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Auction website safeguards transfer of chalices, other sacred articles

Making and selling religious items at the company founded by his grandfather and great-grandfather, Tom Koley began forming an idea more than 20 years ago that recently came to fruition – an online auction site for used religious goods that safeguards the transfer of sacred articles for the Eucharist, such as chalices.

"I want to keep sacred articles … sacred," said Koley, owner of Koleys Inc. and a member of St. Thomas More Parish, both in Omaha.

The site is CatholicAuctions.com. The general public can buy and sell many items of religious art from the website, such as stained glass windows, crosses and crucifixes, medals and rosaries.

People also will find items used to distribute Jesus’ body and blood in the Eucharist. But only priests and deacons can purchase those items – after being carefully vetted by CatholicAuctions.com, run by Koley’s daughter, Nikki Koley.

And that’s the primary focus and goal of the website – to protect blessed, sacred articles by keeping them within the Catholic community, Koley said.

It’s a service not found on general sales sites such as eBay, he said.

Deacon Steve Luna, director of pastoral planning for the Archdiocese of Omaha, said he has recommended the site to pastors, in large part because it guarantees proper handling of sacred items. He has not promoted other websites because they do not offer the same protection.

"They didn’t have a Catholic focus," he said. "This one does."

So a priest with an extra chalice in the Omaha archdiocese, or Texas, or anywhere else in the country, can register that item and know that anyone contacting him through CatholicAuctions.com will respect its sacred character and keep it in the Catholic Church, Koley said.

The idea began forming as Koleys Inc. took in items from churches that were closing. A priority became proper handling of sacred articles, Koley said.

The need became more pronounced for Koley about a dozen years ago, when he was dismayed to see a chalice being sold from a card table at a flea market in Italy, he said.

"I said, ‘this needs to stay in the Catholic Church,’" Koley said. "How can I be the gatekeeper?"

Finally, the timing, finances and personnel were right – and CatholicAuctions.com became available on the Internet in July. Most of the advertising for the site will be word of mouth and remain within the archdiocese as the auction site works out any difficulties or complications, Koley said. Broader use of the site could be encouraged in the future, he said.

A subsidiary of the Cosgrave Company in Omaha, owned by Koley’s wife, Kathy, the website includes $5 registration and $2 listing fees and a fee of 15 percent of whatever is sold online.

But it isn’t a profit-making model, Koley said. That money will go toward the cost of keeping the site going – and making certain sacred items are sold only to priests and deacons, Koley said.

"It’s the right thing to do," he said.

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