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Construction work continues last week on St. Matthew Catholic Church’s new home. The building is expected to be complete next fall.

Rain and a harsh winter created six months of delays for St. Matthew’s church construction, parishioner Rick Holdcroft said.

Weather permitting, he said the church on 36th Street just north of Capehart Road is expected to be completed by August.

The $8.6 million project began September 2018. Since then, Holdcroft said walls have been built along with other structural elements.

Construction crews are starting to put in the steel structure to support the roof, Holdcroft said, which they’ll work on over the next two months. They’re also in the process of waterproofing the basement.

The project has been decades in the making. It was always the parish’s intent to build a church, but finances didn’t allow for such expense. But, after an anonymous donor paid off St. Matthew’s mortgage in April 2017, the parish could start saving for a church by raising money in a capital campaign.

The parish’s first capital campaign only secured enough funds for the church. The optional social hall in the basement will be postponed until the parish has more donations come in, Holdcroft said.

St. Matthew’s intends to have a second capital campaign to generate those funds more quickly.

As it has for many years, church services are held in the school gymnasium. Once open, the church, which sits immediately south of the school, will alleviate planning obstacles between the church services and school functions. Church events during the school day will no longer prevent students from using the gym during PE classes, and the church won’t need to be set up every weekend for services.

A permanent church will create more of a home for worship, said St. Matthew pastor Fr. Leo Rigatuso.

“It’ll bring families back to — as our Deacon Tom [Deall] talks about — home,” Rigatuso said. “I expect a lot of growth in the parish. Not just in numbers, but spiritually as well.”

During his three years at St. Matthew, Rigatuso said he’s only officiated one wedding.

Few imagine their big day, he said, walking down the aisle of a grade school basketball court.

Since they’ve started building the parish’s new church, however, four couples are already booked to get married.

St. Matthew’s congregation was at 600 families for years, but since church construction began has increased to 700 families. It’s expected to grow to 1,200 families by 2032, according to a study by the Archdiocese of Omaha. Bellevue families who travel outside the city to a dedicated church facility might now attend St. Matthew, Holdcroft said.

The growing community also plays a role in that estimate. According to figures from Tammi Palm, Bellevue’s land use planner, the city’s population has increased nearly 30% (including recent annexations) since 2010.

Rigatuso said the project has brought parishioners together and given them something to look forward to in coming years.

“The community has really come together,” Rigatuso said.

“Everybody has worked so well together. The leadership in the parish has been outstanding.”

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