things that really matter

MBM photo/screenshot

Is this about Chester County? No, although we have our share of homeless too.

This is about the true goodness in human beings that exists in spite of mankind today.

Daily News Columnist Ronnie Polaneczky: Havertown homeless man gets a house for Easter

A chance conversation between two strangers brings a homeless man off the street

Updated: APRIL 15, 2017 — 9:00 AM EDT

Jonathan Sweet knows that Jesus loves him. But until he met Michelle McHugh, he wasn’t sure anyone else did.
“I had almost given up on humanity,” says Sweet, 52, a single, childless Havertown native who was homeless for seven years until a chance meeting with McHugh changed his fortunes. “Not every homeless person is a criminal or an addict. But people treat you like you’re a second-class citizen. It gets you down.”….Last December, he and McHugh were chatting at the 69th Street Transportation Center in Upper Darby. McHugh, who lives in Havertown, was waiting for a train to Philly, where she works as associate director of Drexel University’s television management program….Christmas was approaching. McHugh asked Sweet where he’d spend the day.
 “Over there,” he answered, pointing to a forested area within walking distance of the neighborhood where McHugh lives with her husband, Jim, and their preschool son, Nolan.
“I was shocked,” says McHugh, 43. “While my family was warm inside a nice house, Jon was living in the woods behind us. It was heart-wrenching.”…..On Holy Thursday, Sweet moved into his new home, which is fully furnished thanks to donations and the enthusiastic services of Havertown interior designer Liz MacDonald (who even managed to find a sofa in purple, Jon’s favorite color).

This is but a brief excerpt of the article.  The article is so truly beautiful and moving that I hope everyone who reads this post, will read this article.

I remember when Michelle McHugh started the GoFundMe page to help.

You see, I am lucky enough to call Michelle McHugh a friend. 

Michelle and I met many years ago through our dear mutual friend Sherry Tillman.  Sherry, the proprietoress of Ardmore, PA’s Past*Present*Future is also the founder of First Friday Main Line.

We were planning a non-profit special event to benefit First Friday Main Line called “Foodapalooza” and Sherry tossed Michelle and I and our cameras together one Saturday to photograph chefs and local restaurants. Michelle and I had been introduced, but this was what really brought us together as friends. That and Sherry’s uncanny ability to share her friends and bring more people together.  This was in 2009.

I still love the photos I took that afternoon as I felt they were inspired by the company.

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, Michelle (who lives with MS) was one of my cheerleaders. Her positivity was contagious and she was one of my friends who buoyed me through quite the life challenge.  She always just checked in. Totally casual, no big deal, how are you doing, you’ve got this.

In 2012 when she and her husband welcomed their miracle baby, I was one of the ones who could cheer her on.  She is an example of unwavering faith and goodness. 

So am I surprised that my friend Michelle took on this project? No, although project is the wrong word because her efforts are so indicative of her heart and soul.

 Michelle is a kind and loving and humble person and she deserves the accolades and a beautiful article by Ronnie Polaneczky.

In the world we live in, it’s easy to tear people down. What’s hard and shouldn’t be, is paying it forward just because it’s the right thing to do.

On the holy weekend that is Easter is the perfect time to hear the story of  Jon Sweet and his friend, who is also my friend, Michelle McHugh.

Sometimes it is hard to believe in the goodness of others, but this is such a reminder of why we just have to believe.  It is also a reminder that it’s the right thing to pay it forward, and that doing good and doing the right thing has rewards more precious than money.

This is also a story of love and friendship and the many forms they both take.

I am so very proud of my friend Michelle.

Happy Easter

my easter woods visitor

I was reminded once again how many critters we have close by in our woods. This is one of the yearlings. She is completely unfazed by humans. I do not feed the deer, but this was NOT taken with a zoom lens. I was just that close. truthfully it was kind of a cool, peaceful experience.

Of course this made me think of Sunoco Logistics again too. Our wildlife deserves to be protected from them and their pipelines, fracking, and drilling too. Please contact your elected representatives today, gubernatorial candidates in Pennsylvania, and the Public Utility Commmission.

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happy easter

pie

 

king arthurThe downstairs smells like Easter.  The ricotta pie is out of the oven.  I baked a ricotta pie with a sweet crust.  The recipe is the one out of my King Arthur Flour cookbook, tweaked. Add cardamom for one. The recipe calls for grated orange peel in the ricotta mixture and a double crust that is sweet.

I played with the crust to make it not so double crust boring – I have collected vintage cookie cutters for years, so I got some out to use to creat fun cut outs with the dough.

on good friday, remember the churches abandoned by time and man

DSC_0053Sounds a bit dramatic, but it got your attention, didn’t it? On Good friday, one of the holiest of holy days, I ask you to remember a small but historically significant church that is rotting in Frazer in East Whiteland Township, Chester County.  It is on Bacton Hill Road and it is Ebenezer AME Church.DSC_0006

It started as a fascination of a ruined structure that I later received more information on.  Ebenezer AME in Frazer was built in 1835.

Apparently the oldest grave stones in the cemetery date back to the 1830s. An Eagle Scout named Matthew Nehring had been working on uncovering the gravestones. (Have no idea if his project is finished.) DSC_0041According to the photos it appears some of the dead buried here are soldiers and veterans. One gravestone is for a Joshua Johnson  (Pvt., Co. K, 45th Reg., United States Colored Troops (USCT) (Civil War). I find this to be incredibly historically significant as the army began to organize African Americans into regimental units known as the United States Colored Troops (USCT) in 1863.

DSC_0022According to the East Whiteland Historical Society (which I am not sure what they do because all I see are historic structures rotting in East Whiteland) this church used to serve as a “hub” of African American society in Frazer.  So again on Good Friday I ask again why isn’t any of it being protected?

In any Christian religion, Easter is a very big deal.  Imagine Easters of the past in this little church.  Ladies and gents in their Sunday best, the ladies sporting spring hats.  The laughter and joyful sounds of children outside after services have concluded? The pastor standing outside wishing his congregation well and God speed?

DSC_0007A reader of my blog tells me County records indicate that the lot is owned by the “African Methodist Episcopal Church”.  This online directory shows the a church in Malvern – St. Paul’s.

The headquarters of the AMEC church are as follows:

500 8th Avenue South Nashville, TN 37203 Phone:(615)254-0911 Fax:(615)254-0912 Email:cio@ame-church.com

I am going to e-mail these posts to AMEC and see if they will care.  Certainly no one else I have e-mailed to date has appeared to care.

East Whiteland always seems to be Johnny on the Spot for historical data yet all thisDSC_0051 stuff just rots.  Peter H. Spengeman, a member of the East Whiteland Township Historical Commission wrote to me recently in part:

I appreciate the writer’s interest and concern about the considerable historical resources in the Township , and the ongoing need for protection of structures such as the Ebenezer AME Church, a recent focus of beginning conservation planning.   All of us shudder when we pass a formerly stately structure crying for help.

He continues with what East Whiteland has done in the past, and well, the past is the past.  What is going on today? I am going to not try to sound harsh, but what is it they do besides bemoan the fact that a heck of a lot of history in East Whiteland is rotting?  Loch Aerie, Linden House, and more?  For example (I do not know all the municipal boundaries so feel free to correct me) but isn’t part of Duffy’s Cut that Amtrak won’t allow any more archeological digs on in East Whiteland?  Is the mass grave important enough that maybe another marker closer to the actual site is in order?DSC_0093

I get that part of the problem is East Whiteland has probably more commercial zones than residential so why not get smart with zoning and planning?  Is it possible to write into ordinances and make conditions of approval that not only include  these developers to improve the roads and infrastructure, but to kick in towards the preservation?  I mean seriously they have developers with huge, deep pockets like DSC_0072Brian O’Neill and Eli Kahn, right? I mean Brian O’Neill is Catholic with a sense of religion, right?  Why couldn’t they ask someone like him to save a church?  Help get another historical marker closer to the actual location of Duffy’s Cut mass grave (Where AMTRAK halted archeological digging) ? Or help find a conservation minded buyer for say Linden Hall or Loch Aerie?

