Sacred Heart, St. Peter’s churches in Concord up for sale
For sale: Sacred Heart Church on Pleasant Street and St. Peter’s Church on North State Street, at $2.9 million and $1.4 million, respectively.
Christ the King Catholic Parish has officially put two of its three churches on the market, moving to unite its operations and cut down on its $20,000 monthly deficit, said the Rev. Richard Roberge.
“As a pastor, I have not heard a lot of negative feedback,” Roberge said. “I have heard people express their sadness. There are a few people who would rather not see us sell the properties, and find other ways of keeping them. But they’re a drain on our finances.
“I think once they see that reality, they realize the economy is there and that we’re really about a mission to people, to ministry, and not about buildings.”
Christ the King will be consolidated at its third campus – St. John the Evangelist Church on South Main Street – at some point in 2015, Roberge said. St. John’s Regional School will remain on that campus as well.
“The very fact of having one place of worship will bring us together under one roof,” Roberge said. “Right now, our community is divided under three worship spaces.”
Selling the two properties will also cut down on the parish’s operating costs for the 12 individual buildings it owns, at a time when Roberge said it would need to collect $5,000 more in donations each week to break even.
“It’s going to cut down on the expenses of heating, maintenance and all the other expenses that go along with having three campuses,” he said.
Sacred Heart, St. Peter’s and St. John’s united as Christ the King Parish in 2011 as a response to the declining number of priests in the diocese, and the parish has been preparing to sell these two churches for more than a year.
Last spring, the parish signed a purchase-and-sales agreement with the Concord School District for the vacant Rumford School for $600,000, with an idea to move St. John’s Regional School to that building and use the current school for parish offices.
But Bishop Peter Libasci of the Diocese of Manchester determined that plan would be too expensive, and Christ the King pulled out of the agreement last summer.
Now, the church will have to make do with the existing St. John’s campus, which already houses the church, school and priests’ residences. When the move is complete, Christ the King’s offices for administration and religious education will also be on South Main Street, along with all worship and programming for 3,000 families – roughly 8,000 people.
“To try to fit all of this in one campus will be a challenge,” Roberge said.
St. John’s will need some updates to make the building more accessible and more suited to the parish’s needs, Roberge said. Money from the sale of Sacred Heart and St. Peter’s churches most likely won’t be enough to pay for those changes, so Roberge said the parish hopes to kick off a capital fundraising campaign this fall.
Christ the King is working with Norton Asset Management of Manchester to sell the properties. The parish has “had some conversations” with interested buyers, Roberge said, but those conversations are only in the beginning stages.
“Obviously, we wouldn’t entertain something that would be anti-Christian or defame our church or our faith,” Roberge said.
Patrick McGee, secretary for development and communication at the diocese, said the bishop will have a final say on the prospective buyer.
“There’s a number of liturgical steps that have to be taken when church properties are going to be sold,” McGee said.
In 2006, St. Anthony of Padua in Manchester absorbed the former Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish, and McGee said private housing now stands on that church’s former grounds. A number of factors have made the sale of church properties a “common practice,” McGee said. The demand for priests is often higher than the number available, for example, and the Catholic church is shrinking in New England as people move away or demographics shift, he said.
“By and large, most diocese are looking at how best to fulfill the mission of the church, serve the people with the resources that we have,” McGee said.
St. Peter’s was built in 1956, and Sacred Heart was built in 1892 to serve Concord’s French-Canadian community. Closing the churches’ doors will be a difficult goodbye for some who have lived their lives in their pews.
But Roberge said he hopes this move strengthens the parish overall.
“Although they may have some emotion ties and feelings (about) the campus and the beauty of the buildings and the heritage, they also know and understand that we’re about the mission of Jesus,” Roberge said. “And that supersedes, in many ways, the buildings.”
(Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3321 or email@example.com or on Twitter @megan_e_doyle.)