“The beauty of wealth consists not in the possession of money-bags, but in the maintenance of the poor. It is in the sick and needy that riches shine most.
Wherefore let the wealthy learn to seek not their own things, but the things of Jesus Christ, that Christ also may seek them, and recompense to them what is their own..”
St. Ambrose of Milan
On April 28-30, 2022, GICM and the Fitzgerald Institute for Real Estate at the University of Notre Dame co-hosted the first ever conference focusing on the Church’s real estate properties, looking at the challenges these properties face and exploring new ways to utilize them to help the Church continue in her salvific mission.
With an estimated 177 million acres of land worldwide (about twice the area of Arizona and bigger than the country of France), the Catholic Church is the largest non-governmental landowner in the world. This has led many to criticize the Church as “too rich,” a criticism that is unfortunately carried on by the incompetence and/or corruption of many working for and with the Church.
Largest Landowner... and Largest Provider of Healthcare and Education Worldwide
But this criticism overlooks the fact that the Church, as the largest non-governmental landowner in the world, utilizes her assets for the good of humanity and to further her salvific mission. For example, the Church is also the largest non-government provider of health care services in the world. With around 18,000 clinics, 16,000 homes for the elderly and those with special needs, and 5,500 hospitals (65 percent of of these are located in developing countries), it comprises over a quarter of the world’s hospitals. Another example is education. Catholic schools serve 62.2 million students globally at the preschool, primary, and secondary levels (oiec 2020 report).
Church properties are an essential part of her ministry and a necessary asset for her salvific mission. Without a physical place, all these ministries would not exist. From school to hospitals, old-age homes to abbeys… the Church has a rich history of using her portfolio for the good of others.
Finding Solutions to the Real Estate Challenges
Unfortunately, the Catholic Church has been struggling to maintain and utilize her vast portfolio in some areas while in other locations it has seen a growth that it cannot keep up with. As the demographics shift, and the socio-economic realities of the world change, the Church needs leaders who will not be afraid to look at these challenges, understand the importance of both zeal and proper training and answer the challenge to reimagine Church properties for the continuation of her salvific mission well into the future.
The Real estate & the New Evangelization conference hosted numerous experts in the field who are currently working on the ground to reimagine and revitalize Church properties in a way that better serves our apostolic and evangelical needs, while providing much-needed revenue for the Church and in support of their critical ministries. By sharing their expertise with participants, our 3 day conference tackled many of these issues and proposed new ways to continue managing the church’s assets for the greater good and the continuation of her salvific mission.