Both developers and their partners have made noises out here and elsewhere about how their developments add to the character of an area, so why not have them put their money where there mouths are on historic sites? Paoli Battlefield and Battle of the Clouds are important, but why is it I see neighboring municipalities succeeding with preservation efforts? Historic Sugartown, Historic Goshenville, and even though sometimes I think they need to do more, Historic Yellow Springs?

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And again, when you go to East Whiteland’s really poorly designed website and pull up the historical commission you get a big bowl of nothing.

This church meant something to residents of Chester County for generation upon generation.  I was also told (and I quote) “Some of the family names on the gravestones are the same as families still living in Malvern Borough.  I can’t blame the Township when the church and the families don’t seem to care.”

DSC_0029I will tell you what, if some of my people were buried in an abandoned churchyard I sure would care.

So here is wishing on Good Friday that apathy dies an untimely death and people remember this site before my photos are the only things left standing.

Again, I am happy to share the photos I have taken to date.  If the African Methodist Episcopal Church were to roll up with East Whiteland to save it, I would continue to offer my photographic skills as a donation as well as my PR talents.  But someone other than I has to care, first.

Blessed Easter all.

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a new dawn: defrocked priest heads to jail on child molestation charges

Father Touchy Feely goes to jail today.  I hate to say I was glad to hear this but I was.  I am glad that Edward V. Avery is off the streets. Finally.  Even if it will only be for a couple of years or so.

Why do I care?  This man lived in my old neighborhood for years and years.  On a street named Berkley Road in Lower Merion Township which has always had lots of kids and small children growing up there.  He until recently owned an apartment building he inherited from his late mother Rachel Avery called the Berkley Arms.  A fabulous early 20th century building with large apartments, that throughout the years has also on occasion been home to families with small children.

For years we all watched and waited.  Avery was named in September 2005 in a Grand Jury Report just a couple of days after his mother died.   In 2006 Avery was defrocked by the Vatican.  Yet in this neighborhood full of young children he remained.  He lived across from a narrow street from a Lower Merion School District bus stop.

No one watched him, no one that we knew of monitored him.  He was as a former priest not yet convicted outside the realm of Megan’s Law websites, so if you did not know, you did not know.

I will say that although I thought his little old mother was adorable, he and his brother Kenneth (who died in 2008 and I loved how they referred to Edward Avery in his obituary as Reverend Doctor although he was a Reverend of nothing at this point) always creeped me out.  There was nothing I could ever put my finger on, it was female intuition I guess.

I first became aware of Edward Avery’s presence many many years ago (about 15 years I think)  because he drove at the time a high-end sedan like a  caddy and  I think it was then  followed by a high-end SUV with vanity plates that said “FREVA” (eventually the vanity plates went away and were replaced with first regular PA plates then FL plates) – that stood I always assumed for Father Edward V. Avery.  Being raised a Catholic I found that flashy display somewhat distasteful since all you hear about from jump as a child are how nuns and priests have these vows of poverty and whatnot.   I also wondered about God’s plan when this man was outed in Grand Jury reports and then inherited a very tasty real estate portfolio.   How does God let a man charged with hurting children become in essence a millionaire?  How did the Archdiocese of Philadelphia just put this guy back into a residential neighborhood filled with kids?

In late October 2009 while at a political event for a local candidate from my old neighborhood, Avery approached me.  Why me I will never know, because we weren’t buddies.  He was always filed as be polite and keep on moving whenever I saw him.   He sat there with a beer in his hand and told me how he was being targeted blah, blah, blah.  There I sat with camera in hand not knowing what to do.  It was horribly uncomfortable to listen to someone you did not believe for one hot moment with empathy.  I remember saying to him his choice of venue to discuss his current events with neighbors and locals was inappropriate at best, and if he was innocent, the truth would will out.  Ick.

So when he was charged anew in Philadelphia in February 2011, if I saw him on the street, I turned and moved the other way.  And wondered what would happen this time.

Here is an article from March 13, 2011 from the Inquirer that also appears on BishopAccountability.org:

‘Smiling Padre’: His path to court

Case may be a guide in Phila. prosecution.

