Auction of religious items draws enthusiastic buyers

Wisconsin State Journal/October 14, 2008

There was spirited bidding at the auction Saturday in Necedah, where religious items and supplies were for sale at the former home and chapel of the Immaculate Conception Community.

"It was great weather, and considering the economy and everything, we did well. It was pretty crowded," said auctioneer Ray Miller.

Among the most enthusiastic buyers were a group of priests and local Amish residents.

Miller sold the contents and property on behalf of the financial backers of the church's leader, Alan Bushey. He faces criminal charges in connection with the discovery last spring of the body of a church supporter, who died of natural causes in the bathroom of a nearby home. The body had been left there for two months.

Following the arrest of Bushey, who had called himself bishop of the small church group, he and his church were evicted last month from the Necedah property, about 60 miles northwest of Madison.

Among the items for sale were the furnishings of a small chapel and numerous religious items, including communion wafers, statues and the steeple on the roof. There were cases and cases of toilet paper.

What attracted the attention of a group of Catholic priests from the Twin Cities, however, was the closet-full of religious vestments, or clothing worn by the clergy. The finely decorated, colorful and hand-sewn garments can cost more than $500 new.

"We had seven or eight priests here, young ones, interested in the vestments and the art," he said, "and a couple of older priests were there buying for their parishes. "The vestments went for $45 to $50 each and they were really happy," Miller said.

The steeple, with bell, sold for $250, he said, but most surprising was the purchase of 24 concrete pedestals peppered with little rocks, at $40 each.

The house and property were also for sale, and negotiations continue on that sale, Miller said.

The proceeds go the Iowa owners of the property and another group that helped pay a cash percentage of Bushey's bail.

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