D. Albany: Large old church for sale – $100,000

It isn’t that unusual these days to see that churches are for sale, some of them splendid, all of them once beloved, paid for with the pennies and tears of generations that entrusted their mites to the diocese.  It’s sad.

I was sent a news spot about such a church in Albany… where the “Agony in Albany” was endured for so many years.  HERE

For sale: $100,000

I sent the story to perhaps a dozen friends, clerical and lay.

With one exception so far the first reaction has been: “I hope the SSPX buys it!”

This first reaction would have been the exception a few years ago.  Now it is dominant.

I think the only way for the SSPX to buy it would be through a third party.

One priest offered: “The chancery is just praying for Muslims to buy it”.   His first option was for the SSPX, too, and as an afterthought the FSSP.   But the Muslim thing is real.  In my native place a senior pastor was retired and they alienated the church to a Muslim group.  I saw the photos of them tearing out the Christian symbols.

We have to be realistic about these matters.  If a congregation isn’t paying the bills, and clustering to share the burden isn’t doing it, then something has to be done.  Alienating the property seems short-sighted when there are alternatives.   Traditional groups have been reviving places like this.  Expensive, but working!

One has the impression today that The-Whatever-High-Atop-The-Thing would rather see a building like this turned into a disco or a mosque rather than see a traditional group attracting dozens of dedicated families with lots of children .

Again, the majority, not minority, reaction to my sending friends this story was, “I hope the SSPX buys it!”

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  1. Fr. Timothy Ferguson says:

    When I was working for a large metropolitan see in the lower peninsula of Michigan, the chancery introduced a Major Capital Campaign (!!!) to be rolled out among all the parishes. Each parish was to figure out a capital project that would use up about two or three years of their average collection and conduct a Capital Campaign to raise that much money – then send 20% of the proceeds of the campaign to the chancery for archdiocesan funding.

    One pastor with whom I worked rolled his eyes. His small suburban parish was declining (and it was small wonder, considering the plexiglass altar, the mediocre Glory and Praise music, etc.) and aging. He figured that when he retired, the place would be closed and he grumbled, “Any capital project I come up with will be wasted because in ten years they’re going to sell the place anyway.”

    I suggested to him that, as a capital campaign, the parish consider adding minarets to the church, so that when the time came, it would fetch a higher price to the Muslims who would surely buy it.

    I think he settled on repaving the parking lot.

  2. David Spaulding says:

    Why the SSPX first and FSSP second seems to me to be an important question. I have very positive impressions of the FSSP and dwelling solidly within the Church seems to me to be something which should be attractive to all Catholics. I struggle to understand why one would go to an SSPX church rather than an FSSP, where access to the FSSP is reasonable.

    My guess is that neither the SSPX, nor the FSSP could afford to buy, refurbish, and staff more than they have and I suspect that the organic, organizational growth is a model that serves both well. First, there are people who want and need those services, then the SSPX or FSSP come in to serve them, then they establish a presence to provide those services, then they are, in effect, SSPX or FSSP “parishes” within a NO diocese.

    Perhaps this is what the “bishops McButterpants” are most worried about – thriving FSSP communities within their dioceses which stand in stark contrast with failing NO parishes.

  3. Titus says:

    $100,000 is chump change for any parcel of real-estate in some parts of the country. You can’t buy a tool shed in Nashville for that.

    The really interesting thing is that you can disassemble and reassemble a church like that for about the same price as you could build a modernist box. There really ought to be—I have thought this for years—a USCCB office of National Patrimony Preservation that coordinates communications between dioceses that need to alienate historic churches and dioceses that are trying to erect churches. We could save buckets and buckets of money in Nashville buying and relocating that place to serve a new parish being opened as we speak.

  4. Dustin F, OCDS says:

    I don’t think this church is a casualty of diocesan reorganizations and the demographic collapse, as others might be. This church has had delayed structural/maintenance issues going back decades. It closed as a church in 1994 and was first sold in 1981. Since then, it’s been owned by a couple different private families, the City of Albany, and the Historic Albany Foundation. The HAF spent nearly $700k on emergency repairs to keep it from collapsing, but it would require quite a bit more to make it serviceable for any of the proposed uses, including worship.

    It’s currently owned by the City of Albany. If the SSPX wanted it, they could probably have it – but if that were the case, they could have taken the opportunity already. It’s possible that with the required repairs, there aren’t too many buyers who would think it’s worth the effort at this point.

    [Thanks for the homework! That’s helpful. It doesn’t change the initial reactions I got, but the situation is clearer now.]

  5. Archlaic says:

    After a visit to LA a few years ago I recall posting somewhere – perhaps here, my online ambit is somewhat circumscribed – that Cardinal Mahony ought perhaps to be praised for his foresight, rather than condemned for his tastelessness and modernism… The concrete barn he built makes the glass palace in Orange County look like Notre-Dame, but as a future commercial property it should turn a tidy profit at the archdiocesan Going-Out-of-Business sale (which he may well live to see) since it will require very little reconfiguration!

