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by the sisters of st. francis

It’s 5:30 a.m. and you can find Sister Caryn Crook, OSF, at the local swimming pool.  “I love swimming  and go to the Y to exercise,” she said.


Sister Caryn is among the newest members of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities and lives with five sisters at the Franciscan Hermitage at Alverna Heights in Fayetteville. Here, she ministers as the Franciscan ecology coordinator.

A native of Fulton, Sister Caryn inherited her love of nature from her father.

“My dad loved nature. I’m the only kid in the family that embraced it,” she said.

This led her to earn a bachelor’s degree in forest biology with a concentration in wildlife from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry.

Sister Caryn used her knowledge during her two years serving in the Peace Corps in the Central African Republic where she taught people aquaculture and how to raise fish in ponds.

Following this, she worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Cortland restoring wetland habitats. “I did everything from designing to overseeing the construction process,” she said.

Living alone and working mainly alone, Sister Caryn said, “I was self-centered. I had no one else to think about except me.”

However, she did get involved in her parish and became coordinator of the Renew program. “I began to feel there was more to do,” she said.

In doing so, she got to know the sister who worked for Renew International. It was she who asked Sister Caryn if she might be interested in religious life.

Going to public schools, Sister Caryn didn’t know anything about religious life. Yet she explains, “I felt called to look into this, and the more I saw, the more I knew.”

Sister Caryn entered the congregation in September 2005 and professed her first vows for three years in August 2008. Her family, friends and co-workers were very supportive.

She said that at first her parents were concerned, although they didn’t voice it. “When they saw how happy I was they stopped saying ‘If you change your mind you can come home.’

“It’s very exciting to be a new member. I love the way formation happens—learning about Francis and Clare and attending workshops on spirituality and the vows. There’s nothing like being with the sisters who keep you grounded. They are so inspiring to me,” she said.

When she entered the congregation, Sister Caryn thought she was done with environmental work. However, she has taken her environmental work to a new level by developing a Franciscan ecological program connecting the environment with creation.

“Religious life helps me to be more of my true self. The best thing about being a sister is being a part of a group of women that has a mission and sees it through. It’s a wonderful life!”

For more information on the Sisters of St. Francis, visit
Alverna Heights, the New York State Office of Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation, and Cornell University Biological Field Station will present a workshop on aquatic invasive species from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Tuesday, March 30 at Alverna Heights, 7770 Green Lakes Road in Fayetteville.

The registration fee is $25 and includes lunch. For more information or to register please contact Sister Caryn at (315) 637-9334 or visit

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