The following comes from an April 22 Orange County Register article by Deepa Bharath:
Faced with major cost overruns in renovating the Christ Cathedral sanctuary, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange has moved to rein in the project’s construction expenses and streamline operations at the sprawling campus, church officials said this week.
The diocese bought the 34-acre campus for $57 million in 2012 after its former owner, the Rev. Robert H. Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral Ministries, filed for bankruptcy.
Since acquiring the property, however, the diocese has suffered growing pains – including spending millions of dollars to repair and renovate existing buildings on the property, managing increased operational costs and handling the task of renovating an iconic Orange County building that attracts visitors from all over the world.
Some have suggested that Bishop Kevin Vann borrow from local parish programs, schools and priests’ retirement funds to get the cathedral built. But that proposed reallocation of money raised concern among Orange County Catholic families who collectively shelled out tens of millions of dollars in the massive fundraising campaign to benefit the diocese.
“Despite the desires of some to have a shiny, almost new cathedral ready for worship as soon as possible with a ‘damn the cost’ mentality, the same folk are now learning that most people (you and me out here in the trenches) are fine with less … especially if it keeps everything within budget,” said Father Fred Bailey, pastor of Santa Clara de Asis in Yorba Linda.
The burgeoning cost of renovating the cathedral has spread concern around the diocese, which is home to about 62 individual parishes or neighborhood churches.
“The local parish is where Catholic life thrives,” said Father Bailey, who is a member of a new board overseeing the renovation project. “This is where weddings, baptisms and funerals take place.”
Bailey says he does not want to see renovation efforts take precedence over needs of local parishes and programs.
His congregation “reacted with shock and dismay” when they heard about the underestimation of funds needed, renovation getting out of hand and the bishop having to shoot down requests to borrow from individual parish coffers and from pension and retirement funds set aside for priests.
In an April 10 newsletter to his parish, Bailey expressed shock that the diocese had not based initial renovation costs on “serious study or professional recommendations, but on quick guesses … which were grossly wrong.”
“Like, millions and millions of dollars wrong,” Bailey wrote.
Bailey added he is comforted by Vann’s leadership and efforts to rein in costs.
“It is slowly coming under control,” he said. “And that’s the good news.”