St. Matthew Cathedral, our bishops’ South Bend parish home
By Andrew Mentock
St. Matthew Cathedral in South Bend serves as the co-cathedral for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. It is located on Miami St., just south of downtown.
St. Matthew went through a transition in 2016, when formal cathedral rector Msgr. Michael Heintz became the associate professor of systematic theology at the University of Mount Saint Mary’s in Maryland and Father Terry Fisher was named the new rector. Msgr. Heintz had been the pastor at St. Matthew for over a decade.
Previous to coming to the cathedral Father Fisher was pastor at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Mishawaka, but he had strong roots at St. Matthew. His mother has been a parishioner there for over 40 years; additionally, he taught third grade at the elementary school for 10 years prior to becoming a priest.
“Coming back and getting to see and meet people all over again has been great,” said Father Fisher. “Some of the parishioners I taught years ago have grown up and now have children of their own.”
St. Matthew was also the site of the ordination of three diocesan priests last year, for the first time in several years. One of the ordained was Father David Violi, who is now parochial vicar at the cathedral.
St. Matthew was established with humble beginnings, in 1922. The year prior, the plan for the parish included a church and a school; but after estimating the construction cost it was decided that a small wooden church would be built instead. The parish membership started out with 75 southeast South Bend families.
Its initial capacity was a mere 240 people, but the population quickly grew. The church went through several expansions in its early days in order to accommodate the growth.
In 1959 ground was broken for a new church, and before completion it was named the co-cathedral of the diocese, along with the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne. Ever since then it has been the home of the auxiliary bishops of the diocese, who have traditionally lived in South Bend; as well as of the bishop when he visits.
In 1929 the church established an elementary school, which had an initial enrollment of 150 students. Later, in 1934, the parish turned the second floor of the elementary school into an all-boys Catholic high school known as Central Catholic.
However, in 1951, with the opening of St. Joseph High School in South Bend, Central Catholic closed. The second floor of the school was used to expand the elementary school.
St. Matthew Cathedral School today
St. Matthew Cathedral School has about 400 students in grades kindergarten through eighth.
The school is an area leader in utilizing new technology in the classroom. This past fall it received a couple large technology grants that allowed the addition of several “smart” televisions. The classrooms also have access to “wireless hotspots,” which students without Internet access at home can use.
This technology has also allowed teachers to address the needs of their students, no matter whether they are visual or auditory learners. Students are now better able to develop projects in collaboration with their classmates and they also connect with their entire class without moving from their seats.
St. Matthew young adults
St. Matthew Cathedral Parish has a very strong and dedicated number of young adults. As a result of their desire to form a community within their parish, the St. Matthew Young Adult Group was started in January of 2016.
Its first event was hosted after 5:30 p.m. Mass by Msgr. Heintz and Father Chris Lapp, in the rectory. This allowed the participants to get to know the parish’s priests and gave them the opportunity to meet other young adults.
The highlight of their 2016 gatherings was perhaps a Marian pilgrimage that took place in May. Participants prayed the rosary while visiting some of the Marian statues and shrines on the University of Notre Dame campus.
The group is also optimistic regarding its plans for 2017. “We’re hoping to continue having opportunities for young adults to get together and also to encourage participation in the very active parish life of St. Matt’s,” said Caroline Cole, a member of the planning committee. “Monthly potlucks, small groups that meet regularly and daily Mass times are just a few of the ways the Young Adult Group can be a part of the parish community.” Other gatherings will take place as well, such as a possible “winter adventure” to an ice-skating rink or an outing to go sledding.
The parish is currently home to about 1,300 families. Some of the highlights every year are the Chrism Mass, which takes place on the Monday of Holy Week, and any occasion on which Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades leads Mass at his home parish in South Bend.
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