The sale of St. Joseph’s Church in Laconia has been called off, after prospective buyers withdrew from the deal.
The Diocese of Manchester, the Catholic Church in New Hampshire, announced a new plan to preserve the church Monday. The plan is to divide the campus into three parcels: the John W. Busiel House, the old Holy Trinity School and St. Joseph’s church. The Diocese will then keep the church and sell the other two buildings.
The new option is in its early planning stages. The plan will need Planning Board approval for the subdivisions and interested buyers before ensuring the survival of the church.
Tom Bebbington, a spokesman for the Diocese of Manchester, says the motivation to sell St. Joseph’s comes from the Parish’s financial hardship and smaller clergy.
“They’ve been running fairly large annual deficits for the last several years,” said Bebbington. “The number of church-going Catholics has declined, the number of priests have declined.”
The Parish in Laconia also has two churches and the Church has been trying to consolidate the two campuses for the past several years.
“We end up owning and maintaining two buildings to serve one parish,” said Bebbington. “Financially, that doesn’t make much sense.”
The Rev. Marc Drouin, the Pastor of St. Andre Bessette Parish in Laconia, says the Church’s main priority, whether or not it maintains ownership, is to ensure the sacred integrity of the space.
“The ideal future for St. Joseph's would be to find an appropriate use for the building that would allow it to stay up,” said Drouin. “Inappropriate use would be anything completely contrary to the teachings of the Catholic faith.”
Since the sale was announced in May, a group of community members in Laconia have made active efforts to stop the planned demolition of the church.
Before yesterday’s announcement, the Diocese applied for a permit in June to demolish the building, which it has not yet rescinded.