Use Proceeds from Sale of Mansion to Reopen Emmaus House
By Carolyn Disco
The Union Leader, carried in Guest Commentary [New Hampshire]
Downloaded June 24, 2003
BISHOP JOHN McCormack has an opportunity to rescue a nationally acclaimed youth ministry (Emmaus House) by asking the probate court and the George Trudel family to approve the full use of up to $1 million from the sale of the bishop's residence, the former Trudel Mansion, to establish an endowment for Emmaus House, the teen retreat center which church officials closed on June 8.
Emmaus House, the 64-room retreat center operated for 25 years as part of the diocese's youth ministry, was closed mainly because of budget shortfalls as a result of the priest sex abuse scandal. Thousands of young people passed through its doors for confirmation retreats and other programs hailed as a model for effective youth outreach. Sister Bernadette Turgeon and Matthew Goody were co-directors who labored for decades with limited finances to repair and furnish the building and minister to young people.
The bishop's residence, a 5,348 square foot mansion at 657 North River Road, is also due to close because of the same budget woes. It cost $50,000 a year to operate for its lone occupant, Bishop McCormack. Former Manchester Mayor George Trudel donated the mansion to the diocese in 1947 to be used for a bishop's residence.
McCormack has asked that the proceeds from the anticipated sale of the property, ranging from $750,000 to $1 million, be placed in a restricted account for his personal living expenses. McCormack says he plans to move into the rectory at St. Joseph Cathedral, where prior bishops lived for many years. There is obviously no need for almost $1 million to house him there, and his other living expenses can continue to be met as they have in the past. Significant legal fees for his defense in various lawsuits would not be covered anyway by the mansion's sale.
The late Mayor Trudel's family may be open to using money from the mansion's sale to revive Emmaus House, given the enormous good Emmaus House has achieved during its operation. The generosity of their forebear would be honored in a remarkable way by assigning the proceeds from the sale of his home to the home where thousands of teenagers learn to live their faith. What a meaningful legacy that is.
A certain ironic justice pertains. The youth whose bodies and souls were molested by predatory priests deserve to see the church not abandon genuine youth ministry that heals and nurtures. Survivors and lay Catholics would welcome the diversion of this wealth from the personal benefit of one person to the wider good wrought from service to thousands of youth today and tomorrow. It seems the least the diocese can do to make clear its commitment to servant leadership.
The New Hampshire Attorney General's Office is party to the disposition of the mansion's proceeds since it is charitable property. As the public's representative in the transaction, there is need to assure the broadest public welfare is addressed.
Whatever needs to be done to bring about this benefit to Emmaus House, it is in the realm of possibility if the participants are willing to commit to it. With the cooperation of McCormack, the Trudel family, the attorney general and the probate court, why not? Diocesan attorney Ovide Lamontagne must have creative ways to meet the donor's legacy requirements, even if McCormack must sleep occasionally at Emmaus House.
Carolyn Disco lives in Merrimack and is a member of Voice of the Faithful, an organization of Catholic lay people founded in the wake of the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal.
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