The BrotherSisters Sing for the W.Va. Institute for Spirituality

November 26, 2012


The BrotherSisters | photo by Kuyler McComas


WHAT: Benefit fundraiser for the W.Va. Institute for Spirituality featuring The BrotherSisters.
WHEN: 7 to 8:30 p.m., Friday, Nov. 30.
WHERE: Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, 1600 Kanawha Blvd., Charleston, W.Va. (Next door to the Institute, right off Kanawha Blvd.)
COST: $5 suggested donation at the door. Additional donations for the good work of the center welcome.

I forget how I first came to know Sister Mary Pellicane, a resident nun at the W.Va. Institute for Spirituality in Charleston, W.Va. But once you know her, you cannot forget her. She recently turned 90 years old and is as spritely, feisty, opinionated and chatty as ever. Thank goodness. She represents all that is good about a happy spiritual life, grounded in the world. So, it was that I brought my guitar over one day to play her some music. We got around to talking about how the W.Va. Institute of Spirituality, where she lives, is like many a spiritual institution — always in need of additional operating funds. I idly suggested the idea of a fundraising concert. She wouldn’t let me forget. That was maybe two years ago. She didn’t let me forget. I finally stood good on my offer. And so our folk trio, The BrotherSisters, will do a benefit for the center 7 p.m. this Friday at the church next door (where there is more room for a show). The band features original songs and choice covers from the Americana songbook, with double and triple harmonies by Douglas Imbrogno and Albert Perrone on guitar and Marylin McKeown on percussion.

The Institute’s homepage describes its mission this way:

The West Virginia Institute For Spirituality is dedicated to providing space and opportunities for deepening mindfulness, prayer practice, interior peace, and for integrating moral and ethical values.

I have several friends whose lives have been enriched, strengthened and reinvigorated by the work of the center. The concert is a small token of appreciation for what my Buddhist meditation teacher describes as the utmost significance of having such “spiritual friends” in one’s life.

It might be an understatement to say Sister Mary Pellicane is a force of nature. Nature might take some tips from her. On the occasion of her 90th birthday, my Charleston Gazette colleague Sandy Wells profiled her. Here’s a bit of that profile, done in Sandy’s “Inner Views” style of an introduction followed by quotes culled from an in-depth interview.

Sister Mary Pellicane | Chris Dorst photo for Charleston Gazette

Spiritual icon ready to ring in 90th year

By Sandy Wells | Charleston Gazette | Dec. 11, 2012

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — On Jan. 11, a spiritual icon in Charleston turns 90.

A nun representing Our Lady of the Cenacle, Sister Mary Pellicane arrived here 33 years ago to establish the Cenacle Retreat House, an ecumenical center for reflection and religious renewal, a kind of clinic for the soul.

She directed the retreat until it closed in 1998. Today, her ministry continues at the West Virginia Institute of Spirituality.

A keen mind harbors special recollections. As a child, she watched Charles Lindbergh waving on the back of a convertible in a ticker-tape parade. At the 1939 World’s Fair, she marveled at such unheard promises as television and highway cloverleafs.

Yes, there was a life before nunhood. She grew up in Queens, a tomboy playing ball in the streets with her brothers. She dated, danced the jitterbug and Lindy Hop and found a wartime office job that didn’t require typing or shorthand.

Then, she encountered the quiet, semi-cloistered world of the Cenacle sisters. And she knew she was home.

Known for her warmth and humor, she glows with wisdom and inner peace, the gifts of age. But there’s nothing namby-pamby about her. Outspoken and opinionated, she keeps her soapbox handy.

“I can’t shut up,” she said.

“My parents were immigrants from Sicily. They came as children. They married and got a coldwater flat in Brooklyn. We were there four years.

“They were very keen on not being immigrants, so we upgraded to Queens County, an English speaking neighborhood.

“When I was there, I saw one of the most outstanding things. After Charles Lindbergh flew the Atlantic, they had a spectacular procession. He was in a convertible, and he was sitting on top, and it was almost like a papal visitation … | READ ON


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