After more than four years of familial and financial turmoil, Orange County's iconic Crystal Cathedral will be sold to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange.
So what does this mean?
Under the diocese's plan, the ministry will be able to lease the core buildings including the cathedral and the Tower of Hope for three years -- at $100,000 a month during the first year and $150,000 for years two and three. They also will be able to lease the school building for $10,000 a month until the end of school year 2013.
After three years, Crystal Cathedral Ministries and the school will move to the 10-acre property on Lewis Street where St. Callistus is now located.
Brown said money for the purchase of the property will come from loans and sale of various properties owned by the diocese.
Here is my prediction:
The Pope will give Brown his five year extension. Usually, bishops retire at age 75, which Brown turned on Tuesday. This three year plan with CCM, plus renovations to turn the cathedral into a Catholic place of worship, suggests a five year timeline, so that Brown retires with it completed. A friend on Facebook suggested that the Pope could nix this deal if he thought it would mean too much work for Brown's successor, but I have to think Brown cleared this with Benedict even before he started negotiations. Bringing in a new Bishop now would give him the job of taking over the helm and managing this acquisition, and I think the Vatican would just say, "Okay, let Tod stay . . ."
Expect school closures. Brown has already consoldiated two schools into one (Our Lady of the Pillar and Immaculate Heart became School of Our Lady) and has closed two, by my recollection (St. Boniface and St. Anthony Claret). So if the sale of a school building would fetch him the money he needs, and it is a financially struggling school - as many schools in predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods are - then I don't think he would hesitate to do so.
I hate to say this but this places my kids' former school, St. Joseph in Santa Ana, in crosshairs, in my opinion. It has about a three-acre campus with a large mid-century building. The area that it is in is preently zoned both for residential and light construction. Added to that, the city of Santa Ana is wanting to "develop" that area into what they call the Station District. There are already trendy work/live lofts down by the train station and a lot of locals feel the city council's plan is to edge out all the poorer Mexicans to market the area to a younger, more hip - and more monied - populace. However, that could mean lower enrollment in the school for lack of what is needed to keep a school going - children. The school is a ministry of the parish and money is tight - and may be made tighter still when the Augustinians complete the new church less than 3 miles away, on Grand Avenue. That church, Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe, would be solely Hispanic and some of St. Joseph's parishioners could move over there.
And so, I will continue to pray and support my former parish and hope for the best. There are other schools or parishes that may be a financial burden to the diocese that His Grace would want to unload. In the meantime, expect some ugly words to be exchanged and more fighting over who gets the Diocese's money among the people - including the Schullers - who have filed claims in this bankruptcy.
I will say this - I'd love to be a fly on the wall today at the Council of Priests meeting that is usually held on Friday mornings!
And I would like to state vehemently - this post is based solely on my own conjecture and inference, and I am not privy to any diocesan information. I wish to state this because I know several priests in the Diocese of Orange and I have not been told anything by them. My predictions really rest more on what Bishop Brown has done in the past and the economy in California now.
Update: whilst washing dishes, a thought occurred to me - who is to say there will be a successor to Bishop Brown? Given the terrible economy in California, to save on administrative costs, once Brown establishes the cathedral, could the Vatican again unite the Diocese of Orange with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles? My husband's uncle is a priest in the archdiocese and he is managing two parishes. I am not sure that is all that a bad idea, and I suspect some priests in Orange would be happy to serve under Bishop Gomez in L.A.