The Archdiocese of Mobile has sold a downtown church to a local developer, a little more than a year after its controversial closing.
St. Joseph Catholic Church, at 808 Springhill Ave., was officially sold on Feb. 4 for $650,000 to 24/7 Development Partners of Alabama, according to a deed recorded with the office of Mobile Probate Judge Don Davis.
The registered agent of 24/7 Development Partners of Alabama is listed as Chris Pfeiffer, according to business entity records on Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill’s website. The business entity in question was formed in October of last year.
Brody Hale, a canon lawyer and expert in church closures, said in all cases Catholic leadership in a particular area must release a specific decree before selling a church in order to allow parishioners a chance to appeal it.
“The parishioners have a right to appeal within 10 days,” Hale said. “It’s required to be made public.”
Hale worked with St. Joseph parishioners last year to appeal the closure of the church, following a decree made to close the parish. He said a separate “relegation decree for the profane but not sordid use” of the church would be needed to sell it.
Rob Herbst, editor of the Catholic Week and a spokesman for the Archdiocese, said the decree in question had been executed “some time ago.”
In a question and answer format, following a story on the sale on The Catholic Week website, Herbst explains that “the decision … to sell St. Joseph Church was also approved by the Presbyteral Council, the Archdiocesan Finance Council, the College of Consultors and (the Most Rev. Thomas J. Rodi, archbishop of Mobile).”
In the story, Herbst wrote that the money from the sale of the church will be placed in the capital coffers of the Cathedral-Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, which St. Joseph’s parish was merged into when it was closed more than a year ago. Herbst wrote that plans for the now former church are unknown.
Attempts to reach Pfeiffer for comment on this story were unsuccessful. Kara M. Garstecki, an attorney who is named the organizer of the business entity in question did not return a phone call Friday.
According to Herbst and The Catholic Week, some of the items from the inside of the former church will be given to St. Ignatius parish and put in a new church. Those items include the altar, pews, stations of the cross, baptistry, statues and other sacred items.
Throughout most of its 160-year history, St. Joseph parish was run by the Jesuit order of priests. St. Ignatius, which is located 3704 Springhill Avenue, shares this history. The church itself was built in 1907.
The archdiocese announced in March 2017 St. Joseph’s Parrish would be merged with that of the Cathedral-Basilica of the Immaculate Conception due to a dwindling number of parishoners. The decision was fought by those who regularly attended the church, who even appealed the matter to The Vatican, but the decision to close St. Joseph’s moved forward. The Archdiocese took over the parrish in 2009 and prior to that it was run by the Jesuit order of Catholic priests.
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