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About Alverna Heights


Believing that the Motherhouse grounds on Court Street in Syracuse would soon be too small, the Superior General, Mother Jolenta, with the consent of her Council and the advice of Bishop Walter Foery, purchased almost 200 acres of land adjacent to Green Lakes State Park in February 1964. (The land was formed in the glacial age. You can still see large boulders in the woods. Mr. Armstrong, who formerly owned the property, told the Sisters that the stones and boulders used to build the beautiful Club House at Green Lakes State park came from this property. The farm was a sheep farm, a pig farm, a dairy farm and lastly, a cattle farm.)

No Sisters lived there until the summer of 1966 when Sisters took up residence as they waited for their new convent at Christ the King Church in Liverpool to be completed.

In June 1967, the property was christened, "Alverna Heights" and it became the new home for Mother Viola, her staff and other Sisters who took up residence. During the latter part of 1968 the roof was raised and a room upstairs became the chapel. On January 11, 1969 Bishop Foery offered the first Mass there.

In November 1968, an office trailer was purchased and the Generalate offices and files were moved to Alverna Heights.

Although no new buildings were built, some of the farm buildings were converted into places for the Sisters, and Alverna Heights became a place of recreation and of prayer. During the summer of 1969 a swimming pool was built, as were dressing rooms and a kitchen area. A former pigpen, called “Noah’s Ark” because of its slanting sides, was renovated and used as a game room, and a meeting room/sleeping room. In the area around the swimming pool a miniature golf course was installed.

A second and larger office trailer, or modular building, was opened in April 1971 and the old one was towed away. During the summers of 1972 and 1973 a barn bordering on the swimming pool and adjoining the dressing rooms and kitchen was being slowly worked on as a recreation center. By spring 1974 it was in regular use. Prayer groups, the Ecumenical Group from the Air Base and different classes from the nearby schools used it for their meetings. During one summer the girls from Covenant House in New York City came for a week’s vacation.

In September 1973, "Noah’s Ark" became the "Portiuncula Hermitage" and contained a chapel of its own as well as a small kitchen and bathroom. In the fall of 1976, five modular units, which had served St. Joseph’s Hospital as office space while the new wing was being built, were brought up to Alverna Heights. After much time spent putting them in position, and connecting the heat, lighting and plumbing, the first Retreat was held there during Holy Week of 1977.

In 1980, Sr. Aileen Griffin had Pax et Bonum Convent built as a residence for the leadership team. In 1992, this became a retreat/spirituality ministry residence in the formation of our Associate Program in Syracuse. Presently, Pax et Bonum and the Franciscan Hermitage are residences for Sisters.

Alverna Heights has a hospitality program so that others may share in the beauty and peace of God’s creation. St. Clare’s is used for private retreats. St. Bonaventure, Duns Scotus, and St. Francis Gathering Space, and the Visitor Center are used by individuals and groups for retreats, meetings, conferences, and other activities.

In order to preserve and augment the environment, Alverna Heights is currently involved in the Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program with the USDA to bring back native grasses to 10 acres of grassland. This will enhance the nesting of birds as well as permit us to continue environmental programs and preserve the land.