Saint Francis moves to The Mount

Saint Francis Community Services has partnered with the Roman Catholic Congregation of St. Joseph (CSJ) to enhance and expand the Episcopal nonprofit’s array of services to at-risk children and families living in Wichita and Sedgwick County. Saint Francis recently completed an agreement with the CSJ to lease Mount St. Mary’s, the order’s former Wichita convent, and is now renovating the 68,000-square-foot structure to accommodate administrative offices and space for its Independent Living, mental health, and refugee resettlement programs. Head Start will also relocate and sublease space in the building from Saint Francis. Once everyone has moved in, the building and operations at 3730 E. Lincoln will be known as Saint Francis at The Mount.

Sisters with the Congregation first arrived in Wichita in December 1899 at the invitation of the local bishop to staff the diocese’s parochial schools. They moved into their new convent three months later. Today, the CSJ sponsors Dear Neighbor ministries, which provides short-term financial, educational, and housing services to residents of the Hilltop community of Wichita. The Congregation’s StepStone program provides transitional housing and supportive services to survivors of domestic violence. It was their shared commitment to the most vulnerable and at-risk that made a partnership with Saint Francis both possible and desirable.

“We are delighted that Saint Francis is coming to share our home,” said Sr. Margaret Nugent, director of community life and services. “Their mission is like our own in that we promote the common good and encourage people to better themselves and their lives. The work of Saint Francis is familiar to us, we appreciate that the building will be used to help others in need.”

Although none of the Sisters still reside in the convent, they remain nearby. About 70 have recently moved into a newly-built living center at the south end of the older building. That proximity, along with their teaching and nursing skills, makes those who want to volunteer especially qualified. As a result, some of the Sisters may have the opportunity to serve as volunteers or mentors to Saint Francis youth.

Saint Francis hopes to complete a three-phase transition to The Mount by 2021. Phase I, which is already underway, will provide housing, job training, life skills training, parenting classes, and high school or GED support for 20 youth ages 16 and older preparing to age out of foster care. Head Start will serve for children ranging in age from newborn to five years old. Saint Francis Migration Ministries will also relocate to The Mount, as will Saint Francis Ministries’ administrative offices currently housed at 4415 E. Harry.

Phase II will establish outpatient behavioral healthcare, psychiatric, and telemedicine services at The Mount, while Phase III will open housing for homeless teens and young adults who have aged out of foster care and who lack social supports.

“Many of these new programs would not be possible without the generosity of the Sisters of St. Joseph in providing affordable space,” said Trish Bryant, Saint Francis vice president of children and family services. “The Mount is a sacred space that has seen more than a century of prayer. You can sense the peace that permeates the building. I have no doubt that those prayers and the support of the Sisters will help the children and families we serve find the healing they need to transform their lives.”

This article first appeared in the Fall 2018 issue of Hi-Lites. You can view past HiLites here.