Exploring Sacred Spaces with Sister Helen David Brancato

Art enlivens the human condition, illuminating the vast depth of human potential whilst simultaneously granting pent angst license to evoke a palette of emotions. Sometimes the end goal is a more forward one; to convey the importance of humble simplicity and the happiness found therein. This is the genesis of an art exhibition assembled by Villanova’s own Sister Helen David Brancato, which itself is inspired by her book (coauthored with Evelyn Mattern) Ordinary Places, Sacred Spaces.

Ordinary Places, Sacred Spaces is a celebration of grace inherent in our surroundings, told through poetry, art, and prose. The art exhibit it inspired (installed at Doylestown Presbyterian Church) takes the form of twenty five paintings, ordered to evoke feelings of thoughtful awareness. “Attitude can convert the humblest of places” Sister Helen informed me. “This is a very autobiographical show for me. People that know me will see the beats of my life in the show’s meaning, and those who don’t yet know me, will.”

The opening painting in particular holds special meaning for Sister Helen. It depicts a tree which was struck by lightning, yet manages to endure and thrive. This image of perseverance in the face of hardship is representative of her time spent at the Southwest Center (14 years), organizing “quilting parties” for the poor. This simple, yet inclusive activity worked to build both a sense of community and sense of self worth for those taking part.

More than anything, Sister Helen hopes that students will visit the exhibit so they can “explore the theme and realize that the simplest space can be a meaningful part of their lives”. Her exhibit is located at Doylestown Presbyterian Church, 127 E. Court St. Doylestown, PA 18901, and runs through December 29th.

If you have questions, contact sister Helen at helen.brancato@villanova.edu or visit her office located at SAC 221.