Share This Post


Denver-Based Augustine Institute Eyes Move to Boeing Leadership Center Near St. Louis, Missouri…

Denver-Based Augustine Institute Eyes Move to Boeing Leadership Center Near St. Louis, Missouri…

Augustine Institute eyes Missouri move Skip to content

A Denver-based graduate school and Catholic publishing non-profit is close to a deal that would see it buy a sprawling Boeing-owned property outside of St. Louis.

The move would see the Augustine Institute expand its graduate programs, begin new retreat and conference programming, and work closely with the St. Louis archdiocese, which first proposed the move.

Boeing Leadership Center. Credit: Boeing.

Reached for comment Friday, Augustine Institute president Tim Gray told The Pillar that his organization is in the final stages of discernment, and is likely to soon reach an agreement to purchase the Boeing Leadership Center, a 284-acre training campus in Florissant, Missouri, which includes conference space, classrooms, 204 hotel-like rooms, a 250 seat dining facility, a fitness center and a historic French-style chateau.

Gray declined to discuss a prospective purchase price for the property, but The Pillar has confirmed that Boeing previously listed the campus for between $20 and $30 million. Gray told The Pillar he aims to see the Augustine Institute pay cash for the property, and is working now to finalize donors for the purchase. 

If a purchase agreement is reached, Gray said, the institute will do more diligence on the property, before seeking final approval from its board of directors — where Gray said there’s been “overwhelming support” for the prospective move.

If the purchase is completed in early May, the Augustine Institute’s graduate school is expected to move its headquarters to the Missouri campus this summer, with other divisions of the institution moving in stages over two or three years. 

In addition to its graduate school, the Augustine Institute is a major publisher of catechetical and sacramental prep material, produces films and podcasts, and is the owner of, a Catholic content streaming service which says it has more than one million subscribers. 

In its 2021-2022 fiscal year, the Augustine Institute saw some $28 million in revenue, making it one of the largest Catholic publishing and media apostolates in the United States. 

Gray told The Pillar that he was approached last year by the Archdiocese of St. Louis about the prospect of acquiring the Boeing property, and acknowledged that the archdiocese had also played a role in introducing the Augustine Institute to prospective local Catholics willing to support the institute.

Boeing Leadership Center. Credit: Boeing.

Leave a comment

Fr. Christopher Martin, St. Louis archdiocesan vicar for parish mission and vitality, was a critical part of the discussion that would bring the Augustine Institute to Missouri.

Martin told The Pillar that as he organized the archdiocesan “All Things New” strategic planning initiative, which has included contentious mergers and parish closings, he tried to focus on how the archdiocese could be better equipped for evangelization. 

When he became aware of the Boeing property, “I thought, ‘This could be the evangelization center of the United States.’”

“I had no idea how that could come about, but I just thought there was a big opportunity there.”

Eventually, Martin and Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski discussed the property with the Augustine Institute, hoping that a move to the campus would allow the institute to expand, and bring some benefit to the St. Louis archdiocese.

As it takes up a plan that will close up to 44 of its 178 parishes in the next two years, Martin told The Pillar that the archdiocese needs to refocus its existing institutions on evangelization.

“We are a diocese looking to make a shift from Christendom to apostolic mission — to rediscover what discipleship looks like in our parishes and schools and offices and agencies.”

“The benefit to the Archdiocese of St. Louis is that we’ll be able to enhance our current efforts for discipleship with the presence of the AI, with the resources that they already produce, but then also just having them in our own backyard.”

Martin said the archdiocese has heard in recent years from clergy and lay Catholics a desire to strengthen the Catholic identity of parish schools. The presence of the Augustine Institute would be a response to that desire, he said.

“The Archdiocese of St. Louis will be a welcoming partner on the development of teacher resources. As we look to rediscover Catholic identity in different ways, we’ll be happy to be a partner, a collaborator — we’ll even find pastors with schools that will be happy to be laboratories for the new initiatives that the Augustine Institute might dream up,” the priest explained. 

“With the advent of the Augustine Institute into our archdiocese, this is part of what the Holy Spirit is accomplishing, I think. These are the new modes and the new methods which we can embrace as an archdiocese, so that we can rediscover our primary mission of making disciples.”

For Gray, the aim of the move is to expand Augustine Institute’s graduate school, by providing student housing and room for more enrollment. The institute — one the largest lay graduate theological programs in the country — has approximately 500 enrolled students in graduate programs, Gray said. But most are distance education students, with fewer than 40 enrolled in the institute’s on-campus studies. 