March 13, 2011|By John P. Martin, Inquirer Staff Writer

In 1995, a few hundred people packed a Northeast Philadelphia banquet hall to mark a milestone for the Rev. Edward Avery: a quarter-century in the priesthood.

By then, Avery had cultivated a near-celebrity profile as an outspoken advocate for Asian immigrants and as an exuberant part-time disc jockey.

The Smiling Padre, he was called.

At his celebration, Avery took to the piano and belted out an Irish tune. “He was beaming,” a former parishioner recalled.

Few knew the underside of Avery’s record. Two years earlier, he had been plucked from his parish and secretly sent to an inpatient program for sexually abusive priests….

Now 68 and defrocked, Avery is one of four current or former priests due in court Monday for the first time since their arrests last month on abuse or related charges. The hearing comes less than a week after the archdiocese suspended 21 priests pending a review of old allegations against them, and follows a grand jury report that blasted the archdiocese’s efforts to expel abusers and aid victims.

If true, the allegations against Avery starkly illustrate how church officials may have ignored warning signs and concealed a possible child predator from parishioners, then scrambled to remove him amid the national furor over abusive priests…..Avery did not answer requests for an interview left at his Haverford apartment. His attorney, Michael Wallace, also did not respond to calls. An archdiocesan spokeswoman said it would have no comment about Avery or the grand jury’s depiction of him.

Avery made his only public remarks about his removal in 2003 when he told The Inquirer that his life and career had been unfairly ruined because of a misunderstanding one night decades earlier.

“I am totally devastated,” he said…..The grand jury report suggests the allegation that led to Avery’s removal was more serious than he has said.

It happened in 1992, when Avery was pastor at St. Therese of the Child Jesus in the Northeast and enjoyed a reputation as a popular and energetic priest.

For a decade, he had been a vocal advocate for the burgeoning Hmong immigrant community in Philadelphia. He helped a family of Hmong orphans settle in a house close to his rectory. He became legal guardian of the two youngest siblings, records show, and called all of them his adopted children.

Avery also flourished as a record-spinning cleric who entertained at bars, parties, and school dances.

“It’s been very beneficial to my priesthood,” he told the Philadelphia Daily News about his DJ business in 1984. “I’ve been able to give a lot of counseling and that type of thing because of it. Parents see me and send their kids to me. They see I’m approachable.”

In a letter in September 1992, a 29-year-old medical student accused Avery of having molested him when he was an altar boy at St. Philip Neri in Pennsburg in the late 1970s…..Archdiocesan officials sent Avery to the Anodos Center at St. John Vianney in Downingtown, a treatment center for clergy sex offenders.

After four days of evaluation, doctors found Avery’s account of his interaction with the young man “vague and inconsistent” and recommended inpatient treatment, the grand jury report says.

Ten months later, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua acted on the request…..Avery remained in Downingtown for six months in 1993. At one point, his accuser was invited to confront him at the hospital. Lynn’s handwritten notes indicated Avery had been “angry” and “in denial” but “got into shame” when he faced his accuser, the grand jury report says.

At the same time, the cardinal’s ranking assistant, Msgr. Edward P. Cullen, allegedly directed Lynn to inform St. Therese parishioners that Avery had left for health reasons…..Avery was discharged from the treatment center that fall with recommendations for “a ministry excluding adolescents and with a population other than vulnerable minorities.” Doctors also said he should attend Alcoholics Anonymous and limit his contact with the Hmong to an administrative or pastoral capacity, according to the grand jury report.

Bevilacqua assigned Avery to work at Nazareth Hospital and live at St. Jerome’s. In a letter to the pastor there, Lynn said Avery should help out “as much as he was able” but made no mention of his treatment or the allegation, the grand jury report says…..Doctors also prescribed an aftercare team to monitor Avery and regularly chart his progress. That team, composed of Lynn and two other priests, allegedly did not meet for more than a year after Avery’s discharge. One of the priests “denied even knowing he was on such a team,” the grand jury found….In December 2003, Bevilacqua’s successor, Cardinal Justin Rigali, declared the accusation credible and removed Avery from ministry. In a letter petitioning the Vatican to defrock Avery, Rigali said he was “morally certain” the allegations were true.

