance of the St. John Neumann Shrine.
The Shrine continues to thrive and remains active in the local community, much as Nuemann did while alive.

Jesus rises 2 In St. John Nuemann Shrine, looking up, in all its glory.

Thomas Aquinas – The Angelic Doctor


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St. Thomas Aquinas got his name from the town he was born 8 km north of Aquino, Italy in 1225. He was also called the “Dumb Ox” for his quiet demeanor and being a large framed man. He knew and was inspired by John of St. Julian, a member of the Dominicans, started by St. Dominic around 1216. Thomas would eventually become a Dominican at age 19. The other influential person was Peter of Ireland, an academic who taught Thomas. One other Saint of this time was Albert the Great whom Thomas met in Paris. Albert was the leading academic and expert in science, history, astronomy, music and scripture.

St. Thomas Aquinas Icon

Thomas was a theologian and philosopher and wrote a seminal document called the Summa Theologica which is widely available as an ebook and book today. Thomas is a Doctor of the Catholic Church. Those that study Thomas’s teachings are know as Thomists. Two modern day Thomists are; Ralph McInerny (d2000) who taught philosophy and medieval studies at Notre Dame, and Dr. Taylor Marshall, a theology professor and avid blogger, who created the New Thomas Institute, an on-line series of courses on Thomas in 2013.


Also known as the Angelic Doctor, Thomas Aquinas felt each angel in heaven was a separate species, not just an angel species. On earth every Human belongs to the human species, in heaven there are numerous different species or forms of angels according to Thomas. Humans rationalize and ponder, angels never think through their forms, they have pure formal knowledge. Thomas takes the angels debate further than the ancient Greeks. He philosophically describes the fallen angels and their wickedness. Thomas expands St. Augustine’s thought on Satan and evil angels. The fallen angels wanted to be called God, to be be worshiped like God. Although originally created as good angels, they inherently choose to become evil.


Thomas stopped writing his Summa Theologica in 1273 after a mystic appearance by Jesus Christ at Mass and kept the vision to himself till death, four months later on March 7, 2074.

Today, Thomas Aquinas teachings continue to flourish in the Catholic Church. And probably will for another 800 years.

Additional insight:
Dr. Taylor Marshall, an avid blogger, wrote Thomas Aquinas in 50 Pages (, whith topics like “How to think like Thomas Aquinas” and “the difference between philosophy and theology”. On the later topic, per Dr. Marshall; philosophy pertains to reason alone and the love of wisdom, while theology pertains to divine revelation and the study of God. With email sign up, the ebook is free.

A First Glance at St. Thomas Aquinas, A Handbook for Thomists, by Ralph McInerny has topics like “Aristotle and the Beatific Vision” and “The Meaning of life” and “Does God Exist” according to Thomas.

“There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.”
— Thomas Aquinas
(Patron saint of universities and students; Feast Day is January 28th)

St. Paul the Hermit Embraces Our Lady of Czestochowa Shrine in Pennsylvania


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DSC_0174 St. Paul the Hermit

Paul the Hermit is also known as Saint Paul of Thebes, the First Hermit (230-343). The above painting of Paul the Hermit resides in a side chapel at Our Lady of Czestochowa Shrine in Doylestown (Philadelphia) Pennsylvania. The lions in the background are Paul’s protection. The chapel is dedicated to St. Paul the Hermit whose feast day is on January 15.

st. paul the first hermit St. Paul the Hermit at the entrance to Our Lady of Czestochowa Shrine.

The Pauline religious order was founded by Blessed Eusebius in 1250 in Hungary. The members of the order were hermits, living in caves in Hungary. For their patron saint they chose St. Paul the Hermit and are called the Pauline Fathers. “Alone with God alone” is the Pauline motto. The order adheres to the Rule of St. Augustine, which was given to them in the year 1308.

pauline order symbol From the coat of arms of the Paulines. The date palm represents how St. Paul the Hermit produced clothing using the leaves of the palm tree. The fruit of the palm tree helped sustain the Hermit in the desert. The Raven with a loaf of bread in its beak is the bird, through Gods intercession, brought half a loaf of bread to the Hermit every day for 90 years.

