LAKE CHARLES – In a move that fulfills a long-term goal to create a centralized administrative office, the Diocese of Lake Charles has announced the purchase of a new chancery building at 1201 Ryan Street in Lake Charles, the former site of the Safety Council of Southwest Louisiana.
“Since the diocese’s inception in 1980, every bishop has tried to consolidate our ministries to improve our ability to serve the faithful in Southwest Louisiana,” said the Most Reverend Glen John Provost, Bishop of Lake Charles. “This new chancery allows us to bring together 35 employees currently working from five different locations across the diocese, while also providing significant cost savings and new benefits to our churches and affiliated organizations.”
In addition to meeting the diocese’s long-term goal of a consolidated central office, officials cite cost savings, in particular, as one impetus for making the move now. Based on diocesan estimates, purchasing this building is cheaper than repairing and modifying existing administrative structures, which have remained in disrepair since the 2020 hurricanes. The purchase also represents a savings of 75 percent versus building new on the same sites.
Jacob Troutman, Director of Fiscal Affairs for the Diocese of Lake Charles, said, “The price of purchasing the new building comes in significantly lower than actually rebuilding. Even better, we anticipate financing it without the use of recovery funds meant for other needs throughout our diocese. That will enable those recovery efforts to continue – and in fact perhaps more quickly given our goal for more administrative efficiency in a central office.”
Martin G. DeRouen, a member of the Diocesan Finance Council, had some thoughts on the recovery of the diocese and its church parishes as it related to the consolidation of diocesan offices in one building saying, “Very much like the individual church parishes have experienced, the diocese’s own property damages were a significant loss and a setback to diocese operations. While recovering from the storms is an ongoing financial challenge with no easy decisions, it’s imperative to make progress and move forward wherever individual opportunities present themselves. This former Safety Council property to serve as the Chancery, given the package of price, location, layout, visibility and “storm performance” was just such an opportunity.”
The new building features approximately 19,000 square feet of usable space – more than triple the amount available at the diocese’s current administrative buildings combined. In addition to consolidating administrative functions and the associated efficiencies the diocese can achieve, the new chancery will also feature physical spaces to help meet the needs of countless diocesan stakeholders. The new collaborative spaces, including those suitable for meetings, trainings and more, will be available to diocesan organizations like schools and churches.
C. Gayle Zembower, a retired architect and current member of the diocesan building commission who oversaw architectural work of the construction of Saint Charles Center, found the possibility of the diocese obtaining the building, “a great deal.” On a walkthrough with Bishop Provost and others, Zembower said he felt that there would be a minimal amount of work to be done to bring it up to the needs of the diocese. “There are meeting rooms on either side of the building with adequate parking and good concrete. It has a standard seam roof and the lighting, electrical, and air conditioning all were adequate. It is a great match and a great deal financially. The building couldn’t be reproduced for the purchase price,” Zembower said.
The diocese has no plans to abandon its buildings – the former Chancery at 414 Iris Street and the Bishop Harold Perry Building located at 411 Iris Street in Lake Charles. The diocese notes that they have already fielded some interest in potentially selling or leasing these spaces. The diocesan faithful are invited to submit input regarding the future of these buildings at the link provided below.
“This move did not come without much prayer and discernment,” said the Very Reverend Ruben Buller, Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia for the Diocese. “Our due diligence included a three-month inspection period, along with our own assurances that vital activities – like ongoing hurricane repairs across the diocese – will go uninterrupted. We look forward to improving our operations to serve Southwest Louisiana even better.”
Ribbeck Construction Company and its owner, Edward M. “Buzzy” Ribbeck were brought in to do some those inspections.
“I was informed that the Diocese of Lake Charles was considering the purchase of the Safety Council Building located at the southeast corner of Ryan and Clarence streets and asked by the Diocese to inspect the roof and provide a report of opinion on the condition,” Ribbeck said. “We obtained the original plans (of the building) to study, made inspections of the roof, walls, and attic. Based on the fact that this building has weathered three hurricanes and is still in great condition says a lot. Though very minimal damage occurred, the roof, attic and walls are in great shape.
“Based on sales price, size, quality, and location, this is a blessing for the Diocese and will allow the Diocese to be much more efficient allowing all entities under the Diocesan umbrella to work under the same roof and be centrally located,” Ribbeck continued. “This size building and the parking could not be constructed today along with the price of land for anywhere close to the purchase price."
Effective July 1, 2023, the following diocesan offices will relocate to the new chancery on Ryan Street: Administration; the Office of Catholic Schools; Tribunal; Offices of Marriage, Family and Pro-Life; Communications; Religious Education and Evangelization; Fiscal Services; Vocations; Archives; Child and Youth Protection and Safe Environment; Human Resources; Clergy Immigration; Recovery; and Development.
Read The Bishop's Letter (PDF)
The Diocese of Lake Charles has set up an informational hub on its website about the new chancery building. Click Here for More Information.