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The largest parish church in North America opens in California

Saint Charles Borromeo Church in Visalia, California

Diocese of Fresno | Fair Use via YouTube

J-P Mauro - published on 02/19/23

Seating 3,200 worshipers, the 34,000-sq-ft St. Charles Borromeo RC Church in Visalia has become the largest parish church in the US.

The Catholic community of St. Charles Borromeo Church, located in Visalia, California, is now worshiping in the largest parish church in North America. The church was formally dedicated in a special Mass held on February 2, with nearly all of its 3,200 seats filled. Now, this small-town church rivals only the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, in DC, which is the largest church in North America, but is not considered a parish church. 

Located within the Diocese of Fresno, St. Charles Borromeo’s 34,000-square-foot worship space will serve 14,000 parishioners from the region. These folks were previously divided up among several parishes that consolidated in recent years. Aleteia previously reported that one impetus for the consolidations was a shortage of priests, which saw three priests traveling to various parishes in order to celebrate 11 Masses each weekend. 

Bishop Joseph V. Brennan of the Diocese of Fresno commented on the completion of the project, which had been in the works for nearly 11 years: 

“This church is a physical manifestation and powerful symbol of hope in its own right,” said Bishop Brennan. “Thousands of people will come here to be fed and nourished by Word and Sacrament. Thousands more will be nourished, spiritually and physically, by those whose lives and ministry will be shaped and inspired by what takes place here.”

Local landscape

While the size of the church is a marvel to behold, there are many elements within its walls that will draw in the culturally diverse congregation. Paying homage to the local landscape, the tabernacle was hewn from Sequoia Redwood that dates back 1,500 years. The handcrafted mural, which can be seen in the footage of the dedication Mass below, features Central Valley’s landscape and agriculture. Dairy cows, orange trees, field crops and the Sierra Nevada mountain range make for a magnificent backdrop. 

More murals can be viewed in the cupola overhead, featuring the four writers of the Gospels, surrounded by stars photographed by the Hubble telescope. The parish notes that it intends to make additional shrines for Our Lady of Guadalupe and Our Lady of Fatima, as a nod to the large Hispanic and Portuguese populations. 

In an ABC interview with Bishop Brennan, the prelate said that he hoped the newly minted St. Charles Borromeo Church will become a pilgrimage site for the faithful in the years to come: 

“A project of this size and this scope takes on a life of its own and requires a lot of time and attention,” said Bishop Brennan. “This place will be a place of pilgrimage where people from all over the state and world will come to be inspired.”

Watch the dedication Mass below to get a glimpse of the new largest parish church in the nation: 

CatholicismChurchPilgrimagesUnited States
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