New St. Wenceslaus building opens, becomes largest church in Nebraska
OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - After years of planning and construction, St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church has finally opened.
The new building sits on the old DeMarco farmland, across from the old Boys Town farm near 144th and Dodge.
“The warm feeling we get in here is the same warm feeling we had in our last church and that was very important,” said Father Tom Bauwens, pastor at St. Wenceslaus.
St. Wenceslaus’ old church, which will now be used as a reception hall and is still connected to the new building, was deemed too small.
The old church could hold around 800 people — not even large enough to house a full school Mass.
“We’ve been planning this church for seven years. Five years ago, we put the plans out to the parish and began fundraising, and it was 2 1/2 years ago we broke ground. And we’ve been building it since,” Bauwens said.
When the land on the DeMarco farm became available, they began construction.
Now, the new church can hold 1,400 people, and 200 others in the small day chapel just steps away from the main altar. The grand structure may feel oversized, but there’s a reason for that.
“We have roughly 1,400 apartments in the row, there are roughly 500 apartments to the south here right up against Millard north,” said Bart Emanuel, the national director of Development and Construction for Applied Underwriters, the company that purchased the Demarco and Boys Town farmlands.
West Omaha is expanding. Within the next few years, the farm lots will have become homes, apartments, office buildings, businesses, shopping centers, parks, and restaurants.
“You have downtown Old Market, you have Midtown, now you’re going to have Heartwood out here at 144th and Dodge,” he said.
The new area, when completed in 10 to 15 years, will likely bring with it close to 10,000 new residents. This played a major role in the size of St. Wenceslaus.
“Around 70% is Catholic in this area, so if you start talking 7,000 more people, our current church couldn’t possibly handle that,” Bauwens said. “So this church is built not only for 2021, but 2041, 2061. ... As we continue to grow in the area, there will be plenty of room to worship in.”
That’s something that fills Brian Fitzpatrick’s heart. He’s and his family are parishioners, but he was also also baptized in the old rectory.
Fitzpatrick shared fond memories of looking up into the skylight and thinking it was heaven.
Now, years later, his daughter Kylene had the experience of being confirmed there, and their family worships together.
Brian said the church is extremely welcoming and he’s looking forward to doing the same for the hundreds of families who join over the years.
“So we wanna be able to welcome as many people as possible and the larger capacity for the church is gonna be a huge, huge thing for us,” he said.
Although several buildings including ONYX, Carson and Valmont have been completed on the Boys Town side of the old farmland, St. Wenceslaus is the first building to be completed on the DeMarco side. The project was a major undertaking, but so far, Bauwens said, it’s been worth it.
“I didn’t want to build a monstrosity they would hate, he said. “It’s a bigger church to accommodate what’s going to happen in the next 20 years, and they’re already coming in and saying it feels like home, which is gratifying for me.”
The church wouldn’t have been possible without the dedicated parishioners, Bauwens said.
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