Church Properties

Church properties represent substantial assets

The Catholic Church owns roughly 177 million acres of land. It is the largest non-governmental landowner in the world. Other religious, non-profit, and educational organizations also own, manage, and transfer millions of acres each year.

Catholic churches, hospitals, orphanages, and schools, as well as real estate owned by other religious and non-profit organizations, are of special interest to the University of Notre Dame and the Fitzgerald Institute for Real Estate.

Researchers at Notre Dame seek to understand the challenges and opportunities the Catholic Church faces with regard to its properties, in the United States and worldwide. Through the Institute's research and educational programs, we seek to assist the Church and other religious organizations in using their property and resources effectively.

The Institute's approach is consistent with human dignity and the common good, including the principles of solidarity, stewardship, and subsidiarity, as articulated in the Catholic intellectual tradition. To address the challenges of religious land uses, the Institute believes that scholars, policymakers, and religious officials should evaluate the impact of decisions that affect these properties.

To learn more about the Institute's research initiatives in Church properties, please contact David Murphy, Program Director, Church Properties Initiative.

Featured Research

  • Analyzing Catholic School Closures

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    Garnett published Lost Classroom, Lost Community: Catholic Schools' Importance in Urban America (University of Chicago Press) (with Margaret F. Brinig), an important book on the effects of Catholic School closures on urban neighborhoods in Chicago, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles.


    In the past two decades in the United States, more than 1,600 Catholic elementary and secondary schools have closed, and more than 4,500 charter schools―public schools that are often privately operated and freed from certain regulations―have opened, many in urban areas. With a particular emphasis on Catholic school closures, Lost Classroom, Lost Community examines the implications of these dramatic shifts in the urban educational landscape. 

    More than just educational institutions, Catholic schools promote the development of social capital―the social networks and mutual trust that form the foundation of safe and cohesive communities. Drawing on data from the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods and crime reports collected at the police beat or census tract level in Chicago, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles, Margaret F. Brinig and Nicole Stelle Garnett demonstrate that the loss of Catholic schools triggers disorder, crime, and an overall decline in community cohesiveness, and suggest that new charter schools fail to fill the gaps left behind.

    This book shows that the closing of Catholic schools harms the very communities they were created to bring together and serve, and it will have vital implications for both education and policing policy debates. 

  • Designing Churches of Great Beauty

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    Stroik is a well known scholar and architect of Ecclesiastical architecture. His portfolio includes churches and church renovations across the United States. Stroik’s works include Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel in California, the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Wisconsin, the Jesuit Chapel of the Holy Cross in Florida, and the Cathedral of St. Joseph in South Dakota. He has done masterplanning for College, Parish and Monastic campuses.


    His scholarship includes The Church Building as a Sacred Place: Beauty, Transcendence and the EternalIn 1998, Stroik founded the Institute for Sacred Architecture and edits its journal, Sacred Architecture.

  • Discerning God's Call at Underutilized Church Properties

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    Ford, a FIRE affiliate and finalist in the Notre Dame IDEA Center / OSV Innovator Challenge, recently founded Harbor.  Harbor helps parishes and dioceses leverage their underutilized properties to meet a real pastoral need to help young people to discover their vocations, whether religious or secular, within a live-in community experience. These houses of intentional Catholic community will give young Catholics an opportunity to live in an environment that supports rather than tears down their faith through opportunities to pray, serve, discern, and grow together.

  • Measuring the Resiliency of Catholic Churches in Italy

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    Walsh, along with Elizabeth Kerr (Engineering), received a grant from the Global Gateway Faculty Research Awards program, as well as the Fitzgerald Institute for Real Estate, for their work on risk assessment of churches in Italy entitled, “Seismic resilience of Catholic Churches in Italy incorporating the development of an operational framework for assessment, case study non-destructive testing, and numerical modeling.” 

    Through these grants, both undergraduate students and faculty have the opportunity to help assess the resiliency and structural soundness of churches that the Catholic Church would not otherwise have the resources or expertise to evaluate. 

    This research is taking place at the Rome Global Gateway.