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The largest Catholic parish church in the US will soon be in California

J-P Mauro - published on 09/16/21

St. Charles Borromeo Church will seat 3,200 parishioners, second only to the National Shrine.

The largest parish church in the United States is soon to be completed in California. St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, in Visalia, will seat approximately 3,200 faithful. The new church building will consolidate several parishes and merge communities of various backgrounds. 

Digital renderings of the new church can be seen in the CBS report featured above. According to CBS, the architecture was inspired by that of the historic California missions. Featuring whitewashed walls and an adobe roof, the church will match this aesthetic. 

The building will encompass some 33,000 square feet, with ample room for social distancing. It is expected to exceed the California Green Code for energy efficiency and sustainability. The construction effort is scheduled to last until 2022. 

When completed it will seat more parishoners than any U.S. parish church. This includes the Christ Cathedral, formerly the Crystal Cathedral. The only church building that will seat more is Washington, DC’s Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. The National Shrine, however, is not considered a parish church.

A report from Religion News highlights some of the features of this Catholic megachurch. The sanctuary will be flanked by 9-foot stained glass windows and a baptistry will be placed at the entrance. An octagon-shaped dome over the altar will be emblazoned with the four Evangelists. 

The church will display a 48-foot canvas mural depicting the archangels above the saints who are kneeling before the Holy Trinity. The painting will also feature citrus trees and cows in a nod to the Visalia region, which is largely agricultural. 


The decision to create what will become the largest Catholic church in the U.S. was motivated in part by the shortage of priests. As with many parts of the U.S., California’s active priest population has been decreasing in recent years. Since the 1980s, the Diocese of Fresno alone has seen its priestly ranks dwindle from 90 to 67.

In order to continue to serve Visalia’s Catholic population with fewer priests, three local parishes were consolidated into the Good Shepherd Parish in 2016. Without a centralized church building, however, the three priests who serve the congregation had to hold 11 weekly Masses in various church buildings around Visalia. The new St. Charles Borromeo Church will streamline their weekly duties. 

When complete, St. Charles Borromeo will cater to an ethnically diverse congregation. The majority of the Visalia population is Latino, but there will also be Portuguese and other European descent, Vietnamese and Filipino parishioners. 

Henry Medina, deacon and director of administration of Good Shepherd Catholic Parish told Religion News: 

“You start to see, now, the blending of all the different cultures. All these parishes now come under a new identity and what they had in the past is now historic.” He added, “Now all the Catholics in the city of Visalia are under one roof united under one God.”

Read all the details of St. Charles Borromeo Church at Religion News.

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