Archdiocese to sell Brighton campus to BC

BRIGHTON -- In a letter to priests dated May 31, Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley said that the agreements to sell the chancery buildings and Bishop Peterson Hall to Boston College and relocate the central administration to Braintree is part of a strategic, long-term plan to strengthen the archdiocese.

“We must have a strong foundation, including our finances and operations, in order to provide the many good works that are essential to our mission,” he said. “The financial and administrative factors necessitating these decisions are well known, the response to them requires an understanding of the pastoral, educational and social obligations the Church in Boston must fulfill in the short and long term.”

In the letter, the cardinal also reiterated his dedication to St. John’s Seminary in Brighton and the formation of priests there. In disagreement with the archdiocese’s plans to sell the adjacent Bishop Peterson Hall, Father John Farren, OP, resigned as rector of the seminary a month before his scheduled departure.

“We do not believe that the sale of additional property from our Brighton campus will harm or hinder the essential work of St. John’s,” Cardinal O’Malley wrote in response. “The independence of the seminary, its ability to prepare candidates for the priesthood, and to be the source of the formation and training for lay ministries, will be preserved. Despite the difference of opinion concerning these matters, we are grateful to Father Farren for four years of faithful service to St. John’s Seminary and his dedication to preparing seminarians for priesthood.”

Cardinal O’Malley has asked Father Stephen Salocks to serve as interim rector until Father Arthur L. Kennedy takes office July 1.

The Archdiocese of Boston announced the sale of the chancery property in a May 24 statement. The three Brighton buildings on nearly 20 acres will net the archdiocese $65 million. The archdiocese said it expects the property sale to close by Aug. 1, 2007.

The plan already has the approval of the archdiocesan Finance Council, the College of Consultors and the members of the corporation of St. John’s Seminary, according to chancellor James P. McDonough. The sale also needs the approval of the Holy See, he said.

“We have reached a significant milestone in announcing this agreement,” said Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley in the statement. “Proceeds from this sale will allow the archdiocese to invest resources for the benefit of our parishes, clergy, St. John’s Seminary and the many important programs that serve a large number of people.”

The archdiocese has also struck a deal with The Flatley Company to use a nine-year-old, 140,000 square foot building on Brooks Drive in Braintree. Although the archdiocese has not released the terms of the agreement, they are “very reasonable,” according to Terrence Donilon, spokesman for the archdiocese.

The Braintree building will be home for all departments now located in Brighton, including the cardinal’s office, as well as other agencies and departments located in the greater Boston area. The archdiocese assured employees that no jobs will be eliminated as a result of the move. The archdiocese downsized staff last year, eliminating 50 positions.

A moving date has not yet been set, but the archdiocese expects all offices to relocate by July 2008.

Father Richard Erikson, vicar general and moderator of the curia, said that the move will help the archdiocese to continue to focus on communication, service and coordination.

“This is going to allow us to better serve the community,” he said. “It’s going to help us as a staff be better coordinated and communicate with each other better, and the beneficiaries of that will be the faithful of the archdiocese because it will allow us to serve them better.”

The Braintree office will bring archdiocesan services to one location. It will feature better meeting spaces, a larger chapel, more parking, a staffed cafeteria and greater classroom space. The archdiocese currently must turn away candidates to the permanent diaconate because there is not enough room for more than 30 men to study in the program, Father Erikson said.

Although the Braintree building is in excellent condition, the archdiocese will complete some renovations before the move. The building will likely get new carpeting, window treatments and paint. The archdiocese will also construct a multi-purpose auditorium and a chapel that seats 150.

The building is located just off three major roadways and is not far from public transportation. There are fitness and daycare centers, hotels, and a shopping center nearby. The property is also adjacent to the Blue Hills Reservation.

The Brighton property has been home to the archdiocese’s central administration since the late 1920s. The archdiocese reached an agreement with Boston College in 2004 to sell 43 acres of the campus, including the cardinal’s residence and other buildings, for $99.4 million. In 2006, the archdiocese sold the Tribunal building and property to BC for $8 million.

Through this most recent deal, the remainder of the Brighton property, save St. John’s Seminary, will belong to Boston College. Bishop Peterson Hall, which is attached to St. John’s Seminary, is intended as the future home of the Weston Jesuit School of Theology.

It is expected that BC will remove the chancery and Creagh Library buildings and will build new facilities, including undergraduate student housing, a parking garage, a baseball stadium and softball fields, academic offices, classrooms, a museum and an auditorium.

Although the archdiocese will maintain ownership of St. John’s Seminary, BC has agreed to oversee building maintenance and capital improvement as well as provide security, telephone, Internet and food services at cost. The college will also maintain St. John’s Seminary library, a separate building located next to the seminary. Seminary faculty and students will still have access to that building.