[PRESS RELEASE] ‘Knotted Grotto’ Site at Cathedral, Blessed by Pope, Concludes Public Engagement; Inspiring Mission Exceeds Expectations | Project HOME

[PRESS RELEASE] ‘Knotted Grotto’ Site at Cathedral, Blessed by Pope, Concludes Public Engagement; Inspiring Mission Exceeds Expectations

  • ‘Knotted Grotto’ Site at Cathedral, Blessed by Pope, Concludes Public Engagement; Inspiring Mission Exceeds Expectations
Francis Fund Raises $1.4 Million to be Awarded to 50 Local Nonprofits that Address Homelessness and Hunger Issues; Advocacy Campaign Sent 20,000 Messages to Elected Officials Demanding More Support for Poor

The  Mary, Undoer of the Knots Grotto, which attracted tens of thousands of visitors during the recent World Meeting of Families (WMOF) conference, formally closed at an interfaith blessing on Wednesday, October 7, at 10 am. The event celebrated the many achievements of the Mercy and Justice campaign, of which the Grotto was one part.

Sister Mary Scullion, executive director and co-founder of Project HOME and co-chair of the WMOF Hunger & Homelessness Committee, was joined by WMOF Executive Director Donna Crilley Farrell and other program leaders to address the future of the campaign. The Mercy & Justice campaign was created to generate action around hunger and homelessness when Pope Francis visited the region. His ongoing message of mercy and plea to help those living in poverty motivated the four-month effort.

The Grotto, located at the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul on Benjamin Franklin Parkway, was covered with almost 150,000 knots, on which individuals wrote their struggles, prayers, and intentions. On Sunday, September 27, shortly before presiding over the open-air Mass, Pope Francis made an impromptu and historic visit to bless the Grotto. The project was inspired by the 18th-century German painting Our Lady, Undoer of Knots, which is especially beloved by the Pope. The work of artist Meg Saligman and commissioned by Project HOME, the Grotto drew national and worldwide media attention and had hundreds of visitors daily following the Papal visit.

Those attending the grotto blessing and closing included Father Dennis Gill, pastor, Basilica Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul; John Bowie, resident of Project HOME and volunteer for the Mercy and Justice Campaign; Imam Salaam Muhsin of Philadelphia Masjidullah; and Rabbi Andrea Merow, Beth Sholom Congregation, Elkins Park, and founder of the Beth Sholom Mitzvah Food Pantry. Both Masjidullah and Beth Sholom Mitzvah Food Pantry are recipients of support through the Francis Funds.

“The World Meeting of Families – Philadelphia 2015 and the visit of Pope Francis were momentous and memorable experiences that brought together visitors from around the globe to celebrate family as the sanctuary of love and life,” said Donna Crilley Farrell. “The beautiful ‘Undoer of Knots’ Grotto at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul is a tangible reminder of that time and of our desire to overcome the challenges facing all of our families through prayer. It represents intentions from more than 100,000 international visitors who traveled to our city to be part of history.”

At the ceremony, Scullion talked about future plans for the Grotto.

“It is with deep gratitude – and some sorrow – that today, we officially close the Knotted Grotto,” said Scullion. “The struggles, hopes, and prayers that were shared here will live on.  All of the knots – almost 150,000 – will be used as insulation in Project HOME’s next residence, to be built in 2016 at North Broad and York Streets in North Philadelphia.  So these beautifully shared symbols of our shared struggles will literally help to provide shelter and home to many sisters and brothers who are breaking the cycle of homelessness.”

Scullion explained that the grotto structure itself will be moved in the coming weeks to a new permanent home:  It will be part of the grounds of Project HOME’s newest residence, Francis House of Peace, at 810 Arch Street.  This new building will open in November, providing a home to 94 formerly homeless and low-income persons.

Francis Fund Fundraising and Act of Justice Goals Achieved

Scullion also provided an update on the Francis Fund, the fundraising element of the Mercy and Justice initiative, set up to support the work of more than 50 organizations serving the very poor in the Philadelphia and Camden regions.

“I am very happy to report that because of the generosity of countless caring and compassionate people in the greater Philadelphia area, we reached our goal for the Francis Fund.  We have collected more than $1.4 million, through which we will be able to provide financial support to over fifty remarkable organizations serving some of the most vulnerable people in our community,” said Scullion. 

Scullion today also reported on the ongoing efforts of the initiative’s Act for Justice campaign. “Close to 20,000 messages were sent from around the country to our congressional representatives in Washington, DC, urging them to enact public policies to meet the needs of poor and struggling Americans.”

Scullion cited Pope Francis’ words to the U.S. Congress:  “I would encourage you to keep in mind all those people around us who are trapped in a cycle of poverty. They too need to be given hope. The fight against poverty and hunger must be fought constantly and on many fronts, especially in its causes.” 

“We will continue that fight here in Philadelphia,” she stressed. “We will keep working to undo the knots of poverty and injustice.”


About the WMOF Hunger and Homelessness Committee
The WMOF Hunger and Homelessness Committee, with leadership from Project HOME, is comprised of civic, religious, and nonprofit leaders from the region, as well as persons who have experienced homelessness and poverty.  Its efforts have had broad support from the interfaith community in the Philadelphia region and Camden.  For more information, go to www.mercyandjustice.org.

About Project HOME
Since 1989, Project HOME has helped more than 8,000 people break the cycle of homelessness and poverty by providing a continuum of care that includes street outreach, supportive housing and comprehensive services that focus on health care, education and employment through both adult and youth education and enrichment programs at the Honickman Learning Center and Comcast Technology Labs and community-based health care services at the Stephen Klein Wellness Center. Project HOME and its partners have pledged to end chronic street homelessness in Philadelphia.

Sharon Gallagher, 215-209-3075 sgallagher@sage-communications.com