Archdiocese Halts Expansion at St. Matthias School

They said they did what they were told to do.

St. Matthias school on Chicago's Northwest Side, has been the go-to Catholic school in the area since two others closed in recent years. Parishioners have been raising funds for an expansion project -- but this week the archdiocese put a stop to it.

As parents pick up their preschoolers at St. Matthias it's obvious the Catholic school is a popular choice. The enrollment is at about 350 students.

The parish has been raising money for an expansion project -- and had commitments of nearly $1.2 million -- more than half of what they needed. But the archdiocese is telling St. Matthias the project is indefinitely postponed.

"There's just alot of confusion in the community," said parent Sean Henning. "The money is still there, it’s a matter of where’s it going, some people will take their money back, some will just still want to continue to invest in the school."

The chairman of the parish council, Pat Kubiztal, says he has a question for Cardinal Blase Cupich.

"How many catholic schools do you have that really need an addition, because they have a lot of students coming in," Kubiztal. "Our pastor had a letter from a few years ago, when it was started, giving the blessing to this project."

Rev. Larry McNally told parishioners this week that a "moratorium has been placed on any new construction or rehabbing of buildings in the archdiocese for the next two to three years."

Matthias, on the upswing now -- even renting space for the middle school nearby -- does owe the archdiocese $2 million from previous difficult years.

Wednesday afternoon a spokesman says the archdiocese has not implemented a moratorium on new construction and renovation. She added parishes are not to move forward with partially funded projects.

A statement from the archdiocese reads:

"The expansion plans for St. Matthias School have been indefinitely postponed due to a variety of factors, some of which could not have been foreseen four years ago when the parish was given permission to pursue the fundraising campaign and building addition. We commend the efforts of St. Matthias Parish and School for receiving pledges and funds toward the cost of projects at the school and parish. The total estimated cost for the expansion of the school is nearly $2 million. It is standard practice in the Archdiocese not to move forward with partially funded projects, especially given the scale and cost of this project. Decisions regarding the use of pledges and funds earmarked for the school expansion will be handled by St. Matthias Parish.

"The Archdiocese has not implemented a moratorium on new construction and rehab/renovation. The Archdiocese works with local parish and school leadership to review construction and rehab/renovation needs and requests in context of overall plans and implications for the area."

St. Matthias parishioners await the next steps.

"They thought everything was going to work out, then the rug got pulled out," Kubiztal said.

The archdiocese was invited to the st. Matthias town hall meeting this past Monday but no one attended.

There is a major overhaul of all parishes and schools currently underway.

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