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Congregation addresses aging members’ care through mission-aligned property sale

The client: Union of Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The Union of Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (PBVM) is a global collection of Catholic women religious committed to education and a wide range of ministries in the tradition of founder Venerable Honora “Nano” Nagle.

Discerning the use of property as a resource

PBVM, like many congregations across the United States, needed to ensure its frail and elderly sisters were cared for in a manner that provides a quality of life that enables them to be engaged in mission and community. As the congregation aged, and mission expression changed, it had also become particularly important to discern how PBVM will use its resources — specifically its properties in San Antonio, Tex.; Fargo, N. Dak.; and Orange, Cali. — for advancing its rich legacy of mission. PBVM engaged our religious institutes consulting team to guide their members’ conversations and determine the best use for the properties.

Aligning resources to support member care & mission goals

Consideration for the properties began with our team leading PBVM in a collaborative, comprehensive, and holistic approach to planning in order to address challenges and identify opportunities for how the mission and charism will be expressed in the future. Only then could we begin discussions around the use of property to support the sisters’ educational mission and provide funding for retirement.

Of the three regional locations, the Callahan Road property in San Antonio had the most immediate need for attention. On two 5-acre parcels of land stood two 100-year-old houses, the sisters’ primary residences; an annex, built in the 1960s, which served as additional residential capacity on the property; and a former elementary school building occasionally used by other religious communities and nonprofit groups for meeting space. Through a collaborative discernment process, PBVM determined that the property wasn’t the ideal home for their aging members or conducive to their ministry. Selling the property would best fulfill the sisters’ quantitative and qualitative objectives.

Throughout our discussions, we came to understand the property’s physical attributes, identify the sisters’ mission as related to the property, and determine the sisters’ financial needs. We provided a study to determine the highest and best use of the property, options for zoning, and potential value. We then helped the sisters consider various development scenarios of housing, educational uses, and others, realigning and refining options based on site and market guidance.

Implementing a mission-aligned property sale

Taking the property to market was not a straightforward process, with us first having to address environmental concerns and the sisters’ water rights as part of the overall property rights. We helped the sisters through each challenge, and when the property was ready for sale, developed a marketing approach to take the property to market. We articulated their goals for the buyer, created and distributed the offering memorandum, and researched and engaged with targeted buyers. Viable offers came in from two residential developers and two charter schools.

In alignment with their mission of education, the sisters were particularly interested in exploring the charter school options, comparing them in terms of reputation and mission alignment. Ultimately, PBVM sold to a charter school for construction of a new school on the property, for a price that met their financial objectives. Our team helped the sisters negotiate the purchase agreement, tour senior living communities, and relocate the sisters to their new home in a nearby faith-based care community.

A new chapter

As we helped the sisters address their properties as resources for the future, our approach centered around exploring opportunities, developing plans, and overseeing implementation. Although this change was challenging and sensitive, the sisters embraced imaginative thinking in solving problems and promoting opportunity, not dissimilar to the attitude Nano Nagle took when she found creative ways to educate the children of Ireland despite the regulations that forbade her from doing so.

For many religious communities, challenges exist when continuing to occupy properties that were built to serve the residential and ministerial needs of the community at an earlier time in history. An important part of any property analysis process is to align the property needs of the institute with its current and projected needs before identifying a timeline for transitioning underutilized properties or properties. Contact our team if your congregation would like help thinking through this process.

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