Act for Your Faith
An Open Letter from Bishop David Malloy
April 29, 2019
I write today to ask the people of this diocese to join me in asking the members of the Rockford City Council to vote to deny the petitions filed by the Friends of Ziock to landmark the former chancery, former convent and the Cathedral of St. Peter School, all located on the Cathedral of St. Peter campus in Rockford.
 
Because the Cathedral of St. Peter School is still in use by its kindergarten through eighth-grade students there is no current plan other than to finish the school year. Both the former convent and chancery have been vacant for many years. 
 
Potential uses for these buildings have been discussed repeatedly over the years. According to laws and procedures of the Church, possible uses and decisions about these properties have been discussed with the appropriate commissions. The Cathedral of St. Peter pastoral and finance councils voted to raze the former convent after being cited for four code violations by the City of Rockford. The parish determined that the cost to repair and continually maintain a building that has outlived its usefulness was a financial burden to the parish. 
 
The Diocese of Rockford came to the same determination about the former chancery. And so, to minimize the disruption caused by demolition and to save costs, it was decided by the diocesan finance and presbyteral councils to raze the chancery at the same time. 
 
To fulfill requests to beautify the campus in accord with our religious faith, we commissioned plans for the old chancery space that would include prayer gardens and a grotto honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary under her title of the Immaculate Conception who is patroness both to the Diocese of Rockford and the United States. Another prayer garden honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe would also be constructed in place of the former convent. In addition, up to 24 parking stalls would be added. 
 
These public prayer spaces would extend the public expression of our faith both to the Cathedral parishioners and all who visit the Cathedral from all 11 counties that make up our diocese. These beautiful renovations would enhance the neighborhood far more than vacant buildings for which we have no ministerial use and which we cannot afford to maintain.
 
Those who oppose our plan to raze these unused, decaying and costly buildings have suggested they be allowed to develop them for commercial or public residential use. This of course would require the diocese and the Cathedral parish to sell or lease the campus land not to mention the buildings. The breaking up of the cathedral campus would not fulfill the mission of the Church which rightfully and lawfully has owned the property since the turn of the 20th century … long before the petitioners were even born. And landmarking the buildings would thwart our plan to create an outdoor grotto and prayer garden to exercise the faith and would impede future use by the Diocese of Rockford and the Cathedral of St. Peter, which is the spiritual center of our diocese and spiritual seat of the Bishop of Rockford. 
 
Some have criticized us for wanting to use our land for parking for the Cathedral parish but this is a need for our parishioners and our guests as we saw last week during Holy Week. Selling off part or all of the Cathedral campus would certainly not address this need. In fact, it would hinder the access and decimate any future plan for the Cathedral parish.
 
Most importantly, the buildings are old, but they are not historic. They were used by the diocese and its offices but they are not churches and they are not sacred spaces. 
 
However, landmarking the buildings requires that we preserve them, and denies our right to determine the best use of our buildings and property as we have since the diocese was established. We believe the footprint of these old buildings will be filled with many hours of sacred prayer and religious celebration. 
 
So I ask the people of all 11 counties of this diocese to join me in asking the Rockford City Council to deny the petition for landmark status, thereby allowing the Church to continue to use its land and buildings to further the faith now and in the generations to come as it has in generations past.
 
I invite you all to contact the members of the City Council before May 6 at rockfordil.gov/city-council. I also invite as many as are able to attend the next meeting of the full Rockford City Council set for May 6 at 5:30 p.m., at City Hall, 425 E. State St. in Rockford.