It was bittersweet when Doug Fisher said goodbye to the Marywood Campus. He had overseen the Diocese of Orange property since 2003 and as facility manager knew every nook and cranny. “I met so many people who’ve loved Marywood all these years and I grew to love it myself,” he recalls.
Fisher and the Diocese relocated to a world-famous base in 2013 after the purchase of the Crystal Cathedral campus, now Christ Cathedral. Still, Marywood – a beloved former all-girls high school founded by the Sisters of Providence which later became the first home of the newly formed Diocese – retained a special place in his heart.
Yet, like Fisher, God wasn’t finished with Marywood. It could only be the Almighty, Fisher reckons, who reached out to place its bounty in the hands of people who need it. Plans to repurpose a handful of liturgical items have ballooned so much that no useful piece of the old campus remained when the buildings were razed this spring.
“For me personally,” Fisher says, “it has been very humbling to see God at work.”
Under the agreement with The New Home Company, Fisher explains, the new owner agreed to allow items to be removed and repurposed from the site. Parishes and ministries throughout Orange County were notified that Marywood’s liturgical items and furnishings were available.
Fisher was gratified that they would find loving homes. As response grew, he was astonished at just how many people and organizations stepped forward and how many items they wanted. “It got to be pretty extreme,” Fisher recalls. “We found homes for large liturgical items like the pews, stained-glass chapel windows and the altar – then we found other homes for mattresses and bedding from the former dorms, office furniture, even the plumbing and lighting systems.” The response was so enthusiastic that the developer agreed to let virtually all useful items be taken offsite prior to demolition.
Deacon Martin Ruiz worked with the Diocese of Mexicali to repurpose some the lighting from Marywood’s auditorium to illuminate the Mexicali Cathedral. “We are in many ways very rich and blessed here in Orange County,” Ruiz says. “Our things will bring a lot of life to the Diocese of Mexicali.” Ruiz also relocated pews, sacristy items, cabinets, modular desks and 51 air-conditioning units to San Luis Rio Colorado Parish in the Mexicali diocese, using volunteer workers from Mexico who physically transported them.
Theater lighting from the Marywood auditorium will be repurposed at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in La Habra, Pastor Fr. Ed Becker says. “Our electric company does work for the diocese and knew our church,” the pastor remembers. “They knew that the lighting equipment from Marywood would work well here. Our control panel is original, so it’s 45 years old and in need of replacement and we need better lighting in the sanctuary.”
The circumstances couldn’t have been more ideal, Fr. Becker notes. Repurposing useful Marywood items is “church being church in the best way possible. This is sacred things finding their way to other sacred spaces. It might have taken us years to raise the money to purchase these tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment.”
At St. Anthony Claret Parish in Anaheim, Father Bill Cao says he was delighted to receive three stove ranges from the Marywood kitchens that will replace the parish’s 60-year-old units. “Our community is a parish in need, so this really helps us,” the pastor notes.
Las Hermanas Samaritanas de Jesus de Guadalupe in Rosarito Beach is repurposing some of Marywood’s items in the sacristy, retreat center and living quarters, says Armando Cervantes, diocese director of Youth & Young Adults. “This brings great joy to my heart knowing that the purpose of these items doesn’t get lost – and in fact these items who gave life to so many on retreats, at Mass – will continue to do so,” Cervantes says.
Not only will Marywood’s furnishings and liturgical items have new lives, Fisher notes, but – fulfilling the Diocese’s commitment to good stewardship – useful items were saved from being dumped at landfills. Marywood’s beautiful rose bushes, for instance, now grace the grounds of Christ Cathedral.
The New Home Company’s David Mello, senior project manager, said the Aliso Viejo-based development company has engaged cultural historians who studied Marywood’s buildings to see what aesthetic design elements can be saved. “We decided to do as much as we could,” Mello says, “because we feel it’s a good thing to do.” A small memorial area near the new development’s entrance will include one of Marywood’s concrete benches, a piece of its iconic cement artwork and perhaps other items, Mello says.
Last summer Marywood alumnae were invited by The New Home Company to a hosted lunch and offered the opportunity to tour the campus and say a final goodbye. Many of the more than 200 women who attended signed up to receive an engraved brick from the building, Mello says.
In a way, even the former campus itself will find a new purpose. Mello says its buildings will be crushed and reused as fill material – a foundation for the future homes to be constructed on the scenic hilltop.