Values We All Share
On May 6, our Executive Director Sister Mary Scullion was the keynote speaker at the 50th anniversary celebration of the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation. PCDC is our partner in the development of our new Francis House of Peace residence. Here is an excerpt from her remarks.
I want to reflect with you on some of the art that has been incorporated into the design of Francis House of Peace/Ping An. As we envisioned this project, which would provide supportive housing both for seniors from the Chinese American community and for adults and youth who had experienced homelessness, it was agreed that the building itself would convey the spirit of the Chinatown neighborhood. We called on Meg Saligman, our dear friend and frequent collaborator, who is a world renowned muralist and artist from here in Philadelphia. She was excited by the vision, and worked for many months with Collette Fu as well as with many Chinatown residents – young and old – to come up with ideas and possibilities.
The results were, as we expected, spectacular, and I hope many of you get to see them. Part of the installation is an arch that functions as an entrance to the arcade. It is inspired by the traditional Hutong streets or alleys in Northern Chinese cities. Its design is that of a Moon Gate, with the idea that the light of the moon is projected on the opposite tile wall. On that tile wall is also projected a traditional poem by the famed Chinese scholar Li Bai, called “Thoughts on a Still Night”:
In front of my bed, there is bright moonlight (I see the moonlight)
It appears to be frost on the ground.
I lift my head and gaze at the August/Bright Moon,
I lower my head and think of home.
Meg and Collette were deliberating evoking the August Moon, which is a traditional time for family reunions, giving thanks for the harvest, and praying for good fortune to come.
All of these are deeply moving images that represent what Francis House of Peace/Ping An is about: home, family, harvest, a future of good fortune. For some of our Project HOME residents, those images are particularly compelling. Many of them have not had a home for years, or had for a home nothing but the streets. Some have been rejected by family and are now finding new family at the residence. Some, with the stability of a place of their own, are finally able to pursue meaningful economic opportunity – with hopes of enjoying the harvest of their labors and anticipating a brighter future.
Home, family, harvest, good fortune. These values from deep in the Chinese tradition are also universal values. They represent longings and needs we all share. And we are best able to achieve these when we all come together, sharing our talents, our passions, our resources, and our cultural gifts.