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Three church lots in Auburn have been put up for sale by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester.
The school at Holy Family Church and the school and vicarage at St. Alphonsus Church were listed as part of the diocese’s pastoral plan, an ongoing effort to increase its resources in the Auburn area in response to declining church attendance, priest shortages, and others Parishes to consolidate life trends.
The plan was announced by Bishop Salvatore Matano, who last August urged local communities to “ditch unnecessary property and use only those facilities necessary to meet the religious, pastoral and spiritual needs of the faithful.”
The two schools have been listed by Clare Real Estate, which has put up signs in front of them. Auburn Catholic Church officials confirmed that she and the vicarage are for sale but declined to comment further.
The school at St. Alphonsus, formerly St. Joseph School, is listed for $790,000. The 46,812-square-foot school at 89 E. Genesee St. was built in 1949 and served as St. Alphonsus School until 1973 when it merged with Sacred Heart and Holy Family Schools to form Blessed Trinity School. In 1996 the school merged with St Mary’s School and was renamed St Joseph. The diocese closed the school in June 2020 due to declining enrollment and financial difficulties.
Among the school’s more distinctive features is a 1950s-style soda fountain in the basement, which St Alphonsus Parish has attempted to raise money for in recent years to restore.
According to a 2021 report by a local pastoral planning committee, a structural assessment found that the school’s roof and windows needed replacing, at an estimated cost of $1,098,000.
Bishop Salvatore Matano has put the fate of Auburn’s Catholic Churches back in the hands of their communities.
A listing for the vicarage of St. Alphonsus 10 S Lewis St could not be found online. According to Cayuga County property records, the full market value of the two-story, 8,594-square-foot building is $604,700.
The Holy Family School was meanwhile listed for $299,000. It open 1928 after the original school, which opened in 1834 as the original Holy Family Church, was struck by lightning and caught fire. The 85 North St. school closed in the early 1970s and has since served as an emergency shelter for the homeless, a community venue, and a replacement for the church.
According to the Pastoral Planning Committee’s report, the Holy Family School’s roof replacement is “urgent”, drainage there is “a major problem” and insulation needs to be added. The building’s stonework, including the cast stone and lintels, has deteriorated over the years due to water ingress. Inside the building, the surfaces are “in bad condition”.
The report also states that all proceeds from the sale of property owned by the Catholic Church and any additional remaining financial assets will be managed by the local, surviving community.
It is uncertain if the three properties will be the only local properties put up for sale by the diocese. Matano’s original announcement called for the pastoral planning committee to recommend churches in the area for closure. After an extensive period of review, the committee recommended that St Alphonsus be closed along with St Francis of Assisi and Holy Family at Auburn and St Joseph at Weedsport.
However, in the face of objections from local parishioners, the bishop declined to order church closures for the time being. Instead, he urged parishioners to part with “unnecessary possessions” and submit those efforts to the diocese by September 1.