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Advocate staff photo by LESLIE WESTBROOK -- Fr. Bryce Sibley, pastor and chaplain of Our Lady of Wisdom Church and Catholic Student Center, stands near preliminary renderings while talking about a campaign to raise funds to build a new student center and church Thursday, June 23, 2016, at the Catholic Student Center on the University of Louisiana at Lafayette campus in Lafayette, La.

The University of Louisiana System board Thursday will apparently move closer to the sale and swap of property involving the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and the Diocese of Lafayette.

The deal would include UL Lafayette giving $3.315 million and a 1.411-acre site on campus that is valued at $860,000 to the diocese in exchange for a 5.66-acre piece of property that belonged to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital. Both properties have been appraised. A description of the property includes as its boundaries St. Mary and St. Landry streets.

Jennifer Stephens, UL Lafayette spokesperson, said in an issued statement, “The Diocesan property intended for purchase can be identified as a part of the former Our Lady of Lourdes hospital complex where medical office buildings, a rehabilitation center, parking garages and other buildings are located.”

She said the University’s 1.411-acre property under discussion with the diocese is the parking lot next to Earl K. Long gym, across the street from Our Lady of Wisdom Church and Catholic Student Center, located at 501 E. St. Mary Blvd.

Our Lady of Wisdom has been planning for a new church and Student Center for some years. In its Annual Fiscal and Ministry Report 2019-2020, it reports on the "Wisdom for Every Generation Capital Campaign"; it noted that “Capital Campaign Gifts are designated for Our New Home.”

The campus church has raised substantial funds — $6,685,017 in gifts received, $9,215,012 in gifts pledged, though the effort is still short of the $18,031,770 goal.

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Blue Rolfes, spokesperson for the Diocese of Lafayette, said Bishop Douglas Deshotel was not prepared to discuss the land the diocese wishes to acquire or how it might be used. She deferred discussion of the property to UL Lafayette.

Stephens said the UL System board action this week involves “a request to access funds allocated for the purpose of acquiring the diocesan property.” State funding for the agreement came through state's Capital Outlay funds.

The UL System Board’s facilities planning committee will handle the agenda item Thursday, perhaps by consent and with perhaps no discussion. The 2021 Louisiana Legislature last spring approved Act 398, which was introduced through legislation by State Rep. Jean-Paul Coussan, R-Lafayette.

“It will be presented but not necessarily discussed,” said Cami Geisman, spokesperson for the UL System office, said of the agenda item. The property that is described in the legislation and in the agenda item is a “necessary acquisition by the campus master plan in 2012” to link UL Lafayette’s main campus with the athletic campus.

This request for use of the state outlay represents part of a multistep process to enable the university to acquire both the diocesan property and additional properties in the future.


Email Ken Stickney at kstickney@theadvocate.com.