BELVIDERE — The newly expanded St. James Catholic Church opened for a dedication ceremony Thursday to more than 800 people eager to view its renovations.
St. James, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary,has been under construction for the past 49 weeks.
The $4.9 million expansion project, which began in January, nearly quadrupled the seating capacity and changed the interior orientation from east-west to north-south. More than 600 seats were added.
The dedication, led by Rockford Bishop David Malloy, was the renovated church’s inaugural service.
Parishioners celebrated Mass in the school gymnasium while work was underway at the church.
Malloy praised the beauty of the new design. He urged the congregation to maintain the building’s sanctity and use it as a reminder that “we, too, are to be a dwelling place of God.”
The physical structure of the old church was incorporated into its new design.
“It’s tying the old into the new,” said the Rev. Brian Geary, pastor.
Parishioners Andrew and Laura Greer love the renovations.
“I’m just awe-struck to be honest,” she said. “It’s just an honor to be in here.”
Ben Stanley: 815-987-1369; firstname.lastname@example.org;