The monastic order spread throughout the countries of Hungary, Poland, Croatia, Austria and Bavaria. The Paulines have a strong devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and reside and operate Our Lady of Czestochowa Shrine in Pennsylvania. The monks can be seen on the campus praying the rosary in their all white habit with a large five foot wooden rosary hanging on their sides.

DSC_0136 The Chapel of Saint Paul the Hermit, at Our Lady of Czestochowa Shrine in Pennsylvania. Three additional side chapels in the Lower Church are dedicated to Our Lady of Nazareth, Divine Mercy and Our Lady of Guadalupe.

lower church altar on adoration day Lower church altar on Adoration day. A replica of Our Lady’s Chapel from the Jasna Gora Monastery in Czestochowa Poland is above. The black and silver altar with the central replica painting of the Black Madonna. The original from 1382 resides in Poland.

Jesus in the window Jesus in the stained glass window, from the Upper Church.


story of A massive 100 foot high stained glass window with the storyline of Americas founding fathers, the Paulines, and St. John Paul II to name a few.

Blessed Pope Paul St. John Paul II looking out at the Pennsylvania countryside. How good it all is at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa.

Guanella: Saint of the Poor, Founder of Servants of Charity and Daughters of St. Mary of Providence


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Don Guanella 1912 Special envoy to USA
There are not many photos of the Saint, but here is one of Guanella in his 1912 envoy to USA. He passed away three years later in Como, Italy on October 24, 1925. Guanella dedicated his life to serving the poor, orphaned, elderly and handicapped. He joined the Salesisans in 1875 for three years at the request of John Bosco, who also became a saint.

Daughters of St. Marys of Providence sign 100 yrs

One of the religious orders founded by Guanella is The Daughters of St. Mary of Providence, sometimes called the Guanellians. Here are the outskirts of Philadelphia, in Elverson, PA resides the congregation, who celebrated their 100th anniversary in 2013.


The Potts Mansion, called “Langoma”, once occupied by Joseph Potts, from the John Potts iron foundry family of the 1800’s. The a 67-room mansion contains 183 windows, 20 fireplaces and 22 bathrooms with staircases made of marble, onyx and alabaster, and the stained glass window made of Tiffany glass. Today, it is the center for religious retreats. Behind the mansion are several residential buildings for senior citizens, a chapel, trails and a large indoor pool. Every August, the St. Mary of Providence Retreat Center holds a summer festival complete with a mansion tour. The Daughters of St. Mary of Providence took over the mansion in 1948.

Mansion Chapel 1

The chapel on the grounds of the Potts Mansion. There is also a chapel inside the mansion, where Daily Mass is celebrated.


On the feast of Guanella, on October 24 in Italy, his body was moved into the church in a religious celebration, where it complimented the altar during celebration of Mass.


A closeup view of St. Guanella, resting in peace.

crest 3 servants of charity

St. Guanella was a member of the Apostleship of Prayer / Salesian Congregation for three years before starting the two charity orders; Daughters of St. Mary of Providence and Servants of Charity.

cured PA-Man

The Philadelphian Bill Glisson, whose was the recipient of a miracle orchestrated by God, through the request of St. Guanella, which was the third miracle required for canonization as a saint.

An overview of St. Guanella by a Salesisan, including thoughts around the cannonization by Pope Benedict

Philadelphia news broadcast on the miracle as told from Bill Glisson, the cured rollerblader and subsequent canonization in Rome, attended by Bill.

Another news broadcast from a slightly different point of view.

Guanella at Mansion 3

The three professed vows at the time were: poverty, chastity and obedience. Guanella added a fourth vow; assisting the contagious sick people of the world. (Guanella icon from chapel at Daughters of St. Marys of Providence center, Elverson PA.)

logo of daughters of st. mary of providence

Crest of Daughters of St. Marys of Providence.