CHICAGO (CBS) — A Northwest Side parish is the first in Chicago that’s moving to renovate an unused convent into apartments for seniors.
In this Original Report, CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley shows us a project that could be replicated throughout the archdiocese.
At St. Cornelius, Fr. Dan Fallon calls the empty convent, a house of horrors.
“We had a leaking roof, we had plumbing issues, we had electrical issues, we had heating issues,” he said.
Empty since the 1980’s, the crumbling building used mostly for meetings, as a food pantry and all kinds of storage.
“When things aren’t being used, they kind of much wither on the vine,” Fr. Fallon said.
But non-profit developers Tom Smith and Mike Reschke have a different vision.
“We’re two Catholic guys that said there’s vacant convents all over Chicagoland, there’s an aging population all over Chicagoland, how do we put these two pieces together?” Smith said.
They plan to renovate the bare-bones bedrooms.
“You’d have your sink, you’d have your closet,you’d have your bed, a little desk, a little chair, period,” said Fr. Fallon. “Sisters lived very simply.”
But new residents will live luxuriously: small rooms combined into comfortable suites. The old dining area transformed into something modern and the old kitchen renovated for communal food prep, and a gleaming, cozy new gathering space.
“This is a pilot program,” Smith said. “This is new for everyone.”
But they’ve already scouted dozens more empty convents, like Our Lady of Victory.
“It’s been in and out of use, but now it’s to the point where it’s empty and needs repair,” said pastoral associate Mary Beth Frystak.
A need shared at parishes across Chicagoland.
“It would be a real blessing on so many different levels,” said Fr. Fallon.
Renovation at St. Cornelius will begin after nine residents sign leases. Rent will be about 1,200 a month, with additional charges for things like grocery shopping and meals.
The developers have already toured 135 convents in similar condition across the archdiocese, so if it works at St. Cornelius, it could be a solution for many other parishes as well. They are pouring $1.7 million into the project.