History of St. Matthew School

The story of St. Matthew’s School is but a link in the recording of the constant growth of the Parish. As always, its beginnings were humble and small. On December 2, 1922, His Excellency, Archbishop James J. Keane gave a mandate for the establishment of a new parish, to be known as St. Matthews. Father Daniel Mulcahy was appointed as the first pastor of the parish. The first parishioners attended mass in the auditorium of Sacred Heart Hall at Mount Mercy.

After only six months, Father Mulcahy was transferred and Father Patrick J. Behan became the second pastor of St. Matthew’s.Feeling the need for a permanent site for their parish, the Archbishop, Pastor and people of St. Matthew’s began to look for an ideal location. After many meetings and careful consideration regarding the growth of the city, the final choice became the,land running from First Avenue to A Avenue and from Twenty-third Street to Twenty-fourth Street. It is in reality a city block.

The first St. Matthew’s Church was a temporary structure that was built by the men of the parish. The Church was approximately 30 feet by 65 feet and was completed on August 1, 1924.By the winter of 1925 it became evident that the people of St. Matthew’s needed to have a larger permanent church. Also realizing that the strength of the Church is in educated Catholics, the new Church would not be enough!–Archbishop Keane, Father Behan, and the parishioners wanted a Catholic School to rise with the new Church! W.H. Lightner, architect of Cedar Rapids drew the plans and on September 26, 1926 the new St. Matthew’s Church and School were blessed and dedicated, This building stands today and the area that formerly was the Church has been renovated and is used in connection with the school.

St. Matthew’s School opened in September of 1926, with three Sisters of Mercy as teachers and 40 students present. Within a year the number increased to 91 and by 1939 there were almost 200 students in the school. At this time there were five Sisters of Mercy teaching in the school, with the full-time assistance of Father John F. Ryan, the assistant pastor. Because of the continued growth in the number of families, expansion of both the church and school seemed necessary. Since both could not be expanded at once due to lack of finances, the school received priority and in 1950 a new addition was added to the school.l. This new addition would be considered the library and primary wing today.

By the fall of 1955, the parish accounts showed that one-half of the estimated cost for the needed church was available and building began on the present church structure. Monsignor Kearn sang the first High Mass in the new church at midnight, Christmas Eve, in 1956. The formal dedication of the new building was held on May 30, 1957 with the Most Reverend Leo Binz, then Archbishop of Dubuque officiating.

School enrollment continued to grow. By the end of 1963, St. Matthew’s Parish had added a new gymnasium and seven more classrooms. In 1984 the Board of Education approved the opening of St. Matthew Preschool for three and four year old children. All Day Kindergarten was approved in January of 1998. In the fall of 2000 middle school students transferred to the newly formedRegis Middle School with St. Pius and All Saints students.

Throughout the history of St. Matthew’s School numerous parishioners have contributed countless time and energy to its growth and development. And for you, we give thanks.