The 130-year-old St. Agnes Catholic Church and related buildings appear headed for the same fate as a few other Omaha parishes in the past few years: The campus at 23rd and Q Streets has been sold to a developer who expects to replace it with rental housing.
The Rev. Carl Zoucha said the religious structures had deteriorated to the point of no feasible repair.
It’s been nearly two years since regularly scheduled Sunday Masses were celebrated at the church, and months since the former elementary school was used for religious education. While families were sad to let go of that history, Zoucha said they generally accepted that the church’s “time had come.”
“There was a thankfulness for the life of the parish, a sadness it had come to this point, but also an understanding that this was the most proper direction to go,” said Zoucha, who also presides over Our Lady of Guadalupe and Assumption Churches, which previously merged to form Assumption-Guadalupe.
The three neighboring South Omaha campuses for years shared activities and personnel. Although St. Agnes was the largest of the three churches, Zoucha said, it was landlocked and had the least parking.
The parish sat on nearly an acre. In its early days, historically Irish churchgoers walked to services. St. Agnes eventually became home to a congregation of mixed ethnicity and later to the growing Latino population.
Last week, the Omaha Archdiocese sold the campus, including the school, convent and rectory, to Omaha-based Foundations Development. Patrick Regan of Investors Realty represented the archdiocese and said it declined to give the purchase price.
Foundations’ Rob Woodling said he envisions housing but said it was too early to say what specifically might be built, or when.
Woodling’s company has a record of transforming properties east of 72nd Street into apartments. In 2014, for instance, it replaced the former St. Ann Catholic parish at 24th Street and Poppleton Avenue with family-style affordable apartments.
In 2016, it bought St. Patrick parish at 14th and Castelar Streets. The church, built in 1910, was razed along with the rectory and gym. The school building is to be renovated as part of a proposed apartment complex for low- to moderate-income families and independent senior citizens. Woodling said he is still working to obtain funding.
As was the case with other properties, iconic pieces at St. Agnes were saved or sold to other churches.
The statue of the patron saint now is housed at Our Lady of Guadalupe. The Sacred Heart of Jesus statue is at Assumption.
Zoucha said archdiocese officials joined with the parish council in the recommendation to sell. He expects the church to be demolished and said the agreement with Woodling is that the site would not be used for a purpose contrary to Catholic “sensibilities.”
Families earlier were invited to the campus to share stories.
“There were no harsh feelings, no blame,” Zoucha said. “There was a fondness for the memories and an acceptance of the reality that the time had come.”