“The number of those who do not know Christ and do not belong to the Church is constantly on the increase. Indeed, since the end of the Council it has almost doubled. When we consider this immense portion of humanity which is loved by the Father and for whom He sent His Son, the urgency of the Church’s mission is obvious.
On the other hand, our own times offer the Church new opportunities in this field: we have witnessed the collapse of oppressive ideologies and political systems; the opening of frontiers and the formation of a more united world due to an increase in communications; the affirmation among peoples of the Gospel values which Jesus made incarnate in His own life (peace, justice, brotherhood, concern for the needy); and a kind of soulless economic and technical development which only stimulates the search for the truth about God, about man and about the meaning of life itself.
God is opening before the Church the horizons of a humanity more fully prepared for the sowing of the Gospel. I sense that the moment has come to commit all of the Church’s energies to a New Evangelization and to the mission ad gentes. No believer in Christ, no institution of the Church can avoid this supreme duty: to proclaim Christ to all peoples.”
St. John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio
The Church's Mission: The New Evangelization
In his encyclical Redemptoris Missio, St. John Paul II explores the Church’s mandate to evangelize and bring the Gospel to all nations. This mission is the New Evangelization; an evangelization ever ancient yet ever new, bringing the Gospel to the world and to people within their temporal reality.
This need to evangelize must also encompass the Church’s real estate. The Church and all Catholics are called to be good stewards of the earth, and this includes real, physical property. All of God’s gifts, including the very land itself, must be used to further the Church’s apostolic and evangelizing mission.
Property and the New Evangelization
The Church is the largest landowner in the world, with a diverse portfolio that spans all seven continents. The Church’s properties range from barren land to farms, churches, hospitals, schools, old age homes and orphanages. As the largest landowner in the world, the Church is obliged to be a good steward of her assets, not just because of the financial implications, but, more importantly, for the common good and the salvation of souls.
Unfortunately, many view property as a liability. This is because ever-changing geo-political realities, the seemingly increasing number of scandals, general misuse and bad deals make owning property a risk. But in reality we should not be afraid of this asset. Furthermore, the Catholic Church has the obligation to maintain her real estate and use it for good, thereby cementing it firmly as a valuable asset and a legacy for future generations.
“We are stewards, not masters of our earth. Each of us has a personal responsibility to care
for the precious gift of God’s creation.” Pope Francis, 2016
Pope Francis encourages us to be good stewards of the land. If we allow the Holy Spirit to work in us, we can activate and transform Church real estate into an asset that will advance the Church’s mission, not just financially, but also spiritually, as a social and spiritual asset that promotes the New Evangelization.
Effective Management To Leverage Real Estate
The Catholic Church’s tremendous real estate holdings present an opportunity. Taking advantage of it, though, requires expertise, learning from a wide range of disciplines and following management best practices. If the Church can leverage all three of these, her real estate will assist in her salvific mission, advance her apostolic vocation and promote the common good.
Fortunately, organizations dedicated to helping the Church in these fields already exist. Initiatives like the Church Properties Initiative at the Fitzgerald Institute for Real Estate (Notre Dame University) and the Global Institute of Church Management both seek to give Church leaders the necessary knowledge and tools to create actionable plans that will benefit the Church. Groups like these are necessary for putting Church real estate to use for the New Evangelization and making the most out of these assets.
Following best practices to eliminate corruption and developing creative ways to use Church property will create new ways to put the New Evangelization into action. This will benefit the Church’s mission and her financial capacity. It will also ensure that those assets are gifts kept for future generations.
Interested in a more thorough look at the significance of Church property? Watch as Prof. Dan Kelly (Notre Dame University) expands on this subject at our 2022 Real Estate and the New Evangelization conference.
Want to learn more about asset management and innovative uses of real estate? Watch some of our videos below!