Our History

North of the Bow River, near what is now Cochrane, Alberta, the first peoples known as the Stoney First Nations hunted along the foothills of the Rockies called a prominent hill “Manachaban” or the Big Hill.

From it, they could look south across the plains, or west to the Rocky Mountains. Today, a portion of the Big Hill within the Retreat Centre lands is graced by the Stations of the Cross which overlook Mount St. Francis Retreat Centre.


Mr. Charles Wellington Fisher (a local Member of Legislature until 1919) purchased a large ranch (now Mount St. Francis) with the promise to build his wife, Marjorie Powell, a castle in Cochrane. The original sandstone house remains a part of the Retreat today.


McConachie family purchased the land, which became the “Just Home Guest Ranch”.

Spring 1949

Les Syndics Apostoliques des Freres Mineurs ou Franciscains, The Franciscans, purchased the land from the McConachie family. Because the federal government did not recognize the Syndics of Montreal as a corporation in 1949, the property was held in the interim by Mr. Claire Cote, the Realtor and Agent of the Franciscans in the purchase agreement and the Bishopric of Calgary in trust for the Franciscans, until the Syndics were legally recognized in all of Canada.

August 15, 1949

Friars gave first retreat to the Calgary Diocesan clergy.

August 19, 1949

The first of hundreds of lay retreats with 26 local businessmen.


The Sisters of St. Elizabeth join the retreat staff and have provided meals for the retreatants and friars for next 50 years.


More than 10,000 people had attended retreats at the Mount.


More than 50,000 people had attended retreats at the Mount. Over the years, the Franciscan friars have invited various members of the Sisters of Charity of St. Louis and different lay people to join the retreat team, modeling a collaborative approach to ministry.


  • Over 4,000 people continue to attend retreats and programs each year. Since 1949, over 100,000 people have enjoyed silent retreats at the Mount.
  • In November 2018, the Franciscans Friars of Western Canada (Province of Christ the King) and the Franciscans of Eastern Canada (St. Joseph Province) unified under the new “Holy Spirit Province of Canada”


August 18, 2019

Mount St. Francis Retreat Centre celebrates 70 years of providing spiritually fulfilling programming to southern Alberta

For more information about the history of Mount Saint Francis, visit

Official Mount St. Francis Website

For more information about the history of Cochrane, visit www.chapscochrane.com or https://www.cochrane.ca/351/History-of-Cochrane

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