A Distinctive Franciscan University

Alvernia was founded in 1958 by members of a Catholic women’s religious order, the Bernardine Franciscan Sisters, who emigrated more than 100 years ago from Eastern Europe to Eastern Pennsylvania to teach and serve immigrant miners’ families.

Alvernia’s core institutional values—service, humility, collegiality, contemplation, and peacemaking— which extend from the faith of our Franciscan founders, have a universal ethical appeal. The Bernardine Sisters’ rich heritage of service rooted in their strong faith resonates in contemporary ways in campus life and academic and extracurricular programs today.

Seeds of Student Formation

Alvernia’s essential Catholic core, evident in its Franciscan identity, compels us to foster moral leadership and service to others in the interest of peace and justice locally and globally, and to promote civic engagement and learning as lifelong pursuits in every career and life path our students choose. Our motto "To Learn To Love To Serve" is rooted in our heritage and embraced by our students.

The University’s broad commitment to ethics in the workplace, in personal relationships, and in community experience is brought to life in many ways. Some students in nursing, occupational therapy, psychology, criminal justice, education, and business find internship or practicum opportunities, while other students choose to volunteer in the greater Reading community. These opportunities give students valuable experience, but also plant seeds of social awareness in their hearts.

Both the Holleran Center for Community Engagement and the O'Pake Institute for Ethics, Leadership and Public Service collaborate in the development of ethical leaders with moral courage in our student, staff, and community.


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A Franciscan Tradition