TOUR OF THE CHURCH
The building you see today – of Romanesque architecture – was dedicated in 1917. It is of Bedford Stone construction. Note the initials over the entrance doors: S C B, for St. Charles Borromeo. The clock faces, made of crushed glass, were rescued from the red brick church destroyed by a tornado in 1916. The bells in the tower were “baptized” with the names of Charles, the largest and deepest tone, Joseph, the middle size and tone, and Mary, the smallest and highest pitched. The outside structure has changed slightly from the original with the addition of a handicapped ramp on the west side and an expanded lower level entrance on the east side, leading to the café.
As you enter the church you see before you the beveled glass wall, separating the gathering space from the worship space, allowing for fellowship and a “cry room” area. It was crafted by one of our parishioners during the 1992 renovation. Please note the plaques on the back wall, one commemorating the pastors who have served our parish, and another in honor of Msgr. Michael P. Owens, who served the parish from 1957 until his death in 1988. It was under his guidance that the school building, the gym, and the rectory were built, as well as converting the church basement into the school cafeteria, and installing air conditioning in the church. To your left is the restroom and vesting sacristy, to the right the stairs leading to the choir loft, our Pieta, and the handicapped-accessible entrance/exit.
Of the notable features in the nave of the church are the blue clerestory windows, depicting the Joyful, Sorrowful, and Glorious Mysteries. The three front windows in the dome all have a Eucharistic significance, drawing one’s attention to the sacrifice of the altar at Mass. The side windows in the dome depict St. Margaret Mary Alacoque’s vision of Jesus’ Sacred Heart on the east side, and on the west the Blessed Virgin’s appearance to St. Bernadette at Lourdes, France. We are reminded that our first priests to the village of “Les Petites Cotes” or “the little hills” were French missionaries.
The interior has undergone several renovations, the most recent having been completed in 1991 in anticipation of the parish’s bicentennial celebration. Several items in the church were refurbished and found new life in the newly remodeled church:
The Altar and Tabernacle: Part of the original altar in the third brick church of 1869. After the storm of 1917, the altar piece was restored and placed in the present church. At the outset of the 1967 renovation, the altar was gratefully placed in the home of one of our parishioners, and was subsequently returned to the church building during the 1991 renovation.
The Tabernacle Light: After the 1967 renovation, it found its way into a private home in the Chicago area until the owners generously returned the light after they heard of the bicentennial church renovation.
The Baptismal Font: Prior to the 1991 renovation, the baptismal area was located in the vesting sacristy, to the left as you enter the church. The font now has its place of prominence in the front of church, expressing the obvious connection between Baptism and the Holy Eucharist.
The painting of St. Charles Borromeo: This life-size copy of an original oil painting in Milan was commissioned in 1869 for the third brick church. Over the years it fell into disrepair, was restored in the 1960’s by private interests and hung in St. Charles City Hall for 30 years. It now has its place of prominence in the restored church.
Present in the church since the re-building of 1917, the Stations of the Cross were given a facelift with the muted tones now softly enhancing each piece.
The candlesticks were donated to the church by the Archdiocese of Chicago. The angels now on display in the sanctuary were given to the parish by St. Ann’s Shrine in St. Louis when that parish closed, as was The Last Supper scene, placed near the baptismal font.
As part of the 1991 renovation, many layers of paint were removed from the supporting pillars, uncovering this lovely finish called “scagliola,” a process done to plaster to imitate marble. The colors of the pillars set the tone for the pallet of color used in the church interior you see today.
During the 1991 renovation, several new items found their way into our beautiful worship space as well:
The San Damiano Cross: Modeled after a 12th century iconographic cross now hanging in Assisi, Italy, ours is an original, hand-carved work of art with the Corpus in three dimension to add depth to the figure of Jesus. He is depicted not as a corpse, but of God Himself, radiating the hope of the Resurrection. Above his head is a portrayal of the Ascension: Jesus emerging from a red circle, holding a golden cross. A host of angels welcome Him into heaven, while at the very top is the right hand of God the Father extended in benediction. Angels also appear on both sides of the crossbar.
On Jesus’s left stands the Blessed Mother and St. John, “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” To the right stands Mary Magdalene, Mary Cleophas, and the Centurion whose son was healed by Jesus. The smaller figures in the lower right- and left-hand corners are the Roman soldier Longinus, holding the lance that pierced the Savior’s side, and the Jewish temple guard Stephaton, holding a stick with vinegar-soaked sponge. They invite us to stand with Jesus and in His suffering, dying and rising.
Near the border of the Cross on the right, just below the level of Jesus’s knees, you will see a small rooster, recalling the words of Jesus to Peter, “before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.”
The statue of St. Philippine Duchesne: It honors the saintly French nun who humbly came to serve the people of St. Charles in the early 1800’s. Her remains now rest in the Shrine directly across Fourth Street from our parish grounds.
Statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe: Rich in symbolism, this hand-carved piece was installed in the church in May 2006 as a reminder that our Blessed Mother, under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe, is the Patroness of the Americas, as well as the Patroness of the Pro-Life cause. She holds a place of honor as well for our Latino members. The golden light surrounding the Lady is reminiscent of the “woman clothed with the sun” of Rev. 12:1, who has the “moon under her feet.” The angel supporting the Lady testifies to her royalty. The blue-green color of her mantle also represents royalty, while the stars tell us that she comes from heaven. The brooch under her neck is a symbol of sanctity. The bow around her waist indicated not only her virginity, but it’s placement high above her slightly swollen abdomen show that the Lady is “with child,” further identifying her with the woman of Rev. 12 who is about to gift birth.
The Pipe Organ in our choir loft had served many years, having been installed after the completion of the 1917 rebuild. Over the years, various mechanisms began failing, as did the leather moving parts. In the late 1990’s the organ had a major renovation, including new chest work, digital pipes, and a micro-processing system.. To celebrate our renovated organ, the parish had a Rededication Concert in September 1998, filling the church with its magnificent new voice.