  6. Robert says:

    I would think that the rather trad-friendly Bishop of Albany would not necessarily be against selling to the SSPX.

  7. Titus says:

    PS – turns out the diocese hasn’t owned the church in years. It’s been derelict and belongs to the city. Maybe the SSPX could buy it after all.

  8. WVC says:

    @David Spaulding – Speaking only for myself, my desire for the SSPX first and only afterwards the FSSP is the simple fact that the SSPX is outside the tyrannical arm of the Vatican and the Diocesan Structure. The FSSP could buy the Church, work hard and spend money to renovate it, and then be told the next day by the bishop that they’re no longer welcome in the diocese. Or by Roche that the Pope changed his mind and they no longer get a dispensation. Or by Francis that they are only allowed to offer Mass and sacraments in a cow shed, and not any official church structures. And the response of the FSSP and ICK thus far indicates that they would humbly submit to all such demands in the name of obedience.

    Whereas the SSPX would tell them to pound sand and keep providing the Mass and the sacraments to those souls who yearn for them.

    Since I’m in a diocese where one parish just built a new, beautiful church with a lot of support from the TLM parishioners, to whom the “good” bishop at the behest of our “merciful” pope has forbidden to have Mass in that new church building, the injustice of having one’s donation given in good faith trampled upon by quislings and company men is still a very fresh wound.

  9. Rob83 says:

    Sometimes even if the bills are being paid the diocese does not care. There was a very beautiful church the diocese shut down years ago for “structural issues” and put fencing around it. Parishioners fought for years and had means, but eventually the supposedly at risk-structure was recently sold to Muslims, not the first church either.

    Sometimes they just demolish for the same excuse, it was the fate of the cathedral and at least one other church, easily could have been more although laity saved and repurposed a few. I worry for the basilica – it has barely been touched but the memory of the venerable priest behind its construction fades with time.

  10. donato2 says:

    Apropos of Archlaic’s comment and the post about the Albany church, Cardinal Mahoney sold St. Vibiana Cathedral — the historic, original Cathedral in Los Angeles — for a paltry $4.6 million. A crime — and a reflection of how much Cardinal Mahoney values Church tradition. The State of California wanted to preserve the Cathedral as a historic landmark but Cardinal Mahoney successfully sued to prevent this on religious freedom grounds — a meritorious religious freedom claim, yes, but it is an embarrassment and shameful when the State of California values tradition more than a “Prince of the Church.” The former and original Cathedral has since been used for fashion shows and is now a restaurant called “Redbird.”

  11. APX says:

    I think the only way for the SSPX to buy it would be through a third party.

    When the SSPX bought their church from our Diocese they disguised themselves as business men and not as priests. The Bishop was quite PO’d when he found out he sold it to the SSPX.

  12. James C says:

    I’m relieved to know the diocese doesn’t own it. Other upstate dioceses, including Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo, have sold off parish churches to be turned into mosques (to cater to all the refugees settled by Catholic Charities with federal dollars) in recent years.

  13. TheBackPew says:

    Given the doubling costs of new construction, perhaps it is now a relatively cheaper option to disassemble and move such a magnificent structure than to try to build a new church with all new materials.

  14. Jim R says:

    The architect of that church was Patrick Keely who was arguably the most famous US church architect of the 19th century – certainly of the Neo-gothic style. Among the dozens of churches he designed are (off hand) the cathedrals in Boston, Chicago and Providence. He also designed Trinity Church (German), and Immaculate Conception (Jesuit first home of BC) in Boston as well as Immaculate Conception in Lowell and scores of others.

  15. Rob83 says:

    They were going to do the disassemble and move thing here with a church about 15 years ago, but ran into local opposition from pols and laity, costs, and economic headwinds, so that one ended up a mosque too, the potential parish buyer took only the stained glass and some statuary.

  16. This situation is always heartbreaking, and it naturally gives occasion to review the even more wrenching history of poor decisions that helped lead to so many “bare ruin’d choirs.”

    That said, even if we lived in that slice of the multiverse in which the last 50 years were all we might have hoped for, it’s almost certain we’d still have these sad stories. Even the tippy-top best decisions by popes and bishops would hardly have prevented the massive population shifts from cities to suburbs of recent decades.

    I’m sorry to say this, but: lots of ordinary folks, including ordinary Catholics, have not the slightest awareness of what it costs to maintain these lovely buildings.

    As far as dissassembling and moving? Sounds wonderful; but I strongly suspect there are more costs than meet the eye. After all, if the building is riddled with asbestos (*pastoral shudder*), you think you can just pack that up and move it? And we aren’t even talking about adapting the building for air conditioning, dealing with heating issues, a new roof that can easily cost several hundred thousand dollars, ignored water leaks, leading to structural damage. Moving the building doesn’t make those go away.

    Let’s put it this way: anyone who thinks this is such an easy thing is welcome to create a business that does this. You really think there aren’t lots of potential clients — if not priests, then lay Catholics who will be asked to pay for a new building — who will give a ready hearing to a well-crafted presentation?

