Stigmatines vow to challenge Waltham eminent domain seizure

The Espousal Retreat Center, one of the buildings located on the 46-acre Waltham property of the Stigmatine Fathers and Brothers. Pilot file photo

WALTHAM -- The Stigmatine Fathers and Brothers say they intend to challenge the City of Waltham, which plans to take their property by eminent domain for use as the site of the city's new high school.

The Stigmatines own 46 acres located at 554 Lexington Street. Its facilities include the Espousal Retreat Center, a conference center, and a retirement home for priests. Four Stigmatine priests live there, and the order hosts retreats, prayer meetings, and monthly marriage preparation classes.

The current conflict comes after years of tension between the City of Waltham and the Stigmatine Fathers and Brothers over the use of the land.

In 2015 the Stigmatines engaged real estate consultants and brokers to gauge developers' interest in the site and determine its market value. One developer suggested building multifamily rental housing.

The Stigmatines maintain that they never planned to sell their property and merely wanted to explore potential uses for the property. However, when it became known that they were gauging interest, it raised concerns with the city government. The concerns centered partly around the potential negative impact a large housing development could have on the Waltham community, but also because the city sees the Stigmatine property as a prime site for constructing a new high school to meet the needs of Waltham's growing student population.

While the current high school's location at 617 Lexington Street has been considered as an option for the new school, it would not be large enough for the new, state-of-the-art, college campus-style high school that the city has envisioned for years. Additionally, building at a different location would allow students and staff to continue using the old building throughout the construction of the new campus. The old building could then be used as a K-8 school.

Mayor Jeannette McCarthy approached the Stigmatines in January 2016 to explore the possibility of the City of Waltham purchasing the property. Negotiations were attempted but ultimately broke down over the course of that year.

In May 2017 the City Council voted 12-3 against taking the land, since the Stigmatines' lawyers said they would challenge a taking by eminent domain, and such litigation would delay the building of the new school.

On Sept. 7, 2017, McCarthy submitted a new bond request to the City Council for an additional $7.4 million to purchase the Stigmatine property. The city council rejected this request because it was essentially identical to a previous one.

A few weeks later, on Sept. 20, McCarthy issued a statement to the Waltham News Tribune outlining her five reasons for making the request: "To provide for the needs of 5,663 students; To protect the interests of the Waltham taxpayers; To protect the Waltham neighborhoods from overdevelopment; To try to unite the City Council with the School Committee, School Building Committee, Superintendent, and Mayor; To try to restore the City's bargaining position."

In the letter, McCarthy acknowledged that the 196-acre Walter E. Fernald Developmental Center -- once an institution for people with developmental disabilities, now unused and falling into disrepair -- was considered as a site for the high school. However, McCarthy pointed out that the Fernald center was located on the city line between Belmont and Lexington, and argued that its cleanup would take too long and could cost taxpayers up to $100 million, while the Stigmatine site was valued at $25.4 million.

McCarthy claimed, "Acquisition of Stigmatine land has been in the City's Open Space Plan since 1994."

At a meeting on Feb. 26, 2018, the City Council directed McCarthy to restart negotiations with the Stigmatines.

On June 25, the Waltham City Council voted 10 to 4 to take the Stigmatine property by eminent domain. They would pay the Stigmatines $18 million despite its property being valued at several million more.

According to Peter Flynn, one of the Stigmatines' attorneys with a strong background in eminent domain, the Stigmatines planned to accept the payment on a pro tanto basis, meaning they would reserve the right to challenge either the amount of compensation or the validity of the legal process within the next three years.

On July 18 Flynn and the Stigmatines' other lawyer Adam Paton announced their intent to fight the eminent domain claim. Concerns about the legal process include their belief that the City of Waltham did not have an up-to-date appraisal of the land, as well as the city's failure to provide a legally required relocation advisory agent to help the Stigmatines plan their relocation.

In their July 18 letter notifying the Massachusetts School Building Authority of their intention to challenge the city, attorneys Flynn and Paton said, "It is important to emphasize that the Stigmatine fathers have been located in this locus for almost 100 years. It has historically provided a year-round schedule of religious retreats and marriage preparation courses, sanctuary for elderly and disabled Priests and has a number of facilities including significant religious monuments and shrines and a gift shop. It was not and is not a site that the Stigmatines intended to sell or relocate from."

