The chairman of the board of trustees of the Serbian Orthodox Church of St. Nikola in Brookfield confirmed that the parish was interested in purchasing the campus of St. Barbara’s Church, including the church building, the parish hall, the school and the convent.
St. Barbara’s Church, 4008 Prairie Ave. in Brookfield, is one of the two places of worship of the Holy Guardian Angels Catholic Parish, which was established by the consolidation of St. Barbara and Ste. Louise de Marillac in 2019.
The school building and convent have been for sale for over a year, but there was no previous indication that the archdiocese would consider parting with the church and parish hall.
St. Nikola’s church board chairman, Tom Milutinovic, told the Landmark in a telephone interview on August 23 that the acquisition of St. Barbara’s properties was being considered, although he acknowledged that the idea was not universally popular among the faithful of St. Nikola Church.
“We are dealing with people’s emotions and desires, and there aren’t always logical decisions to be made,” Milutinovic said. âThat’s why the advice is there.
If the board of trustees of St. Nikola’s Church were able to come to an agreement on St. Barbara’s properties, the plan would be to sell their current land at the corner of Prairie and Shields avenues, which includes the church / existing room, parking, vacant land and four single-family homes.
A single-family home immediately south of the church on Prairie Avenue serves as the parish rectory. Three houses immediately south of the church property on Forest Avenue Houses are used to house ward assistant priests and those arriving in the United States from Serbia, providing temporary accommodation, Milutinovic said.
St. Nikola Church moved from Chicago to 4301 Prairie Ave. in Brookfield in 2010. The parish has since paid off the mortgage and over the past two years has been making plans to build a new Byzantine-style church in the southeast corner of the property. .
In April, the Brookfield Village Board of Trustees voted unanimously to approve the parish’s plans for a new building, but that plan has been put on hold as the board and pastor explore the possibility of purchase the properties of St. Barbara’s Church.
âSt. Barbara is perfect,â said Milutinovic. âThere is a gym, meeting rooms, a beautiful church, a school and a convent, where people can stay and we can help their families. “
Reverend Brian Kean, pastor of Holy Guardian Angels Parish, confirmed that representatives from St. Nikola Church had visited St. Barbara and expressed interest in purchasing the entire campus.
However, Kean said that to his knowledge there was no formal offer on the table and he was not aware of any ongoing negotiations. That said, all negotiations would be handled by the Archdiocese of Chicago’s real estate department, not the Holy Guardian Angels, although Kean said he would likely be made aware of any serious offers.
When asked if there was imminent action, Milutinovic said: “We would like something imminent, but with all the fuss, we don’t know which direction to go.”
The “turmoil” came to the fore last week in the form of an online petition among church members which, as of August 23, had collected 187 signatures after being published on August 17. The petition does not mention the potential purchase of St. Barbara’s Church, but does mention the possible sale of property that the parish already owns and where it currently holds services and other parish activities.
Entitled simply âSave Our Churchâ, the petition was created by a parishioner who refers to the fact that the church is debt free and that the village has already approved the construction of a new place of worship on this site.
âCurrently, the new parish priest and some members of the church board want to share this property and sell it,â the petition says. “Please sign this petition if you want to SAVE our CHURCH and stay in the current property!” “
Several of the petition’s signatories also made comments, with one particular sore point appearing to be the board not involving the larger parish in discussing possible options.
âI am signing this petition because important decisions such as buying / selling and relocating the church should be discussed with the largest group of members and parishioners,â one person commented. âThese actions are incredibly disrespectful and probably illegal in terms of decision making / execution by the board and the current priest. No transparency on funding, costs, responsibilities or strategy shared with the whole community. A real disappointment and a poor example of what is expected of church leaders.
It is not clear exactly how the purchase of the properties of St. Barbara’s Church would be financed, but Milutinovic indicated that part of the reason for the delay in building a new church is that they did not still been able to collect enough money.
âFinancially, we didn’t get the fundraising to go in any direction,â Milutinovic said.
Another reason for the delay, he said, is that not everyone is happy with the design of the new church.
“It was very difficult to get everyone involved,” said Milutinovic.
The online petition, which Milutinovic said should not have been published and contains “false information” implying that the church is in danger of closure, complicated matters. From her perspective, however, the properties of St. Barbara make the most sense in terms of parish growth.
âSt. Barbara is the future,â he said. “He has got everything.”