Ground Cleared for Campus Changes
Legal Barriers Hurdled, Demo Under Way at Old Chancery
Observer Staff
June 13, 2019
ROCKFORD—After months of meetings, petitions, protests and waiting for decisions, the former chancery and convent are being razed to make way for prayer gardens and parking at the Cathedral of St. Peter campus here.
Judge Donna Honzel ruled May 31 that a group calling themselves “Save Piety Hill” had no legal standing and therefore cannot claim property damages from demolition of the structures. 
Judge Honzel, after presenting a long list of supporting case law, dismissed both the lawsuit against the City of Rockford and the group’s request to seek a Temporary Restraining Order against razing the former chancery and convent buildings, both located on the Cathedral campus.
The Diocese of Rockford issued a written statement after the court hearing.
“The Diocese of Rockford is grateful the ruling upheld the property rights of the diocese to freely determine future and best use of its Cathedral of St. Peter campus property in accord with our religious mission,” the statement said. 
“As we have continually maintained, the Diocese of Rockford is not just one neighborhood and one city, but many over 11 counties in northern Illinois. Petitioners in this matter believe our buildings on the Cathedral campus should be turned over to a secular or commercial enterprise because it is their personal vision. We have made it clear that is not our vision, nor is it our mission.”
Demolition on the old chancery building began early June 1, stopping several hours before ordination ceremonies began across the street at the Cathedral of St. Peter. 
Some people from the neighborhood arrived to take photos, videos and to protest the work being done. In the early demolition, onlookers were able to see evidence of the original three-story brick house around which the former chancery was constructed in 1928. 
After the two buildings are razed and the property is properly graded, work will begin on the new prayer and meditation gardens. 
The main garden located in the footprint of the former chancery will be dedicated to Mary under her title of the Immaculate Conception, patroness of the Rockford Diocese and the United States. The garden will include a statue, walkways, seating and trees honoring each bishop serving the diocese since it was formed in 1908. 
The second garden will be located in the space of the former convent. That garden will be dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas, and will honor Hispanic Catholics who make up almost half of the diocesan Catholic population.
Installation of the prayer spaces and additional parking should be completed this summer. Plans for dedication ceremonies for the new gardens are also being made. 
Ideas and plans to use the former Cathedral of St. Peter School are also being discussed. Updates on the school will be published as they become available.