- Associated Press - Monday, May 23, 2016

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - An Omaha Catholic church and school has purchased a neighboring community center that shut down last year.

The Christ Child Center will become an extension of St. Frances Cabrini Church and its All Saints grade school, the Omaha World-Herald (https://bit.ly/1WKxYaI ) reported. The community hub closed last year amid declining funding and attendance.

The congregation purchased the 12,600-square-foot building from the Omaha Archdiocese’s Catholic Charities for $100,000, the Rev. Damian Zuerlein of St. Frances Cabrini said. The parish expects to spend $500,000 to $1 million to renovate the nearly 50-year-old complex that covers about an acre.

Zuerlein said the immediate goal is to renovate areas of the center for preschool and kindergarten classes.

“My hope is that it becomes highly used by this part of the community and our parish, and that neighbors feel welcome there,” said Zuerlein, who took over last year as pastor of St. Frances Cabrini, a historic landmark that has roots as the city’s first cathedral.

The structure will be renamed the Cabrini Parish Center. Renovations will also include new carpet, paint and other remodeling efforts to open up office and meeting space. Zuerlein said that a gym in the structure would also be an ideal spot for an after-school youth program.

Zuerlein said that the most extensive renovation will transform the former swimming pool and locker rooms into a multipurpose event space with a kitchen for parish functions and community gatherings. This project, he said, will likely be the last phase of renovation.

St. Frances didn’t face competition for the site because the Catholic Charities board delayed putting the building on the market until the parish studied whether it could afford its operations.

Zuerlein said the building’s previous owners, the Christ Child Society, will continue its downsized operations, which focuses on assembling baby care packages for new moms, in a slice of the center for its office.

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Information from: Omaha World-Herald, https://www.omaha.com

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