A. With the oversight of the Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Boston.
According to the 12/24/2010 edition of The Pilot,
“St. Cecilia Church in the Back Bay reopened Dec. 12 after recently completing a major interior renovation. The church closed after Easter for a major overhaul that included new flooring, pews, painting and a redesigned sanctuary and entrance… The renovation continues with restoration of the attached rectory and redesign of the lower church into a parish center complex.”
What The Pilot did not report was the following:
- The parish had $14 million in the bank from a previous land sale (11,000 square-foot adjacent parcel) before starting the renovation project
- The pastor and parish council discussed raising money via a capital campaign in 2009 for what was then estimated at a $13 million project, but never did anything at the time
- They hit construction cost overruns that have put the total project costs at the 75% completion point today at around $16-17 million, and it could hit $20 million by the time they are done
- The parish is only now launching a capital campaign to hopefully raise $2 million
- The parish is now borrowing money from the archdiocese to cover the cost overruns
- The parish is running a $250,000 operating deficit from 2009-2011 ($120,000 in the red in 2009-2010 and $130,000 in the red for 2010-2011)
- The project had oversight from the Office of the Chancellor in the Archdiocese of Boston and his staff “experts” in real estate and property management
- The pastor, Fr. John Unni, is good friends with Chancellor Jim McDonough
The above are the objective facts. A parish goes from $14M in the bank to being as much as $6M in debt. That is WITH the oversight of the Chancellor and his team (who collectively at the director-level or above are paid $1.3 million annually). The whole thing reminds BCI of the Beatles song, “With a Little Help From My Friends”
The project was originally described in May of 2009 as follows:
Phase 1: Rebuild the Rectory, to code; Rebuild roof; Perform necessary construction to make entire building envelope safe and secure (including, upgrade of all plumbing, energy and mechanical systems.).
Phase 2: Renovation of Lower Church.
Phase 3: Improvements to Upper Church (not to exceed $800,000).
It is estimated by the Renovation Committee that the cost of completing Phases 1 – 3 would be $13 million.
For the record, in the Boston Courant, a Back Bay newspaper, the project was estimated at $10 million in late 2009.
from the pews says:January 1, 2011 at 11:23 pm
One must conclude there has been precious little oversight from the Archdiocese regarding the renovation at St. Cecilia Parish (Boston). With a pastor who openly proclaims he’s not a “rules and regs kind of guy” and who plays fast and loose with the Sacramental Rites of the Church as well as with Church doctrine, it is of no surprise there exists the inexplicable situation in which fund raising has been long delayed hoping to recoup millions in cost overruns. Where is there ANY oversight?
Meanwhile, St. Cecilia’s annual operating budget is reported to be over $250K in the RED at the end of FYE 2011! This is as reported on their very own website: http://www.stceciliaboston.org/bulletins/bulletin10312010.pdf
Yet the pastor takes frequent and extravagant vacations to tropical Islands and Europe.
I for one, am sick of average parishioners bearing the financial burdens of born of impropriety and ineptitude. We who sit in the pews are more than happy to give our hard earned money and precious time to further the wonderful ministries of the Church. However, it appears that no one at the Archdiocese asked simple questions in a timely fashion—questions rooted in everyday common sense: Why was no money raised before the project began? Why is the project now suddenly millions of dollars over budget?
No one is made accountable, yet it is the faithful parishioners who are saddled with millions in debt.
With the history of sex abuse scandals, the Church does not need to shoot itself in the foot with more financial impropriety and incompetence. It pains those of us who try to stay faithful to the Church and faithful to our local parishes, where our faith truly takes root.
NOTE: We acknowledge that the renovated upper church looks beautiful, at least from what we can see of the photos, we acknowledge the interior of the church hall was in bad condition, and we acknowledge the rectory in the left tower was also in bad condition. This post is not about whether there were physical needs at the church that merited work. This post is highlighting that the project has been mismanaged and improperly overseen from start to finish.
The current Chancellor has been in his job nearly 5 years. Does he have a team of skilled experts capable of providing oversight and guidance for projects like this, and able to support the facility needs of hundreds of aging buildings in need of HVAC system upgrades, maintenance and renovation? Or is neglect of this area and layoffs of skilled staff without adequate replacements costing the archdiocese and parishes tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars a year needlessly, or even up to millions?
We will have more details to share about the project tomorrow, including before and after photos, reported reasons for the cost overruns, and what could have been done to prevent them. Readers familiar with the project can feel free to post comments or send email to us using the Contact Us tab.
In the meantime, the underlying question remains: When will pastors and advisors all start telling Cardinal O’Malley the time has come to replace the current Chancellor and initiate a search for a new one using someone independent and objective who cares just about the mission of the Catholic Church in Boston?