Winter 2013-2014

“A Piece of Heaven”

Tina Plink ’73 has personal and historic connections to Marywood and the IHM Sisters. After earning her Bachelor of Arts degree in Comprehensive Social Sciences/Secondary Education from Marywood in 1973, Tina went on to enjoy a 35-year career at North Pocono High School. She taught psychology and sociology and chaired the Social Studies Department until her retirement in June 2008.

“I truly believe I was well prepared for my career as a result of the liberal arts education I received at Marywood,” Tina states. Her connection to the IHM Sisters began even before her Marywood days, however, at a property in Elmhurst, PA.

In the 1920s, the IHM Congregation was given about 25 acres of rural property, with land, barns, a caretaker’s house, and garage, known as Saint Agnes Place, which the Sisters used as a home for ill and aging Sisters. Congregation history states, “Saint Agnes Place was a quiet, peaceful setting on a very productive piece of farmland. There were bountiful supplies of vegetables, a dairy provided milk and butter, and, with the chickens, a plentiful supply of fresh eggs.” (Page 63, Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Scranton, Pennsylvania: 1919-1974)

Even though the IHM Sisters loved this beautiful, pastoral setting, it became clear after a few decades that better options to care for the sick and elderly Sisters were needed, so the Congregation sold the property when the Marian Convent (now Loughran Hall) was built on Marywood’s campus.

What happened to St. Agnes Place after the Sisters left? Tina’s uncle, Attorney William Zacharellis, purchased the property from the IHM Congregation in the late 1950s. At the time, Tina’s family was living in New Haven, Connecticut, but spent summers at the Elmhurst property. When her family moved to the area in the 1960s, they lived at her uncle’s estate until their home was built.

“I have a very deep and personal connection to the property,” recalls Tina. “When my uncle died unexpectedly in October 2008, I inherited the estate, as well as the awesome responsibility of what to do with it. I also inherited his love for the property and his devotion to its preservation.”  

A visit to the tranquil setting, just 12 miles away from Marywood, demonstrates why it was a perfect place of respite for the Sisters at one time. The estate is recognized as one of the most historical and architecturally significant homes in Lackawanna County and is the recipient of the Architectural Award from the North Pocono Cultural Society. A grotto that once held a statue of St. Agnes remains on the estate. The statue has been a part of Marywood’s campus since 1956.

When she inherited the estate, Tina wanted to use it in a way that would make her uncle happy. Knowing how much he loved to have people admire the property, she decided to open it to the public in January 2013 as a venue for catered events. Known as Zacharellis Gardens, the property is now the site of weddings, showers, holiday parties, anniversary dinners, retirement parties, luncheons, and fundraisers. Tina recalls that her uncle loved landscaping and planting unique specimens of trees and shrubs, so her next phase of property enhancement will be to expand on his arboretum.

“My uncle used to refer to his estate as ‘paradise,’ and interestingly enough, many people who visit it for the first time describe it as a piece of heaven,” observes Tina. “There is something special about the property and everyone senses it. You experience a sense of peace and serenity, and I believe that all the blessings and prayers over the years are responsible for this feeling.”

More detailed references to St. Agnes Place can be found at www.marywood.edu/history/statues/st-agnes.html and an historic look at the property is available at www.zacharellisgardens.com/history.

Photo courtesy of Moscow Villager

“My uncle used to refer to his estate as ‘paradise,’ and interestingly enough, many people who visit it for the first time describe it as a piece of heaven.” 

- Tina Plink ’73

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