History of St. Charles Center
In the year 1844,
Precious Blood Missionary Father Francis DeSales Brunner brought with him
from Switzerland 7 priests and 7 brothers to begin a mission for serving
German speaking settlers living in Ohio. During that era millions of people
were coming to the U.S. There were five million Irish people, fleeing from
their country after the “potato famine”; another five million German
immigrants came to the United States with most of them looking for farm land
in the new world of America.
Why the name St. Charles? St. Charles Borromeo (1538-1584) is known for organizing seminaries for training priests. The original purpose of St. Charles was to be a seminary for training priests.
Earliest C.PP.S Seminary in the United States
Around the year 1835, Afro-Americans were given a tract of land and a boarding school named Emlen Institute in the settlement named Carthagena which received its name from Cartagena, Columbia, South America, in turn after Carthage, Africa. After some years, the experiment failed and the establishment was no longer in use. Emlen Institute and 200 acres of land were purchased in 1861 by the Missionaries of the Precious Blood to become a training center for Precious Blood priests and brothers.
This first building
became known as Old Abbey. It was enlarged and served many purposes. What
was then called the "new" seminary was built in 1878 and replaced
some of the functions of the Old Abbey, but both buildings continued to be
used. The number of students, staff and other residents continued to grow
and what we call the present main building was finished in 1922 and has
replaced both the Old Abbey and the "new" seminary building. The
number of philosophy and theology seminarians reached as high as 120. The
St. Charles Theologate School closed in 1969, when diminishing vocations
made the continuance unfeasible. Theology students now attend the Catholic
Theological Union in Chicago with seminarians from over 20 other religious
communities. Presently St. Charles is the home for retired priests and
brothers. A cemetery lying south of the main building was plotted in 1900
and serves as the burial grounds for priests and brothers of the Society.
Over the decades the buildings just south of Carthagena, OH, have been recycled several times. The first buildings in 1835 on the site were known as the Emlen Institute, a training school for young African American youths, who had settled in the area.
In 1861 the Society of the Precious Blood purchased the buildings and recycled them into a seminary, which endured for 108 years until 1969. Though hundreds had been ordained at St. Charles declining numbers of vocations led to the Missionaries of the Precious Blood to join a number of religious who had consolidated into one seminary, and now serves over 20 religious orders in the Catholic Theological Union (CTU) in Chicago
With the closing of the St. Charles Seminary again the St. Charles buildings were recycled this time into a retirement site for aging Missionaries of the Precious Blood and a few diocesan men. The only problem was that only a portion of the dozens of rooms were needed. The rest remained empty except for guests or occasional use when the CPPS got together for meetings or special celebrations.
Conversion to Senior Living Center
The numbers of retired CPPS peaked between 1980 and early 1990’s, so even fewer of the rooms were needed. Anticipating the day were it would no longer be practical to maintain a building with several hundred thousand square feet (the equivalent of a four bedroom home for each resident) studies began to determine how the 1920 building could be once more recycled. Most of the rooms were only 210 to 250 square feet, a size which had room for only bed, small desk and chair and freestanding mini wardrobe. The options for St. Charles were few for a building, which had become a landmark on the Mercer County rural skyline, visible for miles in almost every direction. Several years of study revealed that the building’s most promising use was as apartments or condominiums for retired senior citizens. While it seemed like a viable project, more questions needed to be answered. How much expense would be involved in remodeling the small 250 sq. foot apartments? Would there be a sufficient demand for such apartments in a rural environment? Would the income from the apartments cover the expenses and retirement of any mortgage needed to finance the remodeling?
One by one the answers to the questions were encouraging. The project appeared to be the most feasible use of the buildings. Many communities of religious men and women have remodeled their former seminaries and convents into apartments for retired senior citizens. But most of them were for their own members or families of their members, and do not include the new twist of that of priests, religious and laity living sharing a community life in the same building. Meetings with several of those other religious communities helped the Missionaries of the Precious Blood in our planning for still another recycling of St. Charles. While Catholic housing communities for retired people are fairly common, the St. Charles project has a new twist to it. This plan would include lay residents, who would share their retirement days with the Missionaries of the Precious Blood in a Catholic community setting, assisting each other to make these years a bit more “golden”.
Click the Senior Living link to the left for the results of the project and how the residents enjoy this new type of Senior Living.
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