Bishop Leonard Blair blesses the Blessed John XXIII Parish Life Center on Dixie Highway in Perrysburg as, from left, Alexa Long, Stephanie Richards, and Hailey Oeder, all 14, watch.
Three years after its founding, the Blessed John XXIII Catholic Community has a place to call its own.
Bishop Leonard Blair blessed the church's new Parish Life Center in Perrysburg before about 1,000 people at yesterday's 10:30 a.m. Mass.
The $1.7 million, multipurpose building will serve as a temporary home until a church is constructed for the parish, the Toledo Diocese's newest.
Since it was founded in 2005, Blessed John - named for the pope who served from 1958 to 1963 - has grown to 1,621 parishioners. Masses have been at Perrysburg High School and Christ Lutheran Church in Perrysburg Township.
In his blessing, the bishop remarked on the "painful" parish closings and mergers happening elsewhere in northwest Ohio. But he said the building of the new church was important.
"To remain the same, it has to be renewed," he said. "We are all in this together in the flock of Christ. Every parish, every building serves one good and that is to bear witness to Jesus Christ."
Susie Gardner, of Perrysburg; her husband Jay, and their daughter Emma, 6, were among those watching the Mass from a hallway outside the facility's Roncalli Hall, named for Blessed John's name at birth, Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli.
Every seat in the hall - capacity, 880 - was full. Many parishioners stood along the wall.
"It's beautiful," Mrs. Gardner said of the building. "It's been a long time coming."
Ann Marie Krautheim, 41, of Perrysburg, described herself as "one of the founding members."
"We looked at a lot of different Catholic churches," she said. "We really thought this one was really friendly and young."
The median age of Blessed John's parishioners is 32.
"It's just been exciting to see the members grow as well as the building grow," Mrs. Krautheim said. "It's nice to have our own place."
Parish leaders have not established a timeline for the church building construction. It is to be built north of the Parish Life Center near Dixie Highway, the Rev. Herb Weber, the church's pastor, said.
"We're going to just enjoy this phase because we've not had anything of our own in the last three years," he said.
The building is 14,770 square feet, with the hall, five meeting rooms, four offices, and kitchen.
The diocese bought 25 acres along Dixie about two miles south of the Levis Commons shopping center for the building in 2006. Plans call for constructing a senior center on an adjacent 25 acres the diocese owns.
The diocese moved to establish the new church in the summer of 2005, noting population growth in northern Wood County and crowding at St. Rose Church in Perrysburg.
But controversy erupted when the Rev. Thomas Leyland, who at the time was St. Rose's pastor, publicly criticized the plan, saying the new church would draw away as many as one-third of his parishioners. The church had about 8,100 parishioners.
Father Leyland, then 69, later protested that he was forced by the bishop to retire or move to a different parish as punishment for his opposition.
Father Leyland appealed to the Vatican to overturn the bishop's decision. St. Rose parishioners circulated a petition to have their pastor reinstated. The Rev. Marvin Borger was named pastor of St. Rose in July, 2007.
Items from closed parishes within the diocese will be used at Blessed John's.
The altar, pulpit, and presider's and deacon's chairs are from Our Lady of Fatima Church in Fulton County's Lyons.
St. Mary's in Toledo provided chairs and a Nativity set.
The candle stands and processional cross are from St. Isidore Parish in Cuba in Putnam County.
The crucifix came from a church that closed in 2005, but which one is unknown, parish officials said.
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