ST. FRANCIS – Four years after moving out of the Cousins Center and into St. Joseph Convent on Milwaukee’s Layton Boulevard, 10 of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s offices and programs and the 24 people employed in them are returning to the lakefront facility.
The Cousins Center has been on the market since 2006. Stark Investments nearly purchased it in November 2007 but changed its mind before the deal could be completed. In 2009, Cardinal Stritch University was on the verge of purchasing the building and its 44 acres, but that was contingent upon the university being able to purchase 87 acres of land south of the Cousins Center owned by WE Energies. Stritch and the utility were unable to agree on terms, and the bid to purchase the Cousins Center was withdrawn.
Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki made the announcement about the move April 6 to recipients of his weekly communiqué, “Love One Another.” He noted that the move, which will take place “sometime in June or July,” would mean a cost savings to the archdiocese, which had been renting convent space from the School Sisters of St. Francis. He noted that the archdiocese’s filing for Chapter 11 reorganization was also a factor.
“… even with the Chapter 11 proceedings going forward, there is no guarantee when the Cousins Center will be sold or what that would mean for our central office location,” he wrote.
Archbishop Listecki said having the staff in one location promotes collaboration and will bring “some energy back to the Cousins Center.”
“Let’s face it; these past years have not been easy for our archdiocesan staff – with cutbacks, staff reductions and now the reorganization, so we could use the energy boost!” he wrote.
In an interview with your Catholic Herald, John Marek, chief financial officer of the archdiocese, said, “Having staff in one location does facilitate communication, working together and the ongoing interaction among staff members.”
The archbishop added that he wanted to use the Cousins Center for as long as possible.
“It’s a great place for prayer, meetings, retreats and gatherings,” he said.
Marek noted that stewardship had an impact on the decision as the archdiocese wanted to make more use of the facility, given the uncertainty of if or when it would be sold.
Randy Nohl, director of the John Paul II Center, one of the archdiocesan programs that will be relocated to the Cousins Center, concurred.
“From a stewardship vantage point, it’s a good move,” he said.
The dollar amount of savings, e.g., rent at the St. Joseph Center vs. the “make ready” costs for the offices in the Cousins Center, hasn’t been completed yet, according to Marek.
“Not that we’re going to do any more than we have to,” he said regarding painting and cleaning, “but we need to make it usable for staff coming in.”
Both Marek and the archbishop expressed gratitude for the ways in which the School Sisters of St. Francis worked with the archdiocese.
“They’ve been a very good landlord, very cooperative,” the former said. “They are understanding of the circumstances we’re in, and we’re most grateful for the hospitality they’ve shown to our staff.”
Nohl, who has worked for the archdiocese for 24 years, noted that the move is often termed as “returning to” the Cousins Center, but, in fact, that doesn’t apply to everyone.
“One thing that surprised me in my four years at the St. Joseph Center is that half of the staff had never worked at the Cousins Center,” he said. “This demonstrates the new life in the archdiocese. As much as I hate moving, it (the move) is a real good decision.”
Nohl said the move is also important for the message it is sending.
“It says to the parishes that we are moving in the right direction,” he said. “We have a smaller staff, but we’re working together.”
In addition to the John Paul II Center, which includes diaconal formation, bereavement ministry, lay adult formation, and the programs of the Nazareth Project, other offices that will move to the Cousins Center are the World Mission Ministries, Schools Office, Social Justice Ministry, campus ministry, catechesis and youth, and sexual abuse prevention and response services.