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Mount Carmel History

BVM Foundress Mary Frances Clarke
BVM Foundress Mary Frances Clarke
The story of the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary begins in Dublin, Ireland, in 1832, when BVM Foundress Mary Frances Clarke and her companions began a school for girls in Dublin. In 1833 they immigrated to Philadelphia to teach the children of Irish immigrants.

Within 10 years the new community of Sisters joined other pioneers in the Iowa Territory and arrived in the Mississippi river town of Dubuque. The original motherhouse, St. Joseph’s on the Prairie, was established in 1846 on a small farm south of Dubuque.
 
As more women entered the congregation, space became an issue, and in 1889 the congregation purchased 108 acres along the bluffs of the Mississippi River and named it Mount Carmel.
 
Motherhouse
Motherhouse
With its 502 windows, 400 doors, and 15-inch thick walls, the modern Romanesque style of the BVM Motherhouse was the largest convent in North America when the Sisters moved in 1893. Originally named St. Joseph Convent, it is where young women came to enter the congregation, gathered together for retreats and meetings, and where most sisters returned to retire.
 
The grounds was a working farm until the 1950s, and over time, an infirmary, care center, and an office building were added to the campus as the needs of the congregation changed. Those buildings were eventually deconstructed to make way for the future.
 
In 2018 the congregation partnered with Presbyterian Homes & Services (PHS) to construct a new senior living community on 32 acres named Mount Carmel Bluffs. The BVM-PHS partnership creates the opportunity to continue the care of the BVM Sisters, allowing them to age in place.
 
The historical BVM Motherhouse has been preserved and is now “Town Center” of Mount Carmel Bluffs. The remaining property continues in the care of the BVM congregation, including the Pine Walk that leads to the cemetery where Sisters come to their final place of rest.
 
Today, the BVM Sisters share their beautiful home with views along the bluffs of the river and provide quality healthcare to Dubuque area citizens of both genders and all faiths.

Mount Carmel Road
Mount Carmel Road
  
Motherhouse under construction in 1892
Motherhouse under construction in 1892
  
Aerial 1928
Aerial 1928
  
Aerial view of Mount Carmel 2017
Aerial view of Mount Carmel 2017

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