History of St. Raphaela Center

In January 1957, the Leone and Angeloni families, joint owners, sold their thirty-room mansion on Coopertown Road in Haverford, Pennsylvania to the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This acquisition was the realization of a long-awaited dream to open the Blessed Raphaela Mary Retreat House.

Quickly, the sisters adapted this beautiful home to serve as a place of prayer where they could house 50 overnight retreatants. They installed partitions, converted the house library into a chapel, and a few years later, added some needed areas for the community. From the beginning, the small group of retreatants grew steadily, not only in numbers, but in wonderful commitment and love for the Center and its mission. In that first year of operation, the Center had registered approximately 300 new friends. The ministry was facilitated by the fidelity and hard work of many promoters who saw to it that the Center was known and made use of by family, friends, and co-workers. A Guild was established to do fundraising and recruitment. Besides its main function as a spiritual center, this site has been the headquarters of the United States Province of the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, as well as their Mission Center and formation house.

The foundress of the Handmaids, St. Raphaela Mary, knew that in Jesus Christ, the deepest and ultimate meaning of human life can be found, as well as the drive to build a world that is more just and caring. She knew that providing prayer space for people would be a means to reestablish that peace and reconciliation which Christ brought us.

The Handmaids worked hard to prepare the Center as a place where people could spend days, evenings, overnights, weekends and longer in communion with one another, with God, and with creation, in order to return to their daily lives more fully energized. By 1970, 3600 people attended Women's Weekends, days and evenings of recollection, retreats, and participated in such movements as Cursillo, Charismatic Renewal, Marriage Encounter, Youth Encounter of Philadelphia, Christian Church Synods and development days, and ecumenical meetings of laity, clergy, and hierarchy. Thousands of guests have annually spent prayerful, reflective time renewing themselves for the good of the world in which we live.

During the last fifteen years, the mansion portion of the retreat house has been renovated, and the Center now has a beautiful chapel and retreatants' dining room. Space has been dedicated for a shrine in honor of St. Raphaela Mary, the foundress of the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Today, the Center provides the environment for spiritual refreshment and integration for over 5000 people who spend time here yearly.

"Contemplation of Christ in the Eucharist should lead us to discover and respond to His presence in all the realities of the world."

Handmaids' Constitutions of 1883