Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Catholic Order Wants to Develop 650-Acre Site but Control Its Use

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Catholic Order Wants to Develop 650-Acre Site but Control Its Use

Article excerpt

The Vincentian priests and brothers of Perryville, Mo., are taking a novel approach to following the commandment to love their neighbors.

Since 1985, when the Vincentian priests closed their seminary in Perryville, rumors have swirled around Perry County about what would happen to the 700 acres owned by the order of Catholic men. It's just west of the developed area of the growing town.

"We are not interested in selling out and walking away," the Rev. William Hartenbach, the Vincentians' Midwest provincial, said Wednesday at a press conference in the seminary's library in Perryville. The order has plans for developing 650 acres, including miles of land on either side of Interstate 55, while continuing to own and use a 50-acre core with the Church of the Assumption, the Shrine of the Miraculous Medal and a residence for retired priests and brothers. No contracts have been signed, and Perryville city officials and real-estate agents in Perry County said Wednesday that they were unaware of the plan. The order has no timetable to complete the development. It has turned down a discount retailer who didn't have an attractive plan. Every step in the development must be in keeping with the church's idea of social justice and respect for the environment, said the Rev. Mike Joyce, assistant to the provincial in their Bridgeton office. The order wants to develop the land in partnership with investors who would use it for industry, recreation or residential use. "I use the term co-develop, so we retain ownership and control," said Hartenbach. "That control will guarantee, as well as guarantees can work, that nothing that is offensive or harmful to either the civic community, the Vincentian community or the environment will find its way onto that land." The Vicentians know of no other Catholic order that has become a social-justice oriented land developer and co-owner. If it's successful, Joyce said, the project may become a model for other orders with large tracts of unneeded land. There will be no casinos, landfills or operations that pollute or that pay "wretched wages" Hartenbach said. Instead, the order will seek as partners companies that are concerned about social justice. …

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