WINTER PARK | After more than 50 years as a real estate consultant, most of those as exclusive agent for the Diocese of Orlando, Tom Ustler received the Mary, Mother of God award from Bishop John Noonan at Ustler’s parish, St. Margaret Mary in Winter Park, Feb. 22.
Gathered were friends and family who shared stories of Ustler’s accomplishments and appreciation for the many properties he helped purchase, from Annunciation in Altamonte Springs to St. Faustina in Clermont and St. Timothy in The Villages. Ustler began work with the diocese when it was still the Diocese of St. Augustine.
According to his wife Cairn, Ustler particularly enjoyed the personal relationships and friendships that resulted from working with the diocese. Her husband confirmed that saying the priests, bishops and people he worked with inspired him to convert from Lutheranism to Catholicism. Msgr. Patrick Caverly who died in 2017, accompanied him through the process, tutoring him in the faith.
Diocesan real estate lawyer Albert Bustamante met Ustler in 1998. He confirmed Ustler purchased hundreds of properties for the Church over his more than 50 years of work with numerous bishops. What Bustamante appreciated most is the relationships Ustler formed through the years.
Recalling his early days as a diocesan lawyer, he noted how Ustler “just knew everybody.” He credited Ustler for helping him build his career. “I couldn’t have had a better mentor than Tom. And it was so nice that it was for the Church, because there was something beyond real estate when we were doing it for the Church. It had a lot more meaning.”
Bustamante said it’s nice to drive around now “and see all these churches, schools, and all these things that have been built, those properties that at that time were just properties on a map.”
Uslter was also known to make great deals. Bustamante recalled when The Villages developers reached out to the diocese to build a church there. It was even before anyone knew what The Villages was.
“What they wanted was for the church to be built early to bring people and start building community,” Bustamante said. “The church in The Villages was an important piece of that.”
The Villages developers incentivized the purchase agreeing, if the parish was completed within one year, they would return the diocese purchase price. Uslter orchestrated the agreement. Although the church was finished slightly after a year, the diocese did recuperate 85% of its purchase price according to Bustamante.
Ustler, a University of Florida graduate, retired in 2022. Bishop Noonan said the Mary, Mother of God award is bestowed on those who have contributed greatly to the Church, and Ustler is certainly a deserving recipient.