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What Happens to a Building When It’s No Longer a Church?

Recently, a stunning Brooklyn brownstone in Clinton Hill that once was the home of Bishop Thomas E. Molloy went on the market. Asking price for the Brownstone building at 280 Washington Ave. – $13.5 million.

Curbed New York reported that it is “one of the most expensive homes in Brooklyn.”

In 1933, Bishop Molloy ceded the episcopal residence on Clermont Ave. to the Christian Brothers who were teaching at the newly opened Bishop Loughlin H.S. He moved to Washington Ave. and lived there for a few years before giving the home to the Sisters of St. Joseph as part of St. Angela Hall.

Bishop Molloy then moved into the Pratt Residence on Clinton Ave. that has been the home to the last five Bishops of Brooklyn.

Sometime in the 1990s, according to Curbed New York, the Washington Ave. residence was sold to a rockstar but doesn’t name who that was. The current owners are listed as interior designer Jessica Warren and her husband Douglas, who bought the property in 2007 for $3.2 million. Since then, they have totally renovated the three-story structure into a very comfortable urban habitat.

How we handle church property was the topic of a recent press conference at the Vatican when Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Vatican’s culture council, told reporters that former places of worship must retain some spiritual, social or culture value within the community and that every possible effort must be made to safeguard the church’s patrimony, for example, by transferring mobile assets to diocesan museums.

Granted, he was talking about worship space and that’s more significant than a residence but buildings owned and used by the Church maintain historical significance.

According to Catholic News Service, the Vatican is helping organize an international conference meant to help dioceses work with their local communities in finding appropriate uses for decommissioned churches.

From now until October, the public is invited to photograph and post on Instagram, examples of deconsecrated churches being reused in a positive way, since examples of churches turned into night clubs and gyms garner the bulk of media attention.

The photographs, to be tagged with #NoLongerChurches, #unigre and a hashtag of the name of the church and city, are meant to showcase positive ways the historical, social, artistic and sacred significance of such buildings can be maintained or highlighted.

I can think of several churches in this diocese that come under this category. St. Vincent de Paul Church on the hip Northside of Williamsburg had a short run as an Armenian Cathedral but it shut down in 2011. It still retains its look of a church but it is now condominiums and you can live there for as little as $4,250 a month.

St. Peter’s on Hicks St., closed in 1975, later served as a residence for nurses at the now-shuttered L.I. College Hospital. Since the hospital was shut, it is being rented as condominiums.

St. Alphonsus Church, also closed in 1975, on Kent St. in Greenpoint, still looks like a church but it is home to the Polish and Slavic Culture Center, which also has offices in the old St. Alphonsus School on the adjacent Java St.

We close very few churches. But when it does occur, it’s nice to know that the space will be used for services that continue to serve the local community.

Related: Vatican Seeks to Rescue Sacred Spaces Left Vacant by Secularism

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