And the institute’s Colorado facility — a single building in a neighborhood of office and tech buildings south of Denver — limits the possibility for on-campus expansion.

Gray said that with the ability to offer student housing, more on-campus students can enroll in graduate programs in theology and education, a library can be expanded, and the institute can look seriously at the prospect of establishing a doctoral program. 

Boeing Leadership Center. Credit: Boeing.

The Missouri campus was used as an executive training facility by Boeing until the Covid-19 pandemic closed its operations in March 2020. Boeing did not reopen the facility, as it shifted principally to online platforms for training and national meetings.

Last year, The Kingdom of God Global Church, a Michigan-based religious group accused of being a cult, attempted to purchase the Boeing property, reportedly for $25 million. But the group, which owns several other properties around St. Louis, including a mansion it purchased from the rapper Nelly, did not complete the property purchase. 

While it offers opportunities for the Augustine Institute’s graduate school, the property would also present challenges. Gray told The Pillar that maintenance costs for the property are likely to run at least $4 million annually, and that the institute will have remodeling and capital costs along the way.

But the plan, he said, is to use the center for more than an expanded graduate campus. The mission of the Augustine Institute is lay formation, he said, and the campus facility would allow the organization to host conferences, retreats, and continuing education opportunities for lay Catholics — especially those who work in parish or diocesan ministry. 

Boeing Leadership Center. Credit: Boeing.

“I am imagining that for Catholic school teachers, for example, we would bring them to this beautiful place, with beautiful accommodations, and just love on them. And do that for lay people who are working in ministry or parish life or diocesan life. People who do ministry don’t always get taken care of, and as a lay institute, we’re sensitive to that. We want to make this a place of refuge and renewal for lay people who work in the Church.” 

The Archdiocese of St. Louis will initially assign a priest for sacramental ministry at the campus, Gray said, and the institute might eventually look for a religious order to send its own clerics. Gray said that an existing ballroom will be used as a temporary chapel, and eventually a church will be built on the site.

The campus retreats and conferences would not compete with existing events offered by other Catholic apostolates, Gray said, but would instead be unique offerings in continuing education and pastoral and spiritual care for lay people working in the Church. The midwestern location of the campus makes those offerings tenable for more Catholics, Gray said, telling The Pillar that an internal study found that 17.3 million Catholics live within a day’s drive of St. Louis.

Gray hopes that some of them will come to events on the campus — and the Augustine Institute hopes that revenue from those events will offset the operational costs of the Boeing campus, he said.

“Our team’s done a lot of due diligence on the numbers, and the key thing is that we want to raise $30 to $40 million in a reserve fund, to help us with the cost of maintaining the campus, and then we’d have a retreat and conference initiative that would bring in another revenue stream,” Gray explained.

“Those two things along with our ongoing fundraising should be able to pay for the campus,” he said.

upgrade your subscription

Boeing Leadership Center. Credit: Boeing.

The prospective move is not the first time in recent years that the Augustine Institute has considered a departure from Denver, where it has been based since its founding in 2005.

In 2021, the institute considered a merger with Ave Maria University, which would have seen it move from Denver to Florida.

But Gray said the prospect of that merger didn’t sit well with some Augustine Institute stakeholders, including some employees and faculty, who felt that a merger would dilute the lay-formation focus of the Augustine Institute’s mission.

Eventually, the merger proposal was called off, though Augustine Institute vice president Mark Middendorf was appointed Ave Maria University’s president in February 2022.

“There was a lot of debate and internal tension over the potential merger with Ave — there were a lot of people who didn’t agree with that for our mission,” Gray said.

“But unlike with the Ave opportunity, nobody [internally] has argued that this move would be bad for the Augustine Institute, or for our mission.” 

The Pillar has confirmed that the prospective Missouri move has prompted criticism and concern from some donors and stakeholders, but Gray said he believes the level of support for the Missouri move has been much higher than it was for a prospective Florida merger.

But despite that claim, internal levels of support for the proposed move are unclear, and the institute has aimed to keep a tight lid on messaging

On Friday, the institute’s leadership sent a memo to employees, directing them not to discuss the relocation with members of the media, and especially not to answer media questions about the “how the relocation may impact you and your family.”

The memo came as The Pillar had been begun its reporting on the prospective move.

Gray acknowledged that the news of a prospective move has been difficult for some staff members, and some are already considering whether to move to Missouri with the institute.

He said the organization “wants to make the move as easy as possible for them,” and that he’s tried to provide regular updates “to help alleviate [concern].”

