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Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary and PHS Break Ground in Dubuque, IA

Groundbreaking for Mount Carmel BluffsMount Carmel Bluffs” was unveiled yesterday as the name of the newest senior living community in Dubuque, IA. In a ceremony infused with prayer and history, the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM) and Presbyterian Homes & Services (PHS) celebrated the official groundbreaking for Mount Carmel Bluffs, located on the historic Mount Carmel campus, home to BVMs since 1892. The ceremony, held at the Mount Carmel Motherhouse, included local civic and business leaders and neighbors who joined the leadership of BVM and PHS for the event. 

Mount Carmel Bluffs is a joint venture of BVM and PHS to meet the needs of a growing older adult population in the Dubuque area. Construction began in May 2019.  Completion of the first phase of the project is anticipated in the fall of 2020. Building a senior living community at Mount Carmel will transform the campus, allowing all sisters to remain living on campus as well as offering a full continuum of care to the greater community as space allows. 

Watch a video of the Groundbreaking Ceremony.

Sister Teri Hadro, BVM President said to ceremony guests, “This venture represents a shared ministry as BVM and PHS join hands to touch the hearts and enrich the lives of others by creating a vibrant living space in which each resident—sisters and our Dubuque-area neighbors alike—can thrive physically, spiritually, and socially.” 

Hadro recounted the history of BVMs and Mount Carmel, which the sisters established 127 years ago as their home community. “Since 1892, more than 4000 women have entered the Sisters of Charity, BVM,” she said acknowledging that, “religious life in the United States of the 21st century is markedly different from that of the early days of our congregation.” There are now 300 BVM sisters, two-thirds of whom live in Dubuque. Their median age is 82. “Our demographics told us we would need to continue caring for our sisters for at least 30 more years,” Hadro said. The sisters realized that they would need help and that they wanted to utilize the Mount Carmel Campus to continue their mission of service to others. 

Hadro shared the process by which BVM leadership explored options and was introduced to PHS, based in Roseville, MN. “The BVM mission, formally expressed as ‘freeing ourselves and helping others to be free in God’s steadfast love,’ meshes so well with the mission of PHS: ‘To honor God by enriching the lives and touching the hearts of older adults.’  PHS’ core values dovetail nicely with the BVM core values of freedom, education, charity and justice,” she said.  We are excited by the synergy of BVM and PHS working together to co-create a vibrant, thriving senior community here at Mount Carmel Bluffs,” she said. 

Mount Carmel Bluffs renderingDan Lindh, President and CEO of PHS shared Hadro’s passion and commitment. “We’re grateful and honored to be a part of this journey to meet the needs of the sisters and the broader community as well. We have a shared vision, a lot in common, and a commitment to a ministry that will be enduring,” he said. Lindh explained the importance of the faith-based values at PHS. “We claim to live a Christian ministry to integrate faith in what we do as best we can. We share that tenet with BVM,” he said. Lindh presented demographic trends of the Dubuque area estimating that there are 12,600 people over the age of 75. This represents 6.3% of the current population. This number is expected to rise to 9.5% in the next decade equaling 19,000 older adults over 75 years old.. “We have a responsibility and obligation to serve in this faith-based ministry and outreach to the best of our ability,” he said.  

Dee Myers, BVM, who lives on the Mount Carmel campus, also spoke saying, “Mount Carmel has always been a splendid treasure of Dubuque. The shared vision [of BVM and PHS] that Mount Carmel Bluffs promises continues to bring excitement and enthusiasm to all of us,” she said. Myers plans to be one of the first residents of Mount Carmel Bluffs. “We have loved our home and we are delighted to share this place of extraordinary beauty with you. In this vibrant community of multiple cultures, diverse expressions of faiths and life experiences, this distinctive, welcoming blend of people will surely flourish and discover new life with each other,” she said. 

Dubuque Mayor Roy Buol expressed his appreciation for how BVM and PHS have worked with Dubuque leaders from the inception of what he called, “a magnificent project.” He said, “We’re grateful for the collaboration of BVM and PHS that creates the opportunity to meet the needs of the BVM community and provide quality residential and health care services for area seniors in a setting with breathtaking natural beauty.” Citing national and local aging trends, he emphasized, “That’s why a visionary and innovative [joint venture] and project like the one we celebrate today sets a national example. [Mount Carmel Bluffs] personifies the importance of life quality for senior residents, their families and our community. ” 

The first construction phase of Mount Carmel Bluffs will preserve the historical Motherhouse and include 40 assisted living apartments, 21 memory care apartments, and 60 long-term care center suites south of the Motherhouse. Phase 2, anticipated to be complete in early 2022, includes deconstructing buildings north of the Motherhouse to make way for approximately 115 senior-living apartments.

Senior Housing Partners, the project development arm of PHS, is the project developer. The new building is designed by Pope Architects, based in St. Paul, Minnesota. Conlon Construction, based in Dubuque, Iowa, is the general contractor.

Persons inquiring about Mount Carmel Bluffs or who wish be placed on the interest list may contact Jan Hammond, (563) 588-2351 or  

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