The history of "Mount Alverno" began with our Foundress, Mother Maria Theresia Bonzel. All that we have been called to do has been through her inspiration. This time line stretches back to her in 1863 in Olpe, Germany, just as surely as does our faith as Franciscans. For it was in 1863 she founded our Congregation, the Poor Sisters of St. Francis Seraph of Perpetual Adoration. The specific events that led us to Mount Alverno began on November 26, 1875 when at the invitation of the Right Rev. Bishop Dwenger of Fort Wayne, Indiana, Mother Maria Theresia sent six Sisters to the United States. They arrived in Lafayette, Indiana on December 14, 1875. A small house was placed at their disposal. A benefactor, Albert Wagner, donated two lots to them, and on these the first building of the present St. Elizabeth Hospital was built. With the rapid expansion of the community, a wing for the convent was added to the hospital in 1905. Continuous growth followed both with the community and hospital. By 1940, our Provincial House extended over a two block area. In addition to the Provincial House, the site now included a novitiate, postulancy, 350 bed hospital, a training school for nurses, a high school and a college.
Expansion was imperative. Additional space at or near the existing Provincial House in Lafayette was not available. Bishop Noll had learned the Carlisle Estate near Mishawaka, Indiana, was available. Calling it a "find in a million," he urged Mother Benigna and her Council to view it for themselves as soon as possible. The estate became known as "Mount Alverno."
Amid the winter snows of 1943, the Sisters began to contemplate the purchase of the Carlisle estate in Mishawaka. It was a difficult time for us, as it was for people everywhere that war year. Still, it was the eternal hope of spring and God's promise of renewal that the Sisters purchased the Carlisle estate, complete with 25 room manor and 400 acres of wooded and tillable land, in June of that year.
Under the direction of Mother Benigna Malin, the Sisters went to work to convert the mansion into a Provincial House, and on October 4, 1943, His Excellency John Francis Noll dedicated the new Provincial House.
The work of converting the estate continued in 1944. With the generosity of Anton Solbach, funding for the Lourdes Grotto was obtained. A cemetery was completed and Stations of the Cross were erected. The statue of the Sacred Heart was placed on the hillside facing the convent site. Sister Archangela Petz became our first Sister to be buried at the Mount in January of 1945.