Nuns will have to bless Cardinal Stritch campus

Jan. 28, 2009

Final approval to construct a Cardinal Stritch University campus at the Cousins Center and athletic fields on the We Energies property must be blessed by three Roman Catholic nuns before plans become a reality.

“There are certain decisions that have to come to the sisters,” said Sister Joanne Schatzlein, director of the office of corporate ministries for Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi.

Cardinal Stritch University is one of the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi’s corporate ministries.

If the St. Francis Common Council passes a rezoning request to accommodate a $150 million campus, a deal to purchase the property must first be authorized by Cardinal Stritch’s board of trustees.

A resolution to purchase the land would then be sent to the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi’s Administrative Team, which has authority over property transactions, said Sister Florence Deacon, director of the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi.

The three nuns who make up the team will have final say on whether the deal is sealed.

Returning to their roots

So far, the proposal seems to be a step in the right direction in the eyes of the Franciscan sisters, Sister Deacon said. Not only would the university boost the local economy, but a campus at the Cousins Center and We Energies properties would be a migration back to the university’s roots, she said.

“The Marian Center and our motherhouse (Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi) was all Cardinal Stritch,” she said. “So they are really coming back.”

St. Ann Center, another of the nuns’ ministries, and the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi headquarters would border the campus.

Woods is sacred

If Cardinal Stritch occupies the proposed site in St. Francis, ensuring that Seminary Woods is protected would be a top priority, Sister Deacon said.

Sister Schatzlein said deceased priests and sisters from Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi are buried in a cemetery there, and members of the congregation are always walking through and keeping an eye on the woods.

“The woods have always been a sacred place for us,” she said.

Concerns expressed by environmental groups that ecosystems would be harmed if athletic fields were developed near the woods are “confusing” for the sisters, she said.

Sister Schatzlein said some people are defining the We Energies site as “prairie land.”

No longer smokestacks

But about 20 years ago there were four smokestacks across the street from the site near Lake Michigan, where We Energies burned coal for energy, Sister Deacon said.

“And now they are concerned that we would make a soccer field,” she said. “I mean, what’s wrong with this picture. A soccer field is a whole lot environmentally friendlier than the huge smokestacks that we used to have.”

Cardinal Stritch has been working with the state Department of Natural Resources to adequately address environmental concerns, she said.

City Building Inspector Craig Vretenar said all Stritch’s proposed structures lie at least 75 feet away from environmental corridors.

Plans for the We Energies site include athletic fields, a parking structure and a field house, according to plans from university officials.

The university would institute educational programs, enhancing care of the woods, Sister Schatzlein said.

“If there’s going to be a buyer for that property, what better group than a group that is committed that has a key value of environmental concern,” she said.

Chantel Balzell can be reached at (262) 446-6602.

NEXT STEP

WHAT: Public hearing on the Cardinal Stritch rezoning proposal, followed by Common Council discussion and possible action

WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 2

WHERE: St. Francis High School gymnasium, 4225 S. Lake Drive

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