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Buffalo News,   June 10, 1998  by Dave Condren

       When the Sisters of St. Francis break ground later this month for new facilities in Amherst, the ceremony will move the nuns closer to a new home and their neighbors closer to a new park.

       The ceremony also will enable the sisters to look forward and back at the same time as two members who are a living link to the past, present and future turn the first shovel of earth.

       That honor will go to Sister Grace Marie Korn and Sister Ancilla Maute, both 89, who lived in the order's first Buffalo motherhouse at 337 Pine St. before the sisters relocated to Amherst in 1928.

       Sister Grace has been a member of the Sisters of St. Francis for 71 years. Sister Ancilla entered the order 70 years ago. Each of them devoted more than 50 years to education.

       Two other sisters who lived in the Buffalo residence are in the infirmary of the motherhouse.

       "God willing, they all will move to our new community living center when it is completed," said Sister Patricia Burkard, general minister of the religious order.

       The Sisters of St. Francis, who have been based for the last 70 years at St. Mary of the Angels Motherhouse, 400 Mill St., will break ground June 26 for a new, $10 million motherhouse at the Reist Street end of their property.

       The new complex, to be built on an eight-acre parcel at 201 Reist, will house their administrative center and infirmary and provide a residence for more than 70 active sisters.

       "Our current house no longer meets our needs. It is bigger than we need," Sister Patricia said. "We did not want to become overly preoccupied with taking care of the building."

       Completion of their new home in 15 to 18 months will clear the way for the sisters to sell their current motherhouse and about 100 acres of land to the Town of Amherst for park use.

       The Town Board already has authorized Supervisor Susan J. Grelick to sign an agreement to buy the property for $5 million. The town and the state Department of Parks and Recreation will share the cost.

       The Sisters of St. Francis own nearly 130 acres of largely undeveloped land directly north of the Village of Williamsville between Mill and Reist streets.

       Although they must sell most of the land to raise money to pay for the new motherhouse, they wanted to see their peaceful orchards and meadows preserved as green space.

       "For 70 years, our sisters have enjoyed it as a place of beauty and serenity," Sister Patricia said. "It is our hope that as a park it will provide that same peace and serenity for all those who would use it."

       Among sale details to be worked out, Sister Patricia said, is the timing, because the sisters want to complete the move into their new facilities before the town takes possession of the old motherhouse.

       "We want a smooth transition for the older sisters," she said.

       Also located on their property at 410 Mill St. is Holy Family Home, an adult-care facility the sisters will continue to operate.

       Sister Patricia said the current motherhouse initially served as both a convent and a home for the elderly.

       With their ranks swelling in the early 1960s, the sisters built Holy Family Home nearby to care for the elderly lay people and set aside the motherhouse for the exclusive use of the sisters. Eventually, as many as 125 nuns resided there.

       Sister Patricia said the order currently has 130 members, 22 of whom live in the infirmary.

       Although they came to Buffalo from Philadelphia in 1861 to care for the poor and sick, most of the sisters are engaged in parish ministry today. Besides those who reside at the motherhouse, other sisters live in local convents throughout the Buffalo diocese.

       Joining the sisters for the groundbreaking at 2 p.m. June 26 will be Bishop Henry J. Mansell of the Buffalo Catholic Diocese, Sister Maureen Ann Muller, the order's former general minister, and Monsignor Robert C. Wurtz, president of Our Lady of Victory Institutions and a member of the order's finance committee.

       Shannon Taggart/Buffalo news

Sister Patricia Burkard displays an architect's drawing of the new $10 Million St. Mary of the Angels Motherhouse to be built in Williamsville for the Sisters of St. Francis.

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