According to the grand jury report, the church offered Avery $87,000 if he agreed to leave the priesthood. It’s not clear whether he took the money or whether he collects a pension or other benefits.

Avery still lives in the 85-year-old, sand-colored apartment building, the Berkley Arms, that his family has owned for a half-century. State records indicate he registered a business called Avery Solar at that address, but it’s unclear what the business is or whether it still exists…..Avery’s mother, Rachel, died in 2005, and named him sole heir to her estate, valued at $1.1 million, public records show. Most of that reflects the value of the Berkley Road apartment building, just steps from the Haverford train station and the tony boutiques of Haverford Square.

He sold his North Wildwood home in 1999. Two years ago, Avery bought a two-bedroom beachside condo in Ormond Beach, Fla., public records show.

I couldn’t believe when the news broke on March 22, 2012 that he was pleading guilty to sexually molesting an altar boy.  Huh, so there we have it, then?  Do innocent men please guilty of sexually abusing kids?  Wow.

When the news broke of Avery’s confession I was once again deeply troubled and angered by the shepherds of my religious Faith: the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.  With every day it becomes apparent they have just shifted these sick and morally depraved individuals around various communities with really no one watching them and even fewer people knowing what it is that ails them.

How is that living and acting God’s word?  I still don’t understand.  It also brings to mind a conversation I had with a very sour Monsignor at St. Catherine of Siena in Wayne a few years back during of all things a viewing before a funeral.  At the time, I was planning a move to Wayne and that would have been my new parish.  This guy was all up in my face about getting married in “The Church.”  I don’t know what the guy’s name was, but in March 2011, that parish had a priest removed on suspected abuse charges – The Rev. Monsignor John Close (1969), pastor, St. Katharine of Siena Church, Wayne section of Radnor .  Once again it made me think about the irony of the Catholic Church being worried about my immortal soul, yet for how long in the greater Philadelphia area did they move pedophile priests around like some sort of twisted shell game?

(A good website tracking all this and more if you are interested is BishopAccountability.org )

I was happy when NBC10’s Tim Furlong reported on Avery going to jail this morning:

By NBC10 Philadelphia – Tim Furlong

Former priest Edward Avery will head to prison Monday after pleading guilty on a child molestation charge. NBC10’s Tim Furlong reports that Avery could be behind bars for five years

So what about this Anodos Center at St. John Vianney in Downingtown?  On their website they say:

Opening in 1946, Saint John Vianney Center is the oldest running behavioral health facility in North America for clergy and religious. We are an internationally-renowned behavioral health organization. Saint John Vianney Center is a faith-centered community that specializes in the treatment of behavioral health issues that are unique to Catholic clergy and consecrated religious, as well as the clergy of other major Christian denominations. Our research-based, multi-disciplinary approach, focuses on recovery, reconciliation and a return to ministry.

It doesn’t seem to me like they are meeting their mission, does it?  And who watches over them and their residents?  Does it have a quasi-open campus?  If so, who watches over these people in Chester County? After all (again on their website): 

Our in-patient services pride themselves on the comprehensive care and rich quality of  daily life experienced at Saint John Vianney Center; to that end our facility includes:

  • ….Walking trail on the periphery of the hospital campus
  • Proximity to a variety of restaurants and shopping nearby

So obviously, we can’t trust the Archdiocese of Philadelphia when it comes to pedophile priests, so how do you trust this center where a lot of these suspected and proven problem priests have been sent?

I am still a Catholic, but I am deeply troubled by my Church and  how they test our Faith.  How can we in this week before Easter believe in our Faith and keep our Faith in the midst of an Archdiocese which is supposed to lead all of us as the Vatican’s emissaries?  This is a Church that has let all Catholics down, and I just don’t see them doing enough of anything to either make it up to all of us or to even say they are sorry.

Will I personally join the ranks of lapsed Catholics all across this area?  That remains to be seen.  I think it all depends on the accountability of the Catholic Church today and going forward.  Right now I am not impressed.  Right now I am disgusted.