|A way of life now under assault|
Open Letter to the Mater Dolorosa Retreat Center
December 6, 2013
We understand that your Board of Directors is proposing to sell off a significant portion of Mater Dolorosa to a developer for purposes of a large 40 home housing project. Despite the fact that this decision impacts nearby residents, Catholics and non-Catholics who have enjoyed the peace and serenity Mater Dolorosa provides, open space, preservation and wildlife advocates as well as the wider Sierra Madre community, there has been no input from these various constituencies. In fact, we have been unable to find the names of the Board of Directors who will be making a decision that will impact so many.
We understand that the land you intend to sell has a monetary value. However, it also has an intangible value that is priceless to many people. While the Mater Dolorosa Retreat Center is private property, it is also a significant cultural and physical landmark in the City of Sierra Madre and is so designated in Sierra Madre's General Plan.
As such, we feel that Mater Dolorosa has an obligation to discuss its plans before the property is sold to an outside developer who perhaps has a different view of the significance of this land. By getting the input from this community, perhaps alternative options can be explored other than another housing project in Sierra Madre. That alternative can result in a win-win solution.
This can only be done in a spirit of good communication and transparency. Unfortunately that has not been the case thus far. The concern is that if the Mountain Views News hadn't broken the story about the housing project on November 16th, when exactly did Mater Dolorosa intend to reveal their plans?
Only after the story broke, did Mater Dolorosa send a letter dated November 19th to nearby residents. That letter uses words like: "The Passionists have begun exploring....." or "Our planning process is in its preliminary stages. Any comment or speculation about how this parcel may be used would be premature" or finally "As plans begin to take shape, we promise to keep you informed and to listen to your input."
Yet in a meeting with the spokesperson for Mater Dolorosa Retreat Center on December 4th, we are told that signing a contract with the developer is "imminent" and that the "the train is leaving the station". It is difficult to reconcile the letter of Nov. 19th with the words from your spokesperson on December 4th - a mere fifteen days later. How is that consistent with keeping your "… promise to keep you informed and listen to your input."
In light of the above, we would urge you to delay the decision to sign a contract with the developer and explore all the options with the people who would be affected by this decision.
Tim Thomas - Sierra Madre Resident
Coalition to Save Mater Dolorosa Monastery and Stop the Housing Project
Mod: A form letter distributed to parishioners at St. Rita, forwarded here to The Tattler by a concerned individual, backs up Mr. Thomas's claims. Dated Dec. 2nd, this letter was sent by Mater Dolorosa to St. Rita's parishioners informing them about a sale in its "preliminary stages." It is very similar to the Nov. 19th letter Mater Dolorosa sent to neighboring residents of the monastery. What gives this the appearance of deception is that it was sent to St. Rita only two days before a monastery spokesperson said the deal with the developer is "imminent" and that the "train is leaving the station." Meaning this form letter was more about calming the herd than being a frank and honest communication with the faithful at St. Rita. It is not a very pretty picture.
Dear St. Rita Parishioners
December 2, 2013
You may have read recently in the Mountain Views News a story regarding the possible development of a portion of our property. We had hoped to communicate with you before any news story appeared but the newspaper moved more quickly than we had anticipated. Still, because we Passionists have had such close ties to St. Rita's Parish for so many years, we feel you deserve some word directly from us.
The Passionists of Holy Cross Province with the Board of Directors of Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center have been exploring the sale of part of our property for development. The open field located immediately north of our entrance gates on Sunnyside Avenue is the property we are considering.
We undertook our planning process because, as good stewards of our resources, we have to plan ahead in order to care for our aging Passionist priests and brothers, and to strengthen our various ministries in the United States and elsewhere.
This planning process is in its preliminary stages. Any comment or speculation about how this property may be used would be premature. As plans begin to take shape, we will keep you informed and look forward to your input.
We can assure you that the quiet setting of Mater Dolorosa and its retreat ministry will in no way be diminished by the sale of this piece of property. Our retreat center is healthy and our ministry strong and vibrant. As these plans mature, we Passionists hope that we can count on your ongoing support.
We will likely see change coming to a portion of our property. What remains unchanged, however, are our strong ties of friendship with St. Rita Parish, ties we have had for 90 years.
Fr. Michael Higgins, C.P.
Mod: Like many similar area land deals (One Carter being an example), this one is starting to take on some decidedly grubby aspects.