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LIMA — St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church has been anchored at Elm Street and Cable Road for more than 50 years.Today, it's a large part of this community, but it began quite simply.The Catholic Diocese of Toledo bought five acres at the corner of West Elm Street and South Cable Road in 1946, under the direction of Monsignor James Elder, who was pastor of St. Rose Catholic Church, and Bishop Karl Alter. They erected a sign on that lot, proclaiming “Future site of a Catholic church.”In summer 1953, Bishop George Rehring assigned the Rev. Walter Hanley to the new parish — although the new parish existed in name only — and his first job was to organize. Hanley took up residence at St. Rose.“Another major step in the establishment of Lima's fourth Catholic parish was taken Friday with the appointment of a Lima priest as parish organizer by the Most Rev. George J. Rehring, bishop of Toledo,” a Sept. 4, 1953, newspaper story reported. Hanley was a graduate of St. Rose High School.Later that year, the diocese bought 2 1/2 more acres adjoining the property.The diocese was still trying to figure out territorial boundaries of the different parishes at that time. About a month later, the church announced the parish would extend east to Cole Street (but not including it), west to Kemp Road, south to the Allen-Auglaize border and north to the Pennsylvania Railroad tracks, near Elida Road. That space included about 450 families, the parish reported in an Oct. 19, 1953, story.The parish announced plans to build a gym immediately and install temporary pews — old pews from St. Rose. After that would come a school and then a convent and rectory.The groundbreaking for the new parish was in August 1954, with the first Mass in its auditorium on Oct. 23, 1955. The altar was on the stage and could be turned to face the chapel or the auditorium. There were no kneelers in this makeshift space, and tales of being able to spot those attending the new church by the mud on their knees were plentiful. Parishioners voted in 1954 on the name of the parish, and it ended in a tie between Holy Trinity and St. Monica. That vote was tossed when the bishop found that the name St. Charles was decided upon as soon as the land was purchased in 1946. Charles Borromeo was a 16th-century Italian church reformer.Lima Central Catholic High School started in 1956, centralizing the different Catholic high schools in town, so St. Charles only needed to offer eduation for younger people. Four Sisters of Charity nuns arrived to teach and were boarded at St. Rose. A house on Cable Road was eventually bought for them, as well as a rectory for the priests, in the early 1960s.And then came the biggest news the parish had seen as of yet: The bishop gave the OK to start building the church in 1963. Spanish Romanesque style was selected, with the exterior walls made of St. Meinrad sandstone and a Spanish tile roof to match the school. But the most intriguing style choice for the new church was its footprint — a cross. “St. Charles is the only church in the diocese with the altar in the center, surrounded by pews,” a Catholic Chronicle story reported Aug. 21, 1964. “It's a four-sided structure with entrances at the angles formed by the four transepts and an eight-sided clerestory (raised section) in the center, above the altar. The four pew sections which meet to form a 60-foot square sanctuary area, will seat more than 1,200; seating capacity actually is rated as 1,400 for adults and children, yet, with only 13 rows of pews in each transept, no person is more than 60 feet or so from the altar. Father Walter Hanley, pastor, said the design should fit in with liturgical changes aimed at bringing the faithful into more intimate, active partcipation in the Mass.”Each seating area has an Italian carved-wood statue on its rear wall, with Mary, St. Joseph the Worker, Elizabeth Seton (founder of the Sisters of Charity) and St. Charles Borromeo represented.Because of its open altar, the tabernacle — or place where the sacrament is stored — is tucked into a corner. There is no communion rail, either, so worshippers approach in a double column from the aisles and stand while receiving communion, the Catholic Chronicle story reported.The windows over the altar were designed with plastic, meant to be temporary until the church could gather funds for art glass. (Modern-style stained glass was installed in 2001.) The building project was $450,000 for the church alone or $1,131,700 for the entire complex. Even with “Visitation Sunday” events, where parishioners were encouraged to donate to pay down the debt, the cost was high. But the parish saw to the completion of that task, and continued on to grow and influence the west side of Lima.

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