Outside the Augustine Institute, some Denver Catholics have raised concern that the institution plays a unique role in the Archdiocese of Denver, where a number of lay-run apostolic initiatives in the Church were founded and are headquartered, many of them inspired by Pope St. John Paul II’s historic 1993 World Youth Day visit to the city, and then encouraged by local bishops. 

Since the 1993 World Youth Day, the city has gained a reputation as a center of evangelical, pastoral, and educational initiatives in the Church.

Several of those apostolates rent office space at the Augustine Institute’s building.

The Augustine Institute’s website acknowledges its ties to the local community, noting that “Denver has a special role in the story of the Catholic Church,” and that its “Denver location has grown into an intellectual and spiritual hub. Students, professionals, families, clergy, and visitors routinely come to our coffee shop and our Masses, seeking fellowship and spiritual sustenance.”

In fact, the Augustine Institute describes itself as “a lay Catholic apostolate that maintains a mutually supportive relationship with the local particular church, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Denver.” 

Gray said he understands local concerns about the institute leaving the Denver archdiocese. 

When the Augustine Institute began “we rented a cubicle from the archdiocese to start, with a little classroom,” he said. 

“Denver was the inspiration for this place, Denver is where we’re born and raised, and it’s going to be hard for all of us, personally, to leave Denver.”

Tim Gray, Ph.D. | Faculty & Staff | Augustine Institute

Augustine Institute president Tim Gray. Courtesy photo.

Still, Gray said he believes the Augustine Institute is called to the Missouri campus.

“I was encouraged by [Denver] Archbishop [Samuel] Aquila’s discernment. He is one of our trustees, and I was encouraged by his magnanimity. He said that Denver ‘exports the Church. We export mission.’ And so I think if Denver’s apostolates are generous with the Church at large, the Lord will be generous with Denver.”

Gray said he is aware of concerns that after the Augustine Institute leaves, other apostolates might follow suit. But he said the Augustine Institute intends to continue renting space in its Denver building to lay-led apostolates Catholic initiatives. 

“My intention is not to get all these apostolates to move to St. Louis,” he told The Pillar. 

In fact, Gray said he does not expect to rent Missouri office space to other organizations.

“There’s not a lot of office space there. I’m worried about the capacity of our own office space there, quite frankly. There’s living quarters, there’s conference room space. There’s 14 classrooms in the conference and education building. There’s space for a chapel and library. There’s all of that. But Boeing didn’t build it to be a major office hub.”

Gray told The Pillar that the Augustine Institute’s Denver campus “has become a key ecosystem for Catholic apostolates in Denver. And so we want to maintain that.” 

Can the Augustine Institute afford to keep two campuses? Gray said he hopes the Denver building will see more Catholic projects rent office space, and remain financially viable.

“We have about six or eight apostolates on a waiting list to come into this building. So as we move out in phases, we can move in other apostolates, and make this self-sustaining as a Catholic apostolic hub.”

“We want to keep this building, and to keep our own presence here as long as we can,” he said. “We are going to have some of our own people here, and we’ll have Mass here for at least the next year. We want to rent the space to other apostolates, and to make all of that sustainable for the long haul.”

But is that realistic?

Denver’s Archbishop Samuel Aquila, who is an Augustine Institute board member, is set to retire in just 18 months.

Because of a shift in papal priorities under Pope Francis, Aquila’s successor is likely to have a different pastoral and theological agenda than those of the archbishop and his predecessor, Archbishop Charles Chaput, who helped shape the mission of the Augustine Institute and other Denver-based lay initiatives — leaving unclear whether those institutions will be supported by future archdiocesan leaders.

With that change looming, and with the Augustine Institute moving its headquarters elsewhere, will Denver’s unique cadre of lay apostolates move on? 

Gray said he doubts it.

“I am amazed at the water here in Denver. It seems to generate apostolate and entrepreneurship. So my hope is that just as I’ve seen over the years, there are more and more apostolates that continue here.”

Gray also acknowledged that Augustine Institute graduates have become teachers and youth ministers in local parishes and schools, and that some locals are concerned about the prospect of losing young Catholics who might settle in Denver because of a connection to the Augustine Institute.

To that end, Gray said that he hopes to keep “seeding Catholic schools here with AI grads.”

But he also acknowledged that for the Augustine Institute, student and employee recruitment has been difficult in Colorado, because of the high cost of housing. 

Soon after he was approached about the Missouri campus, Gray said, he was struck by the struggles of a young Augustine Institute professor who was “up to his eyeballs in the mortgage.”

