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Catholic Charities, Omaha parish agree on plan for building sale

Catholic Charities is selling a building to St. Frances Cabrini Parish in Omaha that once held a summer camp, after-school program and swimming pool – continuing Catholic ownership of property in an area near downtown that is seeing a resurgence in residential and retail development.

"There’s a lot of potential for the neighborhood and I think the parish is sharing in some of that energy," said Father Damien Zuerlein, pastor.

Part of that energy will be heard as well as seen in the neighborhood known as Little Italy. St. Frances Cabrini is restoring the nearly 150-year-old church bells in its bell tower that fell silent in the 1980s, when the church’s foundation shifted after a water main break and the movement damaged one of the bell mounts.

With parishioners and members of the community helping to raise $10,000 and a $10,000 donation from a local foundation, the parish has all but paid for the estimated $22,000 in repairs, Father Zuerlein said. Work on the bells could be completed this summer.

To help buy the Catholic Charities property, called Christ Child Main, the parish is using part of the money from the sale of nearby St. Patrick Church, which was sold to a developer of low-income housing after that parish merged with St. Frances Cabrini in 2014.

Christ Child Main will be used for office space, and may be used for the preschool and kindergarten, and before- and after-school programs now located across the street in All Saints School, Father Zuerlein said.

Parish offices could begin moving into the building this summer, he said.

At some point, the pool will be removed and replaced, perhaps by a multi-purpose facility for dinners, receptions and other gatherings, he said.

The building also could be used by the wider community, such as the neighborhood association, Father Zuerlein said.

The Christ Child building was closed last August, after its last summer camp, because Catholic Charities had lost funding that helped keep it and the other programs going, said John Griffith, executive director of Catholic Charities.

The after-school program shifted to All Saints School, and part of the Christ Child building has been used for storage by a nonprofit group called the Christ Child Society, which had owned the building and ran programs for low-income youth before joining forces with Catholic Charities in 2008, Griffith said.

Ownership by St. Frances Cabrini Parish will help honor the legacy of Christ Child Society’s assistance to low-income families, Griffith and Father Zuerlein said.

"We’re pleased to be able to work with the parish," Griffith said. "We know it’s important to Christ Child Society and the neighborhood."

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