Millvale’s Mt. Alvernia property to become assisted living facility |

Millvale’s Mt. Alvernia property to become assisted living facility

Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
A statue of St. John Neumann stands in the gardens at Mt. Alvernia.

A developer plans to convert the 118-year-old Mt. Alvernia campus in Millvale to an assisted living facility following an agreement recently signed by property owners the Sisters of the St. Francis of the Neumann Communities.

The sisters signed the agreement, for undisclosed terms, with RNS Realty LLC. The closing is anticipated to occur by year’s end, according to Rochelle Cassella, the Roman Catholic order’s congregational communications director.

The decision to sell the property follows a four-year housing study assessing the needs of the sisters residing in Western New York, Western Pennsylvania and Hawaii. The findings showed that the properties no longer meet the needs of the smaller, aging population, Cassella said. At one time, 300 sisters called Mt. Alvernia home, compared with fewer than 70 now. The congregation also has sold several New York properties.

The sisters will relocate later this summer to the new senior living facility, The Waters of Wexford.

“Anyone who has moved an elderly relative or friend from a beloved home knows that it is not without its challenges, but the sisters here understand that our actions are done in prayer and love,” said Sister Barbara Jean Donovan, general minister, in a news release. “I am so proud that the sisters are already embracing how God is calling them to minister in their new home.”

The approximately 25-acre Mt. Alvernia campus houses the 92-bedroom St. Francis convent.

The property contains a guest house, chapel and Scotus Hall, with its auditorium and gym. A former high school, which closed in 2011 after 75 years of operation, is on Mt. Alvernia’s lower level.

The St. Clare Building is home to Mt. Alvernia Day Care and Learning Center, one of the sisters’ ministries.

Cassella said that the center’s board of directors is collaborating with Sister Karen Krebs, day care director, to find a new day care location, ideally with more space than the current establishment, allowing for expansion — the day care usually has a waiting list, according to Cassella.

“I’m sure they would like to have something finalized as soon as possible, but finding the right property is more important than the timeframe, since arrangements have been made with RNS (Realty) for the day care to stay on campus for a time that’s been specified in the purchase and sale agreement,” she said.

The campus is noted for its bioswales — landscape elements designed to slow and redirect stormwater runoff, in an effort to mitigate flooding. Cheryl Aughton, the Roman Catholic order’s communications director, previously said a 400-foot long bioswale located along Hawthorne Road was one of the nation’s largest. Another bioswale collects water from a parking lot and hillside above the road. Once the sale of the property is finalized, RNS will have all responsibility for the campus’ gardens and bioswales, Cassella said.

The religious order is eliminating 39 administrative and support services positions when the sisters relocate. If employers have job openings in housekeeping, maintenance, health care or communications, Cassella encourages them to contact the Mt. Alvernia Human Resources Department at 412-821-2200, ext. 366.

In 1865, the Sisters of St. Francis traveled from Buffalo, N.Y. to Pittsburgh and opened St. Francis Hospital. In order to accommodate 350 sisters, they built the Mt. Alvernia convent in 1900. In 2007, the sisters in Millvale merged with the Syracuse, N.Y.-based Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities.

Erica Cebzanov is a Tribune-Review contributor.

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