NFL kicker Harrison Butker and Notre Dame to reward innovative use of Church property 


Harrison Butker and his holding company, MDKeller, is partnering with the University of Notre Dame to reward the innovative use of Catholic church property. / YouTube/EWTN Feb 24, 2023

Boston, Mass., Sep 5, 2023 / 12:06 pm (CNA).

Super Bowl champion Harrison Butker is teaming up with the University of Notre Dame to offer a $10,000 award for the innovative use of Catholic Church property in light of societal and demographic change.

In partnership with Notre Dame’s Church Properties Initiative (CPI), a unit of the school’s Fitzgerald Institute for Real Estate, Butker and MDKeller, the holding company he co-founded with Austin Wright, conceived the award to recognize and support individuals or organizations with bold ideas to best use for under-utilized Church property.

“I am excited that MDKeller is partnering with Notre Dame and the Fitzgerald Institute for Real Estate, as there are so many opportunities to reimagine how the Church views its real estate and how it can have a positive impact on future generations of Catholics,” Butker said in a press release from the Fitzgerald Institute for Real Estate.

“When discussing Church real estate, we are talking about more than just physical buildings. We are talking about our patrimony and it is essential that we work together to ensure that the work of generations of Catholics before us was not done in vain,” he said.

The criteria for the award include having a bold vision, being “distinctively Catholic,” having an innovative use of Church property, fulfilling the “highest and best use” of the Church property, and having a focus on scale and sustainability.

The winner will be chosen by a panel of experts, which includes academics, community leaders, and “representatives,” according to Notre Dame’s website.

Submissions are being accepted through Sept. 15. The application can be found here. The winner will be announced at the school’s Church Properties Initiative’s Fall Conference Oct. 29-31, 2023.

Any individual or group, which includes the laity, clergy, an organization, or a diocese, may apply, Butker’s co-founder at MDKeller Wright told CNA Friday.

According to Notre Dame’s website, “Applicants can submit ideas that have not left the whiteboard, in-progress operations, or completed projects.”

The award is meant to “recognize and accelerate individuals or organizations that share CPI and MDKeller’s outstanding innovation, stewardship, and community impact through effective utilization of Church-owned properties,” the press release said.

The holdings of MDKeller, which is based in Scottsdale, Arizona, and Kansas City, Missouri, include Phocus, Shepherd’s, MDK|MGMT, Madison Manufacturing, and Regius.

Wright told CNA Friday that it was a “no-brainer” to partner with Notre Dame for the initiative.

“Generations of Catholics before us have given of their treasure to build up the Church here in America and while the demographic and societal changes are inevitable, the assets should be able to continue to provide for the Catholics of today and tomorrow,” he said.

Wright called it “heartbreaking” to “stand by and watch while churches and other properties are sold for pennies on the dollar as sadly too many leaders have come to view real estate as liabilities and not the assets that they are.”

“For Harrison and myself, we could not sit by without putting our hats in the ring to try to bring together talents and people to rethink these issues,” he said.

Wright called the $10,000 award an “initial grant,” adding that “Obviously a lot more will have to be done.”

He said that “more than anything we hope with excitement around this prize, many more people will start to think of this important area and how they too can play a role.”

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