Major element of long-range campus sustainability planning accomplished with the retirement of a significant portion of debt associated with acquisition of the Christ Cathedral Campus. We continue to fundraise to retire the debt associated with the purchase as well as the costs of renovation of the cathedral to be dedicated July 17, 2019.
In 2012, the Diocese of Orange purchased the internationally acclaimed Crystal Cathedral, which was in bankruptcy, for $57.5 million. The purchase represented a providential opportunity for the Diocese to establish a center for its diverse and expansive Catholic community of 1.5 million and to build a center of Catholic evangelization that will enliven the faith for generations to come.
The Diocese was not the sole bidder for the campus; Chapman University in Orange also was seeking to acquire the property. Ultimately the Diocese of Orange was selected as the future owner of the campus after the intervention of Reverend Robert Schuller, who was able to persuade other members of the Crystal Cathedral Board of Directors and the bankruptcy court to award the campus to the Catholic Church. In so doing he helped ensured the continuation of Christian worship and outreach on the campus. He said at the time that he wished the campus to be “a place for Christ forever.”
“Looking back on the Diocese of Orange’s unlikely purchase of the 35 acre Christ Cathedral campus and the many blessings realized here over these past five years, I see clearly the divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Our path forward is not ours alone but is guided by the Holy Spirit. The Christ Cathedral is quickly becoming a beacon of faith and a sign of hope for Catholics not only here in Orange, but all over the world. It is a beacon of hope, growth and inspiration… a place for the mission of Christ, forever,” said the Most Rev. Kevin Vann, Bishop of Orange.
The purchase of the former Crystal Cathedral was completed in February of 2012 and required $55.4 million in debt financing. After the purchase the Diocese began planning efforts to transition the Saint Callistus Parish and School, just one mile from the newly acquired campus, to the new Christ Cathedral Parish and Christ Cathedral Academy. The parish community celebrated its first mass on campus on June 29, 2013 and now has a regular schedule of 12 masses on Sunday and boasts a growing catholic community of more than 12,000 faithful. The Christ Cathedral Academy has just completed its fourth academic year and has seen a nearly 20 percent increase in attendance since its founding. Additionally the Pastoral Center of the Diocese was moved to the campus in 2013.
As the Christ Cathedral campus has become a center of administration, ministry and outreach for the Diocese – the former Pastoral Center property in Orange, the Marywood Center, and the former St. Callistus parish properties are no longer needed to support ministry efforts. The Marywood Center property was sold in 2016 and the former St. Callistus site was sold this year. Proceeds from both property sales have been used to pay down acquisition debt for the Christ Cathedral campus, leaving long-term debt on the property of about $20 million.
“The Diocese of Orange has been blessed to be able to acquire the Christ Cathedral campus and to make it a center for the Catholic community here in Orange County. Our commitment to pay down the acquisition debt is being fulfilled by the successful sales of these two properties. We will continue to fundraise to be able to pay down the remaining debt, as our priority is to be of service to our many ministries,” said Elizabeth Jensen, CPA, Chief Financial Officer, Diocese of Orange.
The $75 million renovation of the Cathedral is progressing and fundraising to pay these costs is ongoing. We continue to reach out to our Catholic community for their financial support of this project. Our desire is to complete the renovation with little to no debt,” said Jensen.
The historic transformation of the Christ Cathedral itself is about 45 percent complete. The cathedral will be dedicated as America’s next great Cathedral on July 17, 2019, following the recent dedications of Sacred Heart cathedral in Knoxville, TN and Holy Name of Jesus cathedral in Raleigh NC.