Nuns in Bankruptcy Court

December 12, 2011

What an unusual headline: “More Nuns in Bankruptcy Court.” That was the news story on Senior Housing News, a website that reports on the senior housing industry. This story, which was also reported on by Business Week, concerns Clare Oaks, a retirement community in a Chicago suburb. Clare Oaks filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection to restructure its debts. What makes the story newsworthy is that Clare Oaks was founded by The Sisters of St. Joseph of the Third Order of St. Francis, a Roman Catholic religious institute.

The Clare Oaks bankruptcy is the third time in two months that Chicago area nuns have wound up in bankruptcy court. In November, The Franciscan Sisters of Chicago Service Corporation filed Chapter 11 to restructure debts owed by a luxury senior living facility located in Chicago. That same month The Franciscan Sisters of Chicago also filed a Chapter 11 for a facility in Ohio.

Nuns in bankruptcy court may be an unusual event, but in today’s sluggish economy, major sports teams, cities, airlines, and even churches have found themselves in bankruptcy court. Most large corporations and institutions file bankruptcy to give themselves breathing room and an opportunity to restructure their finances. Bankruptcy court is an effective place for debtors and creditors to come to a fair reconciliation regarding debts.

These same principles apply to individuals. An individual bankruptcy under Chapter 7, 11, or 13, can give you time and space to effectively reorganize. Once you file a bankruptcy, all creditor collection action must stop immediately. Your attorney can work to negotiate with your creditors, or in some cases, you can discharge the debt entirely and permanently.

The lesson to be learned from “nuns in bankruptcy court” is that bankruptcy is not morally wrong. There is nothing evil in seeking bankruptcy help, just as there is nothing inherently wrong with credit. Bankruptcy and credit are simply financial tools.

If you need financial help, be sure to explore all of your options. An experienced attorney can explain the bankruptcy process and how the federal laws can help give you time and the legal ability to restructure your finances.

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