Saturday, April 12, 2014
Angry about archbishop's pricey retirement home, parishioners to deliver 17,000 signatures Sunday
Mark Mueller The Star-Ledger April 12, 2014 Bearing a petition with more than 17,000 signatures, members of a national Christian group and parishioners from across northern New Jersey will gather in Newark Sunday to demand that Archbishop John J. Myers sell the expansive Hunterdon County home where he plans to retire. Members of the group, Faithful America, contend Myers should follow the example of Atlanta’s archbishop, Wilton Gregory, who recently apologized to parishioners for using church funds to build a 6,100-square-foot, $2.2 million residence in an exclusive neighborhood. Gregory announced earlier this week he would sell the home, with the proceeds going toward "the needs of the Catholic community." In Newark, the parishioners will seek to hand the petition to Myers after the noon Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart on Ridge Street. Myers is scheduled to say the Mass, his spokesman, Jim Goodness, confirmed Friday. "Pope Francis has called for a church that is of the poor and for the poor, and even other bishops have responded to that," said Michael Sherrard, Faithful America’s executive director. "Archbishop Myers seems not to have gotten the memo." Faithful America, headquartered in Washington D.C., has a nationwide membership of 280,000, Sherrard said. The group’s mission is to "advance Christianity as a cause for common good," he said. Myers has come under sharp criticism since The Star-Ledger disclosed in February he was building a 3,000-square-foot addition on the 4,500-square-foot home he has used as a weekend retreat. The original structure, situated on 8.2 acres in Franklin Township, has five bedrooms, three bathrooms, a three-car garage and an elevator. A large outdoor pool lies out back. The archdiocese bought the home for $700,000 in 2002, a year after Myers arrived in Newark. The property is now valued at nearly $800,000 records show. The three-story addition, already well underway, will cost a minimum of $500,000, not including design fees and furnishings, according to documents and blueprints in the local planning office. The new wing will contain an office with an attached library, an additional bedroom with a sitting area, an indoor exercise pool, a Whirlpool tub, three fireplaces and a second elevator. The entire third floor is identified on blueprints as a gallery. Goodness, the spokesman, said the construction is being funded through the sale of other properties and through a small number of private donations. The recent criticism over the addition has not changed the archbishop’s plan to move into the residence full time when he retires in 2016, Goodness said. He added that the archdiocese’s finance council, a lay panel that assists the archbishop on financial issues, discussed the home with Myers at a regular meeting recently and found no fault with the expansion. "The end result was, ‘This makes sense. It’s appropriate,’" Goodness said. "They were very supportive of it."