Monday, Apr 24, 2017
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Opinion

COMMENTARY

Kroger sale is best for Sisters of Notre Dame and the Toledo community

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Quietly and with little fanfare, the Sisters of Notre Dame have provided high-quality education in Toledo since 1877. We have served poor and disenfranchised people in northwest Ohio, just as many other religious communities of women elsewhere have done for centuries.

We began teaching the children of German immigrants at St. Mary’s School and Parish on Page Street in Toledo. By 1889, the Sisters of Notre Dame were also teaching at Sacred Heart in East Toledo. The original Notre Dame Academy was established at Bancroft and Monroe streets in 1904.

Over the years, the Sisters of Notre Dame have seen a lot of change in Toledo as it grows and develops — not unlike the changes in religious life and our own religious community. Like the city, we must find a balance between what is good for the Sisters of Notre Dame and for the larger community of Toledo in which we live and serve.

Lengthy discernment and prayer led us to the realization that to sustain ourselves as a religious community, and to continue our mission and future ministries, we must find a way to ease the drain on our resources. It costs the Sisters of Notre Dame nearly $500,000 a year for upkeep and maintenance of our buildings and property at Secor Road and Monroe Street in West Toledo. Assessment of that fact led us to the conclusion: We need to downsize.

Like anyone else facing the reality of downsizing to serve the greater good — whether a business, a city, or a family in change — we looked for areas that are no longer needed or used. Our Provincial Center campus became an obvious area of focus, with its energy-inefficient buildings and expensive capital items that need repair or replacement, such as boilers, elevators, and roofs.

We no longer need our huge Provincial Center building; only 50 of our 183 sisters now live in the 105,000-square-foot building. Another reality is that 54 per cent of our sisters are 70 years old or older. Increasing age brings increasing needs, and the cost of caring for our sisters is a concern that requires sound financial stewardship.

The Sisters of Notre Dame have been, and will continue to be, good stewards of our property. In the past, we have sold parcels of property to support area progress, when I-475 was built and again when Sunforest Court was developed. Now, almost 100 years after we purchased this property, we acknowledge the commercial and retail world that surrounds us as we seek solutions to our changing needs.

In 2012, the Sisters invited business leaders representing local universities, major Toledo-area health systems, public agencies, banks, the Diocese of Toledo, and other institutions to a forum to discuss the sale of the property and possible uses. After the property spent more than two years on the market, we have chosen to sell 18 of our 42 acres on Monroe Street and Secor Road to Kroger Co.

Kroger’s offer represents fair market value. It comes with high regard for the rights and safety of our sponsored schools, Notre Dame Academy and Maria Early Learning Center. It includes an agreement to include landscaping and fencing in Kroger’s site plan, providing privacy for neighboring students.

We have listened to people in the larger community voice concerns about this sale, and we want you to know that we have heard you. We have addressed these concerns to the best of our ability. We believe it is now time to move on, so that the Sisters of Notre Dame can continue to carry out our mission of serving God and His people.

We remain committed to, and focused on, educating young women and children, and on serving people who live on the margins of society, in northwest Ohio and beyond. Our focus is one that Kroger supports, by providing a store that will better serve the needs of the community in a location that will accommodate a loyal and diverse population of West Toledo shoppers.

Sister Mary Delores Gatliff is provincial superior of the Toledo Sisters of Notre Dame.

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