.- The Legionaries of Christ have announced plans to sell their Thornwood property in Westchester County, New York, citing financial strain and fallout from revelations about the late Father Marcial Maciel.
“The scandal involving our founder has been a great shock to us all, shaking our trust and raising doubts in many hearts. We are working hard to regain the trust of our friends – and of one another,” explained Father Luis Garza, L.C., director of the order's North American territory, in an April 2 letter.
In his message to the Legion and its affiliate Regnum Christi, Fr. Garza announced the sale of the property that had been used for priestly formation since 1996. He noted that the global recession of the past several years had “also affected many of our benefactors.”
“As a consequence of our difficulties, we have also experienced a decrease in vocations to the Legion and to the consecrated life,” he acknowledged.
“Although God continues to call men and women to follow him in the Legion and consecrated life in Regnum Christi, there are fewer in these last few years than in previous ones.”
A group of 72 Legionary brothers, currently studying philosophy at the Thornwood location, will transfer to the order's seminary in Rome during the fall of 2012. The Legion plans to continue using the property until it is sold and transferred to its new owner.
The 265-acre site is also home to 21 other Legionaries and five consecrated men. It was acquired during a period of expansion in the mid-1990s, along with a retreat center in Mount Kisco, New York. That property, initially planned as a seminary or women's center, was offered for sale in 2011.
“Having analyzed our current situation,” Fr. Garza noted in his letter, “we have seen that perhaps in past years because of our growth rate we may have overestimated our needs and currently have more facilities than our actual presence in North America requires or can support.”
On a worldwide level, the Legionaries of Christ are revising their constitutions and statutes following a Vatican-decreed apostolic visitation. The congregation was asked to reconsider its charism and structures after revelations about the double-life and crimes of its founder, Fr. Marcial Maciel.
According to Fr. Garza, the Legion and Regnum Christi “are faithfully working through a deeply purifying period of renewal.”
“With the help of experts appointed by the Vatican, all members are discussing the documents that will guide our religious and consecrated lives going forward,” he said in his April 2 letter.
He said the sale of the Thornwood property was necessary to deal with “the practical consequences of our current situation,” describing it as “a difficult decision but hopefully the right one.”