“He told me that he loves the AI, but he couldn’t stay if we didn’t move somewhere more affordable. And that was a big turning point for me. I said, ‘Ok, Lord, I’ll go check this out.’” 


Some Catholics close to the Augustine Institute have expressed surprise that the institution is planning a partnership with St. Louis’ Archbishop Rozanski. 

While Rozanski would be the Augustine Institute’s local archbishop if the institute decides to make the move, he would not exercise direct governance over the institute, which was founded as a lay-led non-profit organization, and not an apostolate of the Church’s hierarchy.

Still, while the Augustine Institute is generally perceived as representing a conservative Catholicism in the style of Pope St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI, Rozanski is sometimes seen as a theological progressive — raising questions of whether the archbishop and the apostolate will actually work well together on initiatives in the archdiocese.

Archbishop Mitchell T. Rozanski (@abp_rozanski) / X

Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski. Credit: Archdiocese of St. Louis.

The archbishop declined an interview request from The Pillar. But Rozanski was a signatory of a 2021 letter organized by Cardinals Blase Cupich and Wilton Gregory, which called for the issue of “Eucharistic coherence” to be dropped from the USCCB’s June agenda that year.

When that bid failed, Rozanski led a procedural charge against the bishops’ “Eucharistic coherence” document during the June 2021 meeting of the bishops’ conference.

As the meeting started, the archbishop made a motion to amend the conference agenda, in order to allow unlimited debate on the proposed document. The motion was immediately supported by a cadre of bishops opposed to the document, employing a strategy that had been planned ahead of the meeting.

Debate over Rozanski’s motion took hours, with critical bishops calling it a “delaying tactic,” and a “filibuster.”

During the coronavirus pandemic, Rozanski issued a directive allowing lay people, even non-Catholics, to administer the holy oil in the anointing of the sick. The directive prompted the USCCB’s committee on divine worship to issue a memo to all U.S. bishops clarifying that such a move invalidates the sacrament.

Gray told The Pillar that he had not followed the “Eucharistic coherence” debate closely, and that he has found Rozanski to be a “pastoral bishop” who wants to see Catholics in his archdiocese develop a deeper faith.

Rozanski “told me, ‘I need you guys to help us evangelize our schools and parishes,’” Gray said.

“And so he’s been really encouraging, and he’s been very gracious to us in his hospitality.”

St. Louis’ Fr. Martin, who described himself as a “JPII priest,” acknowledged questions about Rozanski’s theological perspective. But he said he believes the archbishop is misunderstood.

“The way that Archbishop Rozanski describes himself is as a ‘parish priest that was asked to become a bishop.’ So his first reaction is always going to be more of a pastoral one instead of a theological or dogmatic one. And I think that’s where the misinterpretations can come about,” the priest said.

“He definitely does have a heart for the poor. He has a passion for social justice. But he is not theologically misaligned with the magisterium of the Church in any way,” the priest said. 

Martin said that since Rozanski arrived in St. Louis in 2020, he has been receptive to the counsel of younger, often conservative priests in the archdiocese, and taken seriously their thoughts regarding ministry in the local Church.

“I’m a John Paul II priest, and I think that he surrounds himself with guys like me,” Martin said. “And he is very enthusiastic about welcoming the Augustine Institute into the archdiocese.”

Leave a comment

Gray emphasized that the move is not finalized yet — that the Augustine Institute is still doing due diligence on the property, and working toward a purchase agreement.

He said he knows the idea has prompted questions — about how the move would impact the Church in Denver, and about whether the Augustine Institute will have success in Missouri. 

Gray told The Pillar he believes his institution is called to better serve lay Catholics, especially those working in the Church, and that “this campus really provides a means to do that.”

But will the prospective move be successful? Gray told The Pillar it will take time to evaluate.

“I still can’t believe we have this opportunity,” he said. “Even in these final stages of discernment, this feels like a miracle of God’s providence.”

How will he know it’s worked out?

“I think if our on-campus program has blossomed and grown, if we’re able to really train the people that we think we can train, and really encourage people in lay ministry, whether in parish, diocesan or Catholic schools ministry — if we’ve created a network and we’re able grow the scale of what we do, that would be a big sign.” 

Subscribe now

Editor’s note: This report initially misstated the total number of parishes in the Archdiocese of St. Louis, and the total number up for closure. The error has been corrected.

Comments 31

Services MarketplaceListings, Bookings & Reviews

Entertainment blogs & Forums

Share This Post

Leave a Reply