St. Hugh Church (Bob Uphues/Editor)

St. Nikola Serbian Orthodox Church, 4301 Prairie Ave. in Brookfield, which last summer confirmed interest in buying the St. Barbara Church campus, has closed on the purchase of the shuttered former St. Hugh Parish in Lyons.

The exact sale price was not immediately available, but the Rev. Tom May, pastor of St. Paul VI Parish in Riverside which had been maintaining the Lyons property, said it was around $800,000. The property sale closed on March 10, according to May.

The Archdiocese of Chicago had listed the roughly 2.5-acre property comprising a church/school, school annex, gym and rectory for $1.2 million.

“As a community of faith, we’re very happy St. Hugh will continue to be used as a church,” said May. “People in our parish are comforted by that and that it won’t be torn down.”

The Archdiocese of Chicago created St. Paul VI Parish last year by merging three parishes, including St. Hugh, Mater Christi in North Riverside and St. Mary in Riverside. 

The St. Mary campus in Riverside became the administrative center for the new parish and St. Mary School in Riverside continues to function as the parish school. Mater Christi Church also continues to serve as a worship site and its long-shuttered former school is now the St. Hugh Faith Formation Center.

St. Hugh’s campus was closed and the property was listed for sale by the archdiocese. The buildings continued to be maintained by St. Paul VI Parish, and May said the sale was in that sense a blessing.

“It wasn’t a cheap prospect,” said May, who added the parish had to pay for repairs after recent rains damaged the rectory’s roof. “It’s a relief not to have to carry the cost of maintaining those buildings.”

St. Paul VI Parish also stands to gain financially from the sale. While the debt St. Hugh owed to the archdiocese when it closed must be paid back, the newly consolidated parish stands to realize as much as $600,000 from the sale, said May.

How those funds will be used has not been decided yet, said May, though they could be used to fund an endowment for the parish’s faith formation center as a way to honor the legacy of St. Hugh Parish.

St. Nikola’s purchase of the St. Hugh Parish property puts to rest any thought of the congregation converting the former St. Barbara Parish property in the 4000 block of Prairie Avenue into its new home.

Following the 2019 merger of St. Barbara with St. Louise de Marillac into Holy Guardian Angels Parish, the Archdiocese of Chicago put the former St. Barbara School and convent buildings on the market.

After a tentative deal to sell the school to a developer to convert it into a multifamily residential building fell through, officials from St. Nikola approached the archdiocese about buying the entire St. Barbara campus, including the church and parish hall.

At the time, St. Nikola Church board President Tom Milutinovic called St. Barbara “the future,” giving it a school, parish center and house of worship.

St. Nikola approached the archdiocese after scrapping already approved plans to build a new Byzantine-style church on its property in the 4300 block of Prairie Avenue. The church moved to Brookfield in 2010 from its longtime home in Chicago.

However, according to the Rev. Brian Kean, pastor of Holy Guardian Angels Parish, the archdiocese put a halt to the negotiations on the St. Barbara campus last November after St. Nikola wanted an immediate answer on its offer for it.

“We decided we were not ready to do that,” Kean told the Landmark.

The school and convent remain for sale, though only the convent property is presently listed for sale for $200,000 on the commercial real estate market. It’s not clear how the archdiocese is soliciting offers for the school at this time.

Had the St. Barbara purchase succeeded, St. Nikola church officials had planned to put their Brookfield property – which includes 11 lots in the 4300 blocks of both Prairie and Forest avenues, on the market.

Milutinovic could not be reached for comment for this story. While the St. Nikola property is not yet listed for sale, the St. Hugh property will require significant repairs and updates if the parish wants to operate a school once again.