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Financial turmoil for a peaceful retreat

Posted by Ralph Ranalli March 5, 2007 07:20 AM

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(Globe staff photo by Tom Herde)

SHERBORN

The Peace Abbey, born of a pacifist's dream 19 years ago, has brought the inner hum of meditation and the occasionally harsh spotlight of international attention to this small, affluent town.

It is a place where a conspicuous bronze statue of Gandhi and a memorial to a runaway cow have prompted double-takes from motorists and passersby. It is also a multi-faith retreat that Mother Teresa has visited, as have Muhammad Ali, the poet Maya Angelou, nuns of the Dalai Lama , and thousands of people seeking spiritual refreshment.

But now, the abbey has been put on the selling block for $5.5 million. Its director, Lewis Randa, cites a plummeting drop in donations that he links to the abbey's visible protests against the Iraq war.

Randa, who was discharged from the Army National Guard as a conscientious objector in 1971, wants to sell the abbey's two buildings and 3 acres to what he calls a "guardian angel," a benefactor or foundation that would allow the abbey to continue its work. But if no such buyer is found by mid year, he said, even commercial buyers will be considered.

"My biggest fear, and I can envision it, is that the memorials will be bulldozed, and it would become a parking lot for whatever offices would go in that front building," Randa said.

In any event, Randa added, "we will be forced within the next four or five months to sell this property."

Read more about the financial challenge faced by the Peace Abbey in today's Globe.

-- Brian MacQuarrie

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