St. Barbara School

The pastor of Holy Guardian Angels Parish, the spiritual home of Roman Catholics in Brookfield and part of LaGrange Park, told parishioners last week that the parish faces a dire financial situation after a planned sale of the St. Barbara School and convent buildings in Brookfield unexpectedly collapsed.

Rev. Denis Condon wrote to parishioners in his parish newsletter that the developer who had signed a contract to buy the two buildings and convert them into condominiums walked away from the deal.

The unnamed developer reportedly had agreed to buy the two buildings for $500,000, money that the parish counted on to “keep the parish afloat during the pandemic,” Condon wrote.

But prior to closing the deal, the developer learned that the school’s sewer pipe to the village’s sewer system was clogged and that the cost to remove asbestos tile was more than the developer had budgeted for the work.

“Without that money we are in a perilous situation,” Condon told parishioners.

In explaining that predicament, Condon outlined the financial pressures the parish faces by reproducing a report from the parish’s director of operations. Through Dec. 31, 2020 the parish had posted an operating loss of $86,300, most of it attributed to the school.

Sunday collections for the parish as of Dec. 31 were also down 25 percent compared to collections during the first six months of the 2019-20 fiscal year. While the parish is deriving some rental income from St. Louise de Marillac School, the balance of a loan the parish has received from the archdiocese stood at about $26,000 on Feb. 28. 

The parish also faces capital expenses, including an estimated $190,000 to replace the two rooftop heating and air-conditioning units at the St. Barbara Parish Center in Brookfield.

If the parish followed through on that project, it would essentially wipe out all of the parish’s savings, according to Condon.

“All of this leaves us staring at empty bank accounts,” Condon wrote. “We have no money to address any other emergency that may arise, which raises the question of the viability of Holy Guardian Angels.”

Condon urged parishioners to contribute as much money as they could to help boost the parish’s revenues, invoking both Thomas Paine’s “These are the times that try men’s souls” and Jesus Christ’s miracle of the fishes and loaves from the New Testament in his plea.

A failure of the parish to resolve its financial problems, Condon wrote, could invite the Archdiocese of Chicago to step in. That could result in one of the parish’s two worship sites being closed and the property sold off.

“I will have no say should events bring us to that precipice,” Condon wrote.

Reached by the Landmark, Condon said that since the school and convent properties are owned by the archdiocese he is not the person handling property listings or negotiations.

“I have heard there is another interested party, but that’s all I know,” Condon wrote in an email to the Landmark.

Holy Guardian Angels Parish was created in 2019 by the merger of St. Barbara Parish in Brookfield and St. Louise de Marillac Parish in LaGrange Park. Both church buildings remain worship sites of the consolidated parish.

St. Barbara School closed in 2012, but the building continued to be used for the parish’s religious education program and as an emergency shelter for BEDS Plus. However, the school building’s boiler failed in late 2019, forcing the parish to discontinue use of the building. The convent is also not used by the parish, which put the buildings on the market as a package at a listing price of $850,000.

By the fall of 2020, the parish had a tentative deal with a developer to convert the school into a multi-unit residential property, and the village of Brookfield amended its zoning code earlier this year to allow for institutional buildings to be converted for residential use.

That action appeared to have paved the way for the properties to be sold for $500,000, but the developer balked.

“I realize that many, if not most of us, are having a hard time making ends meet during this pandemic,” Condon wrote to parishioners. “If you’re like me, you are being asked for money by lots of folks needing financial help. Many of these requests come from worthwhile causes. But as the old saying has it, ‘Charity begins at home’ and right now our home is in need.”

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