FOUNTAIN SPRINGS - The former Cardinal Brennan Junior-Senior High School in Butler Township will be put up for sale in the near future by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Allentown.

The announcement was made Wednesday by the diocese through communications director Matt Kerr, who said the diocese will put the former school property on the real estate market.

"Over the past year, a task force of local clergy and religious, along with several diocesan staff members, conducted an extensive analysis of options for the Ashland area property that housed the former Cardinal Brennan Junior-Senior High School," Kerr said in the media release. "After careful consideration of the task force's analysis and recommendations, the Diocese of Allentown has decided to place the property on the market for sale."

Kerr said the diocese has declared that all proceeds of the sale of the property will remain in Schuylkill County as an investment in the future of Catholic young people in the area that had been served by the school.

"The proceeds will fund scholarships for students wishing to attend Trinity Academy," he said.

The proceeds will also fund scholarships for students from the local parishes who plan to attend Nativity BVM High School in Pottsville or Marian Catholic High School near Tamaqua, along with enhancing the area's youth ministry programs.

"That would be members of the parishes in Ashland, Girardville, Gordon, Shenandoah, Ringtown and Sheppton," he said. "The students would be eligible for scholarships to go to Nativity and Marian."

The Most Rev. John O. Barres, bishop of Allentown, was quoted in the release, "After much prayer and analysis, I am confident that selling the Cardinal Brennan property and investing the proceeds in the young people of the North Schuylkill region is the best course of action. It is an investment in young people and in their future."

The school's history goes back to 1927 when Immaculate Heart Academy opened under the direction of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary as an all-girl school. In 1952, the school was changed to a co-educational diocesan high school and became Immaculate Heart High School, and in 1956, it took in students from St. Joseph High School in Ashland and St. Joseph High School in Girardville, the year both schools closed.

The school had a name change in 1968 with the merger of Immaculate Heart High School and Shenandoah Catholic High School, becoming Cardinal Brennan High School. It was named after Francis Cardinal Brennan, a Shenandoah native, who was made a cardinal by Pope Paul VI on June 26, 1967, one day after he was ordained a bishop. On Jan. 15, 1968, he was named prefect of the Congregation for the Discipline of the Sacraments, the highest post in the Roman Curia ever held by an American to that time. Cardinal Brennan died July 2, 1968.

Kerr was not part of the task force and did not have details on what options were discussed during their meetings. Speculation by local Catholics in the years since the merger and closing of parishes throughout the county and diocese in 2008 has been that the school property could become a site for a regional church. Kerr said that type of move was never really likely.

"The problem with that was the doubt the Vatican would ever approve such a thing because that would mean no churches in all those towns," Kerr said by telephone, referring to Ashland, Girardville and Gordon, where the decision on which churches would close or remain open has not been announced.

Kerr said rulings from the Vatican on appeals made by parishioners in closed parishes are being taken into account.

"We had to reopen some churches, at least on a temporary basis, involving the closed parishes, so it does not seem likely that not having a church in all of those towns would get Vatican approval," he said.

Kerr said that maintaining the former school property has cost the diocese more than $200,000 a year, primarily for use of the gymnasiums by CYO teams in the area, along with other expenses.

"It's snow removal and the gyms have to be heated. The electricity is on and the grass has to be cut," Kerr said.

Alternative gym space for CYO use has been identified in the county, Kerr said. Final arrangements and schedules will be made by local district CYO officials in the coming months.

Kerr said no decision has been made on the real estate firm that will handle the marketing of the property.