Syracuse's Franciscan Nuns moving to suburbs

Franciscan Villa, under construction off Buckley Road near Salina Meadows, will be the new home for nuns who are closing down their Syracuse North Side convent.

A move to give Syracuse's older nuns better living conditions will also change the permanent home for Syracuse's saint.

The Franciscan Mother House, the 117 year old convent on the city North Side at Court and Grant, will be shut down next year.

Sister Roberta Smith, who heads the order here, says it is 'not meeting the needs' of residents and will cost too much to repair, so early next year, 96 nuns will move to 'Franciscan Villa,' which is under construction off Buckley Road, near Salina Meadows in Liverpool.

The convent chapel, which currently holds the relics from St. Marianne Cope, will also eventually be closed. Members of the order are right now giving their opinions on where the relics should go. The Saint was from Utica and Syracuse before going to Hawaii in the late 18-hundreds. Sister Roberta Smith leaves for Hawaii on Wednesday to discuss options with nuns there, and is not ruling out the relics' return--Marianne Cope was buried there after her death.

St Joseph's Hospital, which the saint helped found, will house the museum dedicated to her and the order's ministering to lepers, starting next spring.

Franciscan Adult Day Services, also on the Syracuse campus in the Maria Regina Center, will also move away, though the Gingerbread House pre-school and daycare, and the Francis House complex will stay on the North Side.

"We are very conscious," says Sister Roberta Smith, of the impact the sisters have on the north side. She promises careful consideration before the next moves. The sisters' move has not been a secret, but neighbors we spoke with on Monday were unaware, surprised and saddened. 'I think they kept the neighborhood quiet," one told us. She also said the nuns' presence has been 'reassuring.'

Franciscan Villa is expected to be completed early next year. It is owned by the Hearth Companies (who operate other senior complexes in the area). It will be occupied completely by nuns at first, but in the future may have openings for other seniors as well.