By ROB HERBST
The Catholic Week
MOBILE — Development Partners of Alabama, LLC has purchased St. Joseph Catholic Church in downtown Mobile from Cathedral Parish, which obtained the property after it closed in January 2018.
Future plans for the property have not been announced, although the expectation is for the buildings to be restored and renovated for secular purposes. St. Ignatius Parish will remove all sacred items from the property. St. Ignatius Parish is planning to build a new church building and it will use the items in its new church.
Funds from the sale will be placed in the Cathedral Capital Fund and will only be used for extraordinary needs of Cathedral Parish, not for ordinary operating expenses. Ordinary operating expenses are funded by the weekly collection of the faithful at the Cathedral.
Questions and answers
Why was St. Joseph Parish closed?
The parish had declined and no longer had a vibrant parish life. The parish was established in 1857 and the church building was built in 1909. In 1900 there were 1,667 parishioners and by 1925 the parish had grown to 1,800. By 1969 the parish had declined to 375 parishioners and the parish school closed. By 2017, even though the parish boundaries had not changed, there were only 10 parishioners, although about 70 people from across the Mobile area attended the one weekly Mass. In addition, the church building had deteriorated and was in need of expensive repairs.
Which priests staffed the parish?
From the beginning, Jesuit priests staffed the parish. In 2009 the Jesuits, citing the decline of the parish, withdrew from the parish and the parish was entrusted to the priests at the Cathedral. At that time there were three priests at the Cathedral but eventually there was only one priest to take care of both parishes.
How was it decided to close the parish?
Church law requires that a parish can only be closed after a careful process. The archbishop must consult with the archdiocesan advisory councils and receive their advice and approval. The Presbyteral Council of priests, the Archdiocesan Finance Council of lay advisors and the College of Consultors, another council of priests, all were consulted and approved the closing of the parish.
How was it decided to sell the church building?
Once the parish was closed, the church building became the property of the Cathedral Parish. According to Church law, a closed church becomes the property of a nearby parish. The rector and Cathedral Parish leaders decided that the few parishioners who attended St. Joseph Church could easily be included in the pastoral life of the Cathedral Parish. There was no need for two parish churches and the cost of renovating St. Joseph Church was prohibitive. The decision of the cathedral parish to sell St. Joseph Church was also approved by the Presbyteral Council, the Archdiocesan Finance Council, the College of Consultors and the archbishop.
How far is St. Joseph Church from the Cathedral?
What will happen to the sacred items in the church?
St. Ignatius Parish in Mobile has raised the funds to build a new church. The altar, pews, stained glass windows, stations of the cross, baptistery, statues, and other sacred items in the St. Joseph Church will be placed in the new St. Ignatius Church.
How far is St. Ignatius Church from St. Joseph Church?
St. Joseph Church is located at 808 Springhill Ave. St. Ignatius Church is located at 3704 Springhill Ave., or about 5 miles away and on the same street. Interestingly, both St. Joseph and St. Ignatius Parishes were once staffed by the Jesuits. The largest stained glass window in St. Joseph Church depicts St. Ignatius and will now be placed in St. Ignatius Church.
Who will get the funds from the sale of St. Joseph Church?
The church belongs to the Cathedral Parish and the funds from the sale will go to the Cathedral Parish.