The attorneys further wrote that "under no conditions could they (the Stigmatines) replicate the historical roots of this sanctuary property," which "truly represents the Stigmatines' public and private identity. It is a place where the Stigmatines have provided a meaningful and even life-changing ministry for thousands upon thousands of men, women, and children through their retreats and other spiritual programs offered at the Espousal retreat house. Providing a home for retired Priests who are no longer capable of continuing in the ministry has been a hallmark of their existence. Any relocation or taking will cause irreparable harm for this esteemed religious order."

A statement on the Stigmatines' website reads, "No one is doubting or discounting the need for a new high school in Waltham. We just don't believe the City should be able to end our existence here in Waltham because it covets our land for its own use."

World
Cardinal beatifies 22-year-old Romanian as 'martyr to chastity'

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- A 22-year-old Romanian peasant has taken a step closer to sainthood as a "martyr to chastity," six decades after she was murdered ...

Nation
Maryland attorney general will review church records on child sex abuse

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- In a Sept. 24 letter to the clergy of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Archbishop William E. Lori informed priests and deacons that the ...

Nation
People helping people is what attracted actor to 'God Friended Me'

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Television audiences may recall seeing actor Joe Morton as Eli Rowan Pope, the father of professional Washington fixer Olivia Pope, ...

Nation
Pa. bishops support creating fund to compensate survivors of sex abuse

PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- The bishops of Pennsylvania's eight Roman Catholic dioceses are supporting creation of an independent fund to compensate survivors ...

Nation
CRS sells fair trade coffee, supporting Mexican farmers and land

Baltimore, Md., Sep 24, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Catholic Relief Services is now offering fair trade coffee beans that will benefit local farming communities ...

World
The Jesuit who survived the KGB

Vilnius, Lithuania, Sep 24, 2018 CNA.- When Pope Francis visited a former KGB building in Vilnius, Lithuania Sept. 23, Archbishop Sigitas Tamkevicius ...

World
Next step toward artificial reproduction violates human fundamentals, ethicist warns

Washington D.C., Sep 25, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Artificial human reproduction appears to be on the horizon with Japanese scientists’ claim to ...

World
Update: Scandals create outrage, but there is time for conversion, pope says

TALLINN, Estonia (CNS) -- In what is probably the least religious country in Europe, Pope Francis said he is surprised by how many people hold firm to ...

Nation
Catholic leaders oppose administration's plan to limit green cards

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Catholic leaders are speaking out against a Trump administration proposed rule announced Sept. 22 that would deny green cards to legal ...

Nation
Head of Georgetown Prep urges renewed commitment to being 'men for others'

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In a letter to the school community, the president of an all-boys Jesuit high school in suburban Washington emphasized the schools' ...

Nation
Today is 'hour of the laity,' Archbishop Gomez tells Encuentro delegates

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- Hispanic Catholic leaders are living an important moment in the history of the Catholic church in the U.S. and are called to ...

World
Stay close to the suffering, forgive one another, pope tells Latvians

AGLONA, Latvia (CNS) -- What would Mary do? was the question Pope Francis, in effect, asked Latvian Catholics gathered at their nation's popular Marian ...

Nation
Joy, hope contagious for Encuentro participants as they discern priorities

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- Joy, hope, energy and a spirit of continued collaboration are contagious among the participants of the Fifth National Encuentro, ...

World
Update: Pope in Lithuania: Don't let anti-Semitism, hatred resurge

VILNIUS, Lithuania (CNS) -- Outside the former KGB headquarters in Vilnius, Pope Francis ended a day of paying homage to victims of totalitarianism and ...

World
God is patient, even with failures, pope tells young Lithuanians

VILNIUS, Lithuania (CNS) -- Meeting young Lithuanians in Vilnius, Pope Francis said he wanted a relaxed conversation, like they were sitting in a pub ...

World
Update: Vatican signs provisional agreement with China on naming bishops

VILNIUS, Lithuania (CNS) -- For the first time in decades, all of the Catholic bishops in China are in full communion with the pope, the Vatican announced. Pope ...

World
Find strength in tolerance, solidarity, pope tells Lithuanians

VILNIUS, Lithuania (CNS) -- In Lithuania, a nation that experienced invasions, atrocities and persecution, Pope Francis began his visit with a plea to ...

Nation
Ospino: Encuentro reflects 'energy, maturity' of a church 'here to stay'

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- The thousands of Hispanic Catholic ministry leaders gathered in Texas for the Fifth National Encuentro shared views on the maturity ...

Nation
N.J. cardinal won't attend synod, asks to remain home at 'time of crisis'

NEWARK, N.J. (CNS) -- Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark told the people of his archdiocese Sept. 21 that Pope Francis has granted his request that he ...

