SOUTHBRIDGE - A Randolph developer has bought the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church for $325,000 and plans to keep the church building intact while redeveloping other parts of the property as apartments.

The developer “is taking a look at the property closely now, but his initial idea was he was going to try and turn some of it into apartments, which would help the area a great deal,” said the Rev. Ken Cardinale, pastor of St. John Paul II Parish in Southbridge, which included Sacred Heart. Rev. Cardinale said he believed the plan was to renovate the existing buildings. “And he wants to keep the architecture of the church intact and turn it into shops or something. But all is subject to evaluation.”

The Diocese of Worcester sold the property Monday to Rivera Real Estate Development LLC of Randolph, according to records at the Worcester Registry of Deeds.

A phone number for Rivera Real Estate Development could not be found Wednesday.

The sale includes a circa-1908 former school and parish center that housed a popular flea market, a rectory, a convent, and the church, built around 1928.

The complex, encompassing roughly 3 acres, was assessed at more than $5.4 million in 2018, according to Southbridge property records.

The sale marks the end of a once-thriving parish established in 1908 to serve French-Canadian immigrants who worked in the area mills.

But by the turn of the 21st century, the Catholic population - along with the population of Southbridge and the population of priests - was falling.

Church officials announced in May 2010 that Sacred Heart, located on Charlton Street, would close and be merged with Notre Dame Church on Main Street. The combined parish was renamed Notre Dame of the Sacred Heart. A final mass at Sacred Heart was held on May 22, 2011. 

St. John Paul II Parish, incorporating Notre Dame Church, St. Mary’s Church and St. Hedwig’s Church, was created in July 2011.

Meanwhile, the Sacred Heart building was deteriorating and money was running low.

According to a parish report, Sacred Heart needed roughly $22,700 monthly to operate but collected an average of $2,400 weekly from people in the 185 households who regularly worshiped at the church, the Telegram & Gazette reported in March 2011.

Rev. Cardinale said the congregation had a final mass last Saturday in the rectory and asked God to help them heal and let go of a big part of their history.

“It’s a tough thing, but they realize that they’ve been through a lot of change with the consolidation of the four parishes into one,” Rev. Cardinale said. “Their faith is stronger than whatever challenge that they are meeting. God’s carrying them through it.”

And the sale should address a need in Southbridge.

“We could use more newer quality housing in town,” said Rosemary Scrivens, the town’s director of economic development and planning.