  17. redneckpride4ever says:

    I suspect this would be an extremely expensive project. What could be some issues?

    Lead pipes?
    Structural damage?
    Dangerous electric wiring?
    Crumbling foundation?

    If anyone COULD pull this off it would certainly be the SSPX. They received donations from all over the world to build the new Immaculata (myself included). However, could and should are different concepts.

    If there’s a large enough group in Albany that would attend Mass there, the millions (a 20 million price tag would not surprise me) could be raised and the building restored.

    However, I personally think there are better options. What if they secure the building and it collapses the next day? If what I read is accurate in the comments, someone simply assessing the structure could get killed.

    On the other hand, land acquisition for 100k might be viable. The remaining stained glass and such could be salvaged, the building razed, and a basic but beautiful small chapel built in it’s place.

    I think there are different concepts to ponder. And not just the SSPX. There is a Melkite parish in my Diocese’s territory that used to be Latin. It feels good knowing that a closed Catholic parish returned as a Catholic parish.

  18. Not says:

    One of my Priest friends, (no departed) Was a SSPX . He was renting space in Kansas City Kansas from a Protestant Minister. When he was told to purchase St. Mary’s Kansas, which was vacant for years by Archbishop Lefebvre, the local Bishop refused to sell. Father made a deal with the Protestant Minister to buy it. He purchased property and turned it over to the SSPX on the same day.
    The Bishop was not happy.

  19. Chrisc says:

    Given the current program of the regime, isn’t this a place better served by laity forming a 501c3, creating a board, and having the organization purchase it? I don’t know if the society uses non-society chapels very often. But by having it as a clandestine chapel would allow it to be outside the purview of some jurisdictional crackdowns. Sure the bishop could place an interdict on people visiting, but that seems rather unlikely.

  20. moon1234 says:

    Another poster hit the correct thought about why everyone is saying SSPX should buy it. No one wants another ICRSS Chicago situation. That is shameful and shows any chancery can not be trusted.

    One of our “Diocesan” churches is NOT owned by the diocese. It was purchased by the parish council MANY years ago when the parish was in financial problems. It is now financially stable when surrounding parishes are having problems. Donations do NOT flow out of the parish unless the collection specifically says it will be for other than parish purposes.

    That is the great desire going forward. Parishioners want to feel like their building and their priest are not going to be yanked out from under them due to the whims of the diocese or due to illegal acts of others in the diocese.

  21. PostCatholic says:

    “Cardinal Mahoney sold St. Vibiana Cathedral — the historic, original Cathedral in Los Angeles — for a paltry $4.6 million.”

    Nope. The Archdiocese did a land swap with the City of Los Angeles for the site of the present Cathedral (a much larger plot near the 101) after it decided that fixing up the too-small historic building wasn’t worth the re-investment. I get that many disagree with that assessment.

    LA thereafter sold the church building to Gilmore Associates for $4.6 million and tore down the school buildings to build a branch library. Gilmore is the firm that developed the Old Bank District and they have a long record of historic preservation projects. The building is very well stabilized and restored and reinforced against future earthquakes. I was in it for a trade show event; it’s now rented out as events space.

  22. redneckpride4ever says:


    Was your priest friend by chance Fr. Bolduc?

  23. JonPatrick says:

    As Fr. Martin Fox points out above we often forget that there was a major migration of Catholic working and middle class families out of the cities and into the suburbs starting after WW2 and accelerating in the 1950s and 1960s. This often meant leaving beautiful churches built with the pennies and nickels of immigrant families and instead attending modern suburban churches, often with all of the beauty of a school gymnasium or airport terminal. The remaining dwindling inner city congregations often did not have the money to maintain these structures.

  24. donato2 says:


    The LA Times article reporting on the $4.6 million sale of the St. Vibiana Cathedral makes no mention of any land swap or sale by the City of Los Angeles. The article says instead that the LA Archdiocese confirmed the sale, and indicates that the payment by Gilmore of the $4.65 million is to the Archdiocese. Redbird is a restaurant, but it is true that it also offers space for events.

    (The Wikipedia entry for St. Vibiana Cathedral says that there was a land swap with the City but does not say what Archdiocese land was involved and cites no source (indicating “citation needed”). The Wikipedia entry also says that the City sold the Cathedral but as support cites an August 30, 2007 LA Times article that says no such thing. The article mentions a land swap and sale of the Cathedral but does not say what land was swapped or who sold the Cathedral.)

  25. FRLBJ says:

    The ICKSP are not backing down and are hard core, contrary to the opinion of some. The removal of faculties at Chicago is being appealed. Also, the ICKSP owns the property as well as other churches. Just heard our canon say in a homily that the sacraments cannot licitly be forbidden. Think about the persecuted Christians in Roman times. Did the Christians obey the emperors when told to not celebrate Holy Mass?

  26. PostCatholic says:

    Thanks for the correction to my (in)correction, donato2. My source wasn’t Wikipedia, but an article in a booklet I got at that trade show in 2018. Perhaps its source was Wikipedia if the errors are the same? I’ll read the LA Times article you linked.

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