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News Story

July 26, 2023 – On July 30, 2023, St. Matthew the Apostle Parish in St. Louis will hold its final Mass under the St. Matthew’s name. The parish will also no longer be connected with the Jesuits. These changes come as part of the Archdiocese of St. Louis’ “All Things New” initiative, an effort by Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski to strengthen and modernize evangelization efforts throughout the archdiocese.

St. Matthew the Apostle Church

Per the initiative, St. Matthew’s will combine with other parishes in the area to address a growing need for inclusive ministries in the St. Louis area. As a result, St. Matthew’s will give up its historic name and its Jesuit affiliation.

The “All Things New” changes take effect on Aug. 1, 2023, two days after the parish’s 130th anniversary.

“The Mass on July 30th will be a celebration of the parish’s history,” said Fr. Jeffrey Harrison, SJ, pastor of St. Matthew’s. “We’ve made that point to our parishioners and have wanted to celebrate their roles in the parish, as well. It really is a strong community we have here at St. Matthew’s, and I don’t think any name changes or parish consolidations will change that.”

The Jesuits USA Central and Southern (UCS) Province is not ending its service to the people of the Ville Neighborhood of St. Matthew’s, or the Black community of St. Louis. Father Thomas P. Greene, SJ, provincial of the UCS Province, has appointed Fr. Dan White, SJ, to assess how the Jesuits can best serve the North St. Louis community in a way that cooperates with the mission of “All Things New.”

The parish has a long history of serving the Black community in St. Louis:

In 1893, Fr. Joseph Terrance Shields, a young immigrant from Ireland, was assigned the task of beginning a new parish. There was a great need for a new church because the city was expanding west of Grand Avenue. Shields dedicated the new church to St. Matthew, apostle and evangelist. The church flourished in the heart of the community, eventually opening a school where scores of the Sisters of St. Joseph would serve as educators from 1901 to 1984.

The original St. Matthew’s Church, c. 1900

The Jesuits’ involvement with St. Matthew’s began in 1959 – more than six decades after the parish’s founding – when four Jesuits moved to the church following the closing of St. Malachy’s Parish in the former Mill Creek Valley neighborhood. Jesuit Fathers Fred Zimmerman, Raymond Witte, Louis Meyer and James McShane came to St. Matthew’s to minister to the African-American community.

The Sisters of St. Joseph teaching at St. Matthew’s School.

Throughout the second half of the 20th century, St. Matthew’s and its parishioners served the St. Louis community in various ways, including the founding of Northside Community Center, the rehabilitation of St. Matthew’s School into government-funded apartment housing and continued service to Black neighborhoods throughout St. Louis.

The St. Matthew’s parish community gathers at the church and school.

“This is a farewell, and a very hard one,” says Fr. Harrison. “But it is also a chance for us to look to the future as Jesuits, parishioners and people of God. St. Matthew’s as we know it is changing, but more things are coming that will add to this area’s history of Christian service.”

Father Greene will celebrate the 130th Anniversary Mass for St. Matthew the Apostle Parish on July 30 at 9:30 a.m. A reception will follow at 4145 Kennerly Ave in the Ville Neighborhood, where the members of St. Matthew’s spent most of the parish’s years serving the wider community. You can RSVP on the St. Matthew the Apostle website.

A rosary service at the St. Matthew’s Church yard.