-- Catholic News Agency
Philadelphia Archdiocese Auctions Priests' Vacation Villa
PHILADELPHIA, PA., September 19 (CNA/EWTN News) .- The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has sold at auction a South Jersey shore vacation villa for elderly priests at a price of $4.5 million, continuing its efforts to meet a major budget shortfall.
"An auction like this is certainly a new experience of the archdiocese," Donna Farrell, the director of communications for the archdiocese, told CNA Sept. 19. "We went in this direction because the villa is such a unique property."
The Villa Saint Joseph by the Sea, located in Ventnor, N.J. minutes from Atlantic City, was built in 1905. The 9,800-square-foot mansion is on a half-acre property with 17 feet of beach. It has 11 bedrooms, each with its own private bath.
Since 1963, it has served as a summer vacation home for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's retired priests.
The villa was assessed at $6.2 million. The property was auctioned off Sept. 15 at an event conducted by the Max Spann Real Estate & Auction Co.
Max Spann, the president and CEO of the real estate firm, said Sept. 15 that the auction was the "quickest and most efficient way" to sell the unique villa.
Steve and Ilene Berger of Newtown Square, Pa. placed the final bid. They told the Philadelphia Inquirer they plan to use the villa as a family vacation for their children and grandchildren. They will retain the property's caretaker and hold an annual party for the priests who used to vacation at the villa.
Farrell said the archdiocese is "very pleased" with the auction and wishes the Bergers "many years of happiness in the home."
She said it is "such a lovely and generous offer" to hold an annual party for the priests.
The archdiocese faces an operating deficit of at least $6 million for the fiscal year beginning in July 2012. Legal costs for sex abuse cases could run over $11 million.
Other properties up for sale include the Archbishop of Philadelphia's residence.
St. Joseph's University has signed a letter of intent to buy the residence and its 8.9-acre property at an expected cost of $10 million. The property adjoins the university's 48-acre Philadelphia campus.
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia said Aug. 13 that selling the properties will help the archdiocese ensure "long term financial stability" and position itself for further growth.
"It will also allow us to remain committed to the services and support we provide to the faithful as well as the broader community," he added.
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