By LINDA M. LINONIS
“Going once, going twice.” The auction phrases will be heard Aug. 24 when ByceAuction and Realty conducts the sale of the former Immaculate Conception Church and school-administrative building. A preview is planned from 1 to 2 p.m. Sunday.
In years past, parishioners heard the words “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord” within the sanctuary walls and students’ voices echoed in the school hallways.
On Jan. 9, 2011, Immaculate Conception, 811 Oak St., and Sacred Heart of Jesus churches, 400 Lincoln Park Drive, merged as part of the Diocese of Youngstown’s Parish Implementation Plan. The churches became St. Angela Merici Parish, based at the Sacred Heart site. The last Mass at Immaculate Conception was Jan. 30; the church, which had served the faithful for 128 years, closed. The church school closed in 2006.
The Rev. Kevin Peters, pastor of St. Angela Merici, explained that church properties in the diocese are titled to the bishop but the parish is financially responsible. The properties, he continued, had been up for sale since mid-2011. “The auction route seemed like a good approach,” he said.
Father Peters said the financial burden of maintaining the two church properties was too much. “We had double duty with maintenance, utilities and insurance,” he said. “We were struggling.”
He said the financial council of the parish recommended the sale and pastoral council approved it. “The goal was to have the parish decide what to do. It was emotional,” Father Peters admitted. But, he credited the councils and parish members for facing reality. “The decision was made for the good of the new parish,” he said. Its name recognizes the founder of the Ursuline Sisters, who were a presence at both churches.
Jim Miller, parish council member, said members realized the situation was “untenable.” “The cost of maintaining both was hefty stuff,” he said, so the practical decision was made.
At the time of the merger, Immaculate Conception counted 170 households and Sacred Heart, 310. Father Peters said after the merger, the count was at 312 but the parish now is growing and has 486 families.
A handcrafted wooden pulpit and altar, built by an Immaculate Conception member, was moved to Sacred Heart. “It helped blend the community,” Father Peters said. The pipe organ also was relocated to the new parish.
An upcoming project is moving the historic solid bronze bell, which weighs 600 pounds and is 35 inches in diameter. Verdian Bell Co. in Cincinnati, which installed the bell and is still in business, will re-install it at Sacred Heart.
Some of the stained-glass windows, those with sacred images, also will be removed. What will stay and what will be removed will be outlined at the auction.
Jeff Byce said he will conduct the live auction of the properties. He is advertising the properties in print and www.loopnet.com, an online commercial real- estate site. “I’ve sent out 6,000 postcards to various institutions that might have a use for the buildings,” he said.
The school-administration building has some 31,000 square feet and the rectory is move-in ready with six bedrooms.
The church, a unique property, Byce said, could be used by another congregation as a house of worship. It also would make a nice setting for an art gallery or architectural office because of its design details. “Historic tax credits could be used to help the buyer keep it historically significant,” Byce said.
Byce’s company has experience in this arena, having sold the Calvin Center, United Methodist Church in Mineral Ridge and Christ Our King Church in Warren.