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With the closing of Roman Catholic Churches in the North Central, from 17 in 60’s to three parishes today 1 there was a major move of money and property by the Catholic Church. The movement of money from the 1993 merger of three parishes around the edges of the North Central area is a good example of what happened to the millions of dollars of property and assets resulting from the sales.
In 1993 St. Nicholas on the Northeast side of the area, St. Albert’s on the North side of the area and Holy Redeemer on the west side of the area were merged into one church called Blessed Trinity. This merged Church was located at the site of Holy Redeemer which had been established in 1897 and at one time was the largest parish on the North side of Milwaukee.
St. Nicholas was the most valuable of the three properties and had a thriving parish and school. It was sold for a million and half dollars to an Evangelical Church, Eastbook, which now has an active church and school on the site. The money was put in a special account at Blessed Trinity. St. Albert’s did not have a formal Church but the property was sold for over $300,000 to the Milwaukee Public School system. A St. Albert’s Trust Fund with $300,000 plus was established by the Archdiocese with the interest from the trust to be used for Catholic education and “human Concerns of people in the Parish Area… and to provide help to those others who also help people in the area, for example, organizations such as Agape or St. Vincent de Paul.” 2 . Holy Redeemer property remained with Blessed Trinity and the school and convent were rented for income for the new parish.
Over the years, the St. Albert’s Trust fund was reduced to a $250, 000 and a group of Blessed Trinity members advised the corporation board on distribution of the interest. There was a little bit over $250,000 when the Archdiocese closed Blessed Trinity and the money was transferred to the St. Catherine’s parish corporation board. The million and half dollar fund of St. Nicholas was significantly reduced over the years in a legal battle concerning the property and to make capital improvements, like air conditioning and an elevator, to Blessed Trinity. There was about $220,000 in the St. Nicholas account when it was transferred to St. Catherine’s. Blessed Trinity’s major value was in its properties. In June 2012 the property was sold for $733,000 with $650, 000 going into an account at St. Catherine’s.
So now there is $1,120,000 in bank accounts at St. Catherine’s resulting from the closing of the merged church of Blessed Trinity. The parish council of Blessed Trinity had proposed using the money from the three parishes “to continue our ministries to the neighborhood.” 3 The ‘neighborhood’ around the former Holy Redeemer, St. Albert’s and St. Nicholas and St. Catherine’s now consist of a major portion of the North Central area served by three churches: St. Catherine, All Saints and St. Martin De Pores.
In 2011 when Bob Graf wrote to the Archbishop of Milwaukee suggesting the proceeds from the pending sale of Blessed Trinity properties be donated to the three St. Vincent De Paul conferences in the North Central area. The Archbishop responded via his staff that this idea was an “excellent one.” 4 He suggested that Bob talk to Fr. Kern about this idea. The original sale of 2011 fell through but the property was sold in June, 2012. In a recent conversation Bob had with the pastor of St. Catherine, the pastor agreed that the primary use of the money should be to serve the needs of poor, marginalized and segregated folks of the North Central area.
The pastor will consult with the St. Catherine parish council and former members of the churches where the money came from but the final decision on use of the money will be in the hands of the Corporation Board of St. Catherine. 5
St. Catherine is in a close relationship with nearby church, St. Sebastian, which is not in the North Central area. The plans as of now are for the two parishes to share one pastor in the next few years when both present pastors retire. When this happens there most likely will be one Corporation Board for the two churches responsible for the funds.
While the 1.1 million is sitting idle in the account of St. Catherine’s, the great needs of ministry to people in need, in the neighborhood of the North Central, where the money came from, goes unmet.
1 Archdiocese Parish Directories, 1962 & 2012 (↑)
2 From a decree establishing Trust Fund and approved by the Milwaukee Archdiocese on 18, March, 1993. (↑)
3 Blessed Trinity Parish Vision Statement, 2012 presented to Archdiocese in Dec. 2010 (↑)
4 Letter from Office of Parish Mission of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, June 28, 2011 (↑)