$10 Million Gift to Chicago

By Steve Waring

With construction on a $12 million renovation and upgrade of St. James Commons nearing completion, the Diocese of Chicago announced April 25 that it would make further improvements to the downtown complex, which currently includes St. James Cathedral, the diocesan offices, Episcopal Charities and Community Services and, Episcopal Service Corps.

Funding for the new construction, to be called the Nicholas Center, will come from a $10 million gift the diocese will share with Living Compass Faith and Wellness. The center, expected to open in 2014, will be home to overnight retreats and programs that foster the health and wellness of Episcopal leaders and the vitality of congregations. The $10 million gift is from from Milwaukee-based investment adviser Ab Nicholas and his wife, Nancy.

The Rt. Rev. Jeffrey D. Lee, Bishop of Chicago, announced the gift and new project at an evening dedication of the Pepper Family Plaza at St. James Commons.

“What we focus on grows,” Bishop Lee said. “We need to focus on the health and wellness of our church leaders and the vitality of our congregations so we can do God’s work of feeding the hungry, advocating for the oppressed, and testifying to the power of the risen Christ in our lives and our world. This generous gift from Ab and Nancy Nicholas and our exciting partnership with the Living Compass Faith and Wellness Initiative makes possible outward and visible signs of the interior heart and soul renovation work that is our job as Christians.”

Living Compass, led by the Rev. Scott Stoner and Holly Hughes Stoner, longtime associates of Mr. Nicholas, provides resources, coaching, and training to help church leaders, families, and teenagers gain balance and wholeness in their lives. It is currently located in Glendale, a western suburb of Milwaukee.

“Nancy and I are excited to join with and support the exciting energy that is already present in both the Diocese of Chicago and the Living Compass Faith and Wellness Initiative,” said Nicholas, a lifelong Episcopalian and founder of Nicholas Co. Inc., a Milwaukee-based investment advisory firm that manages the Nicholas mutual funds. “In my life in the business world I have seen that effective leadership makes all the difference. I believe it is the same in the church. We are delighted that the Nicholas Center will be a place and a program that will resource the leaders of the church.”

In 2011, the Diocese of Chicago launched a capital campaign to undertake $12 million in significant and essential renovations to the diocesan center located at 65 E. Huron St. The campaign has raised $8 million toward that goal. Of the new $10 million gift, $1 million has been allocated to the current campaign goal. The remaining $9 million will pay for renovations at St. James Commons and ministry with Living Compass that were beyond the scope of the original plan for the renovation.

The $10 million gift and a $3.2 million one received several years ago from Richard and Roxelyn Pepper represent the largest two contributions in the history of the 178-year-old diocese.

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