As the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart reassesed their needs in tough economic times, the Towson-based order found something they didn't need—a building.
The order of nuns, founded in Baltimore in 1890, announced plans to sell its Mission Helper Center in West Towson in a news release on Thursday evening.
According to the release, the decision was reached with help of financial experts and the National Religious Retirement Office in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
"We really did a thorough review of things and just decided for the sake of our mission we needed to unencumber ourselves of the building," said Sister Elizabeth Langmead, the vice president and treasurer for the Mission Helpers, in an interview.
The 4.5-acre property at 1001 W. Joppa Rd. is zoned residential for two units per acre, according to Baltimore County zoning data. Maryland's online property records are currently unavailable, so it could not immediately be determined what the most recent assessed property value is.
Langmead would not disclose an asking price for the property, but said she expected the process could take two to three years.
The group will relocate to smaller offices somewhere in the Baltimore area.
Langmead said the Mission Helpers have been faced with financial and membership difficulties in recent years that led to the decision.
"We're not unique in what's happening in women's religious communities, but in men's religious communities as well," she said. "We don't have the numbers that we used to."
The sale of the property, Langmead said, will help the group take care of retired sisters and refocus its efforts on helping the poor and asylees in the Baltimore area, and in Venezuela, where the sisters dedicated their third family center in June.
"While we're going to be moving our address, we're still going to be who we are, and that's a thriving community of women," she said.
Community leaders were caught off guard by the announcement Thursday, said County Councilman David Marks. Marks said he was familiar with the work the Mission Helpers did in the community, but was never informed of the plans to sell the property.
"They have a right to develop their property, but usually developments proceed much more smoothly when property owners reach out to the surrounding community and their County Council member," Marks said.
The councilman added that with the organization's two to three year timetable to sell the property, it may turn up in the county's next rezoning process, set to begin in 2016.