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Sisters of St. Francis selling campus, moving St. Marianne Cope shrine

Some big changes are coming to the Court St.campus of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities. It involves the sale of the campus, and moving a shrine to recently canonized St. Marianne Cope, who began her ministries as a Sister of St. Francis, in Syracuse.

The current campus on the corner of Court and Grant St. on Syracuse’s north side dates back to the 1860s, when a new order of Franciscan nuns bought the property. Over the past 150 years it’s been home to a convent, school, chapel and a day care, among other things.

Now it’s for sale, and the approximately 75 sisters who live there will move to a new home being constructed on Buckley Road in Syracuse, called the Franciscan Villa. General Minister Roberta Smith says costs to maintain the campus became prohibitive, emphasizing the chapter will still have a presence on the north side.

"We have a lot of individual houses around the block where our sisters are still living and are present, and we still have Francis house," Smith said. "So we’re not totally, totally gone.”

Credit Ellen Abbott / WRVO
A statue dedicated to St. Marianne Cope.

The move also means a new home for the shrine of St. Marianne Cope, who was one of the leaders of this congregation before she moved to Hawaii to minister to lepers in 1883. So the community has agreed with St. Joseph’s Hospital to open up a new museum and shrine in a former radiotherapy building on Townsend Street, according to Operations Supervisor Kristin Barrett-Anderson.

"When you come in, you’re going to learn everything about her; actually from the beginning of the sisters, and how she became a part of it," Barrett-Anderson said. "And then being able to walk into a gathering space with a reliquary there. I think it’s going to be, I don’t want to say it’s perfect, but I think its going to be a beautiful home for her.”

Barrett-Anderson says there has been a good deal of traffic to the shrine since Cope was canonized a little over a year ago.

“We’ve had a steady flow of tourists," she said. "Probably four to five tours a month. And they range from 25 to 100 people at a time, and they come from all over.”

Smith also says its a good choice to have the shrine at the hospital she helped found in 1869.

“St. Marianne did a lot of good work at St. Joseph’s hospital, too," Smith said. "So in her healing ministry it’s a wonderful legacy to have her right at the place she started.”

St. Marianne was the founder of St. Joe’s, and pioneered many innovative health regimens for hospitals at the time. She was canonized a little over a year ago and her remains were returned to Syracuse. Smith says the sisters have decided to return the remains to Hawaii, where she spent much of her life ministering to lepers and where a new shrine is being built. A first class relic of the recently canonized saint will remain in Syracuse.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.