Insights on Dealing with Excess Buildings and Property
by Sr. Nancy Conway, CSJ
After much discussion and review, you believe you are on the verge of deciding that SOMETHING needs to be done about your motherhouse buildings and/or property. But you might be asking yourself, “Where do we go from here?” and “Who can help us through this process?”. I have gained quite a bit of experience in this area by leading my congregation through numerous facility and property projects in the past, and I would like to share some of my insight with you.
You have probably reached this conclusion regarding your buildings and property because you have found that you can put a check by two or more of the following factors:
"It’s important to remember that not every potential partner has the capacity to do everything you might need. Make sure to determine if each potential partners’ strengths match your needs."
Sr. Nancy Conway, CSJ
Facilitation & Engagement Specialist
– Rooms that once were living quarters have now become giant storage areas
– You or your teammates are spending undue amounts of time trying to find groups who will rent the empty portions of your building
– Entire areas in your building can no longer be utilized by sisters because they are not handicapped accessible
– Assembly Rooms that held many meetings in the past are no longer used because the acoustics are less than ideal for those with hearing deficiencies
– Bedrooms are too small to accommodate the equipment and other forms of assistance for those sisters who are aging in place
– Your youngest members are very clear that they do not want to be responsible for these large buildings in the future
If you ARE having conversations about your buildings with your members—that’s great—but are you experiencing any of the following:
– You keep having the same conversations over and over about what to do with your property and grounds
– Maintenance costs are increasing at an alarming rate
– Budgeting accurately has become harder because of so many unexpected building-related expenses
– You can envision how you might consolidate functions and/or sisters into one area or into one of your buildings, but it is not clear how to get from that vision to reality
– You are stumped about who might take the building off your hands, or how it could be used for ministry or some other need in your geographic area
– Your community’s financial future is being negatively impacted—and your ability to remain in mission—because of building-related expenses
If yes, maybe it’s time to consider bringing in someone to partner with you as you address these complex issues. But how do you start to look for a partner?
Here are some simple suggestions.
1. Begin by tapping into resources available to you for suggestions on a partner, e.g. NRRO
2. Attend conferences like the LCWR Assembly and RCRI National Conference to meet potential partners who are most likely exhibiting
3. Talk to other congregations about their experiences and how they felt about the partners they chose to work with them
Once you have an idea of who to interview, what should you be looking for during initial interviews? Here are some suggestions on what you should hope to see in a potential partner.
1. Someone who demonstrates the potential to understand the dynamics of your local area
2. Someone who understands the opportunities and limitations of your facilities
3. Someone who has the resources and connections within their organization—or can obtain them for you—to move your project forward at the pace you need
4. Someone who asks you the right questions to help you better define your needs
It’s important to remember that not every potential partner has the capacity to do everything you might need. Make sure to determine if each potential partners’ strengths match your needs.
Additionally, there are other “heart” or “softer” attributes that you might also consider when you interview a partner—someone who will walk with you through this entire journey.
You should be looking for someone who “gets it” that:
1. You are a unique congregation/province
2. Your situation with your elderly sisters, while it might be similar to other congregations, is unique to you
3. They need to understand the ministries you sponsor and any connection they might have to your building and property
4. The condition of your buildings/campus will need to be assessed by a variety of professionals
5. The jurisdiction in which your building(s) is located matters—that it might impact your future choices
6. How you make decisions as a group and the pace at which you make them is unique to you
7. Creating and building trust with your sisters is as crucial as being able to raise difficult issues with the sisters and engage with them
8. Self knowledge about their own biases and/or pre-conceived ideas is key—especially any quick answers about what you “should” decide or do
Hopefully you found this information valuable as your congregation continues the complex journey of deciding what to do with your building(s) and/or property. If I can provide further insight or answer any questions based on my experiences, please feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.