Nation
Detroit Archdiocese welcomes investigation into Michigan dioceses

DETROIT (CNS) -- Michigan's attorney general has opened an investigation into the handling of sexual abuse by clergy in all of Michigan's seven Catholic ...

Nation
Catholics believe in God but 'don't believe in us,' Miami archbishop says

MIAMI (CNS) -- The crisis the Catholic Church is facing is not "a crisis of faith" or "mainly about a crisis of sexual abuse by clergy," but is "a crisis ...

Nation
Update: Disney animator says grounding in Catholic schools led to success

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (CNS) -- Ron Clements is a renowned animator, screenwriter and producer-director of award-winning Disney films, including the blockbuster ...

Nation
#WhyImCatholic movement aims to share hope at difficult time for church

CHICAGO (CNS) -- Catholic Extension has launched a new social media campaign called #WhyImCatholic to offer "hope and unity" for Catholics by inviting ...

Nation
Continue to be an evangelizing church, nuncio tells Encuentro delegates

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- Quoting from Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation "The Joy of the Gospel," Archbishop Christophe Pierre encouraged Hispanic Catholic ...

Nation
Encuentro opens with procession, papal message, prayers for abuse victims

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- A video message from Pope Francis and a procession of Encuentro crosses representing all of the participating episcopal regions ...

Nation
Retired Green Bay auxiliary bishop failed to report abuse, withdraws from ministry

Green Bay, Wis., Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Bishop Robert Morneau, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Green Bay, has withdrawn from public ministry saying ...

Nation
Dolan 'impatient' waiting for apostolic visitation in response to McCarrick

New York City, N.Y., Sep 20, 2018 CNA.- The Archbishop of New York said Thursday that while he has confidence in the way Pope Francis is handling the ...

World
Two more Chilean bishops step down in wake of abuse crisis

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis accepted the resignations of two more Chilean bishops, bringing to seven the number of bishops who have stepped down ...

Local
Celebration of the Priesthood dinner raises over $1.8 million

BOSTON -- A record 1,700 people attended the 10th annual Celebration of the Priesthood dinner to raise funds for the Clergy Health and Retirement Trust ...

Local
Lawrence parish helps community cope with gas explosion aftermath

LAWRENCE -- Volunteers at St. Patrick Church's Cor Unum Meal Center were serving dinner when multiple natural gas explosions and fires broke out in homes ...

Local
Ceremony, Mass kick off St. Augustine Chapel bicentennial

SOUTH BOSTON -- St. Augustine Chapel and Cemetery began its year-long bicentennial celebration on the weekend of Sept. 14-16 with tours, special Masses, ...

Local
Mass. Knights install new officers

The Massachusetts State Council Knights of Columbus recently held its Installation of State Officers at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Canton with ...

Local
Deal will keep Sancta Maria Nursing Facility open

CAMBRIDGE -- Sancta Maria Nursing Facility announced Sept. 17 that it has negotiated a comprehensive operational contract with Advocate Healthcare Management ...

Local
From Cardinal Seán's blog

As I mentioned in my preface to last week's blog, this week and last, I have been in Rome for meetings related to the work of the Pontifical Commission ...

Nation
N.Y. Archdiocese names judge as independent reviewer on abuse protocols

NEW YORK (CNS) -- New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan has named a former federal judge to study archdiocesan policies and procedures with respect to sexual ...

Nation
U.S. reports poverty declines, but agencies finding needs remain great

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The good news from the U.S. Census Bureau Sept. 12 was that the poverty rate dropped for the third straight year in 2017 and median ...

Nation
Class-action lawsuit filed against eight Pennsylvania dioceses

PITTSBURGH (CNS) -- A class-action lawsuit was filed Sept. 17 against eight Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania demanding the dioceses provide proof that ...

World
Apostolic visitor outlines plans for expansion at Medjugorje shrine

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- The Polish archbishop tasked with overseeing Bosnia-Herzegovina's Medjugorje shrine has outlined plans for expansion, including ...

World
Pope names administrator as Indian bishop investigated for alleged rape

MUMBAI, India (CNS) -- Pope Francis has accepted the request of an Indian bishop accused of raping a nun to be relieved of his duties during the investigation. In ...

World
In letters to German cardinal, retired pope defends way he stepped down

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Retired Pope Benedict XVI expressed his displeasure with the way a German cardinal publicly criticized his stepping down as pontiff, ...

Nation
Thousands of Hispanics expected in Texas for Encuentro summit

Fort Worth, Texas, Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- As many as 3,000 Catholics of Hispanic background are expected in Texas this week for the National V Encuentro, ...