Monday, October 25, 2010

Finally: JP Center Sells... To the Sisters

Capping years of drama over the future of Washington's Pope John Paul II Cultural Center, late tonight the Michigan-based Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, announced that they had inked an agreement to buy the property for use as a house of studies.

Opened in 2000 as a tribute to the late pontiff with the hopes of amplifying his teaching and witness, the facility -- built at a cost of $75 million -- has endured difficulties practically since its launch; visions of the center's success as a museum and gathering place quickly proved unfounded, and the project's enduring insolvency left its principal funding source, the archdiocese of Detroit, some $40 million in debt due to unpaid loans for its construction.

The center's realization was the legacy project of the Motor City's now-retired archbishop, Cardinal Adam Maida; Pope Benedict addressed the nation's interfaith community there on his 2008 visit, and before and since, its most prominent purpose has been as the Washington studios of EWTN.

While several prospective suitors have emerged over the years for the property adjacent to the Catholic University of America -- most prominently the "bishops' academy" itself, not to mention Notre Dame -- provided the deal goes through, the building will belong to one of the nation's fastest-growing religious communities.

Founded in 1997 with four sisters led by the former superior of the likewise-booming Nashville Dominicans, Mother Assumpta Long, the community's grown to over a hundred; today, the Ann Arbor-based order -- geared toward the charism of education -- boasts an average age of 26, welcomed over 20 postulants this fall, recently received the first vows of eight novices, and earlier this year, a group of the sisters made a widely-noted appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show.

Among other splashes, the move would create a Dominican double-threat on the CUA campus, long home to the much-celebrated friars of the Dominican House of Studies, their province likewise breaking modern records of entrants.

In a statement on the move, Mother Assumpta said that "We believe that the ultimate acquisition of this building... represents an opportunity that is aligned with the visions of our community, Pope John Paul II and the archdiocese of Detroit. It is a wonderful way to build upon the intention of the Center to bring the message of His Holiness to contemporary culture and promote vocations, and it provides yet another connection to his influence in our community and the incredibly generous donors to all these venerable institutions."

Alongside their announcement, the Sisters have released a promotional video on the move: