Church History

History of St. Matthew Parish

The story of St. Matthew Parish is one of faith and growth. Originally part of Holy Cross Church, St. Matthew Parish started with very little. After many years of praying, planning and fundraising, the parish has grown to be a thriving faith community, made up of more than 1,600 families. From its simple roots, St. Matthew School has grown to provide outstanding religious-based education from kindergarten through eighth grade to more than 460 students.

St. Matthew Milestones

  • In 1959, Mrs. Bridget O’Connor donated ten acres of her family farm, located in southwest Champaign, to the diocese of Peoria; and at the same time, Bishop John Franz purchased an additional seven acres from Mrs. O’Connor.
  • In 1960, Father John W. McGinn, pastor of Holy Cross Church, supervised a fundraising drive for construction of a school building and convent at the site.
  • Bishop Franz dedicated the facility as St. Matthew Auxiliary, an extension of Holy Cross Church.
  • By 1964, the school was operating with all eight grades.
  • On June 9, 1965, St. Matthew was established as a separate parish and Father James Martin was appointed the first pastor.
  • In 1966, an addition to the school expanded the facility to sixteen classrooms, a multi-purpose room, a gymnasium, a teachers’ lounge, and CCD school office. A Parish rectory was also built.
  • Mass was celebrated in the gymnasium on Sunday and in a classroom on weekdays.
  • In January 1972, Father William C. Feeney was appointed pastor.
  • On April 4, 1978, St. Matthew Church was completed and dedicated.
  • In 1980, the convent was remodeled to become the parish rectory.
  • The sisters of St. Francis in Joliet, who had staffed the school from its inception, discontinued their presence and staffing of the school.
  • In 1985, the school expanded with a new library and additional classroom space.
  • After 20 years of service to St. Matthew Parish, Father Feeney died in 1992.
  • Canon J.J. Flattery served as pastor from 1992 to 1994.
  • Father Terrance P. O’Brien succeeded Canon Flattery, serving the parish from 1994 through 1998. Father O’Brien invited the Sisters of Saint Francis of the Martyr St. George to reside in the Parish and serve at the school. The school began a kindergarten program and four new classrooms were added.
  • Father Anthony J. Trosley arrived in 1998 and served as pastor until 2003.
  • In November 2001, a parish Building Committee was selected to plan for parish/school facilities, including a new parish center and school addition.
  • In July 2002, an architect was selected and plans for a new Parish Center and Performing Arts/Athletic Facility were completed.
  • In 2003, Father Mark J. Merdian, former assistant pastor, returned to St. Matthew Church to serve as the sixth pastor of the parish.
  • In September 2003, St. Matthew Parish’s 25th Anniversary Stewardship Campaign, Building on Christ, began to raise funds needed for the new Parish Center, Performing Arts/Athletic Facility and Diocesan Capital Campaign.

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